Sunday, October 9, 2011

Vegan MoFo - I is for Imam Bayildi

I went searching through my cookbooks for inspiration for the letter I and stumbled across a recipe I had been meaning to try - a Turkish stuffed eggplant recipe called Imam Bayildi. This recipe appealed to me due to the name which translates to "The Priest Fainted" even more so than the ingredients. There are two stories behind the name; the first is that the priest fainted with pleasure when he tasted this delicious dish and the second is that he keeled over when he saw how much precious olive oil his wife had used to make it.

There were recipes in two of my cookbooks, World Vegetarian Classics by Celia Brooks Brown and The Cook's Companion by Stephanie Alexander. I chose to follow the latter as it is a treasured cookbook but one I have neglected in recent times. It was still useful to cross reference both recipes as Celia Brooks Brown's recipe stated a much longer cooking time of one and a half hours as opposed to 30 - 45 minutes. I ended up cooking the eggplant for close to an hour and a half which resulted in a smooth silky texture.

This meal turned out surprisingly flavoursome considering it only contained onion, garlic, tomato, eggplant, olive, lemon juice and parsley. The recipe was scaled down to feed two as I wasn't sure how great the meal would be or if I would want any leftovers. I was kicking myself that I hadn't made more as this was the most delicious eggplant I have eaten in a while and it's made me realise that the way to succeed with eggplant is to use heaps of oil and a long time in the oven!

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Imam Bayildi (Adapted from The Cook's Companion)

1 medium eggplant
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 shallot, sliced
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2 medium tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 bay leaf
pinch of cinnamon
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
salt and pepper, to taste
juice of 1/2 lemon

Slice the eggplant down the centre then scoop out the flesh leaving a small rim in the eggplant shells. Chop the eggplant flesh, salt and set aside. Salt the eggplant shells and set aside for 30 minutes. Rinse and dry.

Preheat oven to 180C. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a saucepan, then cook the shallots on a low flame until soft. Add the garlic and cook for a minute, then stir through the tomato, bay leaf, cinnamon and parsley and cook for 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a bowl and remove the bay leaf.

Rinse the eggplant flesh and dry with paper towel. Heat another tablespoon of olive oil in the saucepan and fry the eggplant for about 5 minutes until soft and golden. Mix the contents of the bowl through the eggplant.

Spoon the filling into the eggplant shells and place onto an oiled baking tray. Cover with a mixture of juice from half a lemon and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Bake in the oven for 1 hour 30 minutes spooning the liquid over the top of the eggplants a couple of times during baking.


  1. I've always been amused by the name of this dish but Never made it - E is not keen on eggplants so I don't often bother with them but when I have them cooked well I love them - must try this

  2. I like the colorful name behind this dish and the two stories that go along with it. I think we should all start naming our dishes based on the reactions people have to them. Of course, we're going to have to be careful who we're choosing for dining companions. I know I've served And He Cringed with a Fearful Glance more than I care to remember. ;)

  3. That looks great, I always seem to have issues with cooking eggplant but this looks pretty fool proof.

  4. Without fail, I always think Imam Bayaldi is a person when I come across it. This is far, far tastier than that interpretation though :P

  5. The name of this dish is brilliant :D It looks pretty tasty in its own right too - I'm tucking it away to try.

  6. Thanks Johanna, I haven't always loved eggplant but am finding when I cook with it I seem to learn a bit more about how to appreciate it.

    Cadry, your comment made me laugh! You should put He Cringed with a Fearful Glance into Google translate and see what intriguing names it comes up with. ;)

    Thanks K, I still have eggplant issues now and then too. Cooking this meal taught me to be really patient with eggplant as the long cooking time seriously payed off.

    Hannah, you made me giggle too! It really does sounds like someone's name, now I shall think of it like that in the future. ;)

    Thanks Kari, I love the name and story too. I would like to believe that the priest fainted with pleasure as that's pretty much how I felt about it! :D