Mderbel Badendjel – Algerian Aubergine Tagine with Lamb or Mutton.
Lamb and chickpeas stewed with garlic, cumin, cinnamon and caraway, before fried or baked Aubergine slices are adorned on top and allowed to soak up the delicious sauce.
It’s full-flavoured and meaty, even if you choose to make it without the meat! simply increase the number of aubergines and add them to the chickpeas stew.
That’s what I like about Aubergines or Eggplants to my American friends, they have the right amount of chew to be considered in my eyes the perfect meat alternative. Then again, if you enjoy meat and we certainly do, for full-on meatiness and for the traditional Algerian dish add Lamb or Mutton.
In Algeria I imagine this is one of the dishes that makes an appearance during or after Eid-Al-Adha, when there is plenty of meat at home.
Badendjel means Aubergine but the word Mderbel I don’t really know what that means, at least they rhyme!
The stew is flavoured with a spice and garlic mixture called Dersa made in a pestle and mortar. A tool I don’t use that often in my kitchen and when I do, I feel connected with simpler times gone by.
Caraway is the spice that sets this Tagine apart from the many I’ve cooked and eaten before. It’s earthy anise flavour pairs well with the subtle tasting Aubergine.
I served my Mderbel Badendjel with Panko bread-crumbed, baked rather than fried, Makouda – North African Potato Cakes. Bread or rice would be lovely here too.
Mderbel Badendjel – Algerian Aubergine Tagine with Lamb / Mutton
Lamb and chickpeas stewed with garlic, cumin, cinnamon and caraway, before Fried or baked Aubergine slices are adorned on top and allowed to soak up the delicious sauce
For the Fried / Baked Aubergine:
- 1 large Aubergine (or more depending on how many you want this dish to serve)
- small pinch of fine sea salt, for sprinkling
- 1-2 tablespoon olive oil, for brushing
For the Dersa:
- 4-6 Garlic cloves (depending on their size), peeled and roughly chopped
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon caraway seeds, ground
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt (or to taste – once in the stew)
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
For the Lamb Chickpea Stew:
- 500 grams Halal Lamb (or Mutton), on the bone (you can replace meat with more aubergine if you prefer)
- 2 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 handful of soaked chickpeas (about ½ 400g tin, drained and rinsed)
- 2 bullet chilli peppers, fried
- small handful coriander or parsley leaves
Fry / Bake Aubergine(s):
- If baking Aubergine(s) pre-heat oven to its highest temperature. If you prefer, peel the Aubergine(s). then either cut each into ½ slices lengthways or ½ cm rounds. Place Aubergine slices on a baking tray, brush with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and bake in the top of the oven for 15-20 minutes, turning at half-time. Alternatively, warm olive oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat and fry Aubergine slices until they have softened and charred a little, you may need to fry the slices in batches, keep this in mind when adding oil to the pan. Once cooked, set aside.
Make the Dersa:
- With a pestle and mortar, first grind caraway seeds then add garlic and salt and grind again, before adding the rest of the ground spices and a splash of water to make a paste. Set aside.
Lamb Chickpea Stew:
- In a large cooking pot or a Tagine melt butter over a medium heat, add Lamb and brown on all sides, about 5-10 minutes. Reduce heat, add Dersa and saute for a minute or two more, until you can smell the fragrant Garlic. Add water ½ litre and Chickpeas, increase heat and bring up to a boil, cover and reduce heat to lowest setting. Allow to cook for 1 ½ – 2 hours, checking the level of liquid at various stages and adding more water if necessary. Once the meat is tender, place your Aubergine slices on the stew, cover and allow to cook for 10 minutes more before serving. If using tinned Chickpeas, add them 5 minutes before you add the aubergine.