Lamb-Stuffed Aubergines with Moorish Spices and Manchego Cheese

(Serves 4)

4 aubergines, each weighing about 275g

6tbsp olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

4 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 large red pepper, seeded and chopped

1½tsp freshly ground cumin seeds

1tsp ground cinnamon

½tsp freshly grated nutmeg

1tsp pimenton dulce (Spanish paprika)

A large pinch of crushed dried chillies

500g minced lamb

6tbsp tomato-based sauce

100g Manchego cheese, coarsely grated (you can use Parmesan as an alternative)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 200C/Gas 6. Cut each aubergine lengthways through the stalk, then score the flesh in a tight criss-cross pattern, taking the knife right through the flesh, but take care not to cut through the skin.

Place them side by side on a baking tray and drizzle each half with one-and-a-half teaspoons of the oil, season with salt and bake for about 30 minutes or until the flesh is soft and tender but not browned.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining two tablespoons of oil in a large non-stick frying pan. Add the onion, garlic, red pepper and spices and fry gently for 10 minutes. Add the minced lamb and fry for three to four minutes or until lightly browned. Stir in the tomato sauce. Simmer for five minutes.

Remove the aubergines from the oven and increase the temperature to 220C/Gas 7.

Using a dessert spoon, scoop most of the flesh out of the baked aubergine halves, leaving the skins with a layer of flesh about 1cm thick.

Stir the flesh into the lamb mixture with half a teaspoon of salt and some pepper to taste. Spoon the mixture into each aubergine shell and sprinkle with the grated cheese. Bake for 10 minutes until golden brown.

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