Braised eggs with beef, smoked aubergine and tomato

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4 aubergines (1.1kg gross)
1 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
1 large onion, finely chopped (200g net)
6 garlic cloves, roughly chopped (20g net)
½ tsp chilli flakes
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground cumin
2 tsp tomato paste
300g minced beef
2 medium tomatoes, chopped (100g net)
2 tsp finely chopped preserved lemon (15g)
4 eggs
¾ tsp sumac
1 tbsp chopped parsley
Salt and black pepper

Tahini sauce:
40g tahini
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 garlic clove, crushed

Serves four

Method

Pierce the aubergines with a sharp knife in a few places and place each directly over a naked flame on your stovetop. Cook on medium heat for 20 minutes, turning occasionally with metal tongs until the outside is totally burnt and the aubergine starts to collapse on itself. Alternatively, place the pierced aubergines on a tin foil lined tray under a hot grill in the oven for an hour, turning every 20 minutes. Remove from and place in a colander. Cut a single slit in each aubergine, from top to bottom and allow the juices to strain. Once cool enough to handle, scoop out all the flesh, avoiding all black skin, and set aside. You should have about 370g aubergine flesh. Prepare the tahini sauce by simply whisking together all the ingredients with ¼ teaspoon of salt and 1 tablespoon of water. It needs to be thick and rich, but you may need to add a splash of water if it is stiff. Next heat up the olive oil in a medium, heavy-based frying pan. Add the onion, garlic, chilli, cinnamon and cumin and tomato paste and sauté on a medium–high heat for 6 minutes to soften and colour a bit. Add the minced beef, 1 teaspoon of salt and some black pepper and brown well, 5–6 minutes, stirring, on high heat. Mix in the tomatoes, preserved lemon and aubergine flesh and cook for a further 5 minutes. Add up to 90ml of water if the sauce is becoming very thick. Make 4 small wells in the mix and break an egg into each. Cook the eggs on low heat for about 10 minutes, until the egg whites are cooked but the yolks are still runny. Covering the pan with a lid will hasten the process but make the yolks look a bit cloudy. Remove from the heat and dot with dollops of tahini sauce, sprinkle with sumac and finish with the parsley and a drizzle of olive oil. Serve at once.

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