I am a sucker for eggplant. Whenever I see them at the bazaar, I can’t help but look for small, straight ones perfect for this dish. The recipe is believed to have originated from the central Anatolian province of Sivas and was a staple of Ottoman cuisine. But attributing this dish only to central Turkey would be wrong as it is also frequently eaten in the southeastern region. There’s also a similar dish called “imam bayıldı,” which could be considered the vegetarian version – but that is a recipe for another day.
-1 kilogram eggplant
- 300 grams minced meat
- 2-3 onions
- 1-2 tomatoes
- 2 cloves of garlic (optional)
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- Salt, black pepper
- Vegetable oil (for frying)
- Green peppers, tomatoes (as garnish)
When buying the eggplants, try to choose ones that are as straight as possible for this recipe. Peel them lengthwise to create stripes like a zebra's, so that the eggplant's exterior alternates between the light, peeled interior and the dark skin. Let the peeled eggplants rest in a tub of salty water to draw out the bitter taste. If you know your eggplants and know how to pick the good ones that aren't bitter, you can skip this step. After letting them rest for at least half an hour in the water, dry them off and fry them until the light stripes turn a golden color. Put them directly into a baking tin of your choice, without discarding the excess oil.
For the filling, chop the onions and fry them together with the minced meat, adding garlic as well if you like the taste of it. Add the peeled chopped tomatoes to the mix and let them cook for a bit, then season it with salt and black pepper. Once that’s done, turn off the heat and add as much chopped parsley as you like. Mix the filling a bit and then carefully open a pocket in each of the eggplants to pour the filling in. The amount of filling needed will depend on the size of the eggplants.
Before tossing them in the oven, dissolve the tomato paste in about 100-150 milliliters of water and pour that over the eggplants. Finally, put one whole green pepper and/or a slice of tomato on each filled eggplant and bake them at 160-170 degrees Celsius for about half an hour.
Once out of the oven, enjoy your karnıyarık with a side of rice and some yogurt.
Try to cook the minced meat over medium-low heat as high heat will make the pieces stick together and create bigger chunks. Also, make sure you don’t overfill your eggplant boats with the mixture.