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Vegetables Cooked in Olive Oil

Eggplants with Lentils, cooked in Olive Oil; Patlicanli Mercimekli Mualla

 

Aubergine with green lentils, aubergine onions and peppers; Mercimekli Mualla- such a delicious treat

It is high time for an eggplant (aubergine) recipe, the king of vegetables at home. Eggplant lovers at home claim we have over 200 eggplant, patlican recipes, as we love this special vegetable so much. My name in our home is actually “Patlican” too – or Patli as short-. When my husband heard the name for the first time, he liked the sound of it so much that he decided to call me Patlican! No complaints.

We have a whole section in Turkish cuisine called “Vegetables cooked in Olive Oil”, Zeytinyaglilar, where we cook vegetables in olive oil and serve them either cold or at room temperature. Once cooked, it is important for the dish to cool down in its pan and rest, allowing all the flavors to blend. Usually served with a wedge of lemon, this style of cooking is very healthy, tasty and refreshing.

This traditional recipe, Patlicanli Mercimekli Mualla, is from Antakya, Southern part of Turkey, where my roots are from. The amazing flavors of green lentils, olive oil, eggplant and dried mint blend so well and take me back to Antakya immediately. This is a traditional recipe and I am especially happy to be able to pass it on to food lovers and the next generation, as it is not easy to find these traditional recipes in cookery books. It is a joy to trace these recipes over many phone calls to my mother, passionately exchange opinions on it and finally have a chance to share with you. I hope you enjoy this wonderful dish and pass it on.

Serves 4-6

Preparation time: 25 minutes Cooking time: 40 minutes

180 gr / 1 cup green lentils
2 medium eggplants (aubergine)
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 red bell pepper, cut in half and thinly sliced
400 gr / 14 oz (a can of) chopped tomatoes in juice
50 ml/ about 2 fl oz/ 1/4 cup olive oil and
45 ml / 3 tablespoons of olive oil to saute eggplants
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon dried mint (spearmint)
240 ml/ 8 lf oz / 1 cup water

Crusty bread to serve

Put lentils in a pan of boiling water, stir and cover. Simmer in low heat for 15 minutes. Drain its water and set aside.

Using a vegetable peeler, peel the eggplants in zebra stripes. Cut the eggplant in half lengthways and then cut each half into medium thick slices. Spread them on a wide tray, sprinkle salt over and leave aside for 15 minutes. With using paper towel, squeeze excess water out of eggplants.

Heat the olive oil in a heavy pan and very lightly sauté the eggplant slices for a minute or two. This will help eggplants to soften up and start bringing out their lovely sweet flesh.

In a large bowl, combine the partially cooked lentils, onion, garlic, bell peppers, chopped tomatoes, salt, mint, olive oil and the sugar, mix well. Season with ground black pepper, check the seasoning and add more salt if needed.

In a wide heavy pan, place a layer of the eggplant slices. Spread the half of the vegetable mixture over the eggplants evenly. Place the remaining of the eggplant slices over the top and spread the remaining vegetable mixture over. Add the water, cover and cook in medium to low heat for about 40 minutes.

Once cooked, cover and cool the dish in the pan. Serve at room temperature with some crusty bread.

Tips and facts on Eggplant (Aubergine):

1) This wonderful vegetable (actually fruit, as it has seeds) has about 90 % water, which makes it low in fat and calories. You need to get rid of the sour juice of the eggplant before cooking. You can do that by salting the eggplant slices, and squeezing the sour juice out using a paper towel.

2) You can’t eat eggplants raw but once cooked, the flesh becomes meaty and sweet; which makes a great vegetarian option.

3) We Turks love eggplants; we grill it, broil it, bake in the oven, smoke it and even make lovely jams out of it! As nation’s favorite vegetable, it is believed we have over 200 recipes featuring the beloved eggplant, patlican.

4) When shopping for eggplants, look for bright dark purple color and a healthy green stem. It should feel heavy for its size. Try to get a small to medium size eggplants as they tend to have less seeds.

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