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Karniyarik (stuffed aubergines)

It is rich and meaty, given the meatiness of the meat as well as the flesh of the aubergine.

Whether or not you’ve had much Turkish food, you probably know that aubergines are featured in so many of their dishes. Karniyarik is just one delicious example.

Since the inhabitants of the Ottoman Palace loved aubergines, cooks had to get creative and incorporate aubergines into most dishes. According to some, there are more than 600 different recorded recipes using aubergines. Almost every Turkish restaurant around the world serves aubergine dishes, and for good reason; they are absolutely delectable!

When making this dish, it is best to use aubergines on the smaller side to make sure they aren’t bitter and to have the best serving size. If you can only find the really big ones, cut the aubergine in half before frying. Removing parts of the skin is useful before frying as it makes it easier to open up and stuff. Leaving the top part and parts of the skin ensures the aubergine stays together after it is cooked and soft.

The word karniyarik, literally translates as “split belly”, which best describes what this dish should look like.  It is rich and meaty, given the meatiness of the meat as well as the flesh of the aubergine. The use of the thin, pointy sweet peppers, known as bull’s horn sweet pepper, cuts through the richness and gives a nice sweet and fresh flavour.

When making this dish, I like to make an extra batch to freeze, since it is one of those dishes that freeze and reheat well, as the flavours intensify and taste even better the next day!

Serve this with a side of vermicelli rice and I’m sure it will become as much as a staple dish in your home as aubergines are a staple in Turkish cuisine.

Ingredients

Serves 4

  • 4 medium aubergines
  • Oil for frying
  • 350g minced beef or lamb
  • 1 onion
  • 2 or 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 bull’s horn sweet pepper (finely chopped)
  • 1 large tomato (finely chopped)
  • Salt
  • Black pepper
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • Chilli flakes to taste
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 200ml water
  • Parsley to garnish

Instructions

  1. Peel the aubergines in strips, leaving every other strip of skin. Slice the aubergines in half lengthwise. Shallow fry, turning occasionally, until the aubergine is soft enough to cut through. Place on kitchen towel and leave to cool.
  2. To make the stuffing, sauté the onions then add the minced meat. Once browned, add the tomato and pepper, followed by the paprika, salt, pepper and chilli flakes (if using). Continue to cook the mixture until the tomatoes and peppers are softened. Put aside and let cool a little.
  3. With a large spoon, push down the aubergine flesh to make room for the stuffing. Add as much stuffing as possible.
  4. Mix the water with the tomato paste and pour over the aubergines.
  5. Cover with foil and bake at 180C for 20-30 minutes, or until the aubergines are completely cooked through.
  6. Serve with vermicelli rice and a sprinkle of parsley and enjoy!
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