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Tag Archives | Turkish vegetarian mezzes

A Turkish Classic; Eggplants stuffed with onion, garlic and tomatoes in olive oil; Imam Bayildi

Imam Bayildi; eggplants, aubergines, stuffed with onions, garlic and tomatoes and poached in olive oil; just melt in the mouth

Imam Bayildi; eggplants, aubergines, stuffed with onions, garlic and tomatoes and poached in olive oil; just melt in the mouth

Patlican, eggplants or aubergines are one of the most popular vegetables (actually fruit, as it has seeds in it) in Turkey; we must have over 200 recipes showcasing our beloved patlican, eggplant. I love this classic Turkish dish, Imam Bayildi or “Imam Fainted”, one of the most popular eggplant dishes at home. Legend says  “Imam Fainted” either due to the shock or the pleasure at the quantity of the olive oil used in this dish! No doubt, eggplant loves olive oil and tastes so good in this Imam Bayildi.

Imam Bayildi; this delicious stuffed eggplants in olive oil is lovely vegetarian course, enjoyed at  room temperature or cold

Imam Bayildi; this delicious stuffed eggplants in olive oil is lovely vegetarian course, enjoyed at room temperature or cold

The aubergines are gently poached in this dish with a generous mixture of onions, tomatoes and garlic. This dish is in the category of Vegetables cooked in olive oil, Zeytinyaglis in Turkish cuisine, where the vegetables are poached in olive oil and little water and served either cold or room temperature with a slice of lemon aside. It is delicious and refreshing for hot summer days, just melts in the mouth.

You can prepare Imam Bayildi ahead of time and the left overs can keep in fridge for 2-3 days. I used a little less olive oil here and added dried mint to the filling; the result was a light, utterly delicious and refreshing vegetarian course.

Serves 4

2 large (and slim, if possible) eggplants/aubergines

1 large onion, halved and finely sliced

3 tomatoes, finely chopped

3-4 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 bunch of flat leaf parsley, finely chopped

60ml/4 tablespoons olive oil

Juice of ½ lemon

10ml/2 teaspoon sugar

5ml/1 teaspoon dried mint

Salt and black ground pepper to taste

Light olive oil (or canola oil) to shallow fry the eggplants/aubergines

Extra wedges of lemon to serve

 

Using a vegetable peeler, peel the aubergines lengthways in zebra stripes.

Using a vegetable peeler, peel the aubergines lengthways in zebra stripes.

Using a vegetable peeler, peel the aubergines length ways in zebra stripes, then cut the eggplants / aubergines in half lengthways. In each half of eggplant, cut a deep split length ways without cutting through to the skin on the opposite side and leaving 1/2″-13 mm- uncut at either end. Sprinkle salt (this will help the moisture come out) over the eggplants and leave for about 10-15 minutes to leach out the moisture and bitter juices of eggplants. After that, thoroughly drain and pat dry the eggplants with paper towel to get rid of this moisture, otherwise they will be soggy.

 Place the sauteed eggplants on a paper towel to absorb excess oil.

Place the sauteed eggplants on a paper towel to absorb excess oil.

Heat about 1cm/1/2in light olive oil or canola oil in a deep sided pan. Place the eggplants in the oil and shallow fry quickly on both sides until they are softened and have a light brown color, for about 3-5 minutes. Place paper towel on a tray and transfer these eggplants there; the paper towel will absorb the excess olive oil.

Dried mint brings a refreshing flavor to the filling of the eggplants.

Dried mint brings a refreshing flavor to the filling of the eggplants.

Now let’s prepare the filling. Stir in the sliced onions and garlic in a bowl, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil, dried mint, salt and ground black pepper to taste. Knead this mixture with your hands for the dried mint and seasoning to blend well (this will also help the onions to soften). Stir in the tomatoes and parsley to the mixture and combine well.

Lift the eggplants to a chopping board and open up the split in the middle to create pockets. Spoon the mixture into these eggplant pockets, packing it in tightly so that all of the filling is used up (if you have any left over filling, I would simply cook them in the same pan next to these eggplant pockets).

Spoon the filling mixture into the eggplant pockets.

Spoon the filling mixture into the eggplant pockets.

Place the stuffed eggplants side by side in a wide, heavy pan. Mix the remaining olive oil with ½ cup water, lemon juice and sugar and pour it over the eggplants.

Cover the pan with a lid and place over a medium heat to get the oil hot and create some steam. Once the cooking liquid is hot, cook the eggplants for about 45-50 minutes. Once cooked, they should be soft and tender, with a little of cooking liquid left in the bottom of the pan.

