Saturday, July 6, 2013

Imam Bayildi, Limnian style
(Eggplant Stew)


We are still freezing our bottoms off here in Melbourne, where the daily top temperatures average around 13 degrees celsius in July. It's usually cloudy and rainy, sometimes very windy. It even snows on occasion over the nearby hills, only an hour away from where we live. Morning frosts can be severe, but beautiful. As long as you are watching from a warm place. Which is something Tony and I can only dream about in our non-insulated, refrigerated house with practically non-existent heating.

As you can imagine, we are willing down the days to both our trip to Greece next month, and our upcoming move to the warmer Australian state of Queensland later this year.

In the meantime, we get through the days by enjoying soul-warming soups and comforting stews.


In my last post I talked about the many recipes that are shared amongst Mediterranean and Middle Eastern countries. Imam Bayildi is a delicious stuffed eggplant dish that is found all over Turkey and Greece. The people of these two countries lived together for 400 years during the reign of the Ottoman Empire so naturally there are many similarities between their styles of music, food and other cultural aspects.

The phrase imam bayildi is Turkish for "the priest fainted". It is believed the aroma and appearance of this dish when first served to the priest was so overwhelming, it caused him to faint! Some say the priest fainted from eating too much. Others believe he was frightened by the abundance of oil in the dish!

Some recipes for Imam Bayildi do call for a slathering of olive oil, but many recipes don't. My recipe here leans toward the lesser oil variety and also takes on another characteristic that doesn't normally appear in traditional recipes for Imam Bayildi.

When you order Imam Bayildi at a Greek restaurant, you will be served a plate of two or more eggplant halves stuffed with a herbed tomato/onion mixture.

On the island of Limnos where my dad's family is from, tavernas serve Imam Bayildi as a stew. Many people with Turkish origins live in Limnos given its close proximity to the Turkish coast, and if the people of Limnos have accepted Imam Bayildi served up as a stew at their tavernas, then I think it's safe to say this may be the traditional Limnian way to cook Imam Bayildi.


This dish is very simple to make and only takes a few ingredients. I also added some zucchini to mine because, well, eggplant and zucchini are made for each other.

So while this version of Imam Bayildi treats the eggplant in a slightly different way, the ingredients and cooking methods are basically the same, and I think it's still good enough to make a priest faint.


Imam Bayildi (Eggplant Stew)


Adapted from a recipe from the book From a Traditional Greek Kitchen – Vegetarian Cuisine by Aphrodite Polemis

Serves 3 as a main meal or 6 as a side

Ingredients

  • Olive oil for frying
  • 2 eggplants
  • 2 zucchinis
  • 1 large onion, finely sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 400g can chopped tomatoes
  • 3 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius.
  2. Slice the eggplants and zucchinis length wise, around 1cm thick.
  3. Sprinkle eggplant slices generously with salt* on both sides and layer onto a large plate. Allow to stand for 20 minutes then rinse and pat dry with paper towels.
  4. Meanwhile, fry the onions in oil over low heat until soft. Add garlic, tomatoes, parsley, salt and pepper and allow to simmer for around 20 minutes.
  5. Lightly fry the eggplant and zucchini slices in oil until they start to change colour and arrange in layers in a medium baking dish, around 20cm x 30cm, spreading some of the tomato sauce between layers, and topping with remaining tomato sauce.
  6. Cover with foil and bake for around 40 minutes.
  7. Imam Bayildi is traditionally served at room temperature, but can be eaten warm topped with crumbled feta or dollops of Greek yoghurt.

* It is said that salting the eggplant is necessary to draw out the bitter juices before cooking but I don't always do this. If eggplants are slow cooked as they are in this dish, this gives the juices time to break down and caramelise without the need to salt them beforehand. Salting still helps to sweeten them a little, but if you're strapped for time you can skip this step.



14 comments:

  1. I may faint at this as well! This recipes is right up my alley :)

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    1. Dukkah is definitely a faint-worthy dish!

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  2. This looks wonderful. I love the simplicity of these dish. Queensland eggplants are very good at the moment too, so I'll have to give this a try.

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    1. Thanks Elizabeth. Oh I can't wait to have access to all of Queensland's wonderful fresh produce when we move up there later this year :)

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  3. Eggplant is one of my favorite foods, this looks great :)

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    1. Thank you Ann. It tastes as good as it looks :)

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  4. The imam Bayildi is the only dish with eggplant and onions which don't like. I don't know why, probably the combination of flavors. However, it is one of the most classic dishes of the Mediterranean.
    Interesting addition zucchini will surely fit great.

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    1. Maybe you could replace the eggplant entirely with zucchini :) ... I guess it would no longer be imam bayildi though would it?

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  5. This looks amazing. I am totally in love with eggplant. I never seem to photograph it well, but you have made it look so beautiful!! I will have to try this soon. Love your blog!

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    1. Thanks Kristen! Stews and casseroles are some of the hardest things to photograph, but I have seen your photos and they are lovely!

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  6. Gorgeous pics! I made this dish years ago from a cookbook- and it was a stuffed eggplant recipe rather than a stew. I was definitely drawn in by the name and its explanation..what a way to entice the reader!

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    1. Thanks Shvetha! Yes, this dish is traditionally made by stuffing the eggplant but it still tastes the same as a stew :) It is a funny name for a dish isn't it!

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  7. this is my kind of meal! eggplant, zucchini, and garlic in tomato sauce, heck yes. i hope it warmed you up. i wish i could come over and eat this with you.

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    1. It's a great dish to have on the table in a big bowl from which people can just help themselves. Big bowl of Imam Bayildi, big bowl of rice, big bowl of stewed green beans. Big bowl of crusty bread. All you can eat!!

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