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Recipe: Stuffed eggplant (Imam bayildi) from 'Classic Turkish Cooking'

Here's a classic stuffed eggplant from Ghillie Basan's "Classic Turkish Cooking" (Palgrave Macmillan), featured in today's Buffalo News.

"Imam bayildi" means "the Imam fainted" in Turkish. This vegetarian dish is one of Turkey's most famous zeytinyağlı dishes, referring to a group of largely vegetable offerings cooked in copious amounts of good olive oil.

Imam bayildi (Eggplants with onion and tomato)

“As the story goes, the imam swooned with sheer pleasure at the sight of this dish, lavishly dripping in olive oil. The aubergine, onion and tomato should be so tender and delicately intertwined that they melt in the mouth. To achieve the effect enjoyed by the imam, there is only one way to cook this dish, and this is it. A green pepper, finely sliced, can be added to the mixture.” (Ghillie Basan)

Serves 4

2 aubergines (eggplants)
1 large onion, finely sliced
3 large tomatoes, skinned and chopped
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Bunch each of fresh parsley, dill and basil, finely chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup/150ml olive oil
2 ounces/60ml water
1 tablespoon sugar

Halve the aubergines lengthways. Sprinkle with salt and leave to weep for 5 minutes. Rinse well and place the halves side by side, flesh side upwards, in a wide pan.

In a bowl, mix the onion, tomatoes, garlic and herbs with the salt and a little of the oil. Carefully pile the mixture high on top of each aubergine half until all the flesh is covered. Mix the rest of the oil and the water with the sugar and pour it over and around the aubergines.

Cover the pan and cook gently for 1-2 hours. Occasionally baste with the oil, pushing the onion and tomato mixture down into the halves as they cook. The aubergines should end up soft and flat, completely filled with the mixture, sitting in a slightly caramelized flavoured oil.

Leave to cool in the oil. Transfer to a serving dish, spoon the oil over them, and serve with wedges of lemon to squeeze over.

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