Though eggplants were an import to Turkey from India, the Ottoman era solidified them as a treasured part of the national cuisine. Aubergines are a staple of menus formal and casual alike, from Hünkar Beğendi (which means “the Sultan Liked It”), a smoky eggplant puree so good that Napoleon’s wife begged for the recipe, to simple slabs of grilled eggplant topped with yogurt.
Karniyarik is a dish that originated in the palace kitchens of the Ottoman rulers and has endured largely made the same way it was then. Ground lamb, seasoned with garlic and onion, is baked inside split eggplants, then topped with tomato and pepper. It can be made with beef if you prefer and even vegetarian (substituting mushrooms, for instance). One additional benefit: fully cooked karniyarik freezes well, so if you have extra, just wrap it up and enjoy for a future meal.
3 dark purple eggplants (medium or small)
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided in half
1 medium onion, finely chopped
12 ounces ground lamb
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
14 ounces (1 can) diced tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
3 – 4 tablespoons canola oil
1 tomato, thinly sliced
1 bell pepper (green or red), seeded and sliced
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 cup water
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Preheat oven 350° F.
- Cut the eggplants in half lengthways (leaving the stalk intact). Cut a deep split lengthways in the flesh side of each half without cutting through to the skin, leaving 1/2 inch uncut at either end. Sprinkle salt over the flesh of the eggplants (to draw out moisture) and let rest for 15 minutes.
- Sauté the onions in 1 tablespoon of olive oil until soft.
- Add the ground lamb and brown on all sides until the meat is not pink.
- Add the garlic, chopped tomatoes, tomato paste, red pepper flakes, a pinch each of salt and pepper to taste, and mix well. Cook for five minutes.
- Remove from the heat and stir in the chopped parsley. Taste and add more salt or pepper if you like. Set aside.
- In a large saucepan, heat the canola oil over medium-high heat.
- Dry the eggplants with a kitchen towel thoroughly, then brown them evenly on both sides in the canola oil.
- Oil an ovenproof dish or a baking tray with sides, and lay the eggplants inside, flesh side up.
- Spoon the filling into the splits, packing in the meat mixture, and then top each with a slice of tomato and a bell pepper strip.
- Make a mixture of the water and the remaining tablespoon olive oil and drizzle it onto the baking tray.
- Cover loosely with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove the cover and bake another 15 minutes or until the flesh is tender and nicely browned on top.
- Serve hot with rice and a hardy dollop of plain yogurt.
Pro-trip: The tomatoes and peppers are decorative, so omit as you wish, or switch it up and use a chili pepper in place of the bell pepper.
Savor the spectacular cuisine of a timeless land during your Turkey’s Magical Hideaways Small Ship Adventure.