Casserole of Mussels and Aubergines

I made this dish after a visit to Istanbul, where large, deep-orange mussels are found in the Bosphorus. Aubergines and pine kernels are the epitomy of Middle Eastern cooking but in Turkey I was surprised to find so much dill, which I had always thought of as a northern European herb.

Ingredients

  • 450-550 g/1-1¼ lb aubergines
  • white wine vinegar for sprinkling
  • 225 g/8 oz smallish onions (red ones if possible)
  • 2 large cloves garlic
  • 900 g/2 lb fresh mussels
  • 300 ml/½ pint white wine or cider
  • 400 g/14 oz tin tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons tomato purée
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 15 g/½ oz pine kernels
  • handful fresh dill
  • salt
  • black pepper

Method

Slice the aubergines across, then cut the slices in half, sprinkling them with vinegar as you do so. Rub the slices all over with salt and put them in a colander in the sink to drain while you prepare the other ingredients.

Peel the onions and slice into rings. Peel the garlic and slice across finely. Wash the mussels and scrub them thoroughly, discarding any open ones that do not close when tapped on a work surface. Pour the wine or cider into a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Add the mussels, cover the pan and boil for about 2 minutes, shaking the pan round a bit, until all the shells have opened. Pour the liquid from the mussels through a fine sieve into a fairly large flameproof casserole. Extract the mussels from their shells and put them into a bowl on one side.

Rinse the salt from the aubergines. Bring the mussel liquid in the casserole to the boil and add the aubergines, onions, garlic, tinned tomatoes, tomato purée and sugar. Stir in the olive oil and season generously with black pepper. Cover and simmer very gently on top of the stove for 45 minutes. Check for seasoning — it probably won’t need salt. Add the mussels to the mixture just to warm through.

Heat a small dry frying pan and toss the pine kernels in it for a minute or so to brown them. Just before serving, stir the roughly chopped dill into the mussels and aubergines and scatter the pine kernels on top.

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