Leave Imam Bayildi;  stuffed eggplants in olive oil to cool and rest in the pan after cooking.

Leave Imam Bayildi; stuffed eggplants in olive oil to cool and rest in the pan after cooking.

Leave the eggplants to cool and rest in the pan for the flavors to settle, then carefully transfer them to a serving dish and spoon the oil from the pan over the eggplants. Serve at room temperature or cold, with a wedge of lemon aside and extra garnish of parsley over them.

Imam Bayildi; eggplants, aubergines, stuffed with onions, garlic and tomatoes and poached in olive oil; just melt in the mouth

Imam Bayildi; eggplants, aubergines, stuffed with onions, garlic and tomatoes and poached in olive oil; a delicious vegetarian course, just melts in the mouth

Afiyet Olsun,

Ozlem

Tips for buying eggplants: Although these days eggplants are available all year around, July, August and September are their prime time.  When buying, choose eggplants with smooth, shiny skin, heavy for their size, and having no blemishes, tan patches, or bruises. Wrinkled, loose skin is an indication of age, and the fruit will be more bitter. Smaller eggplants have fewer seeds, thinner skin, and tend to be sweeter, tenderer and less bitter.

The US is Calling – time to travel!

Sharing a delicious bite with dear Nancy and Turkish food lovers at my previous Turkish cooking class at Central Market Cooking School, Austin - Texas

Sharing a delicious bite with dear Nancy and Turkish food lovers at my previous Turkish cooking class at Central Market Cooking School, Austin – Texas

I will be departing shortly for the US; we as a family all greatly look forward to visiting dear friends in Texas and in Park City, Utah. I am so very much looking forward returning to Central Market Cooking School in Austin to teach my Turkish Cookery class with them on 2nd August; I know so many of you Turkish food lovers in Austin already booked their spots, my heartfelt thanks to you all. I will be in touch with a post from the US and share our foodie and travel experience 🙂

Best wishes for the summer to you all!

Ozlem

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Sautéed Aubergine (Eggplant), Courgette (Zucchini) and Peppers with Tomato Sauce-Saksuka

Patlicanli, kabakli saksuka; fried eggplants and zucchini in tomato and red pepper paste sauce

Patlicanli, kabakli saksuka; fried eggplants, peppers and zucchini in tomato and red pepper paste sauce

This is one of the most popular mezes, appetizers at home, featuring our beloved eggplant (aubergine). It is delicious and easy to make. Garlicky yoghurt accompanies this dish really well. I like to add a little Turkish hot pepper paste, biber salcasi to it; it really adds a wonderful flavor. If you like to make your own red pepper paste, here is my recipe.

One of the joys in life for me is to cook and eat with friends and family. The life evolves around kitchen, children come and go and you get to cook with those dear to you, simply wonderful. We made and enjoyed this dish with friends this week; in Turkish we say “the food tastes better when shared” and it sure did.

Serves 4
Preparation time: 25 minutes Cooking time: 20-25 minutes

1 large aubergine (eggplant)
1 courgette (zucchini)
1 red bell pepper
2-3 chili peppers (as hot as you wish), kept whole or sliced in half
Sunflower oil for shallow frying
Salt and ground black pepper to taste

For the tomato sauce:
400gr/14oz can of chopped tomatoes

10ml/2tsp. Turkish hot pepper paste, biber salcasi (optional)
2-3 garlic cloves, crushed with salt
5ml/1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
15ml/1tablespoon olive oil
Handful of flat leaf parsley, finely chopped

Garlicky yoghurt sauce:
200ml/7fl oz thick and creamy natural plain yoghurt
2 garlic cloves, crushed
Salt and ground black pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 200 C/400F (if you prefer to roast the vegetables)

Using a vegetable peeler, partially peel the aubergine in stripes. Cut the aubergine in half length ways and then cut each half into thick slices. Sprinkle salt over the eggplants and leave them aside for 15 minutes. Salt will help the moisture come out of the eggplants. Dry the eggplants with kitchen towel thoroughly (otherwise the excess water will cause the hot oil to spatter everywhere).

Cut the courgette in half lengthways and then cut it width ways into thick slices. Deseed the red bell pepper and cut it into bite size pieces. You can leave the chili peppers as a whole or cut in half if they are too big.

