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syrian eggplant and walnut stewWhat do you get when you cross meltingly soft, walnut oil-infused eggplants with 7-spice walnuts and silky tomatoes?

No, this isn’t a seriously bad joke, but a serious question. I am not au fait enough with the difference between Turkish, Syrian and Lebanese spicing to plump for one or there other, so I have dubbed it Arabic. I don’t think many could argue with that. Or maybe you can as Arabic doesn’t include Turkish. Oh dear, I’m really in a muddle here. No joke.

And then there is the actual category itself: is it a stew, a topping or something else entirely? I still don’t know. So it is just Arabic Eggplant and Walnuts. Over a crazy-simple but outlandishly un-Arabic cauliflower couscous.

I am always wary of labelling food as coming from a region or country unless I am dead-sure of my facts. And that usually only happens when a recipe is a tweak on a well-known dish. And as I kind of just made this up based loosely on Syrian meat and eggplant stew (of which there are numerous), with completely different spicing and no walnuts, I am at a bit of a loss. Perhaps there are even glimmers of Georgia (the country, not the US peach capital). But no matter.

Although this recipe DOES have an identity crisis, and I am too much of a rubbish food historian to follow this up, it is a bit of all right. I am sure it would also be good with half lamb mince and half walnuts, but it is very satisfying and intense with all walnuts, tempered by the mild, creamy-fleshed aubergines.

We had it over cauliflower couscous, to which I had added feta cheese. That was just too much flavour in one dish. Is that even possible? Yes it is. Keep the underbelly plain – my ‘plain’ cauliflower couscous recipe, polenta, rice, crushed potatoes, bread, ‘normal’ couscous or quinoa.

This is my second – and final – recipe for the Maille Culinary Challenge. I loved using their walnut oil in both this recipe and my Soft and Chewy Molasses Crinkle Cookies. Two very different recipes from one bottle. Versatile stuff, walnut oil.

My favourite food joke: What do you call a mushroom who buys all the drinks? (Answer after the recipe!)

syrian eggplant and walnut stew

Arabic Eggplant and Walnuts with Cauliflower Couscous

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy-moderate
  • Print

This is my take on a traditionally meaty Syrian stew. But my spin is vegan and not really a stew – more of a substantial savoury topping and an excuse to use crunchy-creamy (!) walnuts and luxurious walnut oil. Add vegetable stock (or maybe just extra water, or water and a medium-bodied red wine) to make it wetter. The walnut oil adds an incredible richness, so try not to leave it out.

I have taken the liberty of popping this stew that’s not a stew onto some finely minced and roasted cauliflower. I also added feta, but to be honest that was overkill. Just sprinkle over some feta as a garnish, if you like. This would also be damn fine over rice, couscous, vermicelli or any of the usual starchy suspects.

2 medium aubergines, cubed

3 tbsp walnut oil (I used Maille), divided use

1 tbsp olive oil

1 onion, thinly sliced

3 cloves garlic, crushed and minced

200g walnuts, roughly chopped

½ tbsp ground allspice

1 tsp black pepper

1 tsp ground cinnamon

½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg

½ tsp ground coriander

½ tsp sumac (optional)

¼ tsp ground cumin (*can use a seven-spice mix, like baharat, instead of the spices listed above*; here’s my mix)

1 tsp salt

¼ tsp red pepper flakes (optional) – Turkish dried pepper is mild and sweetly warm

1 tbsp tomato puree OR pomegranate molasses (I used puree)

Juice of one lemon (about 3 tbsp)

Double handful of cherry tomatoes OR 1 tin of plum tomatoes, crushed

200 ml water, plus extra as needed OR stock OR water+red wine

Parsley and mint, as garnish

  1. Toss the aubergine cubes in 2 tbsp of the walnut oil and bake in a 160C oven for about 30 minutes, or until the aubergines are soft and golden.
  2. In a large sauté pan, gently sauté the onions and garlic over a low heat, stirring frequently – about five minutes. Add in the walnuts, spices, salt, red pepper flakes (if using) and tomato puree, and stir well, cooking for another minute.
  3. Add the lemon juice, tomatoes and water. Let the mixture come to a fast simmer then turn down the heat and cover for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. The result should be quite saucy and thick, but add more liquid if you like, remembering to adjust the spices and seasoning. When it cools a little check the seasoning and perhaps add some honey, sugar or other sweetener if it needs it. My tomatoes were lovely and sweet so that wasn’t necessary.
  4. Serve warm over couscous (cauliflower –see below – or otherwise), polenta, quinoa, rice, bread, pasta or even potatoes. Garnish with the remaining walnut oil, chopped parsley or mint.

NOTE: I made the mistake of pureeing one-third of the mixture and mixing it back in. Although it tastes absolutely fine, it is not a good look. As you can see. Don’t blend! Except, if you have leftovers, blending would make it a good dip for toasted pitta chips.

Soft Food Diet: blend all or blend walnuts that have been soaked then cooked with the spices and onions before blending.


cauliflower couscousCauliflower Couscous 

Roast grated cauliflower as per my Loaded Cauliflower Couscous Salad recipe and, once roasted, pop the cauliflower in a saucepan. Add 75ml of hot vegetable stock, some gratings of fresh nutmeg (just a little) and lightly mash with a potato masher.

Joke Answer: A ‘fungi’ to be with! Terrible, but I like it 🙂

To go with this dish:

Syrian Chopped Leaf Salad, from SBS Food

Syrian Mountain Bread, from SBS Food

Lebanese Rice Pudding, from Mama’s Lebanese Kitchen

Disclaimer: I was provided with a product to use in this recipe but I was not paid in any way, and opinions are my own.


