Eggplant and dark lentils are such a paring! We loved them here – this is an extraordinary dish – and we love them in this recipe. When the eggplant is cooked with the lentils it becomes very silky and simply melts into them. This is the joy of Rummaniyeh.
Pomegranates also feature strongly in Rummaniyeh. In fact, Rumman means pomegranate, so this dish’s name, Rummaniyeh, means pomegranatey. Pomegranates are cherished in Palestine – they are an integral part of Palestinian eating, and are regarded as a symbol of abundance and prosperity. The cheap and easy recipe uses rich, sweet-tart pomegranate molasses and pomegranate kernels (when in season), for a tangy stew in which the eggplants melt into the lentils as they gently simmer. Crispy onions, fried garlic, zingy lemon juice, pomegranate molasses, hot chilli and generous amounts of olive oil are added, to create layers of flavour and transform the primary ingredients.
Today’s recipe had its genesis in the one in Falastin by Tamini. I made some adjustments to make it simpler, with more lentils, and also to get that simmered silkiness of the eggplants.
Eat warm or at room temperature with pitta or tafoon (Middle Eastern flatbread) and a chopped salad. I like a bowl of spiced yoghurt with it. You can serve Rummaniyeh at any time, but it is especially good for breakfast!
Lentils and Eggplant with Pomegranate and Crispy Onions
500g eggplants, cut into 2.5cm dice (approx 2 eggplants)
60 ml olive oil
250g green or brown lentils
1 large onion, sliced thinly
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1 green chilli, finely chopped
1 Tblspn cumin powder
1.5 tspn fennel seed or dill seed, roughly crushed
1 tspn coriander powder
1 Tblspn cornflour
4 Tblspn pomegranate molasses
2 Tblspn lemon juice
1 Tblspn tahini
sea salt and black pepper
400 ml vegetable oil, for frying
1 large onion, sliced, thinly sliced
1 Tblspn cornflour
5g parsley or coriander leaves, roughly chopped
40g pomegranate seeds, if in season, or use barberries
4o ml olive oil
Preheat the oven to 230C.
In a large bowl, mix the eggplant with 2 Tblspn oil, 0.5 tspn sea salt and a little pepper. Place the pieces in a single layer on an oven tray lined with baking paper. Roast for 25 mins, turning once or twice. Remove from the oven and set aside.
Meanwhile cook the lentils over medium heat for about 20 mins or until almost cooked. Drain, keeping 350ml of the cooking liquid. Set aside.
To fry the onions, add 3 cm of vegetable oil to a large saute pan. Mix the onion slices for frying with the cornflour and carefully add them to the hot oil in batches. Fry for 3 – 7 mins until golden brown and crisp. The cooking time will vary with the heat of the oil and thickness of the onions. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the fried onions to a wire rack lined with kitchen paper and sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Once they are all cooked, set aside.
Save the frying oil for future uses, wipe the pan clean and then add 2 Tblspn olive oil. Over medium-high heat, saute the remaining sliced onion until the onion is almost translucent, then add the chilli and garlic and saute for 2 more mins. Add the cumin, fennel and coriander and stir for 30 seconds.
Now add the cooked lentils, reserved cooking liquid, the eggplant, and some salt and plenty of pepper. Simmer for 7 – 10 mins, until the eggplant is silky. Stir in the cornflour mixed with a little water and stir frequently until the lentils and eggplant have thickened to the consistency of a thick porridge.
Add the pomegranate molasses, lemon juice and tahini. Stir them in then remove from the heat.
Serve from the pan or from a large shallow bowl. Sprinkle with the fried onions, parsley or coriander and pomegranate seeds. Drizzle with olive oil.