Agnello e Melanzone

Which is to say lamb and aubergine [eggplant, if you prefer] stew prepared in a typically Italian way and served as a pie with a polenta topping. The inspiration for this very rich, very filling dish comes from several sources so I cannot claim it for my own, nor is it a traditional Italian dish, so far as I know. Whatever it is, it is very delicious and, to make things even better, it is easy if somewhat time-consuming to prepare.

Ingredients.
¼ cup olive oil.
300g diced lean lamb.
1-2 tblsp water if required.
½ an aubergine, diced.
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped.
1 sprig of rosemary.
1 bay leaf.
1 400g can cherry tomatoes.
2 tblsp tomato paste.
6 large black olives, stones removed.
½ cup coarse polenta.

Preparation.
Dice the lamb and set aside. Dice the aubergine and set aside separately. Peel and chop the garlic and set aside separately. Strip the rosemary leaves from the stem and chop finely. Discard the stem and add the leaves and the bay leaf to the garlic. Remove the stones from the olives, chop them up coarsely, and set aside separately.

Method.
Heat half the oil in a small saucepan over a hot flame and brown the meat all over. Cover and reduce the heat to a slow simmer. Continue to cook gently, stirring occasionally, until the meat is done. This should take 45-60 minutes, depending on the cut of meat. Add a little water if it becomes too dry. Remove and set aside, reserving the cooking liquid.

Pour the cooking liquid and the rest of the oil into a sauté pan over a hot flame and stir fry the aubergine for 3-4 minutes until browned all over. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add the garlic, rosemary and bay leaf and continue to stir fry for another 2-3 minutes or until the garlic is golden, then add the tomatoes, tomato paste and the meat. Gently stir through [you want to keep the little tomatoes intact] until fully combined and the mixture is hot. Remove from the heat, carefully pour into a bowl, cover and place in the refrigerator for 3-4 hours, or even overnight.

Bring 3 cups of salted water to the boil in a small pan and whisk in ½ cup of coarse polenta, reduce the heat to a slow simmer and cook, covered, for about 45 minutes, stirring frequently. Zap the meat mixture in the microwave for 3 minutes to heat it through and pour it into a 20 – 25cm baking dish. Using a spoon, cover the meat mixture with the polenta, stroking it out with a fork to ensure that it is evenly spread. Preheat the oven to 180°C and bake for 30 minutes or until the polenta has turned golden brown. Serve with a green salad on the side.

Serves: 2.

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