I have no idea what the word Mnazaleh means. There is two dishes called Mnazaleh this one and a little known (and far less tasty) cousin Mnazaleh be Ahmar. Aswad means black as the dish is made of black aubergine while Ahmar means red and the dish is made of tomatoes.
Leaving the name aside, the dish is oven baked aubergine with mince lamb and pine nuts. It is one of my absolute favourite dishes. It is a must on my menu for big family dinners as it serves a good number of people and you can prepare it in advance and stick in the oven at the last minute.
This dish is classically cooked with deep fried baby aubergine. I made some changes to this dish. I use normal large aubergines as they are widely available in UK supermarkets but I don't deep fry them before cooking as this large variety absorbs oil like a sponge and then all comes out when baked in the oven and it ruins your dish. Secondly I like the look of large aubergines. I peel them in stripes and my wife loves that. She thinks it looks very Syrian. She have this firm belief that we Syrians love everything in stripes from Damascus old houses to our clothes and even food. I will have to admit I can see some truth in that. What do my fellow Syrians think?
Here is the recipe:
Minced lamb 500g
Pine nuts 50g
Two large aubergines
Two large Beef Tomatoes
Tinned chopped tomatoes 400g
Ghee clarified butter 1 table spoon
Greek style yogurt 300g
Two garlic cloves
Salt and pepper
Heat the oven to 200 degrees. Peel and prepare the aubergine as above. You need 1.5 cm thick slices. Slice the beef tomatoes whole to very thin slices. In a heavy roasting dish empty the tomato tin. Arrange the aubergine slices. Sprinkle with some salt and brush with olive oil. Add hot water to cover the aubergines half way. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes. Add hot water if necessary to prevent burning the edges.
In a sauce pan, melt the butter and add the meat. Season with salt and black pepper and cook on a fairly high temperature. The meat mix need to be well seasoned as this is the strongest flavour in the dish. Keep cooking till all the water has evaporated and the meat start to fry in the butter. Add the pine nuts and fry for five minutes.
Take the baking dish out of the oven and spoon the meat mixture on the aubergines and a slice of tomato. Sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper and add hot water as necessary. Bake for another 30-40 minutes.
Crush the garlic and add to the Greek style yogurt and some salt to make a nice side sauce. If the yogurt and garlic mix is too strong for you use less or no garlic at all or even serve without yogurt.
Serve the Mnazaleh with Vermicelli Rice and a spoon of garlic yoghurt.