Sheikh el Mehchi, aka the king of stuffed vegetables, is a very umami Lebanese dish, made with eggplants, minced beef, and a rich tomato sauce, served with vermicelli rice. You will want to buy the smallest eggplants you can find for this one (although not those tiny baby ones), as there is pleasure in serving oneself over and over again from this dish.
Sheikh el Mehchi
- 12-15 small eggplants
- 200 g of minced beef
- 1 small onion
- 50-100 g of pine nuts
- 1 tablespoon of pomegranate molasses
- A can of chopped tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon of tomato paste
- 1 cup of short grain rice
- Frying oil
- Salt to taste
- Clean then peel the eggplants in a striped pattern. Don’t cut off its head which is necessary to keep the eggplant together, but try to remove the leafy part.
- Brine them in salty water for an hour, then dry them.
- Deep fry the eggplants in sunflower oil.
- Dry them on a kitchen towel then place them at the bottom of an oven dish. Slice them open but be careful to keep them attached at the top and bottom.
- Chop the onion then fry it in ghee.
- When the onion starts caramelizing (this might take 10-15 minutes) add the minced beef, season with salt and pepper and cook through.
- Once cooked add the pine nuts for 3-4 minutes, then add the pomegranate molasses and turn off the heat.
- Mix well.
- Spoon the minced beef into the eggplants.
The Tomato Sauce
- Place the canned chopped tomatoes in a pot on the fire, add salt, the tablespoon of tomato paste and a bit of water.
- Bring to a boil.
- Pour the sauce on top of the stuffed eggplants.
- Place the dish in a preheated oven.
- Cook for 30-40 minutes or until the sauce thickens. If the meat starts burning loosely cover in tinfoil.
The Vermicelli rice
- Fry the Vermicelli in Ghee until they start to darken. Be careful not to let them burn.
- Add the rice and cook for another 3-4 minutes.
- Add the appropriate amount of water (2 cups of water per cup of rice). Don’t forget to add salt.
- Bring to a boil then bring the heat down and cover the pot.
- When most of the water has evaporated, add a small slice of butter, mix the rice, then cover the pot again and let it rest for 10 minutes.