RECIPE FOR AUTUMN 2018 QUARTER | Imam Bayildi (stuffed eggplant)

Imam Bayildi (stuffed eggplant) is one of the most celebrated Turkish recipes, and a very special one.

This is a delicious baked eggplant dish that is redolent of sautéed peppers, tomato, parsley, onion, garlic, and olive oil. It packs a walloping good taste and it’s light on calories. 

Served cold, it works very well as a starter (or ‘meze’). It can be a meal in itself or can be paired with a salad or some protein.

This yummy vegetarian dish can be made ahead of time and refrigerated for 2 - 3 days. After refrigerating, bring it to room temperature, or warm it very slightly in the oven before serving. If you like eggplants, tomato, onion and garlic, then this is definitely for you. You may not faint like the imam (see story below), but you’ll surely love it.

Everyone loves a good tale, and the one behind this Turkish recipe is truly fantastic.

Here’s how the story goes:

'A long time ago there lived a Turkish imam, well known for his appetite and love of good food. One day he surprised his friends by announcing his engagement to the beautiful young daughter of a rich olive oil merchant.

'At this stage, the imam’s friends were not aware of her abilities as a cook. Part of her dowry was a consignment of the very finest olive oil. The wealthy merchant gave the groom 12 great jars of the prized oil, each one as big as a man.

'Following the wedding, the young daughter quickly revealed her talents as a Turkish cook, and every day prepared a special dish for her new food-loving husband.

'Stuffed aubergine in olive oil was his absolute favourite, and so he asked his wife to make it for him every night as the centrepiece of his dinner. Being a good wife, she did as she was told, and made the delicious dish for 12 days in a row.

'On the 13th day, however, when the imam sat down to dinner, his favourite aubergine dish was starkly absent. The imam demanded to know the reason for its disappearance. The bride replied, “My dear husband, I cannot make your favourite dish any more, for we have no more olive oil. You will have to buy some more.”

'The lmam was so shocked by the news that he fainted. And so, ever since that day, his favourite dish has become known as "Imam Bayildi" (the priest fainted).'

Imam Bayildi 

Serves 4

Preparation time: 1 hour 20 minutes | Cooking time: 1 hour 30 minutes | Difficulty: Easy

Ingredients

  • 8 striped or small eggplants
  • 3 teaspoons salt
  • 125ml (1/2 cup) extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small brown onion, finely chopped
  • 4 mini capsicums (2 red, 2 yellow), sliced (optional)
  • 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 2 fresh tomatoes, seeded, chopped
  • 125ml (½ cup) tomato passata
  • 3 fresh bay leaves (optional)
  • Greek-style yoghurt, to serve (optional)
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh continental parsley

Method

Step 1

  • Use a small sharp knife to make an incision lengthways along the middle of the eggplants, cutting almost to the back, keeping the stem intact
  • Place eggplants in a bowl
  • Sprinkle with salt and cover with water
  • Stir to dissolve the salt
  • Set aside for 1 hour
  • Drain off the liquid, rinse and pat the eggplants dry with paper towel. 

Step 2

  • Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan forced
  • Heat the oil in a large saucepan over high heat
  • Cook the eggplants, turning often, for 5 minutes or until golden
  • Use tongs to transfer the eggplants to a lined baking tray
  • Bake the eggplants for 20 minutes or until starting to soften
  • Transfer them to a roasting pan

Step 3

  • Meanwhile, add the onion, capsicum and garlic to the saucepan
  • Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes or until mixture is soft but not coloured
  • Add the tomato
  • Cook for a further 5 minutes
  • Add the passata and bay leaves
  • Season
  • Simmer for 15 minutes or until the oil rises to the top of the pan

Step 4

  • Fill the eggplants with the capsicum mixture, allowing the mixture to spill out a little
  • Cover with baking paper and foil
  • Bake for 1 hour or until the eggplant is very tender
  • Serve with yoghurt, if desired
  • Sprinkle with parsley

Recipe, image, and story sources

Recipe and image: Taste Magazine
Story: The Iron You