Eggplant-wrapped fingers a la Fantasia

This recipe is the Middle Eastern version of involtinis or in Arabic lisan el qadi, which means “tongue of the judge”. Long, thin slices of aubergine/eggplant (or something else like lettuce) are rolled to wrap the meat. The name is inspired by the fact that Iraqis dislike rice and prefers meat meat that a noble judge would always expect his food to be served with meat rather than rice.

Aubergine-wrapped fingers
Aubergine-wrapped fingers

This dish takes about two hours and 40 minutes to make and can absolutely be customized as you like. The two parts of this recipe is the outside and the inside and the inside can be anything you like.


  • 2 aubergines/eggplants 5 tbsp olive oil
  • 250g/9oz minced/ground lamb or veal
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped coriander/cilantro leaves
  • ¼ tsp ground cardamom
  • ¼ tsp ground allspice
  • a pinch of crushed chilli flakes (optional)
  • 500g/1lb 2oz/2 cups passata (sieved tomatoes)
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped or crushed
  • 2 tbsp pine nuts
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Greek yogurt, to serve
  • chopped mint leaves, to sprinkle
  • Arabic bread, to serve

    Aubergine-wrapped fingers
    Aubergine-wrapped fingers

  1. Preheat the oven to 180˚C/350˚F/Gas 4.
  2. Slice the aubergines/eggplants lengthwise into 3mm/⅛ in thick slices; you should get about 16 slices.
  3. Brush each slice with oil on both sides, then put them in a baking dish (one that you can reuse later to cook the final dish in its sauce) and bake for 20 minutes, turning them once halfway, until they are cooked through and golden but not charred.
  4. You may need to cook them in batches.
  5. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels and leave to one side until cool enough to handle.
  6. Meanwhile, add the minced/ground meat to a bowl with the onion, pomegranate molasses, coriander/cilantro, cardamom, allspice and chilli flakes, if using.
  7. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  8. Mix well to incorporate and then divide the meat into sausage-shaped portions or “fingers”, 2.5cm/1in thick and 5cm/2in long (you can change the sizes of course).
  9. When the aubergine/eggplant slices are cool, lay one of them down on a work surface, with the wider end facing you.
  10. Place a lamb or veal finger at the end of the aubergine/eggplant slice and begin rolling it up tightly.
  11. Continue with the remaining aubergine/eggplant slices and fingers.
  12. Transfer the rolls to the dish, seam-side down and making sure they fit snugly.
  13. Put the passata and garlic in a bowl and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  14. Pour the passata sauce over the aubergine/eggplant rolls, then cover with foil and bake in the oven for 45 minutes.
  15. Remove the dish from the oven and leave to rest for at least 10 minutes.
  16. Meanwhile, toast the pine nuts in a heavy-based pan over a medium heat for 1–2 minutes until golden and fragrant, shaking the pan often.
  17. Put the fingers on a bed of yogurt, then pour over the sauce and sprinkle with the toasted pine nuts and mint.
  18. Serve with Arabic bread.
Aubergine-wrapped fingers
Aubergine-wrapped fingers
Aubergine-wrapped fingers
Aubergine-wrapped fingers
Aubergine-wrapped fingers
Aubergine-wrapped fingers
Aubergine-wrapped fingers
Aubergine-wrapped fingers
Aubergine-wrapped fingers
Aubergine-wrapped fingers

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