Aubergine with Savoury Mince in the Afghan Manner: Bonjon Keema

bonjon keema
As promised, this is recipe part II, from the menu at the Nairobi Reunion dinner I hosted in my home for my childhood friends.

bonjon keema

The velvety, smoky aubergine rests lazily atop a slathering of tomato jamminess; blanketed by a layer of mint-fragranced savoury mince. A smear (and more) of tart, creamy, cool yoghurt, and the dish is rounded off nicely. Finally, a peppering of brick-red paprika and a ribbon of olive oil is all that is required before it is brought to table.

It can be served alongside chelo shibit; Afghan fresh dill-spiced rice…

bonjon keema

…or soft, pillowy naan…

Peshawari naan

A few cooking notes:

  • It is preferable to use small aubergines as the seed to flesh ratio is small.
  • The exact measurements need not be used in this dish, feel free to play around with the amount of tomato sauce and savoury mince you would like to pair with your aubergines. I have also added minimal amount of salt, but I find the dish to be moreish with the addition of extra salt.
  • Because the aubergines are eventually baked, they need not be fully cooked (just browned), when initially fried.
  • Allow the dish to cool a little before adding the whipped yoghurt, otherwise it may curdle.
  • Unfortunately this dish cannot be reheated because of the presence of yoghurt, but it has never stopped me from having it cold the next day.

Naan photo credit: Spearhawk

Serves 2-3 (with a side dish)
Active Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours

*olive or sunflower oil for frying
*1 lb aubergine, preferably small Italian variety, sliced 1 cm thick
*½ lb mince meat (lamb or beef) You can use 1 lb of mince if you prefer a meatier dish
*1+¼ tsp salt
*1 +½ garlic clove, minced
*½ a small onion, finely chopped
*½ tsp tomato paste
*1 large 15 oz can tomato sauce/stewed chopped tomatoes/passata (divided into 8 and 7 oz)
*pinch chili pepper
*pinch turmeric
*1 tsp dried mint
*1 tub yoghurt (not of the thick Greek genre)
* hot paprika for garnish


Step 1: Prepare the savoury mince:
* In a heavy-bottomed pan add meat, salt, 1 minced garlic clove, minced onion, tomato paste, 7 oz tomato sauce, a pinch of chili pepper and turmeric, 1 cup water. Stir, cover and leave to cook on a low-medium flame for one hour. *Stir/check every 20 minutes to make sure the liquid is evaporating and the meat is not sticking to the bottom of the pot;
*When the water has evaporated and the mince looks ‘saucy’, add the mint, stir and turn the heat off.

Step 2: Prepare the aubergine for baking:
*Place a large frying pan or skillet over a medium heat and pour in the olive or sunflower oil to a depth of about 1cm. As soon as the oil is hot, slip in the aubergine discs and fry on both sides until they are a nutty golden colour. As aubergine absorbs oil like a sponge, you will have to keep adding more oil to the pan. The aubergine will be baked in the oven later, so they need not be cooked all the way through.
*Transfer the aubergine to paper towels to absorb excess oil. Set aside.

Step 3: Prepare the tomato base:
*In a saucepan, fry on a medium flame, ½ clove of garlic till golden and fragrant, add 8oz canned tomato sauce and ¼ tsp salt. Stir for 5 minutes. Leave to rest.

Preheat your oven to 350F/180C/Gas Mark 4

Step 4: Assemble the dish for baking:
*Pour the tomato base into an an oven-proof dish (I used a 27 cm quiche dish) create a layer of aubergines in the quiche dish, and spread the savoury mince on top. If you’ve used ½ lb of mince, it will be more of a ‘scattering’ of mince (my preference).
*Bake covered for 25 minutes, uncovered for 20 minutes.
*Allow the dish to rest for 10 minutes at room temperature before the next step (the yoghurt will curdle if poured over when the dish is too hot).

Step 5: Final touches before serving
*Whip yoghurt with a few tablespoons of water, season with salt and pour over the layers of aubergine and savoury mince. Sprinkle with paprika and drizzle with a trail of olive oil.

Serve with naan or chelo shibit, fresh dill-spiced rice.



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