This quintessential dish of stuffed aubergines actually has its roots in Turkey though it is found in the cuisines of all its neighbours. There is something about cooking the filling inside the aubergine that makes it even more savoury than when it is cooked on its own, it creates a true celebration of otherwise humble ingredients.

  • 4 small aubergines (eggplants), halved lengthwise
  • 60ml (¼ cup) olive oil
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • 3 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 400g (14 ounces) minced (ground) beef
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 500g plum tomatoes (3 to 4 tomatoes), cored, seeded, and chopped small
  • ¼ cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves
  • 400g (14 ounces) cherry tomatoes, preferably on the vine
  1. Heat the oven to 200℃ (400℉). Line a large baking tray with aluminum foil, set aside as you prepare the aubergines.
  2. Brush the cut sides of the aubergines with 2 tablespoons of the oil and season with salt and pepper. Set the aubergines, cut side down, on the baking tray and cover with foil. Roast until the aubergine is golden brown and tender; 50 to 55 minutes. Remove from the oven. Do not turn off the oven.
  3. While the aubergines cook, prepare the filling; Heat a large sauté pan, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the pan, and heat until shimmering. Add the onion and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook until softened and browned; about 10 minutes. Stir in the garlic, oregano, cinnamon, and cayenne and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the ground beef and cook, stirring until all the beef has browned. Add the tomatoes, pine nuts, vinegar, and parsley and cook until warmed through, about 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper to taste and set aside.
  4. Carefully turn the aubergines over so they are cut side up. Using two forks, gently push the flesh to the sides of each eggplant half to make room for the filling. Mound about 1/3 cup of the filling into each eggplant.
  5. Add the vines of cherry tomatoes to the roasting tin on top or around the stuffed aubergine, return to the oven for 10-15 minutes until the tomatoes start to split and the filling starts to turn golden.
  6. Can be prepared up to 24 hours before serving, store in the fridge well covered, and reheat before serving.