Bonjon Keema

bonjon keema

As promised, this is recipe part II, from the menu at the Nairobi Reunion dinner I hosted in my home for my childhood friends.

bonjon keema

The velvety, smoky aubergine rests lazily atop a slathering of tomato jamminess; blanketed by a layer of mint-fragranced savory mince.

A smear (and more) of tart, creamy, cool yoghurt, and the dish is rounded off nicely.

Finally, a peppering of brick-red paprika and a ribbon of olive oil is all that is required before it is brought to table.

It can be served alongside chelo shibit; Afghan fresh dill-spiced rice…

bonjon keema

…or soft, pillowy naan…

Peshawari naan

A few cooking notes:

  • It is preferable to use small aubergines as the seed to flesh ratio is small.
  • The exact measurements need not be used in this dish, feel free to play around with the amount of tomato sauce and savoury mince you would like to pair with your aubergines. I have also added minimal amount of salt, but I find the dish to be moreish with the addition of extra salt.
  • Because the aubergines are eventually baked, they need not be fully cooked (just browned), when initially fried.
  • Allow the dish to cool a little before adding the whipped yoghurt, otherwise it may curdle.
  • Unfortunately this dish cannot be reheated because of the presence of yoghurt, but it has never stopped me from having it cold the next day.

Naan photo credit: Spearhawk

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Aubergine with Savoury Mince in the Afghan Manner: Bonjon Keema

Yield: 2
Author: Shayma Saadat


  • olive or sunflower oil for frying
  • 1 lb aubergine, preferably small Italian variety, sliced 1 cm thick
  • 1/2 lb mince meat (lamb or beef) You can use 1 lb of mince if you prefer a meatier dish
  • 1 + 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 + 1/2 tsp garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 a small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 15 oz can tomato sauce/stewed chopped tomatoes/passata (divided into 8 and 7 oz)
  • pinch chili pepper
  • pinch turmeric
  • 1 tsp dried mint
  • 1 tub yogurt (not of the thick Greek genre)
  • hot paprika for garnish


Prepare the savoury mince

  • In a heavy-bottomed pan add meat, salt, 1 minced garlic clove, minced onion, tomato paste, 7 oz tomato sauce, a pinch of chili pepper and turmeric, 1 cup water. Stir, cover and leave to cook on a low-medium flame for one hour. *Stir/check every 20 minutes to make sure the liquid is evaporating and the meat is not sticking to the bottom of the pot;
  • When the water has evaporated and the mince looks 'saucy', add the mint, stir and turn the heat off.

Prepare the aubergine for baking

  • Place a large frying pan or skillet over a medium heat and pour in the olive or sunflower oil to a depth of about 1cm. As soon as the oil is hot, slip in the aubergine discs and fry on both sides until they are a nutty golden colour. As aubergine absorbs oil like a sponge, you will have to keep adding more oil to the pan. The aubergine will be baked in the oven later, so they need not be cooked all the way through.
  • Transfer the aubergine to paper towels to absorb excess oil. Set aside.

Prepare the tomato base

  • In a saucepan, fry on a medium flame, ½ clove of garlic till golden and fragrant, add 8oz canned tomato sauce and ¼ tsp salt. Stir for 5 minutes. Leave to rest.
  • Preheat your oven to 350F/180C/Gas Mark 4

Assemble the dish for baking

  • Pour the tomato base into an an oven-proof dish (I used a 27 cm quiche dish) create a layer of aubergines in the quiche dish, and spread the savoury mince on top. If you've used ½ lb of mince, it will be more of a 'scattering' of mince (my preference).
  • Bake covered for 25 minutes, uncovered for 20 minutes.
  • Allow the dish to rest for 10 minutes at room temperature before the next step (the yoghurt will curdle if poured over when the dish is too hot).

Final touches before serving

  • Whip yogurt with a few tablespoons of water, season with salt and pour over the layers of aubergine and savoury mince. Sprinkle with paprika and drizzle with a trail of olive oil.
  • Serve with naan or chelo shibit, fresh dill-spiced rice.

