The Ultimate Eggplant Recipe All Middle Eastern Countries Claim As Their Own

I had two eggplants that needed cooking, but I didn't fancy ratatouille or vegetarian moussaka. I was wondering what to do with them when I remembered a dish I used to make for the guests sailing around the Med onboard the charter yacht I was the cook on.

It's called Imam Bayaldi, named after the holy man who apparently swooned when he ate it. A middle eastern dish of oven baked eggplant, filled with fresh tomatoes, peppers, onions and parsley. But it's the cinnamon and allspice that lift this dish and make it special, giving it a delicate sweet flavour and a touch of the exotic.

Apparently the Greeks, Turks, Kurds and Armenians all fight over this dish claiming the origin as their own. I think of it as Turkish which is where I first discovered it and now that I've eaten it again, I'll definitely make sure I don't leave it so long next time.

Serves: 2

Preparation & Cooking Time: 60 minutes

Effort Level: Easy

Shelf Life: 3 days in the fridge


2 eggplants

250g fresh tomatoes

1 red pepper

1 large onion

4 cloves garlic

25g parsley

1 tbsp pine nuts (optional)

¼ tsp cayenne pepper

½ tsp cinnamon

½ tsp allspice

1 tsp sugar

olive oil


salt and pepper


chopping board and sharp knife

medium saucepan

frying pan



Here's What You Do:

Put the kettle on to boil. Preheat the oven to 180/350/Gas 4

Prick the eggplant lightly with a fork. Place in a saucepan, cover with boiling water and cook for 5 minutes on a high heat. (Tip: You may need to wedge a smaller saucepan lid inside the pan to keep the eggplant submerged).

Meanwhile, mark a cross on each tomato core and chop the parsley and put aside.

Next lift the eggplant out the pan (keep the pan of boiling water on the stove) and cool the eggplant in a bowl of cold water for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile tip the tomatoes into the boiling water and cook for 2 minutes then take off the heat, but keep in the water.

Move the eggplants to the chopping board, refill the bowl with cold water, then drop the tomatoes in and leave to cool.

Slice the eggplant in half lengthways and carefully scoop out the flesh, leaving ½ cm round the edges, (don't worry if the eggplant lose shape and become flat, they will be fine once filled). Set aside the flesh, then drizzle olive oil over the shells and season with salt and pepper. Place on a baking tray and slide onto the middle oven shelf for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, chop the onion, pepper and garlic into dice. Heat 3 tbsp olive oil in the frying pan, add the chopped vegetables and fry gently over a low heat for 5 minutes.

Chop the eggplant flesh into rough dice and add to the frying pan. Now skin the tomatoes, roughly chop the flesh and add them to the pan with 1 tsp sugar, ½ tsp cinnamon, ½ tsp allspice, ¼ tsp cayenne. If the mixture is a little dry, add a tablespoon of water and half the parsley continue to cook over a low heat for 10 minutes.

Now stir the pine nuts into the pan if using and check the seasoning, adding salt and pepper if needed.

Take out the eggplant shells from the oven and spoon the vegetable mixture into each one, then return to the oven for 10 minutes.

Sprinkle the remaining parsley over the eggplants and serve hot or cold with couscous.

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