Turkish delight

By | Category: Travel tips & opinions

Walk through the streets of Istanbul and you’ll see a city of wonderful contradictions: step out of a stylish modern bar and you’re likely to turn a corner and find lamb kebabs roasting over coals on a tiny food cart, in the shadow of towering minarets. This fascinating place inspired Rebecca Seal to create Istanbul, a food tour of the city. Here Seal shares some of her favourite recipes with CD-Traveller readers


Karnıyarık aubergines stuffed with lamb

I first tried this in an esnaf lokanta, one of Istanbul’s ubiquitous cafés for local workers serving home-style hot dishes, in the Fatih district. We didn’t know enough Turkish to order, so ended up pointing and smiling at a few of the dishes bubbling away on the counter. This was one of them and it made a very satisfying lunch.


Serves two-four

2 aubergines (eggplants) or 6–8 baby aubergines (depending on how small they are)
1/2 onion, grated
1 garlic clove, finely sliced
15g (1/2 oz/1 tablespoon) butter
2 large tomatoes, peeled (blanch in boiling water to make this easier), deseeded and chopped
1 tablespoon Turkish tomato paste or tomato puree (paste)1 tablespoon Turkish red pepper paste, optional
250g (9oz/generous 1 cup) minced (ground) lamb
1 teaspoon pul biber or mild chilli flakes
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
3 tablespoons roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon chopped dill (optional)
50ml (2fl oz. /. cup) stock or water
splash of vegetable oil
1 small, long green pepper, deseeded and diagonally sliced (or 1/2 green (bell) pepper, deseeded and finely sliced)
salad and bread to serve

1. Halve the aubergines lengthways, keeping the skin on. Run a knife down the middle of the flesh from end to end, but don’t cut all the way through to the skin (this helps the aubergine halves open out as they cook). Salt them lightly and drain in a colander for 15 minutes. Rinse and pat dry with papertowels.

2. Sauté the onion and garlic gently in the butter in a large frying pan for about 3 minutes. Then add the tomatoes, tomato paste and pepper paste, if using. Cook gently for 5 minutes.

3. Push the tomatoes to the side of the pan and brown the lamb with the spices (use a separate pan if yours isn’t big enough for this – if you overcrowd the pan the lamb will stew rather than brown) for about 5 minutes.

4. Mix the contents of the pan together and season with pepper, but wait until everything has cooked through to taste and add salt, as some brands of tomato and pepper paste can be salty already. Add the parsley, dill, if using, and stock or water and simmer for 10 minutes.

5. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 160˚C (320˚F/gas 3). In a separate frying pan, brown the aubergines in the vegetable oil over a high heat and on all sides. Do this in batches if necessary and be careful as they may spit. The aubergine halves will begin to open up.

6. Once lightly browned, lay the aubergine halves, cut side up, in a buttered casserole. Top each half with filling – a spoonful or two if they are baby aubergines, more if they are larger. Pull the aubergines apart gently and push the stuffing down to help it sink into the flesh. Toss the pepper slices in a little oil and place one on the top of each aubergine half.

7. Bake in the oven for 20–30 minutes, until the aubergines are soft and collapsing and the topping is lightly browned. If you’re using baby aubergines, check them after 15 minutes, as they may cook much faster. Serve with salad and a little bread to mop up the sauce.

Recipe taken from Istanbul: Recipes from the heart of Turkey (£25, Hardie Grant Books)


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