Imam Bayildi is a classic Turkish zeytinyağlı (olive oil) dish of soft eggplants, filled with a delicious dry, slow cooked stew of onions and capsicums (bell peppers).
- 1 heaped Tbsp salt
- juice of 1/2 a lemon
- a large bowl of cold water
- 4 medium eggplants (aubergines)
- 4 Tbsp EV olive oil
- 1 large onion
- 4 garlic cloves
- 2 red capsicums (bell peppers)
- 1 Tbsp EV olive oil
- 200g (7oz) chopped tomatoes
- 1 tsp sundried tomato paste
- 1 tsp sweet smoked paprika
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp white sugar
Preparing the eggplants
- Add the salt and lemon juice to the bowl of cold water, stir and keep handy for the eggplants.
- Partially peel the eggplants, giving them stripes, as you see in the images. Leave the stems on. As you start to peel at the base, because of the smoothness of the eggplants, you may need to “dig in” ever so slightly with the peeler by moving it left to right, to allow the blade to get stuck into the eggplant skin.
- Once peeled, take a sharp knife, and create a pocket in the eggplants, by cutting a slit in each aubergine, starting about 1cm (1/2″) from each end. Don’t cut all the way through, you just want to create a pocket for the filling we’ll be making.
- Place the partially peeled eggplants into the bowl of salted cold water. Place a plate over the eggplants in the water and weigh down with a can of food. This step is to ensure that all the eggplants are fully submerged. Leave to soak for 20 minutes while you get the other ingredients ready.
Making the filling
- Halve, then thinly slice the onions. Finely chop the garlic. Halve the capsicums, remove the seeds, then thinly slice them into strips.
- Heat 1 Tbsp of the olive oil on medium heat, in a large frying pan or casserole dish, and fry the onions and capsicums (bell peppers) for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Ad the garlic and fry for 1 minute.
- Add everything else: the chopped tomatoes, the sundried tomato paste, paprika, oregano, salt and sugar. Stir and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes.
Frying the eggplants
- When the eggplants have had their 20 minutes (while the filling is cooking), drain and rinse them in cold water. Then pat dry.
- Take 2 Tbsp of olive oil and, using your fingers, rub and gently massage the oil into the 4 eggplants. Set aside.
- OPTIONAL STEP: Turn your gas fire on medium. Using a pair of tongs, lightly burn the eggplants on the fire for a few seconds each side. Do one eggplant at a time. You just need a slight char of the skin, I love this extra step for the smoky flavour it gives me. You can skip this and start with the next step.
- Heat a large non stick frying pan on high heat and add 1 Tbsp of olive oil. Place the eggplants in the pan, 2 at a time, if need be, and brown on all sides. You will need a pair of tongs for this, to turn the eggplants around, and even hold them down so all sides can get browned. If doing 2 at a time, you will need 1 more Tbsp of olive oil for the second batch.
- If you’ve got your timing right, the filling of onions and capsicums should just about be at the 20 minute mark. Gently, using the tongs, lift each eggplant and settle it in the filling on the stove, wiggling slightly, to sink the eggplants in.
- Cover, and cook on low heat for 20 more minutes. This step is crucial, as it cook the eggplants fully, and they will eventually be meltingly tender at the end of the next step. If the filling it drying up, add 60ml (1/4 cup) water, and gently agitate with a ladle, to mix.
Baking the Imam Bayildi
- Phew – last step! Turn the oven oven on to 180˚C (350˚F/160˚C Fan).
- Now, get a baking dish that will snugly hold all eggplants, and lightly grease it. GENTLY pick up the eggplants, one at a time, and place in the baking dish.
- Very gently, prise open the pockets we created earlier, and fill them with the filling, using 2 teaspoons. Fill them up to the max, overflowing, if you like, for a rustic look. I usually pile the extra filling all around the aubergines.
- Cover with a foil and bake in the oven for a total of 45 minutes. Remove the foil after 20 minutes, for a drier and slightly brown top. Many people I know just leave it covered all the way.
- Garnish with parsley and serve.
To Make Little Canapés of Imam Bayildi
- Slice the aubergines in 1cm (1/2″) thick discs.
- Heat 1 Tbsp of olive oil on high heat in a non stick frying pan.
- Brown the eggplant discs, about 2 minutes each side. Don’t overcrowd the pan.
- Cook the filling as in the main recipe.
- Place the eggplants in a baking dish.
- Top the eggplant discs as in the video, about 1 heaped teaspoon per disc.
- Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes at 180˚C (350˚F/160˚C Fan). Remove the foil after 30 minutes.
- Garnish with parsley and serve hot or at room temperature.
A lot of the total time is hands off time, so it isn’t as much work as you might think!
- Category: Starter
- Method: Easy
- Cuisine: Turkish
Keywords: starters, mezze, turkish