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    Imam Bayildi

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    Imam Bayildi

    This is the most seductive of all aubergine dishes - its Turkish title translates roughly as 'the imam (priest) swooned'. The secret is to cook it so that the ingredients remain distinct - delicately intertwined rather than reduced to a mush.

    • Vegetarian
    • Preparation time: 20 minutes, plus salting
    • Cooking time: 1 1/2-2 hours, plus cooling
    • Total time: 1 hour 50 minutes to 2 hours 20 minutes 60 minutes 60 minutes 20 minutes

    Serves: 4 as a starter


    • 2 aubergines
    • 1 large onion, finely sliced vertically
    • 3 large tomatoes, skinned and chopped
    • 6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
    • Bunch fresh parsley, dill and basil, finely chopped
    • Salt
    • 150ml olive oil
    • 4 tbsp water
    • 1 tsp sugar


    1. Halve the aubergines lengthways. Sprinkle with salt and leave to weep for 10 minutes. Rinse off the salt and juices, pat dry and place the halves side by side, flesh side up, in a wide saucepan.
    2. Mix the onion, tomatoes, garlic and herbs in a bowl with 1 tsp salt and a little of the oil. Carefully pile the mixture on top of each halved aubergine until all the flesh is covered. Mix the rest of the oil with the water and sugar and pour it over and around. Cover the pan and cook gently over a low heat for 1 1/2-2 hours (in a roasting tin under foil in the oven if you prefer - 150°C, gas mark 2 will do the trick). Baste occasionally with the oil, pushing the onion and tomato mixture down into the halves as they cook. The aubergines should end up soft and flat, sitting in a golden, slightly caramelised pool of oil.
    3. Leave to cool. Spoon the oil over before serving with quartered lemons.

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