Tag Archive for middle eastern

imam bayildi – turkish stuffed eggplant

imam bayildi

Imam Bayildi – The Imam fainted.

This Turkish stuffed eggplant dish has two stories as to how it got its name. The first is that the Imam fainted because it was so delicious, the second is that when he realised that the olive oil that was his wife’s dowry was all gone, he fainted because of the expense. Either could easily be true. The dish is delicious,  and it does use a lot of oil.

I’m not even going to pretend that this dish is healthy. It is absolutely laden with oil, which in my view is the ONLY WAY cook eggplant properly. Skimp on the oil when cooking any eggplant dish and it is just NASTY. But then I have a complete horror of undercooked eggplant.

Anyway, tirade off. This dish is yummy, if not particularly pretty. The taste is the real highlight, unctuous, garlicky and sweet. It gets my seal of approval for meltingly soft, properly cooked eggplant.  I can’t remember where I got the recipe originally, just that I started making it after a fabulous trip to Turkey eight years ago, where I first ate it. It is delicious at room temperature with some crusty bread and salad and, while it does have a few steps, it is still pretty easy to make.

My way of making it is not traditional. The usual recipe uses skinny eggplants stuffed whole, I have used larger ones and scooped out the centres and cooked the pulp. (See? I told you I have a horror of undercooked eggplant). You’ll also notice I don’t salt and drain the eggplant. I honestly cannot tell the difference between salted, drained  and unsalted if the eggplant is fresh, so I never bother.

Imam Bayildi makes a great dish to take as part of a shared meal and nobody will EVER complain that it is vegan. It just happens to be vegan with no changes at all, like so much great Middle Eastern food.

I made this for a big Middle Eastern themed lunch my family had to celebrate the three generations of mothers in the family on Mothers Day.

This is my mothers day lunch plate. Clockwise from the top: Couscous with vegetables made by my mum, chickpea, tomato and cucumber salad made by my niece, quinoa with almonds, pumpkin seeds, currants, lentils, pomegranate seeds and rocket made by another niece, my imam bayildi, and a baked sweet potato with chickpea stew made by my son and daughter in law. Everyone made lots of vegan food, even though I am the only vegan and one of my nieces is vegetarian. My sister even made me a special vegan dessert. 🙂

middle eastern plate

















imam bayildi (the imam fainted) - turkish stuffed eggplant
prep time
cook time
total time
recipe type: savoury
cuisine: vegan, turkish
serves: 8 small or 4 big
  • 4 long, purple eggplants (not the really fat ones and not the completely skinny ones)
  • ¾ cup olive oil (quite probably more)
  • 6 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 2 large onions halved and sliced thinly
  • 2 red peppers, sliced thinly
  • 1 can of diced tomato or equivalent fresh.
  • a big handful of chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • salt
  • 1 cup tomato puree
  1. Halve the eggplants lengthwise and peel some strips of peel off so they are striped. eggplants
  2. Score the flesh in a crossed pattern, make sure not to cut through the skin.
  3. Put the eggplants into a steamer cross hatch side down cook for a few minutes to soften the pulp a bit This also works in a microwave. This step makes the pulp easier to remove and lessens the amount of oil the eggplants will absorb.
  4. Remove the pulp with a spoon leaving a ½ cm thick skin.
  5. Heat ½ cup of oil in a large frying pan and fry the eggplants both side until golden and soft.
  6. Remove the eggplants from the pan and place in a single layer in a baking pan.
  7. Sprinkle with a small amount of salt.
  8. Fry the eggplant pulp until soft and golden brown. Remove from the pan.
  9. Add the remaining oil to the pan and fry the onions, garlic and peppers until soft and translucent. Add the tomatoes, parsley, and cooked eggplant pulp and salt to taste.
  10. Spoon the filling into the eggplant halves, pour the tomato puree into the baking pan and cover with foil and bake in a 200 degree C oven for 1 hour,
  11. Remove the foil. If the tomato puree has dried out add some water.
  12. Baste with the tomato liquid if the eggplant or filling looks like it is drying out and bake uncovered for another 30 minutes or until the liquid reduces to a syrup and they are utterly soft. If in any doubt, cook for longer.


stuffed zucchini – middle eastern/sicilian flavours

stuffed zucchini

My standby recipe for stuffed zucchini has always been with a tomato sauce, thickened with oats and topped with cheese, but I’ve branched out with this one and decided to go for a more Middle Eastern/Sicilian flavour. These are a teeny bit more labour intensive than the tomato/cheese zucchini, but are a bit more classy. They are stuffed with a filling of cooked rice, caramelised onions, currants and parsley,  cooked in a tomato, olive oil, lemon and water broth  that is reminiscent of stuffed vine leaves and dressed with pomegranate molasses, parsley and pistachios.

