Slow baked aubergines in a rich tomato sauce with a hint of cinnamon, eaten with full fat Greek yoghurt and Turkish bread is the best dinner.
Frying the aubergines golden brown in extra virgin olive oil before baking in the tomato sauce makes them even more flavoursome. It’s definitely worth spending the time to salt the aubergine slices first to draw out some moisture and create a denser texture as you’ll get a better golden colour and flavour when frying.
It’s also worth finding some excellent quality canned plum tomatoes. As this recipe is only made from a few ingredients, each one has to work extra hard to make the dish taste good. All those cans might look the same, but they vary dramatically in terms of flavour, colour, texture and juice thickness. Don’t bother with supermarket private label canned tomatoes as they have become a cheap price commodity to be grown in huge volumes in Italy, harvested quickly (whether the tomatoes are truly ripe or not) and pumped full of citric acid (lemon juice) to lower the pH (makes them taste more acidic) so they have a longer shelf life.
Mutti is a fantastic canned tomato brand and the Waitrose Duchy organic plum tomatoes are very good.
Slow baked aubergines in a rich tomato sauce (Imam Bayildi)
3 large or 4 small purple aubergines, sliced into 1.5cm lengths
Extra virgin olive oil for frying the aubergine slices
2 onions, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
10g fresh parsley, finely chopped
sea salt, to season
whole milk full fat yoghurt (Greek yoghurt) to serve
Preheat the oven to 180C.
Prepare and salt the aubergines: Cut lengthwise down the aubergine so each slice is about 1.5cm thick. Place a colander in the sink and layer in the aubergine, sprinkling each layer generously with salt. Leave for 30 minutes for the salt to draw out the moisture.
Rinse the aubergines in cold water and lay onto a clean tea towel to remove most of the moisture.
Place a large frying pan on a high heat and add enough extra virgin olive oil to cover the bottom of the pan. Batch fry the slices of aubergine until they are golden brown on both sides. You will have to keep topping up the oil in the pan as the aubergine sucks it up while its frying. It will take about 30 minutes to fry all the slices.
Make the tomato sauce: Place a large frying pan on a medium heat, add 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, the onions and garlic. Stir and fry for about 8 minutes to soften the onions. Add both cans of plum tomatoes. Use a spatula to breakdown and squish the tomatoes into a chunky sauce. Add the cinnamon and stir. Reduce the heat to low and leave to simmer for 30 minutes to evaporate all of the wateriness and create a thick tomato sauce. Add the chopped parsley and stir.
In a baking dish or casserole pot with a lid, layer the tomato sauce and aubergines. Start with a layer of tomato sauce, then aubergine to eventually finish with a layer of tomato. Cover tightly with foil or a lid and place in the oven for 45 minutes.
After 45 minutes of baking, take out of the oven, remove the lid or foil and leave to sit for at least 15 minutes to cool. The aubergines taste a million times better when eaten luke warm rather than hot!
Preparation time 40 minutes, cooking time 1 hour and 30 minutes, serves 4