When I think Middle Eastern ingredients, one of the first things that come to mind is aubergine or eggplant. We fry it, grill it, stuff it and do countless other things with it, but no matter how it is prepared, it is always delicious. This dish, baitenjanah ala baitenjanah, or eggplant on eggplant, is perfect for eggplant lovers, as it is fried eggplant layered with a spiced meat mixture, and baked in the oven.
Baitenjanah ala baitenjanah was one of my favourite dishes that my grandmother made and it was one of the first dishes my cousins and I learned to make because it was simple, delicious and a perfect addition to any dinner party. However, I do not know where it originated. Almost every country in the region makes some form of eggplant and minced meat dish, but I have not been able to pinpoint exactly where it comes from.
Making this dish is really straightforward, but there are a couple of variations to it depending on preference. While I fry the eggplant in this video, I sometimes brush the eggplant slices with olive oil and pop them in the oven until soft. You don't want to overcook the eggplant, because you will be cooking it again in the oven with the meat.
This dish can easily be made vegetarian by layering the eggplant with tomatoes and peppers instead of the minced meat mixture.
I like to serve this with pita bread, but you can also serve it with rice, in which case I would add double the liquid before putting it in the oven to spoon over your rice. I also add a clove or two of minced garlic to some yogurt and serve it alongside this dish. The combination is heavenly!
- 2 large aubergines
- oil for frying
- 2 tbsp of oil used to fry aubergines
- 250g minced beef or lamb
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp mixed spices
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- Salt and pepper
- Pine nuts (optional)
- 1 tomato, sliced
- 1 bell pepper, sliced
- 1 cup water, mixed with salt, pepper, 2 tsp mixed spices, and 1 tsp cinnamon
- Heat the oil in a frying pan. Peel the aubergines. I like to remove alternating strips so that the aubergine remains intact. Slice the aubergines in 1-inch rounds, then fry and put aside. It does not need to cook through as It will continue cooking in the oven.
- To make the meat filling, use 2 tbsp of the oil used to fry the aubergines and add the minced meat. Cook until brown and remove any excess liquid. Add the onions, garlic, salt, pepper, and spices. Cook until meat is cooked through and onions are softened. Add the pine nuts and put aside.
- In a baking dish, place half of the aubergines and top with about 1.5 tbsp of the meat mixture. Top with another piece of aubergine and add more minced meat.
- Place one slice of tomato and one slice of pepper on each aubergine round. Sprinkle each with salt and pepper.
- Pour the water into the bottom of the baking dish, making sure it is spread evenly. Cover with foil and cook for 20-30 minutes. You can add double the amount of water if serving with rice.
- Serve over rice or with pita bread and garlicky yogurt and enjoy!