Why have you shared your mum’s recipe for Sheikh el-Mehshi?
As a young child I didn’t have much of an appetite – in fact I hated eating. My mum used to try and get me to eat by trying many different recipes. I used to stand on a stool in the kitchen and watch her cook. Sheikh el-Mehshi was something she made often, and it soon became one of my favourite meals. It’s a traditional Lebanese dish and I love its tomato-based sauce, which is warm and comforting. Also, the main ingredient is eggplant, one of my preferred vegetables.
Who taught your mum to cook?
Cooking skills within my family have definitely been passed down through the generations. Also, my grandmother and grandfather have a lovely piece of land in Lebanon where they would grow fruits and vegetables, so my mum grew up surrounded by great seasonal ingredients.
You live in the family home – does your mum still do most of the cooking?
Yes, which is amazing. Her food is healthy as she always does everything from scratch. It’s mostly during weekends that I have time to cook and we often do this together. She is practical and I always ask her for advice. And she leaves minimal mess, which is something I have learned from her. When I started out, the kitchen would always be a disaster.
Is the rest of your family involved in these culinary pursuits?
Definitely, my dad and my brother love to cook. In fact, my brother and I used to pretend to have our own cooking show when we were much younger. All of us love being in the kitchen now because we are genuinely interested in doing so. Because of this, I believe our food tastes better.
Preparation: 20 minutes
Cooking: 20 minutes
6 spinneysFOOD Organic Eggplants, medium-sized
2 tsp spinneysFOOD Salt
2 cups spinneysFOOD Sunflower Oil, for frying eggplants
1 tbsp spinneysFOOD Sunflower Oil, for frying onions
2 red onions, chopped
200g spinneysFOOD Minced Beef
1 tbsp pine seeds
1 tsp spinneysFOOD Black Pepper
½ tsp spinneysFOOD Cinnamon
6 large spinneysFOOD Tomatoes
1 tbsp spinneysFOOD Tomato Paste
1 tsp spinneysFOOD White Sugar
¼ cup water
1 Preheat the oven to 200°C, gas mark 6. 2 Peel the eggplants in a zebra-stripe pattern, peeling off alternating strips of skin. 3 Sprinkle the eggplants with a pinch of salt. 4 Bring a deep pan of cooking oil to a medium-high heat and cook the eggplants for five minutes. 5 Place the cooked eggplants in a strainer to cool. 6 For the beef stuffing, drizzle some cooking oil into a shallow pan and bring to medium-high heat. 7 Add the onions and a pinch of salt to the pan and let the onions cook until translucent. 8 Add the minced beef, pine seeds, pepper and cinnamon and stir until the meat is cooked – around 7 minutes. Then set the cooked stuffing aside. 9 For the tomato sauce, use a cheese grater to grate the 6 large tomatoes into a large bowl. 10 Add the tomato paste, sugar and water to the tomato sauce and mix. 11 Pour half of the tomato sauce mixture into a large, oven-proof glass dish. 12 Cut each eggplant vertically and spoon the beef stuffing into each eggplant. 13 Layer the stuffed eggplants in the oven-proof dish, on top of the tomato sauce. 14 Pour the remaining half of the tomato sauce mixture over the top of the layer of stuffed eggplants. 15 Bake the stuffed eggplants for 20 minutes and serve with rice.
Use our locally grown spinneysFOOD Organic Eggplants for this dish – they’re the perfect size