This stuffed aubergine (eggplant) recipe is quite unusual but really really tasty in my opinion. Just think of the earthy flavour of walnuts and the tangy sweetness of pomegranate syrup (molasses). Doesn’t that sound mouthwatering?
Every Iranian cook has a few stuffed aubergine recipes in their repertoire but most recipes call for meat in some form, in small cubes as in my mother’s recipe or ground as in many others’. The meat (lamb or beef) used for stuffing aubergines is usually mixed with parboiled rice, yellow lentils and herbs. Stuffed aubergines are usually cooked in a sauce flavoured with tomato paste or fresh tomatoes.
The northern Iranian bademjan kabab, however, is completely vegan. I fell in love with it the first time I had it and often make it as a starter for my vegetarian/vegan friends, but not only them as most others seem to enjoy it a lot too. I love the tang of the pomegranate molasses (syrup) and the earthiness of the walnuts. A little cinnamon that the recipe calls for makes it just the perfect flavour combination for me.
Pomegranates grow wild all over the northern regions of Iran. The seeds of wild pomegranates are usually small and the flavour is quite sour. Pomegranate molasses, a very thick reduction of pomegranate juice, is usually made from wild pomegranates. Sugar may only be added if a sweet and sour flavour is desired.
bademjan kabab is traditionally served with plain rice, pickled vegetables (torshi) and sliced or grated large radishes similar to mooli. In the traditional method the aubergines are fried in oil before they are stuffed. In the interest of health I prefer to bake them in the oven. Both methods work nicely. It’s best to use longish aubergines. Asian groceries usually have beautiful long ones that are perfect for this dish.
Different brands of pomegranate molasses vary in tartness and thickness so it’s a good idea to taste the filling and adjust the sweet-sour balance to your liking with a pinch of sugar if you are prefer a slightly sweet and sour flavour.
For a meaty stuffed aubergine recipe check out my yummy Stuffed Aubergines with Garlicky Beef Mince recipe.
- 4 medium aubergines
- 2 tbsp extra virgin rapeseed oil
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 100g ground walnuts
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp turmeric
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- ½ tsp black pepper
- 5 tbsp pomegranate molasses (or to taste depending on the thickness of the molasses)
- 50g butter (use 3 tbsp oil for vegan)
- 150ml boiling water
- A handful of pomegranate seeds to garnish
- Preheat the oven to 400F (200C) and line a baking sheet with aluminium foil.
- Make a 3 cm deep incision lengthways in each aubergine to allow opening a pocket for filling when they are baked. Rub the aubergines with the oil. Cover very loosely with foil. Bake for half an hour or until the aubergines are really soft. This may take longer or shorter depending on the size of your aubergines so keep an eye on them.
- Melt 20 grams of the butter and sauté the onion until lightly golden. Add the spices and cook for one minute, then add the ground walnuts and the pomegranate molasses. Adjust the seasoning and use a pinch of sugar if the filling is too tart.
- Gently pull the sides of the cut in each aubergine apart to create a pocket for the filling two thirds of the way down. Fill each aubergine with one fifth of the walnut mixture.
- Melt the rest of the butter in the same frying pan and arrange the aubergines in it. Mix the rest of the filling mixture with the water and pour over the aubergines. Cover with the lid and cook on low heat for 30 minutes or until the aubergines are a little browned on the bottom and the oil has separated from the sauce. Gently transfer the aubergines with two large spatulas onto a serving dish. Pour the sauce over, garnish with the reserved pomegranate seeds and serve. Enjoy!