Most recipes call for frying the eggplants in oil to soften them, but baking them is easier and just as effective. At Kristal Lokantasi, a restaurant in Kars, this dish is served with a buttery rice pilav (rice), a bowl of garlicky yoghurt and a salad of tomatoes, cucumbers, parsley and onions, dressed with lemon juice.
- 4 (about 800 g) small eggplants
- olive oil, to drizzle
- 50 g butter
- 1 tsp vegetable oil
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 2½ tbsp finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 3 garlic cloves, crushed
- 250 g minced beef
- 3 small tomatoes, 2 finely chopped, 1 thinly sliced
- 1½ tbsp tomato paste
- yoghurt combined with crushed garlic and a chopped salad of tomato, cucumber, flat-leaf parsley and lemon juice, to serve
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Preheat oven to 180°C. Pierce eggplants all over with a fork. Drizzle with oil and rub into skin. Place on an oven tray and roast, turning occasionally, for 35 minutes or until soft.
Melt butter with oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add onion, parsley and ½ tsp salt, and cook, stirring, for 4 minutes or until mixture is light golden. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute or until fragrant. Add beef and cook, breaking up any lumps, for 4 minutes or until meat starts to brown.
Add chopped tomatoes and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes or until softened. Stir in tomato paste and 125 ml water. Stir to dissolve paste, bring to the boil, then reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes or until liquid is reduced by one-third. If the meat becomes dry, add a little water. Remove from heat and cover.
Remove eggplants from oven and increase heat to 200°C. Transfer the eggplants to an ovenproof dish large enough for eggplants to fit snugly. When cool enough to handle, using a sharp knife, split eggplants lengthwise, cutting two-thirds of the way into the flesh, leaving base and stem of the eggplants intact.
Gently pull the eggplants open as you would a baked potato to create a bed for the beef mixture. Divide the beef mixture among eggplants and top each with a few tomato slices.
Roast for 10 minutes or until tomato is softened and beef is slightly browned. Drizzle over the pan juices and serve with garlic yoghurt and salad.
Photography by Chris Chen.