Iman Bayildi

Stuffed Aubergines

The title of this famous aubergine dish translates as ‘the Iman fainted’ – whether at the scent or savour of the dish is not certain; some have reckoned it was the cost which caused the dramatic reaction. Though the price of olive oil goes up, aubergines seem to be cheaper every year, and I have managed to grow them surprisingly well under glass in England. In France, in the south, like most vegetables, they are good value.

I prefer to halve the aubergines and cut into them like the leaves of a book, but the vegetable could as easily be hollowed or have the cuts made on the outside. Iman Bayildi makes an excellent but surprisingly filling preliminary to a summer meal.

Ingredients

  • 2 medium-sized aubergines
  • salt
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tomatoes, skinned and chopped
  • 45 g( oz) currants
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
  • ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
  • salt, milled pepper
  • a little olive oil

Method

Halve the aubergines lengthways. Make 3 or 4 cuts into the cut surface but not all the way through so that the sections of aubergine resemble the pages (very thick ones) of a book. Sprinkle all the cut surfaces with salt and leave the aubergines in a colander for 30–45 minutes for any bitter juices to seep out. Rinse in cold water and dry well on a cloth or kitchen paper.

Meanwhile soften the onions and garlic in the olive oil over moderate heat. Add the tomatoes, currants, parsley, allspice, salt and milled pepper and cook together for 15–20 minutes until you have a thick, mushy sauce.

Spoon the sauce into all the gaps in each half of aubergine. Place them skin side down in a casserole and spoon the remaining sauce on top.

Dribble some olive oil over the vegetables, add a coffee cup of hot water and cover tightly.

Cook in a slow oven (Mark 3, 160°C, 325°F) for about 1 hour until the aubergines are completely cooked and there is little liquid in the casserole. Add a little more liquid during the cooking if necessary. (Earlier recipes give a huge quantity of olive oil – enough to make you faint at today’s prices – for the cooking stage but I think it needs to be cut down to the amount I’ve given for present-day taste.)

Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Serve at room temperature.