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  1. Delicious. Am going to make this for my family over Christmas. I may also try it with tempeh (although not traditional) – will let you know how it turns out. xx

    1. @So Lovely Thanks, dearest. You can actually prepare it with just tomatoes, aubergines and yoghurt. That dish is called Boraani which I shall write about soon. If you do decide to use tempeh, please do share the recipe with me. x

      1. This recipe reminded me of a lebanese/syrian dish that is made pretty much the same way, the main difference is that instead of baking the dish at the end, it is layered into the serving dish starting with baked pita chips lightly broken, and pomgrenade syrup is added to the mince sauce. Yumm

  2. Oh this immediately makes me think of Kashk-e-Bademjan even though the version I’m familiar with has no mince, but I know that there are regional versions of it that do. Looks delicious and a dollop of yogurt always makes everything better doesn’t it? 😉

  3. Shayma, this dish sounds and looks super delicious and easy to make.I’d love to have it with some of that soft and pillowy naan.

  4. Oh that looks good Shayma! i have all the ingredients available. I mite just try this . tq.. oh and the naan looks absolutely delicious. I love naan.

  5. This looks fascinating! I appreciate your philosophy on cooking. It’s wonderful to learn to cook by taste instead of being tied to recipes. Beautiful job on this one!

  6. This is a really interesting recipe. Sounds like an exotic version of “parmigiana”, if you do remember what I’m referring to from the time you lived in Italy 😉

  7. @Hilda I love the dish you are referring to. Thank you so much for your comments and for visiting. This is actually a variation of Boraani Bademjan- I added the meat and mint because my guests wanted non-vegetarian food- and Bonjon Keema was born. Yes, lashings of yoghurt make everything better.

    @Yasamin Thanks, lovely.

    @Fati I am coming in January and I shall cook for you. Sorry, don’t you live in the city of Momofuku? I may have to change the cooking plans and have you take me out 😉

    @Azita @George@CulinaryTravels Thanks so much. I am going to Pakistan in less than a week and cannot wait to have naan straight out of the tandoor.

    @Zurin Thank you. In Malaysia you have gorgeous breads too, right? Roti canai is a fave dish of mine.

    @Lizzie Thanks, Lizzie, I too, adore aubergine. How are the aubergines you were growing coming along?

    @Su-Lin @Eman @Maninas Thanks, girls. So kind of you to have visited- as a new food blogger I do appreciate this very much.

    @Amreen Thank you. I buy “loose mint” from the Persian grocery store, the owner tells me it is ‘freshly dried’ and I believe him, because it tastes totally unlike any bottled versions I have found in supermarkets.

    @Shari Thanks, most grateful for your kind words. I do wish my grandmothers were still around as my interest in food from my part of the world grew after they were long gone. As for when I need a recipe for pâte brisée I know which expert blog to turn to 🙂

    @Jasmine But of course, dear. Italian food is always in my heart. I miss having a plate of spaghetti al pomodoro ciliegino with a Vermentino. Somehow, life feels complete at that point in time.

    @We are never full Thanks for the drooling. The rice looks like that after many disasters- from the time when I initially started cooking Pakistani/Afghan food.

  8. Dear spicey, what gourmand loves is the balance you try maintaining with vegetable and meat …lest one gets clobbered for being a fanatic either way. The aubergine dish is divine and for me the yoghurt topping is the defining moment like the sizzling tarka is to a dahl.

    Happy New Year

  9. Shayma, the clicks are fantastic! Brinjal is my favorite vegetable, and this pairing with tomato sauce and qimah looks and sounds amazing. I have a few brinjals lying in the refrigerator and I think I am going to try it out very soon.

  10. Shayma
    You are to me a beautiful person inside and out and your blog is a reflection of it. I love this dish in Lebanese cuisine and I can just imagine how exquisite it must be coming out of your kitchen with the Afghani touch! (love that final swirl of oil and paprika) I can’t wait for more Afghani treasures ( I need to check-did you post on manti?)
    Take care

  11. Gorgeous! I adore aubergines and especially with yoghurt. They go so well together. It sounds like a wonderful meal I have to say – your friends are very lucky!

