Turkish-Style Stuffed Eggplant with Pilaf

I used to frequent a very lovely Turkish restaurant in one of my former neighborhoods, which made a great stuffed eggplant that I would almost invariably order when it showed up on the daily menu. After moving aways from this neighborhood and the restaurant, I soon started making this dish myself and this recipe is for the vegan/vegetarian version. It is really the most basic version, and there are lots of possibilities to vary the recipe – but the basic version is certainly extremely delicious just by itself.

Sanni

Ingredients:

For the stuffed eggplant:

  • 12 medium-sized eggplants
  • salt
  • tablespoon of sunflower oil
  • 2 red peppers
  • 5-6 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 2 yellow onions, halved and sliced
  • 1/2 tablespoon of tomato paste
  • 1 chili
  • 1/2 teaspoon of Aleppo chili
  • 250 ml of chicken stock
  • 1 bunch of flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 can of peeled tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 200 ml of tomato juice
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • freshly ground black pepper

For the pilaf:

  • 15 grams of butter
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons of orzo (or other rice shaped pasta)
  • 100 grams of white rice
  • 250 ml of chicken stock
  • freshly ground black pepper, salt

Preparation:

Preparing the stuffed eggplant:

  1. Wash the eggplant and use a potato peeler to remove strips of the outside skin lengthways, so the eggplant looks „striped“.
  2. With a pointy knife, cut a narrow deep wedge out of each eggplant lengthwise, making sure that you do not cut through the opposite side of the cut or the tips of the eggplant. Sprinkle salt into the wedge and place with the cut side down to sweat for around 30 minutes.
  3. In the meantime, line an oven tray with aluminium foil and brush with the vegetable oil.
  4. Cut the peppers in half and remove the stalks, seeds and membrane. Place on the oven tray with the cut side down.
  5. Place under the grill in the oven at 275 degrees Celsius for 15-20 minutes until the skin has turned black. Remove from the oven and transfer the peppers into a plastic bag. Let cool down to warm and peel off the skin. Discard the skin and put the peppers aside.
  6. Heat up 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a deep frying pan or roaster and roast the onions until soft (approximately 10 minutes), but without browning them. Then add the tomato paste, chili and Aleppo chili and roast for another 5 minutes.
  7. Take off the heat and add the tomatoes and the parsley. Spoon the mixture into the opening in the eggplants until filled. Push the remaining filling to the sides of the roaster and place the eggplants in the middle of roaster, stuffed side up.
  8. Place back on the heat, add the tomato and lemon juice and season with plenty of freshly ground black pepper and salt. Drizzle the remaining olive oil over the eggplants. Cover with a lid, bring to simmer and let simmer gently for around 40 minutes.
  9. At the end of the cooking time, the sauce should have turned very thick or otherwise, remove the lid and continue boiling until it has thickened.
  10. To serve, transfer the eggplant onto individual dishes, stuffed side up and ladle some of the sauce over each eggplant.

Preparing the pilaf:

  1. In a shallow saucepan, melt the butter together with the olive oil over medium to high heat. Add the orzo and fry until the pasta turns dark golden brown (stir constantly and be careful that the pasta or the butter do not burn).
  2. Add the rice and stir until the grains are covered with the oil/butter. Add the chicken stock and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Bring to simmer, wrap the lid in a kitchen towel and place it firmly on top of the rice (this will absopr excess moisture while ensuring that the lid is firmly closed). After around 10 minutes, check if there is any liquid left in the pot. Let simmer for longer, if yes, or take off the heat and let steam in its own heat for another 5 minutes with the lid firmly closed.
  4. For serving, you can use a coffee cups or a small dessert dishes and invert them onto individual dishes to give the rice the typical pilaf look. Serve on the side of the eggplant.

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