Stuffed Dried Eggplant

Kuru Dolma

You see the dried shells of baby eggplants hanging in markets all over eastern Turkey, and you can safely assume they came from a village called Oğuzeli, near Gaziantep, which specialises in emptying and drying eggplants, zucchini and capsicums at the end of summer, ready to be stuffed during winter.

Of course the stuffing in this recipe can be used with fresh baby eggplants. Just slice off the top, hollow out the core (leaving thickish walls) and fill it with the stuffing. You can use the scooped out flesh to make the eggplant salad on.

Ingredients

Dolma

  • 1 green capsicum (pepper)
  • 4 red capsicums (peppers)
  • 10 mint leaves, finely chopped
  • 10 flat-leaf (Italian) parsley leaves
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 175 g (6 oz/1 cup) fine bulgur
  • 150 g ( oz) ground (minced) lamb
  • 100 g ( oz/½ cup) chickpeas, boiled
  • 1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses (to make your own, see)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon capsicum (pepper) paste (see)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon white pepper
  • 50 ml (1⅔ fl oz) olive oil
  • 1 tomato
  • 1 pack dried eggplants (aubergines), about 20 pieces (or 10 fresh eggplant/aubergines)
  • 3 red capsicums, extra
  • 1 onion

Tomato and Capsicum Cooking Liquid

  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste (to make your own, see)
  • 1 tablespoon capsicum (pepper) paste (see)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • juice of ½ lemon

Yoğurt Sauce

  • 1251 g ( oz/½ cup) plain yoğurt
  • 2 tablespoons tahini
  • 2 teaspoons sumac

Method

Remove the stalks and seeds from the green capsicum and 1 red capsicum and finely chop. Finely chop the mint and parsley leaves. Crush the garlic to a paste.

Put the bulgur in a bowl, cover with 125 ml (4 fl oz/½ cups) of water and leave to soak for 20 minutes. Stir in the mince, chickpeas, pomegranate molasses, cumin, capsicum paste, parsley, chopped capsicum, salt, pepper, oil and garlic. Halve the tomato and grate it into the mixture. Discard the skin. Mix the mince mixture together well and then set aside.

Put the dried eggplants in a bowl, cover with warm water and leave to hydrate for 6 minutes. Remove from the bowl and pat dry with paper towel. Stuff each of them with 1 to 2 tablespoons of the stuffing, until it is three-quarters full.

Cut the remaining 3 red capsicum in half and remove the stalks and seeds. Cut the halves into pieces to fit inside the top of the eggplants. Push the capsicum lids on top of the stuffing, shiny side up. These will stop the stuffing from falling out when the eggplant swells during cooking. Peel the onion but leave whole.

Using a deep 25 cm (10 in) wide pot, place a 20 cm (8 in) wide dinner plate upside down at the bottom of the pan. Sit the eggplants, capsicum-lids upwards, around the inside of the pot, with the onion in the centre to create a tight fit.

To make the cooking liquid, mix the tomato and capsicum pastes, and olive oil in 500 ml (17 fl oz/2 cups) of water. Pour the liquid over the eggplants and add the lemon juice. Bring to the boil over high heat, then reduce to a simmer and cook, covered, for 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix the yoğurt, tahini and sumac together in a small bowl.

Spoon 2 tablespoons of the cooking liquid onto four plates. Add five kuru dolma to each plate, distribute the sauce on top and serve.