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Friday night dinner: Spiced lamb koftas, roasted aubergines and onions with sumac yoghurt

Spend less time at the hob and more time at the table
Spend less time at the hob and more time at the table Credit: Eleanor Steafel

I love a spontaneous Friday night dinner party. That moment when the stars align and all your favourite people simultaneously decide you should see in the weekend together around someone’s kitchen table, with a few bottles and some good food. 

In the past on nights like this, I have tended to get over excited and embark on creating an elaborate three course feast at a moment’s notice. The result? An entire evening spent faffing in the kitchen, while everyone else is having a wonderful time getting increasingly tipsy on the corner shop hooch that has been picked up en route from the office. Now, my motto is to spend less time at the hob and more time at the table. Multihour cooking affairs are for weekends, not Friday nights. 

That doesn’t, however, mean you can’t produce what I would call “a proper spread”. Just keep it simple by limiting the number of dishes you’re juggling at once. Have something going in the oven, something on the hob, good bread and a couple of dippy bits. 

These lamb koftas cook in no time and can be spiced with whatever you happen to have knocking about. The aubergines and onions sort themselves out in the oven, and the last minute addition of yoghurt is lovely as it firms up a little in the heat. Serve with extra yoghurt and a few pittas or flatbread. If you’re so inclined, it would also be great with a little crumbled feta, a few pomegranate seeds, a chopped salad, or a mound of fluffy couscous. But this works great just as it is. 

And for afters, repeat after me: There is no shame in a bar of Lindt’s dark sea salt chocolate. 

SERVES

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 large aubergines, halved  
  • 3 onions, cut into wedges 
  • Olive oil 
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 250g lamb mince 
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed 
  • 1 tsp cinnamon 
  • 1 tsp ground coriander 
  • 1 tsp dried oregano 
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard 
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 tbsp currants 
  • 6 tbsp natural yoghurt 
  • 2 tsp sumac 
  • 1 tbsp pine nuts
  • 2 tbsp tahini
  • 2 lemons, one juiced, one cut into wedges 
  • 1 small bunch coriander, roughly torn 
Serve with extra flat breads and yoghurt Credit: Eleanor Steafel

METHOD

  1. Preheat the oven to 220C/gas 7. 
  2. Score the cut-side of the aubergines with a diagonal criss-cross. Place in a roasting tin cut-side up with the onions. Drizzle over plenty of olive oil, a good pinch of salt and the cumin seeds. Roast for 40 minutes until soft and well browned. 
  3. Meanwhile, make the koftas. Put the lamb in a large bowl along with the garlic, cinnamon, coriander, oregano, mustard, egg and about half a teaspoon of coarse salt. Mix well with your hands. Then add the currants and work through, making sure they are evenly distributed. 
  4. Shape into torpedo-shaped koftas and pop in the fridge to firm up for about 20 minutes. 
  5. Set a large frying pan over a medium heat with a good glug of olive oil. Fry the koftas in batches, taking care not to overcrowd the pan. You want them cooked through with a good even crust so turn them as they cook until browned all over. 
  6. When the aubergines have had 40 minutes and the koftas are nearly done, spoon the yoghurt liberally over the roasting tray, letting it fall between the gaps. Bake for another 5-10 minutes. Then remove from the oven and sprinkle with sumac and pine nuts. 
  7. To serve, mix the tahini with the lemon juice and a little water. Drizzle over the koftas and scatter the fresh coriander.
  8. Put everything in the middle of the table with lemon wedges, flatbread, extra yoghurt, and any other goodies you’re serving.