When my parents returned recently from a trip to Turkey, what they commented on most was how kind the people there had been. Taxi drivers inviting them back to their houses for lunch, offering them freshly-picked lemons and tomatoes from the garden. Elderly men on the street picking fresh apricots for them to try, and people in supermarkets buying them novelty gifts they thought might be appreciated (although I’m not sure how useful a Turkish copy of Alice In Wonderland is to a middle aged English woman….)
They also brought back this healthy, tasty recipe and it’ll probably be a meal we come back to as a family time and time again, especially as there are such good memories linked to it.
Imam Bayildi literally translates as ‘fainting priest’. There are two stories to accompany this: One version says a woman made this meal when a priest was invited to dinner and he fainted upon tasting how delicious it was, and the other version says the priest allowed this woman to borrow his most precious bottle of olive oil to make the dish and proceeded to faint when he realised how much of it she had used up in the recipe. Either way you should probably make any priests sign a disclaimer if they’re coming round to eat this for dinner to be on the safe side….
- Halve the aubergine length ways. Scoop out some of the flesh to leave something that resembles a thick skinned canoe.
- Soak the canoes and the removed flesh in a large bowl/sink of salted water for 15 mins. (This removes some of the aubergine’s bitterness) Then drain, rinse and pat dry.
- Heat olive oil in a sauce pan, add onion, peppers and fry until softened. Add chopped aubergine flesh, tomato, puree, smoked paprika, 5 spice and cook on a low heat for a few minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Add 3/4 of the chopped parsley and leave to cool for ten minutes.
- Place the aubergine canoes in an ovenproof dish and fill each equally with the mixture.
- Pour in half a pint of boiling water around the filled aubergines.
- Cook in the oven for an hour at Gas 6, 200C, 400F
- This is lovely served warm with some kalamata black olives on the side, a green salad and maybe warm crusty bread or brown rice.