Imam Bayildi recipe (gluten-free + vegan)

Imam bayildi (gluten-free + vegan)

The last job I had working as a chef was for a super talented lady, back in my hometown, Raglan, NZ. We cooked a lot of beautiful food and I baked my little heart out most days. There was a stack of cookbooks in the corner of the kitchen which we gained inspiration from, but the two main ones used were; Donna Hay's Modern Classics's 2 (baking book) and the cooking tome The Cook's Companion by Australian legend (and one of my food heroes) Stephanie Alexander. Whenever we needed a base recipe, it was The Cooks companion we turned to. To say it was a well loved book is an understatement (even more so because the chef I worked for had once worked alongside Stephanie herself!). Because of it's sheer size (weight!) and price, I've never bought myself a copy, sadly. Moving from NZ to Australia numerous times in the space of 10 years is not exactly an ideal life for such a book, so you can imagine my excitement when I saw the announcement of the Stephanie Alexander's Cooks Companion App!

Imam bayildi (gluten-free + vegan)
Imam bayildi (gluten-free + vegan)

I know I'm going to sound really old fashion here, but this is the first app of it's sort that I've downloaded (I had to even read up how to redeem the voucher I was sent as I've only owned a smart phone for a few months!). I usually prefer to buy hard copy versions of cookbooks and even though I write recipes online for a living (if you can call it that), I don't tend to gravitate towards this style of viewing usually. But I gotta say, when it comes to a book such as this (the hard copy contains 1100 pages!!), the app version makes complete sense. It's portable, super quick and easy to navigate and it's pretty damn cool having all that information right there with me at all times. Stephanie's recipes are simple and honest and while my cooking style has moved away from much of what she cooks since we discovered our food intolerance's, there is a huge section of both vegetarian and gluten-free recipes in their own folders within the app. 

Imam bayildi (gluten-free + vegan)

Within the app you can search for recipes by ingredients or recipe. Each ingredient has it's own little bundle of recipes and there's a bunch of how-to videos I know many cooks will find super helpful (like how to line a tart tin with pastry!). I've not even discovered half of what the app can offer yet... but there's places for you to add your own personal notes about a recipe, you can favourite ones you love the most and you can even email an ingredients list to yourself to use when buying ingredients! 

Imam bayildi (gluten-free + vegan)
Imam bayildi (gluten-free + vegan)
Imam bayildi (gluten-free + vegan)

There are a bunch of recipes I'm keen to try out, but after picking up some beautiful eggplants from the store the other day, it was Stephanie's Imam bayildi recipe that quickly jumped out at me first. This is a classic Turkish dish of stuffed eggplant, with tomatoes and a hint of spice all baked in a lemony/olive oil bath. As mentioned in the headnotes of the recipe, apparently folklore claims that a Turkish priest, the imam, fainted with pleasure on being served this dish by his wife. After eating these I can absolutely believe this to be true. I may or may not have nearly eaten the whole lot myself! I did manage to save a few for the kids to eat though and Ada now wants me to buy eggplants every week to make this again!

Below is the recipe as seen in the app, but I've also added a few of my own notes down the bottom too...

Imam bayildi (gluten-free + vegan)

Imam bayildi

This is a classic Turkish recipe for stuffed eggplants. Folklore claims that a Turkish priest, the imam, fainted with pleasure on being served this dish by his wife. Recipe printed with permission from Stephanie Alexander's Cook's Companion App
Serves 3-6
3 eggplants, halved lengthwise

1 large onion, finely sliced
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
4 large ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 bay leaf
pinch of ground cinnamon
¼ cup parsley, freshly chopped
freshly ground black pepper
juice of 1 large lemon

Scoop out eggplant flesh, then chop and lightly salt it and set aside. Lightly salt eggplant shells and leave upside down for 30 minutes. Rinse and dry shells.
Preheat oven to 180°C. Cook onion slowly in 2 tablespoons of the oil. Add garlic and sauté for 1 minute, then add tomato, bay leaf, cinnamon and parsley and cook for another 5 minutes. Tip into a bowl.

Rinse and dry eggplant flesh. Heat half the remaining oil and sauté eggplant. Add to bowl, mix and check seasoning.

