2 1/2 pounds lamb or beef, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 teaspoons salt, plus more for salting eggplant and seasoning
2 large eggplants, about 2 pounds each, cut into 1/2-inch slices
2 pounds onions, sliced
3 tablespoons oil, plus more for frying eggplant
Pepper, to taste
2 1/2 pounds large tomatoes, peeled and sliced in 1/2-inch slices
6 tablespoons tamarind liquid (recipe follows, may substitute an equal quantity canned "fresh tamarind concentrate")
1 tablespoon sugar

Simmer the meat in water to cover with the 2 teaspoons salt for 11/2 to 2 hours, until tender. Strain meat, reserving meat and 1 cup stock separately. You may discard remaining stock.

While meat is simmering, sprinkle the eggplant slices with salt and set aside for 1 hour to draw out their juices. Cook the onions in a large frying pan in the oil over low heat until soft and very brown and caramelized.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Rinse eggplant and dry in a tea towel. Fry slices briefly in very hot oil, turning over once, until lightly browned. Drain on paper towels. Alternatively, you can brush slices with oil and cook them under broiler.

In a large baking dish, layer the ingredients. Begin with a layer of eggplant and season with 1/4 teaspoon salt and a pinch of pepper. Next, layer half of cooked meat and onions, seasoning with 1/8 teaspoon salt and a small pinch of pepper. Cover with half of the tomato slices, seasoning with another 1/4 teaspoon salt and a pinch of pepper. Repeat with a second seasoned layer each of eggplant, meat, onions and tomatoes.

Heat the 1 cup of reserved meat stock in a small pan and stir in the tamarind liquid and sugar. When sugar has dissolved and mixture is blended, pour it evenly over layers.

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until hot. Serve with rice.

Makes 8 or more servings.

TAMARIND LIQUID: Gently simmer 1 block tamarind paste (typically sold in 14-ounce quantities at Asian markets) in 4 cups water for 10 minutes. Remove from heat, cover and let sit for 30 minutes. Press softened pulp through a sieve, breaking up pulp and, if necessary, pouring some already strained liquid through a second or third time to loosen pulp enough to extract all liquid. Discard solids. You should have about 3 cups. Refrigerate tamarind liquid for up to a week or measure it into ice-cube trays and freeze for convenient future use.

— Recipe adapted from "The Book of Jewish Food," by Claudia Roden.