This dish, from Jerusalem-based entrepreneur and chef Chen Koren, is inspired by one of the city’s most prominent and important culinary institutions. “Azura restaurant in Mahane Yehuda market in Jerusalem is a brand, and all the market alleys lead to it,” she says. Many diners order the kubbeh soup, sofrito and the s’arieh rice with fried vermicelli noodles. But, Koren says, “there is one more dish that you must order every time you visit: a beef and eggplants stew called ‘Azura’, named after Ezra, the founding father of the Jerusalem eatery.”
2 long, shiny eggplants
7 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 large white onion, chopped
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon baharat spice mix
A Pinch freshly ground black pepper
1 lb / 500 grams ground beef
A handful of chopped parsley
A handful of chopped coriander
1 cup pine nuts
Preheat the oven to 425°F / 220°C.
Cut each eggplant lengthwise and arrange it in a single layer, cut side facing up, in a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Brush the eggplants with about 4 tablespoons of olive oil, sprinkle a little coarse salt on them and roast in the oven until the eggplants are golden brown, about 40 minutes.
Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot over a medium heat. Add the chopped onion and fry until lightly golden. Add the cinnamon, paprika, baharat, and black pepper, and stir. Increase the heat, add the ground beef and cook until the meat browns, breaking it apart with a wooden spoon or fork. Mix in the chopped herbs and pine nuts. Add a cup of water and bring to a boil. Reduce to a low heat and cook, uncovered, until the sauce is slightly reduced.
Make room for the eggplants in the pot and arrange them in a single layer, covering them with the sauce and meat. Cover and cook for about 30 minutes over a low heat. If the sauce is too thick, add more water. Cut the eggplants in half or smaller chunks (depending upon the size), garnish with fresh parsley or cilantro if you like, and serve hot.
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