I thought about making these because I had some nice little lebanese zucchini and some leftover cooked rice. The traditional way to do these would be to scoop out the centres and stuff them whole and cook them in a saucepan like vine leaves, but I failed totally when trying to hollow them out. They kept breaking so I decided, after a couple of accidents, to split them lengthwise and stuff them that way and bake them in the oven. 

They are really truly delicious. Unctuous, soft, sweet, salty, lemony and tart. This is the first time I’ve ever made them and I know they will become a part of my regular summer zucchini recipe collection.


stuffed zucchini - middle eastern flavours
prep time
cook time
total time
recipe type: savoury, main course, snack
cuisine: middle eastern, sicilian, vegan
serves: 2
  • 6 small zucchini (I used the small, fat lebanese zucchini)
  • 1 cup cooked rice (I used a mix of long grain and wild rice)
  • 2 tablespoons currants soaked in a spoonful of balsamic vinegar
  • 1 onion chopped and fried in oil until sweet and caramelised
  • 1 large tomato diced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • salt
  • ½ cup tomato juice or puree
  • juice of one lemon and the zest of half a lemon
  • parsley
  • pomegranate molasses
  • chopped pistachios
  1. Mix the rice with the currants and caramelised onions
  2. Split the zucchini lengthwise and scoop out the centres with a teaspoon and arrange in a single layer in a baking dish with the hollowed out sides facing up.
  3. Fill with the rice mixture.
  4. Scatter the diced tomato across the top and sprinkle with salt.
  5. Mix the lemon juice, zest, tomato puree, olive oil and a cup of water and pour carefully into the baking dish. Do not pour on top of the rice mix.
  6. Drizzle with some extra olive oil.
  7. Bake covered for 50 minutes at 200C.
  8. Remove from the oven and spoon the liquid over the rice filling.
  9. Bake uncovered for a further 10 minutes.
  10. Remove from the oven, spoon the remaining liquid over the rice filling again.
  11. Allow to come to room temperature and scatter with parsley and chopped pistachios and drizzle some pomegranate molasses over the top.


cafe shenkin

hummus plate with fava

On day two of our Sydney visit we  caught up with some friends for breakfast. After some fruitless searching for vegan friendly breakfast/brunch places, we resigned ourselves to the vegan breakfast fallback of toast with some sides. Come on Sydney, you can do better! We decided to go to Cafe Shenkin in Erskineville on the strength of its coffee reputation. Being from Melbourne I’m pretty particular about my coffee. To be honest I am a coffee snob.

I wasn’t disappointed in the coffee. But I was really delighted to find that both the breakfast and lunch menu was available all day. There wasn’t much joy on the breakfast menu, so we ordered from the lunch menu of delicious Israeli/Middle Eastern food.

The two vegans both ordered a hummus plate which came with felafel and a choice of another vegetable. My friend chose fava beans and I chose fried eggplant. They both came accomanied by really excellent freshly made pide. Our two non-vegan friends ordered a couple of other vegetarian options, a pastry with salad, and a roti like pastry with a variety of mostly vegan dips including a spicy coriander dip that I loved.

Really delicious. After tasting my friend’s fava beans I coveted them so much that I ordered an extra side of them, rather than stealing hers repeatedly. 🙂  The serve that came was huge and I couldn’t finish it.

The dips on the non-vegan plates were mostly vegan and the staff were helpful, so it would be no problem to organise veganised versions.

All in all delicious, and a nice change from the usual breakfast food.


hummus plate with eggplant

53 Erskineville Rd
Erskineville NSW 2043