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Imam Bayildi (The Imam fainted), Greek Stuffed Eggplant

Wonderful on its own or as a side dish. The texture of eggplant is special. Enjoy the spices that make it so fragrant but be sparing with the raisins as they can make it too sweet otherwise. Imam Bayildi translated to "The Imam fainted" - apparently due to how delicious the dish was!

"Best served cold, makes an excellent first course or lunch with salad" – Mary-Lou Herdson.

Pictured: Imam Bayildi just prior to baking.

4 smallish eggplants, or 3 large, stalk ends trimmed off
120 ml olive oil
1 onion finely chopped
1 tbsp coriander seeds, toasted until fragrant and just darkening in a dry frying pan over moderate heat
4 cloves garlic finely chopped
3 tbsp raisins
1 small dried red chilli
Finely chopped zest of 1 lemon
1 tbsp sweet smoked Spanish paprika
400g canned Italian tomatoes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Chopped parsley for sprinkling

Preheat oven 200°C.

Cut eggplants in half lengthways and scoop out flesh with a teaspoon, leaving a thick wall of eggplant. Sprinkle inside of eggplants well with salt and turn upside down to drain for 30 minutes. Rinse eggplants well under cold water and dry well with paper towels. Finely dice the eggplant flesh and reserve.

Heat half the oil over moderate heat and add diced eggplant flesh, onions, coriander seeds, garlic, raisins, chilli and lemon zest. Fry gently without browning until the onion is soft. Add paprika and tomatoes, season well with salt and pepper, mix well and bring to boil. Simmer 5 minutes, remove from heat and reserve.

Put dried eggplants, scooped side up, in one layer in an ovenproof casserole just big enough to hold them. Carefully fill each eggplant half with tomato mixture. Sprinkle remaining oil on top and add ½ cup water. Cover, place in oven and bake, basting frequently, for 1 hour until well cooked.

Remove from oven, uncover, cool completely and sprinkle with parsley.

Serves 4 - 6

TasteTip - Also known as aubergine, eggplant is named after the egg-shaped, white-skinned variety which we rarely see here but I have had the chance to eat in Greece - it is beautiful if you can find it. They should be firm and heavy with a taut, shiny skin. As well as the deep purple and white variety you can find mauve, green and striped. Many recipes recommended salting eggplant to reduce their bitter flavour. This isn't really necessary now, particularly with the baby ones, although salting does make them absorb less oil when they’re fried.