A classic Persian dish.
This is not pasta but it’s just as special, classic, heart-warming and an important part of my history. Both my Persian grandmother and my mum are incredible home cooks and I’m not biased about this – my friends agree it’s an absolute privilege to be cooked for by Mama Holmes. Her meals are never fancy or over the top, rather, filled with simple flavours and minimal ingredients and always, always, super affordable. Mum could feed 50 people for $200 bucks, guaranteed.
I have used this recipe for years and years. It’s easily whipped up and is a stuuunnning crowd pleaser because, minus one topping (which you can easily leave off), it’s completely vegan, dairy-free and gluten-free. I always make this for a food-intolerance crew as it hits all the requirements without any loss of taste (often a tough ask in that arena).
I understand some of you will read ‘eggplant’ and want to vomit. I wholeheartedly understand this – I really do, and I know what has happened! Eggplant can be terrible if not cooked correctly or drained of its water first – mushy with tough skin – and eaten that way it can definitely cause flavour-PTSD. So, one request: please trust me on this recipe! Just make it once and if you don’t like it, then send me an email about it – I mean that. The sauce gets absorbed into the eggplant soy ou barely taste it.
You can thank Mama Holmes aka the OG Plant Mama, Frances, for this one. May her Persian love language be felt by you all!
- 2 medium eggplants
- 2 cups basmati rice
- 1 cup olive oil
- 1 large brown or white onion
- 4 cloves garlic
- 2 tablespoons cumin
- 2 tablespoons turmeric (plus another teaspoon for your rice)
- 2 tablespoons paprika
- 2 × 400g tins diced tomatoes
- ½ cup tomato paste
- 1 bunch fresh chives (or 2 tablespoons dried)
- 1 cup natural Greek yoghurt or sour cream
- half a lemon + water and salt (to draw out the eggplant juices)
- Prepare your eggplant – do not skip this step! Slice eggplants across the width, into 2 cm-thick circles, then place on a board or tray. Sprinkle both sides with a decent amount of salt and leave for 20 to 30 minutes, or until water has been drawn out of the eggplants.
- Cook rice. Place rice, 6 cups of water and a pinch of salt into the pot. Bring to a boil without the lid on. When entire surface is bubbly and foamy, place lid on, turn down to low-medium heat and let simmer for 12 minutes. Remove from heat and let rest.
- Cook eggplant. Once water has beaded on the surface of your sliced eggplant, rinse them clean under fresh running water. Wipe excess water off with a paper towel and place into a hot fry pan with a generous amount of olive oil (don’t be shy here folks, Blue Zones thrive on the stuff and eggplants are thirsty), searing each side for 2 to 3 minutes until brown. Remove from the pan and once cooled, cut each circle into smaller bite-size cubes and set aside.
- Dice your onion and garlic, place into a pre-heated fry pan (with another good gulp of olive oil) and cook on medium heat for 6 to 8 minutes until brown and translucent. Then stir in cumin, turmeric and paprika and cook for another minute until spices are fragrant.
- Add your diced eggplant, tinned tomatoes and tomato paste and mix together, cooking for a further 10 to 15 minutes until all the flavours have combined.
- To your cooked rice, add butter, a teaspoon of turmeric and some salt and mix together.
- To serve, place rice in the bottom of a bowl, top with eggplant mixture and sprinkle with chopped chives. For added indulgence, add a dollop of Greek yoghurt or sour cream mixed with chives and some lemon juice.
A crowd favourite.
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