Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Imam Bayalda

Hi. This is not my own recipe, at least not when it started. Galya handed it off to me, quite a while back, and I've been trying new versions every few weeks.

Galya said that it's the closest thing to chili that Bulgaria has. It's not spicy, but you could easily make it so by replacing some or all of the paprika with a hotter powdered chili.

Here's my latest version, which is tomato-less, because I was out. I think I prefer it this way, but I quadrupled the paprika, too.

Imam Bayalda (The Imam Fainted)

2 medium eggplants
1 large onion
2 zucchini
4 large cloves of garlic
1 lb ground or cubed lamb
2 tbsp olive oil
2 cups water
4 tbsp paprika
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground clove
1 tsp turmeric
salt to taste (about a tbsp to start)

Cut the eggplant into small cubes, chop the onion and zucchini, and mince the garlic.

In a large covered pot, metal slow cooker pan, or dutch oven, brown the lamb over medium high heat, draining off the extra fat. Remove from heat and put the cooked meat into a bowl (or the crock of your "crock pot," if you're going to be using it).

In the same pan, brown the eggplant in batches, adding olive oil when necessary. As the eggplant is browned, put the batches in the bowl with the lamb.

When the eggplant is done, using the same pan, cook the onion in the remaining olive oil. When the onion is translucent and starting to brown, add the garlic, cumin, and paprika. Stir until fragrant (about 30 seconds to a minute), being careful not to burn the garlic. When the garlic is done (or even before, if you're concerned), add the water and stir.

Add the remaining spices and stir to combine. Stir in the lamb and eggplant. Bring to a light simmer, cover, and allow the food to cook on a low simmer for at least an hour. I like to use my metal panned slow cooker to brown, then let it cook all day. If you have a "crock pot," and not a slow cooker, brown in a pan, then transfer it all to the crock.

I said to start with a tbsp of salt. I'm sure you'll need more.

Options: Just eat it like chili, or serve with rice or pita bread. You can also stir in a can of chick peas for more of a chili effect. A few spoons full of Greek or normal yogurt tastes good on top.

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