Over the years I have been accused of Winnie-the-Pooh-like tendencies. I suspect this is as much to do with having a very little brain and obsession with where my next meal is coming from than any really philosophical leanings. But every so often I start to ponder Life's big questions. Tiddly pom!
The Turkish dish, Imam Bayildi (or the priest fainted) is the perfect marriage of simple ingredients (aubergines, tomatoes and onions) cooked together. Did the frugal priest faint at the thought of how much olive oil his profligate wife had used to cook this dish? Or did the gluttonous priest swoon with delight because this dish is utterly delicious. Since I believe that there are very few occasions when you can have too much olive oil, I am inclined to believe that the priest was very happy indeed.
Serves 4 (as mezze or a side dish)
Skill level: Easy
8 x baby aubergines or 4 x small aubergines
2 x onions, finely chopped
2-3 x garlic cloves, very finely chopped
350g large vine tomatoes, peeled, de-seeded and roughly chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper
fresh flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
tomato juice (optional)
- Peel and skin the tomatoes. I pour boiling water over them and leave for about 1 minute. A small nick with a very sharp knife releases the skin and makes them very easy to peel.
- If your tomatoes have any of their vines attached, remove and set aside. (The vine can add extra flavour, honest!)
- Deseed the tomatoes too and turn over and leave to drain for a few minutes before chopping. (You want to keep the natural juices for later use).
- Retain the juice. Sieve the skin and pulp as you will be able to squeeze out a little more of the tomato juice.
- Gently fry the onions in a little olive oil for about 10 minutes until softened, before adding the chopped garlic. Continue to fry for 2 to 3 minutes.
- Add the tomatoes and any of the tomato vines you may have. (The tomato vine smells faintly of cloves and has a lovely intense "green" aroma). Simmer for a few minutes and check the seasoning. You may need to add a pinch of sugar to balance the acidity in the tomatoes.
- Set aside to cool before adding most of the chopped parsley. (Keep some back for serving).
- Preheat the oven to 180C / Gas Mark 4.
- Cut the aubergines in half lengthwise and around their circumference. (This means they will sit more evenly in the pan). Lightly score the flesh of each aubergine in a crosshatch pattern with a sharp knife.
- Place the aubergine in an oven-proof dish, cut side up.
- Spoon over the tomato and onion mixture. Pour any of the reserved tomato liquid around the aubergines.
- Drizzle over a little olive oil, cover with foil and bake for about 30 to 45 minutes. (The dish is ready when the aubergines have collapsed).
- Leave to cool and serve at room temperature, topped with more fresh parsley and a drizzle of olive oil.
- While I prefer to bake my aubergine, this can be cooked entirely on the stove top. You will need to combine more oil with some water to partially cover the aubergines as they are cooking.
- You can use the larger aubergines too. These will need to be partially cooked in oil before baking with the tomato and onion mix.