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The Turkish Navy has a modest composition: 12 subs, 16 frigates, 10 corvettes, and 18 fast attack craft [think big PT boasts]. No battleships. No aircraft carriers.

Still, in the Turkish culinary world, there are a lot of boats. A favorite street food is pide, where a boat-shaped dough is filled with richness [see my post on Chicken, Artichoke and Olive Pide]. Instead of a dough base, Turks also love to use their aubergines. I find the term aubergine far more romantic than eggplant!

Here the eggplants are roasted to soften the insides, then topped with highly spiced ground lamb, and the affair is finished with a final hot turn as cheese melts.

I said this dish was spicy and you’ll see a reference here to baharat spice mix on page 261 of Honey & Co. At Home, the source for this particular boat. I must say you want your own copy At Home to appreciate the complexity of the spices used here: dried chili, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, allspice, white pepper, turmeric, cardamom, cloves, nutmeg, fennel seeds, mahleb seeds, ginger, and cinnamon. Mahleb? A species of cherry.

We made the spice mix, our tongues tickled, and we’ve saved the spice for the go-round.

At Home is filled with spice and this recipe is not an exception at all. Just a most tempting example. This is a fun recipe to make and then taste with a cool white wine or a very, very cold beer. We had long eggplants, split them, and found a half to be quite a substantial main dish.

Regrettably, we were out of feta so you don’t see melting white dots among the roasting tomato halves. You can use your imagination. Better, get your copy of At Home and cook away.

Stuffed Aubergine Boats

Yield: serves 4 as a main or 8 as part of a larger spread of dishes


For the boats:

  • 4 small aubergines
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
  • Generous sprinkling each of salt and pepper

For the filling:

  • 1 large onion, about 5 ounces, peeled and finely diced
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1¾ cups minced lamb
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon baharat spice mix (see page 261)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 2 teaspoon tomato puree

For the topping:

  • 10-12 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 3 ounces feta, crumbled
  • Leaves from a few sprigs of parsley, chopped


Heat your oven to 425°F.

Halve the aubergines lengthways. Use a small knife to score the flesh of the aubergines in a crisscross pattern, taking care not to cut through the skin. Mix the olive oil with the garlic, salt and pepper, and brush very generously all over the flesh of the aubergines. Place on a tray in the oven and roast, cut-side up, for 15-20 minutes or until the flesh is beautifully golden and feels soft when pressed. Remove from the oven.

In the meantime, place the diced onion and oil in a frying pan over a high heat and cook until golden. Add the minced lamb and salt, keep the heat high and use a spoon to break the meat into little pieces so that it starts to brown. Mix in the spices and cook for 3-4 minutes. Stir in the tomato puree and 4 tablespoons of water, and continue to stir while it cooks a further 3 minutes.

Spoon the mince onto the roasted aubergine boats, using up all the mixture, and spread to cover the cut surfaces. Top with the tomato halves and feta, and return to the oven for 10 minutes. Remove and sprinkle with the chopped parsley just before serving.

Source: Honey & Co. At Home by Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich [Pavillion, 2019]

Photo Information: Canon T2i, EFS 60mm Macro Lens, F/4 for 1/30th second at ISO‑320