Imam Bayildi is a Turkish recipe, that reminds me of those perfect days in the Mediterranean with the most beautiful dishes I’ve ever tasted. This stuffed eggplant is literally one of my favourite dishes. The easiness of the cooking process, the intense depth of the flavours, the simplicity of the ingredients; they all add up to the perfect end result. The recipe originates from Turkey, and is basically a stuffed eggplant. However, it has a pretty amazing story behind it. The tale centers around a Turkish imam. His wife had prepared this particular dish for him. Upon tasting the great flavours, he supposedly fainted. Imam Bayildi translates to “the fainted imam” in English. There are other versions of this story: the imam did faint, but only due to the cost of the ingredients. I prefer to believe the first version, as I got close to that feeling as well when eating this simple stuffed eggplant.
Eggplant to me is truly an ingredient of the southern regions of Europe, and the Arabian cuisines. For those who have ever made the Greek mousaka, the preparation of the Imam Bayildi might seem quite familiar. The main common denominator is the olive oil. You are going to need loads of it. The eggplant needs to soak up all the deliciousness that is in the oil. I’d definitely recommend to use extra virgin olive oil for this recipe, just because the flavours and aromas are even more intense.
- 185 ml (3/4 cup) (extra virgin) olive oil
- 2 eggplants
- 3 onions
- 3 garlic cloves
- 400 grams (14 oz) canned tomatoes
- 2 tbsp dried oregano
- Fresh parsley (as much as you’d like)
- 35 grams (1.2 oz) currants
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Optional: feta cheese
Used kitchen appliances
- Baking dish
- Large pan with a thick bottom
- Heat the oven to 180C or 365F. Heat half of the olive oil in the pan. Cut the eggplants in half lengthwise. Cook them in the pan on both sides for about 10 minutes, or until the inside is golden brown.
- Take the eggplant out of the pan, and spoon some of the pulp out of them. Keep the skin intact. Finelky chop the pulp and set aside.
- Slice the onions. Heat the remaining half of the oil in the same pan, and cook the onions for 10 minutes on a low heat.
- In the meanwhile, finely chop the garlic, and the parsley. Add the garlic to the pan and leave to cook for about 1 minute.
- Add the tomatoes, oregano, parsley, currants, cinnamon, and the eggplant pulp to the pan. Cook for another 5 minutes. Season to taste.
- Place the eggplant halves in the baking dish. Fill them with the tomato-mixture.
- Cover the dish with tin foil, and cook for 30 minutes in the oven. After that, remove the foil and cook for another 10 minutes. Optional: sprinkle over some feta cheese.
Serve with rice, bread and tzatziki, or a simple green salad. Or try it with this flavourful Bulgur Salad.
Note: You can easily prepare this dish in the morning, and cook it in the oven for dinner.