IMAM BAYELDI (Eggplant Appetizers)
The Real Greek at Home
by Theodore Kyriakou & Charles Campion
This dish should be sinfully rich, and there is an apocryphal tale that the name derived from the holy man who fainted when he first tasted it. Some say he fainted because the dish was so rich, and some that he fainted at the thought of spending all that money on oil.
Serves 6 as mezedes
• 1kg (2¼ lb) large aubergines* (at least 12cm/4½ in long, if possible thin rather than fat)
• 100ml (3½ fl oz) olive oil
• 1kg (2¼ lb) Spanish onions, thinly sliced
• 2 tsp caster sugar
• 200g (7oz) plum tomatoes, skinned, seeded, and sliced
• 3 heaped tbsp finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
• 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
• salt and pepper to taste
*aubergines = eggplant
1. Peel half the skin off the aubergines in long strips so that they look stripy. With the tip of a paring knife, make a deep slash lengthways in each aubergine. Sprinkle them with salt and allow them to stand for 30 minutes, then rinse.
2. Preheat the oven to 170-180°C/325-350°F/gas mark 3-4.
3. Gently heat half the olive oil in a frying pan, then add the onions and sugar, and cook very slowly for about an hour until they are completely soft.
4. Spread a third of the fried onions over the base of an oiled casserole dish. Add a layer of tomatoes and put to one side.
5. Add the remaining tomatoes and half the parsley to the fried onions in the frying pan. Mix well and cook for 10 minutes.
6. Add 2 tbsp water to the mixture in the frying pan and stir. Arrange the aubergines on the onion mixture in the bottom of the casserole and, using a spoon, stuff the garlic into the slits in the aubergines. Add the tomato and onion mixture from the frying pan, attempting to work it into the slashes as well. It should overflow!
7. Season well and pour over the remaining oil. Cover the casserole with a sheet of foil and put the lid on. This should ensure a good seal.
8. Bake for 40 minutes, or until the aubergines are soft. If you like a thick sauce, remove the lid for the last 10 minutes to allow it to dry off a little.
9. Allow to cool to lukewarm, then sprinkle with the remaining parsley and serve.