Sweet-and-Sour Vegetable Stew

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Adapted from A Fistful of Lentils by Jennifer Alicia Abadi.

I tried Chuderah fil Meh’leh, sweet-and-sour vegetable stew in a pot, a few weeks ago and really enjoyed it. Although I more or less followed the original, I made a few alterations which you can find in the brackets.

LAYERS:
1/4 cup vegetable oil (I used less)
2 cups chopped yellow onions (I sliced them)
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 large baking white potatoes, peeled and cubed
3/4 cup pitted prunes, about 20
2 cups cubed black eggplant
1 cup canned unsalted crushed tomatoes

SAUCE:
One 6-ounce can unsalted tomato paste (I skipped this altogether and used the tomato juice from the can mentioned above; just don’t forget to include it in the liquid measurements)
2 cups cold water
1/2 cup plus 3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons Worcester Sauce, preferably Lea & Perrins)
1 tbsp tamarind paste (luckily this ingredient is optional; I skipped this too as I had no tamarind sauce)
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 dark brown sugar, omit if using tamarind sauce
1/4 tsp cinammon
2 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Prepare the layers. Pour the oil into a heatproof casserole, making sure it is spread evenly.

In the following order, proceed to layer only half of each ingredient at a time into the casserole: onions, sweet and white potatoes (together), prunes, eggplant and tomato pieces. Repeat this with the remaining ingredients.

Prepare the sauce. In a medieum-sized bowl, dissolve the tomato paste in the water. Add the remaining ingredients and blend well. Pour the sauce evenly over the top of the casserole. Cover and simmer over low to medium-low heat for 1 hour.

Pre-heat the oven to 350°F. Taste the sauce to check the sweet-andsour taste. Add some sugar if the sauce is too tart or lemon juice if it is too sweet.

Place the casserole in the oven and bake for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Serve hot with rice.

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