In our garden we have a larch-pole pergola over which a tangle of grapevines drape. Running through them is a rambling clematis, Montana, I think. Underneath stands the big Aussie barbecue on which, in summer at least, I cook my home made sausages and burgers plus steak, chicken and whatever else takes my fancy. The vines provide a degree of shade and repel light showers. They also produce grapes, at least two of them do, the sauvignon blanc and the phoenix. The pinot noir (a vanity project) is perennially infertile. Any fruit rarely ripens - most years I end up with sour grapes (literally and metaphorically) that I chuck into the compost. Last year, faced with a bumper harvest, I cried “enough!” Half-remembering a dish I last ate at an Armenian restaurant in Manchester thirty-odd years ago, I went on the net to find it. Khoresh bademjan is a Persian beef-and-eggplant stew that involves a generous quantity of unripe grapes. As such, it’s proved the answer to this failed vigneron’s prayer. This, my own version, based generally on a traditional one, has evolved over time.
- 8 small aubergines, halved lengthways (or 2 large aubergines, part-peeled – ‘striped’ then cut into chunks)
- 1 kg beef. Can be round steak, chuck steak or anything in between. Best bought in a piece and sliced into strips approx 80 cm x 30 cm x 20 cm thick. No need to bet too picky about this.
- 2 onions, 1 cut into quarters, 1 cut into thin slices.
- 3 cloves garlic,
- 3 corms turmeric (or 3 tsp powdered turmeric)
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 can chopped tomatoes
- 1-2 cups sour grapes (ghoreh) I have read that verjus can substitute for the sour grapes but have never tried it.
- ½ teaspoon saffron
- olive oil and/or vegetable oil
- salt and black pepper
- fresh coriander, finely chopped, for garnish (optional)
- Blitz, briefly, the tomato paste, turmeric, garlic and cumin seeds in a food processor.
- Season and tenderise the beef according to your favourite method. Tenderising depends on the cut of beef – 1-3 hours in a pan, and on the method used – simmering/pressure cooker/sous vide or whatever your favourite method is. Drain and reserve the beef stock. Discard the onion.
- Preheat the oven to 200° C. When heated cook the aubergines as in 6 (below).
- Heat a little olive or vegetable oil in a large pan and caramelise the onion slices (10-15 mins). Add the tomato paste/garlic/turmeric/cumin ‘blitz’ and the finely-chopped onion and the beef and briefly ‘brown’ the meat.
- Add the tomatoes, sour grapes, the stock plus enough water to cover the beef. Add salt and pepper and cook for about 25 minutes. Top up the liquid if necessary and stir occasionally. Cook without a lid on the pan as you want stock to reduce and thicken.
- Place aubergines in a flat dish. Drizzle with olive oil then bake in oven for 20-25mins. Remove, add to beef and at this stage add the saffron if you are using it. Cook for a further 15-20 mins.
- Garnish with fresh coriander (if liked just before serving.
- Serve with rice or nan bread.