Eggplant, the queen of Turkish cuisine


In Turkish cuisine, nothing can replace eggplant. She is the queen, finding herself on the menu of almost every traditional home and restaurant.

In Turkey, eggplant recipes vary: stuffed with minced meat with tomatoes, onions, simmered in olive oil with onions and tomatoes, fried, smoked, peeled, mashed…

As a starter or main course, we love eggplant, whether thin or round, white, purple or purple.

eggplant history

Originally from India (where you can still find varieties of all colors today), it was already consumed in Asia more than 2500 years ago.

It was the Arabs who introduced it to the Mediterranean in the 9th century. Long eggplant remains from India have been found in the Egyptian port of Kusayr.

Abû I-Khayr (Persian theologian) mentions four types: the Egyptian with white fruit and purple fruit, the Syrian with purple-red fruit, and the local with black fruit. But its European cultivation did not begin in Italy until the 15th century.

Chinese production has experienced phenomenal growth since the early 2000s. Today, China and India account for 85% of global eggplant production. Turkey is the world’s fifth largest producer (after Iran and Egypt in particular).

In France, if in 2013, its annual consumption remained below 1 kg per capita (compared to 10 kg per capita in the Middle East!), in 2021, this figure must be much higher, because eggplant caviar is greatly appreciated!

The different types of eggplant

Eggplant is a fruit of the nightshade family, like tomatoes and potatoes. It is harvested and eaten before it is fully ripe, because its coppery skin contains the most bitter flesh.

Eggplant is eaten early in the spring, in April and May, then in September and October, but the peak season for tasting this vegetable is mainly summer, from June to August.

In Turkish markets, you will find the long purple eggplant and the purple globose as well as the white-striped violet. Prefer the elongated purple variety and choose vegetables without spots, with smooth, intact, firm skin and if possible with a very fresh peduncle.

The contributions (often little known) of eggplant

Eggplant is one of the least caloric fresh vegetables: it provides about 18 kcal/100 g, which puts it at the level of tomato, endive or lettuce. Be careful not to drown it in the frying…!

From its high water content (92%), eggplant derives a remarkable abundance of minerals. In addition to the interesting quantity of magnesium and zinc that it provides, it has the advantage of being diuretic thanks to its high potassium content (260 mg/100).

It is also a fruit vegetable well endowed with fiber, which is particularly digestible steamed or stewed, because it then becomes tender and soft. This is also where its fibers are most effective on intestinal transit.

As long as you add a hint of olive oil and a hint of garlic, you will have transformed it into a real health food, borrowed from the famous Mediterranean diet, so famous for its virtues on the health of our arteries. .

In addition, recent American and Austrian studies have highlighted its ability to slow down the increase in cholesterol.

Eggplant is one of the vegetables that must be cooked to be well digested. We therefore prefer steam cooking, stewed or baked, whole in its skin or cut in half with a small drizzle of olive oil only.

Eggplant Turkey

A well-known recipe from the Palace…

The best known eggplant recipe is the “Sultan’s Favorite”.

In the 1860s, Sultan Abdul Aziz I invited Empress Eugénie, wife of Napoleon III, to come and discover his country. On the occasion of this trip, the Turkish sovereign of course hastened to offer his guest the dishes most appreciated by the palate… Eugenie was immediately seduced by the succulent Hünkâr Beğendi or “sultan’s favorite”, composed of a bechamel sauce with grilled aubergines on the barbecue.

THE SULTAN’S FAVORITE WITH CHICKEN

eggplant hünkar begendi sultan turkey

Ingredients for 4 persons

600 g of chicken breasts

1 onion

3 cloves of garlic

2 peeled tomatoes (even canned)

2 g of paprika

20 cl of chicken broth

2 long eggplants

20 cl of milk

15 cl of olive oil

1 tablespoon of flour

20 gr of grated cheese, salt, pepper

Preparation

Cut the chicken meat into cubes. Brown them for 5 minutes. in 5 cl of oil. Reserve the chicken and remove the oil.

In the same pan, add 5 cl of oil and brown the onion and chopped garlic for 5 minutes.

Add the chicken, cook for another 5 minutes on the heat. Add the crushed tomatoes, salt, pepper and paprika.

Sprinkle the preparation with the broth and simmer over high heat, stirring.

At the same time, grill the aubergines on the barbecue. Peel them, cut them in half lengthwise, then chop them finely with a knife.

Prepare a bechamel sauce by quickly browning the flour in 5 cl of hot olive oil, and dilute with the milk until you obtain a homogeneous sauce.

Incorporate the minced eggplant, salt, pepper, mix well.

Incorporate the grated cheese into the preparation.

To serve, present the chicken pieces on a plate on a bed of eggplant sauce.

Note : The chicken can be replaced by minced veal.

Another dish is very famous in Turkey… karnıyarık.

KARNIYARIK: EGGPLANT STUFFED WITH MINCED MEAT

Eggplant Turkey Karniyarik

Ingredients for 4 persons

4 long eggplants

500 g minced meat

300g diced tomatoes

2 onions

10 chopped parsley leaves

2 cloves minced garlic

4 tomatoes

Olive oil

Green pepper strips

Salt and pepper

Preparation

Preheat the oven to 190°C. Wash, dry and cut the aubergines in half lengthwise.

Incise the inside with a knife (without detaching, to form a grid). Place them on a baking sheet, side by side, flesh side up.

Sprinkle with a little oil and salt, then bake for about thirty minutes: the surface should color and become soft.

Remove from the oven and increase the temperature to 210°C on the grill position.

Meanwhile, in a heavy-bottomed saucepan, sauté the minced onions and garlic with 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Lower the heat and leave to brown for just 5 to 10 minutes.

Then add the meat. Leave to cook for 3 minutes, stirring, then add the tomatoes cut into cubes with 1/2 a glass of water.

Simmer over low heat for about 20 minutes: the sauce should become thicker, a little darker and the meat should have absorbed it a little. Turn off, salt and add the chopped parsley.

When the aubergines are cooked, lightly crush the flesh with a spoon (without removing it) so as to form a hollow, then spread the meat stuffing over it. Place the strips of green peppers on top.

Bake again, in the grill position and at 210°C, for 5 to 10 minutes, just long enough for the surface to form a small film and color a little.

ENJOY YOUR MEAL !



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