Heat enough oil in a wide pan. Sauté the vegetables in batches until they are golden brown. Lift them out with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen towel. Lightly season with salt and ground black pepper.  Alternatively, if you prefer to roast the vegetables, you can spread the sliced vegetables on a roasting tray and coat them with olive oil (about 2-3 tbsp) and season with salt and black pepper. You can then roast the vegetables in the preheated oven for about 35-40 minutes until they start to turn golden brown.

On a separate pan, sauté the garlic for a minute or so with the olive oil. Add the canned tomatoes and the hot pepper paste (if you are using) and mix well. Stir in the red pepper flakes and the parsley. Add salt and pepper to your taste. The tomato sauce is ready.

For the yoghurt sauce, beat the yoghurt with the garlic and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Pile the hot vegetables on to a serving dish and spoon the tomato sauce over the top. Serve the yoghurt sauce by the side, accompanied by chunks of fresh bread to mop up the tasty sauce.

Afiyet Olsun,

Ozlem

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Bulgur and Lentil Patties – Mercimekli Bulgur Kofte

Bulgur and lentil patties, mercimekli, bulgurlu kofte; wholesome - try next to pomegranate molasses & olive oil dipping sauce, delicious.

Bulgur and lentil patties, mercimekli, bulgurlu kofte; wholesome – try next to pomegranate molasses & olive oil dipping sauce, delicious.

This is a delicious and healthy vegetarian recipe that you can serve as an appetizer; it would be a great party dish to accompany roasted vegetables and meat too. You can serve it wrapped in lettuce leaves, and it is delicious when dipped in a mixture of extra virgin olive oil & pomegranate molasses (sharp balsamic vinegar would be a good replacement if you cannot find pomegranate molasses). Middle Eastern and most specialty food stores carry pomegranate molasses and the online Turkish stores Tulumba and Best Turkish Food carries a wide range of Turkish ingredients.  For the Turkish hot pepper paste, biber salcasi, you can make your own if you like, here is my Turkish hot pepper paste recipe.

We lived in the southeast part of Turkey, in a town called Elazig for 8 years during my childhood. It is an amazing part of the world, next door to the fascinating Mount Ararat (the highest mountain in Turkey, where Noah’s Ark is believed to have landed and a cradle of early civilization dating back to the early bronze age. I remember the locals being very warm and friendly; happy to share their food and open their doors to new comers. This recipe is from Southeast part of Turkey (and there are many regional variations), one of the local specialties Mum learned from the locals and passed to us. I hope you enjoy it and make it there one day!

You can also add a few finely chopped green onions (spring onions) and a handful of chopped parsley to the bulgur & lentil patties mixture before shaping into balls, they go well together.

Serves 4-6

Preparation time: 20 minutes Cooking time: 35 – 40 minutes

175 gr/6 oz/ 3/4 cup red lentils
225 gr/8 oz/ generous 1 cup coarse bulgur wheat
1 medium onion, finely chopped
15 ml / 1 tablespoon red pepper paste or chili paste (if not available, replace with 10 ml / 2 teaspoon tomato paste and 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes)

15ml/1 tablespoon olive oil
10 ml / 2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
30 ml / 2 tablespoon olive oil
240 ml / 8 fl oz/ 1 cup hot water (for lentils)
120 ml / 4 fl oz / 1/2 cup hot water (for bulgur)

Small bowl of water to shape the balls

For the dipping sauce:
120 ml / 4 fl oz / 1/2 cup pomegranate molasses
30 ml / 2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Small lettuce leaves to serve

Place the red lentils in a saucepan and add the hot water. Bring it to boil, half covered. Then lower the heat and let the lentils simmer for about 10 minutes. Turn the heat off. Add the bulgur, its hot water, red pepper paste, olive oil, salt and cumin, mix well. Let the mixture sit and absorb the water for about 15 minutes until all the moisture is absorbed and the mixture is of dry consistency (when turning the heat off, the bulgur will become softer though retaining its “al dente”,  texture with a bite). Mix well occasionally to blend the flavors.

Sauté the onions in olive oil and cook on a medium heat for about 10 minutes, until they turn a golden color. Turn the heat off and let it cool for a couple of minutes.

Combine the sautéed onions with the lentil and bulgur mixture in a large bowl. Take about a walnut size of the mixture into your hands and with wet hands, shape it as patties. Place them on a wide serving tray with lettuce leaves by the side to wrap.

For the dipping sauce; mix the pomegranate molasses and the extra virgin olive oil, place in a small dipping bowl.

Serve the bulgur and lentil patties with the lettuce leaves and the dipping sauce by the side.

Afiyet Olsun,

Ozlem

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