Imam Bayildi - Eggplant in tomato sauce
Updated: Jun 26
After a large summer break and summer still around here on beautiful Cyprus, it seemed like a good idea to share with you the recipe of a typical summer dish. Eggplant in tomato sauce with lots of garlic.
First a little history about the name Imam Bayildi which means "the imam fainted". Actually there are two versions, the first one says that: "The name supposedly derives from a tale of a Turkish imam, who swooned with pleasure at the flavour when presented with this dish by his wife, and it is suggested that he fainted upon hearing the cost of the ingredients or the amount of oil used to cook the dish." and the second: "relates that an imam married the daughter of an olive merchant. Her dowry consisted of twelve jars of the finest olive oil, with which she prepared each evening an eggplant dish with tomatoes and onions. On the thirteenth day, there was no eggplant dish at the table. When informed that there was no more olive oil, the imam fainted..." ref: Wikipedia.
Imam Bayildi or Imam Baildi as it is pronounced in Greek is a dish found in most of the formerly Ottoman regions and is prepared with thick slices of eggplant cooked in a tomato sauce with onions and lots of garlic. Lots of oil is definitely used to prepare this dish as originally the eggplant slices are fried before being cooked in the sauce and whilst frying they soak up all the oil! Mrs. Amalia used to prepare the dish like this and it is absolutely delicious with lots of olive oil. I prefer to not fry the eggplant and other vegetables if used and find that by baking them in a frying pan or grill pan with a little olive oil is a much healthier option and just as delicious. She did not use onions though, only lots of garlic.
8-10 small eggplants,
1-3 summer squash (zucchini) depending on their size,
3-4 large ripe tomatoes,
6-8 garlic gloves,
5-10 Bahari - Greek all spice berries whole,
1/2 - 1 teaspoon vegetable stock powder (organic),
1/2 - 1 teaspoon sugar,
1 teaspoon tomato paste (preferable home-made),
freshly ground pepper,
Wash and cut the top and bottom of the eggplant, peel the skin only on two opposite sides and then cut each eggplant in thick slices. Place the slices in a large colander and sprinkle generously with salt, set aside for 1 to 4 hours, the salt will help to drain the bitterness out of the eggplant.
Rinse the eggplant and dry the slices with kitchen paper or a clean cloth.
Wash and cut the top and bottom of the zucchini, peel the skin only on two opposite sides and then cut each zucchini in thick slices. Place the slices in a large colander and sprinkle generously with salt, set aside for 1 to 4 hours, the salt will help to drain some of its water contents.
Rinse the zucchini and dry the slices with kitchen paper or a clean cloth.
Place the washed and quartered tomatoes in a small multi mixer with blades, and beat into a puree.
Prepare all other ingredients.
Peel and cut the garlic gloves in large slices.
Fry the garlic lightly in some olive oil.
Add the pureed tomatoes and all other ingredients. Bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes.
Add more salt and pepper for taste if necessary. Set aside.
Bake the slices of eggplant and zucchini in a little olive oil until lightly browned on both sides.
In a 24 cm diameter saucepan place the baked, grilled or fried zucchini slices, in this case baked. Add some of the tomato sauce.
Add the eggplant slices on top with the remaining tomato sauce. Bring to the boil and simmer for 20 - 25 minutes. Check for the zucchini to be soft, they need more cooking time than the eggplant, that is also the reason for placing them on the bottom of the saucepan.
When the veggies are soft and the sauce is thickened the Imam baildi is ready. Scoop the veggies with the sauce on a large plate. Serve with plain white basmati rice or freshly fried fries.
Enjoy! - Καλή όρεξη!