A thousand years ago, a Turkish priest (imam) was served something on a plate which was so delicious he could not stop eating. He ate so much his belly grew to the size of a table and he fainted (he Bayildi’ed), and that’s where the name of the dish comes from. Imam for priest and Bayildi for fainted in the Turkish language.
Another folktale suggests he fainted because of the cost of the ingredients, namely oil. It’s true, the dish is oily, but it is one hundred per cent truly delicious. There are many ways to prepare Imam Bayildi, but I will share with you my own personal (non-vegetarian), favorite way.
First you must acquire aubergines. Depending on how many people you are planning to feed, you want to consider four to begin with. Four serve four. Then buy a kilo of tomatoes, a healthy amount of garlic, onion and parsley. For lamb-lovers, get some lamb mince and some cumin. Vegatarians should add more vegetables whilst those who do not like lamb could consider beef.
The aubergines must then be sliced into two symmetrical halves. They then have to be hollowed to make look like a boat. When all 4 are done (this is quite a lenghthy process) they must be salted, stacked on one another and squished between two plates. This is done to get rid of the water which lives inside the aubergine and is the most important part of the cooking process. It must be done right because there is nothing worse than wet aubergine. The onions, tomatoes, garlic, cumin, mince, etc, are then fried together, making sure the garlic and onions are added in the pan first. After this is done the aubergines are then stuffed, sprinkled with salt and put in the oven until the skin of the aubergine is crispy. That’s it basically. The inside of the aubergine can also be cooked as part of the stuffing mixture, as can carrots and celery and whatever else ingredient you would like to add. You can put a tomato slice on top of the aubergine before baking, or do the same with cheese. The possibilities are endless. Don’t forget to top with parsley before serving and enjoy.
These are truly delicious Turkish little delights.