43 thoughts on “Arabic Eggplant and Walnuts with Cauliflower Couscous (vegan and gluten-free)

  1. Laura says:

    You had me at the first sentence – and I loved the joke!

    1. Thanks Laura! It us about the only joke I know 😉

  2. You had me at the title!!!! As you knew you would 😉 I think probably Middle Eastern is a useful cover here!! Lovely recipe xx

    1. I thought that but blooming half my Index has the words middle Eastern in the title. Lol 😉

      1. Hey, nothing wrong with that at all!!!! I think the largest category on my blog is Middle Eastern!

      2. But you lived there. Special dispensation applies 😉

      3. You reckon?? 😉

  3. Lesley Pringle says:

    Brilliant Kellie! We were fortunate enough to eat some amazing food in Ottolenghi yesterday; I was just sitting here pondering Aubergine and how I was going to create a dish similar to what we ate and your email landed into my inbox! Are you psychic!

    1. Lucky you!! I’ve had stuff from their deli for a picnic (most expensive picnic ever!) but would love to have a meal there. I love playing with his recipes. I have all 3 of his cookbooks. Do you have any of them, Lesley?

      1. Lesley Pringle says:

        I have all 3! ‘Plenty More’ is due September. We had a picnic lunch from the deli on Tuesday and lunch at NOPI yesterday our seats were overlooking the kitchen. I was like a 4 year old at Christmas – poor Gordon!

      2. I would’ve been unbearable! Sounds like you are a groupie too 😉

  4. This is fabulous! I’m keeping your recipe to try. Great post.

    1. That’s nice to hear. I never know if my recipes appeal to a wider audience until I get comments like yours. Thanks 🙂

  5. So beautiful! And terrible joke too! 🙂

    1. Sorry. Couldn’t be helped ;P

  6. You had me with the pictures, but the recipe looks just as amazing! I’m going to bookmark this to try it soon

    1. Great to hear, Becca. Let me know if it makes it on your menu.

  7. Ann says:

    I like the sound of this and it looks wonderful..the aubergine and tomatoes could be kitchen posters.

    1. That’s so kind of you to say. Thanks 😀

  8. This with the eggplant, walnuts, and spices is right up my alley. Love Middle-Eastern inspired eggplant stews, so rich and flavorful. Really good one, Kellie!

    1. Cheers, Miss Katie. I just wish I hadn’t blended some of it at the time, but it tastes so good anyway. I’ve made it since but at night when light is terrible.

  9. This looks and sounds amazing. I am cooking a lot with middle eastern spices and all round influences and keep meaning to try cauliflower couscous so this looks the perfect opportunity to do so. Thank you Kellie.

    1. Thanks Tabitha. Do check out the loaded cauliflower couscous salad too as that has LOADS of veg in it and, roasted turmeric chickpeas too 😉

      1. Oh that sounds like my kind of salad. Off to check it out now. Thank you!

      2. No, thank you!

  10. There are a lot of delicious flavors going on here – this sounds so good!

  11. lmarieallen says:

    I was going to call the mushroom “my new best friend”! All of your recipes are gorgeous and sound delicious. What I like about them is that many are vegan, but they use real food. I, for one, can’t stand tofu and don’t think it’s particularly healthful, as most soy is GMO. So when I see a site that starts off recipes with “sautée the tofu”, I’m out.
    Where I stumble with cooking healthy meals is the time factor. If I’ve worked all day, I will be on my feet for another hour to 90 minutes cooking. I know that I’m not the fastest chef out there, but it does get exhausting. Honestly, I don’t know how you find the time to work, cook, and make a beautiful blog.

  12. Thank you for sharing this. It gives us another option for dealing with the last glut of eggplants from the garden. That’s a dinner for next week sorted out now.

  13. Liz Posmyk of Bizzy Lizzy's Good Things says:

    Totally yummy! I am about to harvest the last two aubergines for the season. Perfect timing Ms Kellie xo


  15. Francesca says:

    Looks great!! Thanks

  16. Yummmm! We’ve just booked a trip to Istanbul for the end of June and I so look forward to the food there. This dish would be a good warmup, and is right up my alley with those flavours. As for too much flavour on one plate, that’s a constant battle between Paul and I. He wants ALL the flavours in every dish, and I like to keep it simple and really taste my food. A constant battle, and really the only place we meet in the middle is with Indian food since it calls for enough spices to satisfy him and I like the flavours. Can’t wait to try this one!

  17. narf77 says:

    Finally! I have been hanging out for a cauliflower recipe to ease my glut (8 is a glut… right?) I made soup with 2 and am slowly struggling my way through them but this promises to be a really good way to use one up. Cheers for sharing and for saving my fridge from rotten cauliflower 😉

  18. Sally says:

    Or even Georgian….given the walnuts. Vibrant and bursting with fresh flavours as always 🙂

  19. Gilly says:

    great flavour profile. How about Middle Eastern or even Levantine?

  20. Deena Kakaya says:

    Now this looks like a bit of silky, nutty, smoky, plump fusion to me. It’s rather sexy Kellie x

  21. It is incredibly dangerous to read your posts right before lunchtime, as I want to bolt from my computer {where I am half writing, half procrastinating}, run to the grocery store to buy all the ingredients, then rush back to my kitchen to make this incredible dish. Oh, my. Do you know I still have not made cauliflower rice yet, but love that you call it cous cous instead 🙂

  22. Ayesha says:

    this looks so good! 🙂 thanks for sharing….

  23. Oh my goodness, I am going to try this soon!

  24. Sara D says:

    Perhaps I’m just not seeing this in the instructions, but at what point do you add the roasted eggplant to the other ingredients? Thanks!

    1. Sorry, it is step 3. I had edited it again awhile ago and this must have got messed up and I didn’t catch it. Apologies!

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