This is one of my signature recipes. Orestis, my brother keeps on saying that I am the only person he knows serving pasta with this sauce. In Greece aubergines are enjoyed as a main dish, they are not considered as an accompaniment for other dishes.
But I do like aubergine as sauce for pasta or pizza. This sauce is inspired from an aubergine dish called “Imam Bayildi” which means the imam fainted. It was originated in the Ottoman cuisine and the stories behind it are quite humorous.
The name supposedly derives from a tale of a Turkish imam, who was overwhelm with pleasure at the flavor when presented with this dish by his wife, although other more humorous accounts suggest that he fainted upon hearing the cost of the ingredients or the amount of oil used to cook the dish.
Another folktale relates that an imam married the daughter of an olive oil merchant. Her dowry consisted of twelve jars of the finest olive oil, with which she prepared each evening an eggplant dish with tomatoes and onions. On the thirteenth day, there was no eggplant dish at the table. When informed that there was no more olive oil, the imam fainted.
So it is clear by the tales presented here above that the original dish contains lots of olive oil. Through the years I have developed the recipe and replaced the great amount of olive oil by slow cooking the vegetables in an open pan in very low heat for an hour – or more if needed – until they become caramelized. The result is a quite solid paste with chunks of aubergine, tomato and onions that is very sweet without adding any sweetening agents.
It is of great importance to use exceptionally fresh and high quality ingredients in this recipe. The cherry tomatoes should be extra sweet, otherwise they will dissolve the sweet flavour. Large tomatoes are not appropriate for this dish. If you cannot find extra sweet tomatoes then do not use tomatoes at all. As for the onions the Roscoff variety is very good for this recipe as any other red sweet onion variety.
If you wish to try this dish follow the instructions here below.
- 400 gr aubergines
- 200 gr extra sweet yellow cherry tomatoes (if you cannot find extra sweet tomatoes do not add any tomatoes at all)
- 2-4 large red sweet onions
- fresh oregano
- fresh basil leaves
- 4 cloves of crushed garlic
- olive oil
- sunflower oil
- Cut the aubergines in cubes of 2-3 cm and place them in a strainer with some salt. Let them release the excess water for 30 minutes to an hour.
- Cut the cherry tomatoes in half.
- Cut the onions in slices of 2-3 mm
- Add a small amount of sunflower oil in three different pans.
- Add in a pan the aubergine cubes, in another the tomatoes and in a third the onions.
- Start in medium heat until the vegetables obtain a slightly golden crust.
- Then turn the heat to low and let the vegetables caramelize slowly. The tomatoes and onions will be ready within 10-15 minutes, the aubergines will take 45 minutes to an hour.
- When the aubergines are soft with a nice crust and are super sweet add in the pan the tomatoes and onions.
- Add the crushed garlic without cooking it (you may skip this ingredient if you do not like the after taste and smell of garlic).
- Turn of the heat.
- Chop the fresh oregano and basil leaves and add them in the mixture.
Your sauce is ready, enjoy 🙂