Turkey: Imam Bayildi

Imam BayildiI hadn’t intended on cooking anything else new this week for my 2016 challenge but after looking in the fridge at the vegetable that needed using I was reminded of a Turkish dish I had recently seen a recipe for. This dish can be made as a main course, or as a side dish. The recipe shown here is enough to serve it as a side dish for two people. It is an adaptation of a recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi written in the Guardian which suggests it should be served at room temperature – but I served it hot because it’s January and I didn’t want cold food.

Imam Bayildi translates as ‘the imam fainted’ supposedly making referenceĀ to an imam who depending on which story you believe either fainted with pleasure after eating the dish, or fainted after learning the amount of olive oil used to make it (according to what I have read here, and other places). Having looked at a few different recipes there are many which use a lot more olive oil, but I have kept it to a minimum in this one. I did however have too much tomato and so in the end more filling than was necessary for one aubergine. This amount could have easily filled two.


  • 1 aubergines
  • 1/2 lemon
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 red pepper, chopped into small pieces
  • 1 garlic cloves (sliced)
  • 3/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 3 tomatoes (or a small tin)
  • pinch of caster sugar
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano


  1. Use a vegetable peeler to peel strips off the aubergine, lengthways, so it ends up with stripes all the way round.
  2. Make an short incision into the aubergine and cut along the centre to around 3cm from the top and bottom (this is the opening that will be used to fill the aubergine later).
  3. In a bowl cover the aubergine in cold water, add the lemon juice and a 1 tsp of salt. To make sure the aubergine remains in the water use a plate or similar to weigh it down. Leave this to soak for around 1 hour and the pat dry before the next stage.
  4. In a frying or satuee pan heat the oil and fry the aubergine for 10 minutes. Remove from the pan.
  5. In the same pan fry the onions and peppers for 10 minutes. Meanwhile pour boiling water over the tomatoes (if using fresh ones) and leave for 1 minute and then peel the skins, and chop the remaining tomato flesh.
  6. Add garlic and spices and cook for around a minute, making sure the spices don’t burn. Then add the tomato, and season with salt and pepper.
  7. Add a tablespoon of water, pinch of sugar and a sprinkle of dried oregano. Put the aubergine on top of the mixture. Cover the pan and turn the heat down to simmer for around 20 minutes. Meanwhile preheat the oven to 180oC.
  8. Remove aubergine from the pan and place into a small oven proof dish. Find the incision you made at the beginning and stuff the aubergine with the tomato/pepper mixture. Sprinkle with some salt and then cover with foil. Bake for 35 minutes.
  9. When serving sprinke with more oregano.

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