Pile filling into eggplant shells and brush with a little oil. Pack shells into an oiled baking or gratin dish. Pour in enough water mixed with lemon juice and remaining oil to barely cover eggplant. Bake for 30–45 minutes until soft. Allow to cool, then serve at room temperature or cold.

*Meat and rice Briefly sautéed minced beef or lamb can be mixed with the vegetables, as can currants, nuts or rice.

Emma's notes:
I used 7 small eggplants instead of 3 large. I added about 3 tablespoons of toasted pinenuts to the filling and scattered a few more over the top before baking. I grilled the tops for a few minutes to give them a little more colour once cooked through, but our oven tends to cook from the bottom up, so you may not need to do this. When removing the flesh from the eggplants I find it easiest to cut around the edges with a sharp knife, leaving a 1cm boarder before using a spoon to get in a scoop the flesh out. Obviously I don't eat meat, but I thought I'd leave in Stephanie's note at the bottom about adding it in, in case you do.
I didn't measure the actual amount of water that I used as this will vary depending on the size of your baking dish and the height of your eggplants used. I basically poured enough water/lemon/oil mixture to come about 1/3-1/2 way up the sides of my eggplants and I cooked them in a relatively shallow lipped baking tray. By the time the eggplants were cooked the liquid had reduced down to a lovely lemony/olive oil sauce, which I then smeared the eggplants in before eating. The eggplants are braising in the liquid, so the end product is soft and creamy, not roasted. I'd suggest using less water than you think, as you can always top it up during the cooking process if things start to look a little dry.

Disclaimer: I received this app free of charge, but as always my views are my own and I only write about things I genuinely love and things I think will be of value to you too.

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  • Aurore
    March 5, 2014 at 1:29 am

    I note this one for my "Vegan careme" and I will come back often during the following weeks to get new ideas and recipes. Many thanks, Aurore

  • Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar
    March 5, 2014 at 1:46 am

    Oh neat!! This looks great!

  • Laura
    March 5, 2014 at 2:34 am

    I love your comment about cooking out of actual books. I'm the same way even though, like you, I spend a lot of time publishing recipes online. So funny, right? I'm excited that a lot of these larger scale/huge cooking tomes are slowly making their way into a more accessible online/app format. It's the future! The simplicity of this recipe sounds so wonderful and has me wanting for summer waaaay too badly.

  • Bizzy Lizzy's Good Things
    March 5, 2014 at 4:15 am

    A gorgeous recipe, Emm… I've just picked the first of my eggplants, which is rather exciting. : )

  • london bakes
    March 5, 2014 at 9:26 am

    A family friend bought me a copy of The Cook's Companion a few years ago and this has just reminded me that I haven't seen it for a while. I do hope that it didn't get lost when we moved house because it's such a good resource. I'm excited to hear that it's available as an app now just in case! I love imam bayildi – my mother often makes it during the summer and it reminds me of long lunches in the sun. I've never tried making it myself but am inspired to now after seeing your beautiful pictures!

  • Francesca
    March 5, 2014 at 9:42 am

    I had some Chinese women staying with me last year, and they were so impressed with the 'Bible' as we call Stephanie's big cook book, that they bought one to cart home to Chengdu. Now an app may have been lighter and cheaper to carry, but I think there is something special about flipping the pages of a book. The little eggplants you have used here look attractive.

    • emma
      March 6, 2014 at 3:59 am

      Absolutely, books will always be king in my eyes too. But the app is really handy!

  • Sini | my blue and white kitchen
    March 5, 2014 at 11:23 am

    I'm excited both about this delicious looking recipe (I'll check if my local grocery store has the small eggplants today and if so I'll make this for dinner tonight) and the handy app. Now I only need a smartphone…

    • emma
      March 6, 2014 at 3:58 am

      Oh, yes love… I hear ya! Like I said above, I've only been a smartphone owner for a little while 😉

  • Lindsey (dolly and oatmeal)
    March 5, 2014 at 12:46 pm

    such stunning photos, emma! eggplants seem like such a distant reality, so i living vicariously through your photos and words!

