07 August 2017

Imam Bayialdi

I had this in a Turkish restaurant in Bielefeld for the first time – and I think it was the idea behind the name of the dish, “the Imam fainted” that attracted me to it. It is a lovely way of doing aubergines, it tastes great hot, but also as a cold dish. Oh, and the story where the name comes from is a little confusing, whether it is the taste or the woman who served it that caused the swooning or whether, if you leave the ends on the aubergines it looks like a recumbent imam with the end being the hat, explanations abound.

What you need

  • 3 medium-sized aubergines
  • seasalt for rubbing the aubergines
  • 2 good-sized onions
  • 2 – 5 cloves of garlic, a matter of taste, methinks
  • olive oil
  • 0.3 litres of tomato passata (or more), or the equivalent in fresh tomatoes, deseeded (possibly skinned) and finely chopped
  • 1 handful of raisins (not pictured, sorry)
  • 1 tsp of “mixed spice” (includes cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg)
  • 1 small piece of cinnamon stick
  • 1 large tblsp of honey
  • oregano (or better Greek rigani) to taste
  • 1 lemon (only the juice)
  • salt and pepper to taste

What you do

  1. Trim the stalks if the aubergines and cut them in half length-wise (there are many different suggestions for other ways of cutting them, by the way), salt the cut generously with sea salt and leave to sit for 30 minutes. This may get rid of the bitterness that some people don’t like in aubergines.
  2. In the meantime, quarter the onions and slice them finely, crush the garlic and sauté both in a generous amount of olive oil, stirring without letting it brown.
  3. When the onions are limp, add the tomato passata, the spices and the raisins and keep stirring. Add water (or white wine, which I like, but it isn’t traditional!) and simmer gently for the remainder of the 30 minutes.
  4. Rinse off the excess salt from the aubergine halves and hollow them out shallowly. Chop the trimmed aubergine flesh and add to the onion mixture. (Preheat the oven to 175 to 200°)
  5. In olive oil fry first the flesh and then the skin side of the aubergines till the inside is browned and the skin has gone a bit wrinkly. Wisdom has it that they should then be dried with kitchen paper, but I like their olive oily succulence.
  6. Place them in an ovenproof dish.
  7. Now add the honey and the lemon juice to the onion mix and make sure it is relatively liquid.
  8. Pour it into the hollows of the aubergines and between the gaps, then place the dish in the oven and simmer for as long as you have patience, 20 minutes at least.
Tastes great with some saffron rice.