Stuffed eggplants are a traditional vegetarian dish, which is prepared mainly in the Aegean Sea area, in countries such as Greece or Turkey. Imam Bayildi is often served as a cold starter. It consists of eggplants stuffed with a tomato, onion, and garlic stew, fried in olive oil. There is also a non-vegetarian variant, in which lamb is used for the filling. However, in this case, the Imam Bayildi is served hot as the main dish.
Of course, these eggplants also work wonders as a garnish for other meat dishes. Stewed eggplants are nothing new in world cuisine. This recipe was popularized in the Balkans and spread throughout all Mediterranean countries, adopting forms as diverse as Sicilian caponata or eggplant antipasto, which have ingredients very similar to Imam Bayildi but differ in preparation.
What does Imam Bayildi mean?
The name of this dish is almost poetic. Imam Bayildi means "fainting Imam." And about the name of this dish, there are a series of legends. The first indicates that the imam fainted while tasting the succulent eggplants. Another indicates that the imam fainted at his wedding when he learned that the rich eggplants were over. And the last story tells that the imam fainted when he learned the amount of olive oil, they had used to prepare the eggplants. Regardless of which story we choose, this is one of the tastiest ways to prepare eggplants.
How is Imam Bayildi prepared?
The Turkish recipe for Imam Bayildi is made by cooking the eggplants in olive oil, along with all the vegetables in the filling. However, this version can be very greasy and unhealthy for some people. This is why at Boxed Halal we prefer to fry the vegetables, fill the eggplants with this stew, and then bake the eggplants.
The first step consists of cutting the eggplants in two crosswise and extracting their pulp. Then, the onion is fried, with garlic and tomatoes in abundant olive oil. To this sauce, add the eggplant pulp, the seasonings and cook for about three more minutes. Finally, this stew is placed inside the eggplants and baked. That's how simple this Mezze is.
Suggested seasonings for this recipe are cumin, cinnamon, and nutmeg. These seasonings have a very Turkish character, but there are variations of this recipe very widespread in Greece that use thyme, bay leaf, and even rosemary. In all cases, it is advisable to add a pinch of sugar to balance the acidity of the tomatoes.
Imam Bayildi is most pleasant at room temperature, and preferably with a few hours of standing. It is generally served with rice or pita bread and yogurt sauce.
3 medium eggplants, 80 g. each
¼ cup of extra virgin olive oil
2 large white onions, 200 g.
4 cloves of garlic
6 large tomatoes, 600 g.
3 tbsp of tomato paste
¼ cup raisins
1 tsp of sugar
1 tsp of cumin
½ tsp of black pepper
¼ tsp of cinnamon
¼ of nutmeg
1 tsp of salt
A bunch of parsley
Preheat oven to 160ºC / 320 ° F with heat up and down. Lightly grease a baking sheet.
Wash the eggplants very well and cut them in half, lengthwise. With a spoon, extract the pulp from the eggplants, being careful not to break the skin. Brush them with a little olive oil and reserve while you prepare the filling.
Peel the onions and chop them into very small pieces. Peel the garlic and mash it. Peel the tomatoes, extract the seeds, and cut them into cubes.
In a saucepan over medium heat add all the olive oil, and when it starts to bubble add the chopped onions and the crushed garlic. Cook the onions until lightly browned.
Then add the tomatoes and tomato paste. Cook over high heat for about five minutes until the tomatoes are well fried.
Finally, add the pulp of the eggplants, raisins, sugar, cumin, pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and chopped parsley. Continue cooking with the pot uncovered for three more minutes, and the filling is ready.
Place the eggplant halves on the baking sheet, put the filling in the cavities of the eggplants, and bake for approximately twenty to thirty minutes until the eggplants are cooked through. Serve sprinkled with chopped fresh parsley.