  • cindy
    March 5, 2014 at 1:16 pm

    just lovely. I luv Stephanie Alexander and will check out the app. I imagine it's going to be completely different to flicking thru pages of a cookbook of that magnitude though.

    • emma
      March 6, 2014 at 3:57 am

      Yes, it's a totally different experience than flicking through the book (I'm a book lover for life!). But if recipes are all you are after the app is awesome!

  • InTolerant Chef
    March 5, 2014 at 10:28 pm

    So yummy indeed! My garden is full of fresh eggplants at the moment so thanks for the great way to keep them interesting 🙂 x

  • Anonymous
    March 5, 2014 at 10:52 pm

    Can you clarify how much water you put in the pan? I read "enough to barely cover eggplant" to submerging it. Surely that can't be right.

    • emma
      March 6, 2014 at 3:55 am

      I didn't measure the amount of water that I use and this will vary depending on the size of your dish and the height of the eggplants used. I basically poured in enough water/lemon juice/oil mixture to come about halfway up the sides of the eggplant and I cooked them in a relatively shallow rimmed baking tray. By the time they were cooked, the liquid had reduced down to a lovely olive-oily/lemony sauce, which I then smeared the eggplants in before eating. I'd say add less water than you think, as you can always top up with more during the cooking process if things start to look a little dry. The eggplants are basically braising in the liquid, so the end product is super soft and creamy, not roasted.

    • Anonymous
      March 6, 2014 at 12:00 pm

      Super! Thanks.

  • Nicola Galloway / Homegrown Kitchen
    March 6, 2014 at 12:14 am

    Hi Emm, although not a huge fan of eggplant I have tried Imam Bayildi before and I agree it is possibly one of the best things you can make with eggplant – it kind of melts in your mouth huh and the flavour combo is amazing! Thanks for sharing, I now know what to do with those eggplants I bought at the market because they just looked so beautiful. xx

  • Cheri Savory Spoon
    March 6, 2014 at 5:16 am

    I absolutely adore eggplant, loving this recipe.

  • Stephanie Alexander
    March 6, 2014 at 9:48 am

    Thanks for all the great comments. Often a good recipe is a starting-point. A confident or brave cook should never feel bashful about embellishing, omitting, adding or substituting. It is not really a question of book or App. Both are wonderful. But nothing beats slipping an iPad or phone in your bag as you head off for the weekend, rather than 3.5kg of extra luggage.

    • emma
      March 7, 2014 at 3:56 am

      I couldn't agree with you more Stephanie! Thanks love xx

  • Sini | my blue and white kitchen
    March 6, 2014 at 2:16 pm

    I made them for lunch today. So good!

    • emma
      March 7, 2014 at 3:57 am

      Aren't they?! Stoked you've made them already 🙂

  • Catherine @ chocolate and vegetables
    March 6, 2014 at 6:20 pm

    I love making stuffed eggplants–will have to give this recipe a try! My stuffing is usually a mix of white beans, tomato sauce, and feta cheese, but I love the idea of skipping the cheese and going for some dark spice notes.

  • Zodelicious
    March 7, 2014 at 10:08 am

    The Cook's Companion was my first ever cookbook and having just checked the inscription from Mum and Dad, I can tell you it's been in constant use since Christmas 2000.
    I love eggplant but I have never found an Imam Bayildi that came close to fainting from pleasure levels of delicious.
    Anyway, I am very happy to have found your blog, and enjoying exploring the archives.

  • Christina @ The Hungry Australian
    March 10, 2014 at 11:05 pm

    I love The Cook's Companion and was similarly excited to hear about the app. In other news, this eggplant dish looks absolutely scrumptious. YUM!!

    March 14, 2014 at 4:01 am

    Hahaa.. I'm old fashioned when it comes to apps also. I still like pens, paper, books and twine… those sorts of beautiful things! I do love Stephanie Alexander. I have a couple of her books which will soon sit happily next to yours on my bookshelf! This eggplant recipe looks divine. I will definitely try it Em! Thanks! x

  • Sarah Pulvere
    May 31, 2014 at 5:11 pm

    Just wondering how you would recommended serving this – with rice? Salad?

    • emma
      June 1, 2014 at 12:28 am

      It's really yum as is for a starter, but yes I serve with both rice & salad for a main xx