Sunday, 22 September 2013

Imam Bayildi - Turkish Aubergine and Tomato dip

Scoop it up and pile it onto Turkish bread
This was my favourite dish when I was waitressing at a restaurant in Istanbul.

I did not intend to waitress while I was living in Istanbul - it just kind of came to me.  I used to go to a particular restaurant around the corner from my room in the evenings, to study my Turkish language texts and relax with a glass of wine.  It wasn't long before the owner asked if I had any CDs as they were bored with their selection.  So then I used to study and be in charge of the CD player behind the bar for the few hours a night I was at the restaurant.

One night after I'd been going there for about a month the restaurant was super-busy and understaffed.  The sole waiter was covering both floors of the restaurant and the bar and I could see he was running out of clean glasses for drinks and the dishwasher was full.  So I went behind the bar, emptied out the clean glassware and put it away, re-filled the dishwasher and turned it on again.  I cleared some tables and ran orders downstairs to the kitchen for about an hour, while the waiter focussed on taking and delivering orders, then I went back to my books.

The next day the owner offered me a job for $10.00 USD a night.
The restaurant was just around the corner from the Four Seasons hotel and got a lot of well heeled American tourists as clientele.  He needed an experienced worker who also spoke good English as there were often mixups with the communication with Turkish-only speaking staff.  I agreed to work for a few weeks until he found a local person with the English skills he was looking for.  I ended up working there for about three months.

My own prowess in Turkish didn't stretch to the names for spices when the chefs explained to me how to make Imam Bayildi (lots of pointing and miming was involved) so I'm not sure if the recipe is exactly the same as theirs, and goodness knows every Turkish recipe has a thousand different ways of making it, but I'm always pretty happy with how this version turns out.

Fertility Focus:
Aubergine is full of antioxidants and also provides folate and vitamin K.
Dates are rich in minerals including calcium, magnesium and potassium as well as containing vitamin B6 which can help increase progesterone levels in your luteal phase.
Tomatoes are full of the antioxidant lycopene which boosts sperm health and also contain folate, B6, vitamin A and vitamin E.
Turmeric is good for stabilising blood sugar levels which helps with managing weight and hormone balance.

Ingredients

  • Aubergine
  • Coconut oil
  • Onion
  • Chilli powder
  • Turmeric
  • Cumin
  • Tomatoes
  • Sultanas

Method
Dice 2 large aubergines.  Heat 2 spoonfuls of coconut oil in a large pan and fry the aubergine for about ten minutes over a medium high heat so it browns a little and gets soft.  When it is quite soft but not slushy, tip into a colander to drain.

Dice the onion and add to the pan.  Saute until soft then add half a teaspoon each of the spices and cook for a further minute.  Return the aubergine to the pan with two large diced tomatoes and a handful of sultanas.  I didn't have any sultanas so used a few chopped up dates instead which added the required touch of sweetness and nicely disappeared into the mix.

Stir in a Jamie Oliver sized splash of olive oil and simmer uncovered, on a low heat for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.

Serve warm or cold.  We enjoyed this with toasted pitta bread and a yoghurt and cucumber raita (known as cajic in Turkish).

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