  12. Hello Shayma
    I love your blog which makes me travel thanks so much I ma fond of all this geographical area cooking ! thanks again !!
    I am Pierre from France; I have opened my food blog recently which is dedicated to inventive french food ! so if you want have a visit you are very welcome !!
    see you soon !
    Pierre from Paris

  13. Wow, Shayma, that is a beautiful dish. I love eggplant parmesan so much, but this seems a much more sustaining dish overall. Great pictures, too!

  14. Hi Shayma

    Having got the hang of the rice after your response, for which many, many thanks, I decided to cook this. In fact, I’m in the middle of cooking it now. I went out this morning to get dried mint, and also an aubergine and the lamb…and just read the recipe and nearly cried! I thought it said ONE aubergine, not a pound. Ah well. I also thought that half a pound of mince wasn’t much (not enough for leftovers next day!), so I’ve doubled the quantity and am hoping for the best. On reading your comment above, you say it doesn’t have to be precise, so…

    One thing though, you don’t say how many this serves?

    I shall let you know how it goes!


  15. @Jo What is the size/weight of the aubergine? As long as you can get a thin layer of them in the quiche/casserole dish, it should work, just slice the aubergine extra-thin. You can play around with the proportions, I would love to know how things turn out, perhaps I will then amend my recipe proportions if necessary. This should serve between 2-3 people with a side dish of rice. Best wishes, shayma

  16. Hi again

    Thanks for the response! It’s in the oven now…but it almost didn’t make it because I couldn’t stop eating the savoury mince!!!

    It looks like it’s going to be awesome. Everything worked out – there was maybe a little bit too much mince but that’s fine. Had just enough aubergine! Just!Mince took longer to cook as I upped the quantity substantially and I had to play around a bit with increasing tomato paste, salt etc. I always get nervous about so much salt, but, so far, so good. I didn’t add any other flavours even though I was tempted to!

    Can’t wait to eat the final dish.

    By the way, I would say to anyone else who’s thinking of making it, that the quality of your ingredients will really make this a star dish – I used everything organic and am lucky to have an amazing butcher…yummy French lamb. Also, don’t be put off by pale mince/water/tomato combo at the beginning – the sauce WILL come together and darken in colour.

    Really would recommend it – it’s no more hassle than lasagne or moussaka and I think will be sure to impress.

    Thanks Shayma!

    PS. Pls can we have a spicy curry recipe next?! 🙂

  17. It was delicious; the final baking in the oven brought all the flavours together. It was hearty and filling with subtle flavours, without being too heavy. Perfect for a snowy evening, and a recipe to repeat.

  18. @Jo Thank you so much for all the wonderful and helpful feedback. I am most grateful. I am also so pleased to hear it turned out well. Have a lovely weekend.

  19. Another fantastic recipe – i love aubergines in any shape or form! Have you tried the Afghan Kitchen in Islington, London? It is a very popular restaurant but I have never been, I should go and will report back!

  20. Gorgeous presentation & flavours Shyama. I’mn ot a huge eggplant lover, but this makes it sound YUMMY enough to try! Am here scouting around for chicken rceipes!

  21. Well, now I’m going to have to try this one! How did I miss this? I love the addition of minced meat-I think we’ll be doing lamb here at home, because we love that so much. And of course yoghurt and paprika-yum!

  22. @London Foodie Thanks for the restaurant tip, I shall share it with my family. There aren’t many Afghan restaurants around.

    @Deeba Thanks so much, darlin’. x

    @Nakedbeet Lamb and aubergines were meant to be eaten together, I feel 🙂 Thanks for visiting.

  23. Hi, this looks great. When you say
    “*Bake covered for 25 minutes, uncovered for 20 minutes.”

    Do you mean bake covered for 25 minutes, OR uncovered for 20 minutes – or both?

    Thanks – I might make this this weekend.

  24. This was easy to follow and amazingly delicious. I doubled it all and added the yogurt to the plate (so I could freeze the base)- yummy and sophisticated and simple and elegant and thank you thank you.


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