Aubergines (eggplants) stuffed with onions and tomato

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I am a huge fan of aubergines, or eggplants for our American friends. I love them fried, cooked in the oven, made into fritters…you make them, I love them. Aubergines are one of the most popular vegetables in the Mediterranean cuisine and they dominate the local tables, especially in the summer when it’s their season. Vegans and vegetarians love it and they consider it as a great substitute for meat.

One of my favourite ways to cook aubergines is with onions and tomato sauce. The dish originates from Turkey and is called “Imam Bayildi”, which means “the priest fainted”. The story says that a wife of an imam in Turkey prepared the dish for her husband, the imam was overwhelmed with the taste but he fainted when he found out how much olive oil she had used for it. I am not sure if the story is true but the taste is for sure overwhelming! Even though it is a Turkish dish, it is very popular in Greece and there are variations of it in Italian cuisine.

Ingredients (feeds 3-4 people):

  • 4 aubergines.

  • 4 onions.

  • 3-4 big juicy and sweet tomatoes.

  • 3 teaspoons of tomato purée.

  • 6 garlic cloves.

  • A handful of pine nuts.

  • A bunch of flat leave parsley.

  • 1/3 teaspoon of cinnamon.

  • 1/3 teaspoon of nutmeg.

  • 1 teaspoon of paprika.

  • 1 ½ cups of extra virgin olive oil.

  • 3 potatoes.

  • Salt and pepper.

You have to start early by preparing the aubergines: using a knife, cut them lengthwise and repeat that in the opposite side as well as at the other quarters so you end up with four stripes. Be careful not to cut them too deep because the pieces will start falling apart. The cuts will be used later as pockets for the stuffing with the onions. Put a lot of salt in them and let them drain out their bitterness in a pasta strainer for a couple of hours. For better results, I use a bowl of water on top of the aubergines to provide some gentle pressure. When ready, wash them with cold water and dry them with a kitchen towel.

Sliced aubergines

Slice the aubergines!

In a large frying pan, use one cup of olive oil and fry the aubergines as they are in medium to high heat. When they get soft and start becoming brown, rotate them so they fry evenly on every side. You shouldn’t cook them a lot, the rest of the cooking will continue in the oven. Place them in a tray with kitchen towel in order to absorb the excess oil and let them cool down. Throw away the olive oil left in the pan.

Put the tomatoes and parsley in the blender to prepare the tomato mixture. Cut the onions in thick slices, as you do when making a salad. Also, cut the garlic cloves in small pieces (you could also crush them). You are now ready to prepare the stuffing!

Prepare the onions and tomato.

Prepare the onions and tomato.

In a pan, use a little olive oil in medium heat and fry the pine nuts until golden brown. Remove them from the pan, pour the rest of the olive oil and start frying the onions until they get soft and brownish. Add the garlic, stir and wait for a couple of minutes, add the pine nuts and pour in the tomato mix from the blender. Add the tomato purée with a cup of hot water, stir and add the paprika, nutmeg and cinnamon. Of course, salt and pepper to taste. Reduce the heat and let your sauce cook for ~ 15 minutes until all the water is gone. Your kitchen should start smelling like heaven from all the spices!

In order to make it a complete dish, I cut the potatoes in thick pieces and boil them for ~ 10 minutes. This is because potatoes need more time in the oven than aubergines so they are now half-ready.

Before going to the oven.

Before going to the oven.

When your mixture is ready, take each aubergine and start filling its “pockets” with the mixture from the frying pan. It would be a good idea to squeeze the aubergine by holding it from the ends in order to make room for the mixture. Place them in a large tray together with the potatoes. Pour any remaining mixture on top of your little beasts and cook in in a preheated oven for ~ 40 minutes at 190 degrees Celsius (370 Fahrenheit).

Enjoy your dinner with nice bread and Feta cheese on the side.

Bon appetit!

Ready!

Ready!

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