There are a couple of stories behind the meaning of the name of this dish, ‘imam biyaldi’ or the ‘swooning imam’ is the story about an imam (a Muslim priest) who swooned when eating the dish, possibly out of pleasure at the taste or for other reasons…as the story goes..
“A long time ago there lived a Turkish imam, well known for his appetite and love of good food. One day he surprised his friends by announcing his engagement to the beautiful young daughter of a rich olive oil merchant. At this stage, the imam’s friends were not aware of her abilities as a cook. Part of her dowry was a consignment of the very finest olive oil. The wealthy merchant gave the groom twelve great jars of the prized oil, each one as big as a man.
Following the wedding, the young daughter quickly revealed her talents as a Turkish cook and every day prepared a special dish for her new food-loving husband. Stuffed aubergine in olive oil was his absolute favorite, and so he asked his wife to make it for him every night as the centrepiece of his dinner. Being a good wife, she did as she was told, and made the delicious dish for twelve days in a row. On the thirteenth day, however, when the imam sat down to dinner, his favourite aubergine dish was starkly absent. The imam demanded to know the reason for its disappearance. The bride replied, “My dear husband, I cannot make your favourite dish anymore, for we have no more olive oil. You will have to buy some more.” The lmam was so shocked by the news that he fainted. And so ever since that day, his favorite dish has become known as ‘Imam Bayildi’,(the imam fainted).”
So it goes without saying, this dish is best made with lots of olive oil!! And it’s worth it 🙂 (of course, if you choose make imam biyaldi, the amount of olive oil you use is totally up to you)
I’ve made this a couple of times over the last week, which you’ll see from the different photos, but both times with great success and a definite reminder of how much I love this dish – I hope everyone at Fiesta Friday, and our lovely co hosts Suzanne and Zeba, like it 🙂
There’s also many recipes that talk about doing preparatory stuff with the aubergines..I didn’t do that either, and it still worked well.
The intention with imam biyaldi is to cook the dish then leave it to cool and eat it at room temperature as part of a mezze with fresh crusty bread. Personally, I think it’s too good when its first cooked not to eat it, or at least some of it, there and then, especially when you’re faced with flavoursome crispy garlic and onion, cooked in lovely spices, and all that olive oil, oozing amazing aromas…who on earth can leave that??
Recipe: I’ve based this on 1 medium/large aubergine, but it’s easy to multiply up and worth making more!
1 medium/large aubergine
1 medium red onion, peeled and sliced
2-3 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tbsp lemon juice
Salt to taste
Lots of olive oil!
Heat your oven to 200C.
You can leave the hat on the aubergine if it will fit in your pan, I had to cut mine off. You can also peel some strips of skin off the aubergine, like some recipes suggest, but I think it works well without doing so, the flavours are still well absorbed.
Cut a slit down one side of the aubergine, don’t cut all the way through, and don’t cut all the way to either end.
Prise open the aubergine and using a teaspoon scrape out some of the aubergine flesh and chop it up.
Keep the whole aubergine to one side.
In a pan over a medium heat, heat a good glug of olive oil then add the onion and start to soften.
Add the chopped aubergine and cook for a few minutes.
Add the garlic and cook for a few minutes, then add the spices and salt and cook for a minute.
Add the tomatoes and cook it all down to a lovely sauce.
Once it’s all cooked and lovely, stir in the lemon juice and take it off the heat.
Place your aubergine in an oven proof dish, slit side up. Prise open the aubergine as much as possible and spoon the lovely sauce into the aubergine as much as you can then spoon the rest over and around it.
Drizzle with copious amounts of olive oil.
Cover and bake for 45-60 minutes, the longer the better.
And then it’s your choice, eat some hot, keep some to cool; I did both. I made it into a complete meal by eating it with some cooked quinoa.
I also had a great plateful the other day of leftover imam biyaldi with some leftover stuffed baby aubergines and garlic yoghurt…
Happy Weekend everyone xx