Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Stuffed Aubergines with Rice

Here is another wonderful Turkish appetizer recipe. Yalanci dolma, which means 'cheat’s dolmas' or 'imitation dolmas' - presumably because they are less fiddly to make than the classical dolmas in vine leaves - are a delicious cold first course. I don't remember where I copied the recipe from but it is very close to the recipe my mom uses.

Although the recipe uses only aubergines and bell peppers, we always use tomatoes too. Just use 2 tomatoes and scoop out the flesh and stuff them with the filling.

Additional tomatoes are used as lids for the peppers and aubergines and it's only for the sake of appearances, so if you want to you can easily skip using them.

When buying choose aubergines that feel heavy with smooth, taut, unblemished skin and fresh-looking unwithered green stalks/caps. When ripe, the flesh will give slightly under your thumb but bounce back when you release pressure.

Stuffed eggplants keep in the fridge for several days and, like most dishes made with olive oil, improve with time.

STUFFED AUBERGINES WITH RICE - YALANCI DOLMA

Ingredients:
4 medium aubergines
2 small bell peppers

Filling:
2 cups olive oil
6 onions
2 tablespoons pine kernels
2 cups rice (rinsed)
4 cups hot water
2 teaspoons dried mint leaves
1/2 cup chopped fresh dill
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons currants
3 tomatoes (optional)

Directions:
Wash the aubergines and remove the stalks. Halve crosswise, and without piercing the skin, use a corer to remove most of the flesh, leaving a thin layer all round on the inside. Reserve the flesh.

With a sharp knife, cut a circle round the core of the peppers. Twist and remove the core and the seeds, leaving the pepper itself intact. Rinse out any remaining seeds and drain upside down.

Heat the oil in a skillet or shallow pan. Wipe dry and fry the aubergine shells briefly on all sides. Remove with a skimmer and set aside to cool.

Chop the onions and the aubergine flesh finely. Plenty of onions is the secret of good dolmas.

Return the pan with the remaining oil to the heat. When the oil is hot, add the onion and stir-fry until it reduces and is translucent. Stir in the pine kernels and the aubergine flesh and sauté until all turn golden. Finally add the rice, stir once and pour over two cups of hot water. Add the mint, dill, sugar, cinnamon and salt. Stir in the currants and cover. Bring to the boil and immediately turn the heat down to minimum to simmer.

When all the liquid is absorbed, remove the pan from the heat and transfer the filling to a shallow dish to cool.

When cool enough to handle, spoon the filling into the hollow aubergines and peppers, stuffing them without packing too tightly. Stand the dolmas upright in the pan, leaning against each other. For extra colour cut the tomatoes into quarters, scoop out the flesh (which can be saved for another dish) and use the outsides as lids for the dolmas. Make sure the edges of the tomato are tucked inside the aubergines and peppers. Slowly add two cups of hot water at the edge of the pan. Cover and simmer gently.

When the peppers are tender, the dolmas are cooked. Let them cool, covered, for several hours. Serve at room temperature garnished with fresh parsley leaves.

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