Today I’m sharing Stuffed Eggplants in Garlic Yogurt Sauce, or what Homsis call Sheikh Mshatah.
Growing up, my mom loved to make this dish in the middle of summer when she found in-season eggplants at the farm near our house in the suburbs of Chicago. My parents, being raised in Homs, have always been extremely particular about their eggplants. I’ve heard on more than plenty occasions my dad grumble about bitter eggplants or ones that were too “seedy.” Eggplant dishes are extremely important to Homsis, and it’s no surprise that I share the same affinity for this earthy purple vegetable.
On our visits to Syria in the summer, we undoubtedly ate several eggplant dishes throughout our trip: mehshi (stuffed with rice and ground meat in tomato sauce), mfasakh (eggplant with pomegranate molasses), batersh (smoked eggplant with tomato sauce) and so much more. At the time, my palate wasn’t sophisticated enough to decipher what made the eggplants so special. Now that I’ve eaten my fair share of eggplant dishes, and I have a source for Hamwi and Homsi eggplants in Dubai, it’s safe for me to say: the eggplants from this region are the best I’ve ever had. They’re slightly sweet, mild on the tongue and have a smooth mouthfeel. To me, they’re everything eggplants are supposed to be.
When the delivery man brought the eggplants to the door, I knew right away I was going to turn them into Sheikh Mshatah. It’s a true Homsi dish, and one of my favorites growing up. The eggplants are stuffed with ground meat, onions and pine nuts and then deep fried. They’re then boiled briefly to create an eggplant-flavored liquid that seasons the garlic labneh (strained yogurt). The eggplants are lined on a plate and topped with yogurt sauce before garnishing with additional meat stuffing and parsley. Even if you don’t have those special eggplants from Homs, this dish will surely be a party in your mouth.
I hope you give this recipe a try! If you do, don’t forget to put it in the comments and tag @omayahatassi and #omayahcooks on Instagram! I love to see your creations!
Stuffed Eggplants in Garlic Yogurt Sauce (Sheikh Mshatah)
This dish is usually served in the summertime when eggplants are in season. Labneh is the main sauce component, which you can find at Middle Eastern grocery stores.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 45 minutes
1/2 kg or 1 lb baby eggplants
500 g or 1 lb ground beef or lamb
1 large onion, chopped
1/3 c pine nuts, toasted
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 tsp 7 spices
4 tsp salt, plus more to taste
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 pints labneh at room temperature
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 c parsley, chopped
Rice or pita bread for serving
Neutral cooking oil for frying
- Add enough oil to a pot to cover the bottom by about 2 inches and preheat. Make a slit on the side of each eggplant from the top to the bottom, but don't cut all the way through. Deep fry the eggplants in batches until golden, about 3-4 minutes. Drain on paper towels. Allow the oil to cool and reserve for later use.
- Next, make meat stuffing. In a 12-inch skillet over high heat, cook the ground beef, breaking up constantly, until browned completely and moisture has evaporated, about 5-7 minutes. Add 7 spices, 2 tsp salt, black pepper and set aside. In the same pan over medium heat, add onion and rest of olive oil. Cook, stirring frequently, until light golden, about 10-15 minutes. Add to ground beef and top with toasted pine nuts.
- Fill about 1/2-1 tsp of stuffing in each eggplant. Bring about 4 c water to boil. Boil the stuffed eggplants for about 10 minutes, then remove from liquid and reserve separately. Can be made up to 4 hours ahead
- When ready to serve, reheat eggplants again by boiling in same liquid until warm. Remove eggplants and place on a serving platter. Place labneh in a large bowl and add garlic. Add about 1/2-1 c hot eggplant liquid to labneh, stir and adjust consistency to your liking. Add 1 tsp of salt, plus more to taste. Top with additional meat stuffing and parsley and serve with rice.
- If you have leftovers, best reheated in a microwave, or heat gently in an oven until warm. Reserve extra meat stuffing for later use.