Our local market had some really nice-looking eggplants the other day, so I decided to pick up a couple and whip something up. When coming up with an idea for the dish, I decided to refer to some of the eggplant experts: the countries that live along the Mediterranean coast. Italy seemed too easy, so I went with Turkey instead, who has several classic eggplant dishes. Karniyarik is a stuffed eggplants dish from Turkey, similar to another popular Turkish dish, Imam Bayildi, which is similar but made without ground meat. Eggplants got their name from their egg-like shape, although they are referred to as aubergines nearly everywhere outside of the United States. Eggplants were probably first cultivated in India about 2,000 years ago, before making their way to the Middle East and Europe. It was one of the first foods brought to the Americas by Spanish and Portuguese explorers in the 16th century.
4 medium-sized eggplants, about 28 oz
2 ripe tomatoes (1 peeled and chopped, 1 sliced)
1 onion, peeled and chopped
1/3 lb lentils, cooked and drained
1/3 lb long-grain rice, cooked
1/3 lb minced meat
4 tbsp tomato sauce
1 tsp oregano
2 tbsp lemon juice
4 tbsp olive oil
1/2 liter water
Salt, to taste
Wash the eggplants, dry them, cut off the top and scoop out the flesh. Cut a slice off the bottom to make a flat base. Heat the oil in a frying pan and gently fry the onion for 5 minutes. Add the chopped tomato, fry for a further 5 minutes then add the minced meat. Stir over a medium heat for a few minutes, then add the lentils, rice, tomato sauce, oregano and a little salt.
Fill the eggplants with this mixture, top with a slice of tomato and stand upright in a deep pan. Add half a liter of water and a little salt, cover and cook slowly for 30 minutes. Sprinkle stuffed eggplants with the lemon juice, cook for a further 15 minutes and serve.