This elegant Ottoman dish is a wonderful melt-in-your-mouth experience of soft eggplant slices, tender chicken pieces and a sturdy tomato sauce, featuring Turks’ beloved eggplant (aubergine), patlican. Traditionally chunks of lamb or beef are used, and I made this version with chicken breast. Marinating the chicken as below really makes the meat tenderer and add a lot of flavor.
Wrapping the chicken in strips of lightly fried eggplant may take a little time to prepare but it is absolutely worth it and the result is impressive and very tasty. You can also bake this dish a day in advance and keep in the fridge, which makes it a great entertaining feast. Any leftovers can also be kept in the freezer.
Another version of this delicious dish, Baked aubergine and chicken kebab, is at my cookery book, Ozlem’s Turkish Table, and chicken is marinated in yoghurt, spices and olive oil there too.
Preparation time: 45 minutes
Cooking time: 45 minutes (+20 minutes for the eggplants)
3 long aubergine/eggplants (dark purple Holland eggplants)
Canola oil for shallow frying
1 medium tomato, halved and sliced
1 green bell pepper, halved and sliced lengthways
30ml/2 tablespoons olive oil to saute the chicken breasts
For marinating the chicken:
385gr/13 1/2oz chicken breast, cut in small chunks
1 onion, finely chopped
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
30ml/2 tablespoon natural plain yoghurt
15ml/1 tablespoon olive oil
10ml/2 teaspoon tomato paste
5-10ml/1-2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste
For the tomato sauce:
1 medium carrot, coarsely chopped
1 onion, coarsley chopped
Left over green bell pepper, coarsely chopped
15ml/1 tablespoon tomato paste
8fl oz/1 cup water
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 180C/350 F
First marinate the chicken. In a large bowl, combine the chicken pieces with the marination ingredients listed above and mix well. Cover and keep in the fridge at least for 30 minutes. This marination adds a wonderful flavor to the chicken and make the chicken breast tenderer. You can also prepare this marination a day in advance and keep in the fridge, covered.
Using a vegetable peeler, peel the eggplants (aubergines) length ways in stripes like a zebra. Slice the eggplants length ways, about ½ inch thick. Sprinkle some salt over them and leave for about 15 minutes. Squeeze out their moisture with paper towel. Then shallow fry them in the canola oil for 2-3 minutes until golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on the paper towel to absorb the excess oil.
Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and add the marinated chicken breast. Sauté for about 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and black pepper and take out the meat to cool off.
On a board or a plate, place one eggplant slice horizontally and the other slice vertically on top of each other and place the meat mixture in the middle. Fold over the slices to wrap the meat mixture and place eggplant package seamside down, in a greased baking tray. Lay a small slice of tomato on top and then the green pepper and fasten the structure with a cocktail stick. Repeat with the rest of the eggplant slices. (If an eggplant slice is not long enough to do the duo wrap, you can place chicken pieces in the middle of one slice and roll like a cigar.)
Place the sliced carrots, onions and left over green peppers amongst the eggplant packages in the tray. Mix the tomato paste with water, season with salt and pepper. Pour this sauce around the eggplant packages and bake them in the oven for about 35 minutes. Please check towards the end if more water is needed and add some to the baking tray.
Serve the eggplant packages and the vegetables hot with plain rice by the side. Cucumber, garlic and yoghurt dip, Cacik, also would complement this delicious dish well.