There are many great things about my family and the one I love most is that we are from different nationalities and cultures, which means our food and conversation has many great flavours, textures and colours.I like to mix it up and cook something unexpected for our family Sunday dinners and this Turkish Stuffed Eggplants dish (or Imam Bayildi), is a variation of one my mother used to make when I was growing up. Although I have a Greek background, my mother often cooked dishes that originated in Turkey and this is one of my favourites.
This Imam Bayildi (adapted from a Rick Stein’s recipe) is an explosion of flavours and colour that you won’t easily forget.The long slow cooking process results in tender creamy eggplants, with a filling adds an intense depth of flavour and the chillies add just enough heat, that you will remember this delicious dish for a long time after eating it.What you need
- 6 small to medium eggplants
- 200ml extra virgin olive oil
- 2 medium onions, halved and thinly sliced
- 5 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 medium hot red chilli, seeds removed, finely chopped (optional)
- ½ teaspoon pimenton
- 4 very ripe tomatoes, skin removed, chopped (or 225g tinned chopped tomatoes)
- 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 1 cup tomato juice
- 1 tsp caster sugar
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- Freshly ground pepper
- 1 tablespoon Turkish red pepper paste (click link)
What to do
Use a potato peeler to peel 1 cm wide strips of skin from the eggplants lengthwise. This creates a lovely stripped appearance.
Cut a long, narrow wedge down the length of the eggplant to create a deep pocket, but don’t cut all the way through to the other side, or at either end.
Sprinkle a little salt into each pocket and place them upside down on paper towel to drain for 30-40 minutes.
Heat 4 tablespoons of the oil in a frypan on a medium heat. Add the onions and fry gently for 10 minutes or until soft. Add the garlic, chilli and Pimenton (smoked paprika) and fry for another 5 minutes.
Remove from the heat and stir in the tomatoes, Turkish red pepper paste, parsley, salt and pepper.
Spoon the filling into the eggplants and place them side by side with slit side up, in a shallow baking dish.
Mix the tomato juice with the sugar, lemon juice, ½ teaspoon salt and freshly ground pepper.
Pour over the eggplants, followed by the remaining olive oil. Cover and place in a 170° oven for 40 – 60 minutes until the eggplants tender and the sauce has thickened. Baste the eggplants with the sauce from time to time.
Use a large spoon to carefully transfer the eggplants to a serving dish, then drizzle a little of the sauce over the top.