Friday, April 8, 2011
On my way to Imam Bayildi
Imam Bayildi is a dish I have known forever. It is a classic Middle Eastern dish, a classic vegetarian dish. I have copied it out of books so often the recipe I have in my notebook is one I melded from three different sources.
But it has been a while since I tried to make it.
The reason? I have never made a good one.
Delicious? A dish so wonderful it is in a million recipe collections? A dish so good that the Imam fainted?
I have just realised that I might never have tasted anyone else's version of this dish! Could it be that other people have the same problem as me? My attempts always tasted boring. Always tasted like eggplant cooked with onion and a bit of tomato.
Then I read the recipe from Theodore Kyriakou who concentrated on heaps of olive oil (something I tended to cut down on, rather than beef up!) and long unctious cooking of onions, and then another long roasting of the eggplant.
I did try his recipe a couple of years ago but still didn't make anything marvellous...
But look, the most perfect little eggplants, just the right size to be fried all over! Time to try again. And this time I would concentrate on the long roasting ~ I have learnt how much eggplant likes such treatment!
I didn't worry about the recipe this time, I just had 'long slow cooking' and 'plenty of olive oil' in my head. I chopped up the onion and set it to fry long and gently with a bit of garlic added. And turned my attention to the eggplants. I was so worried about not cooking them well enough that I cut them in half ~ probably not necessary. I peeled them in stripes and let them brown on each side, one side in the frying pan and the other side under the grill.
Then I added a whole tin of diced tomatoes to the onion (overkill, none of my recipes ask for that much tomato!) and when I had the eggplants done I popped them into the baking dish with onion/tomato under and on top. 40 minutes in the oven with foil covering, and then 10 more minutes with the foil off.
I am not quite sure that I can call this Imam Bayildi, but I know I am on the right track. I've got the foundation right, so next time I will follow the recipe (one, or a combination) with confidence and let you know the results.
But in the meantime.... Any tips anyone ~ to help me on the way to a classic dish?