The Veggie Patch is harvested – Imam Biyaldi

July 20, 2010 § 1 Comment

Hmmm, yes, it seems I would have to agree with Sam Neill on this one.

I remember once when I was a teenager, maybe 13 or 14, I decided to become a vegetarian. It was not a matter of animal justice (I grew up on a property where, unfortunately, you quickly become desensitized to hanging carcasses), it wasn’t a dietary thing (I am still a firm believer of the benefits of eating meat in moderation), it was simply me being ‘cool’. While I would like to regale you with stories of my champion effort the memory is sadly clear.

Day One: Morning – I declare my vegetarian status. Lunchtime – I proudly munch on my egg and lettuce sandwich. Dinner – Dad is making the ‘Big Salad’. I smell bacon cooking. I renounce my newfound diet.

Day Two: Never existed.

So you can imagine that this past week has been a struggle for me, even though I do love vegetarian food and will nearly always have at least one meat free night a week, I could not keep this diet up for the long term.

Saying that, there are some great recipes out there to honour the humble vegetable without resorting to frozen veg-patties and faux sausages (sodium anyone?). There are so many dishes that are supposed to be made without meat, because they are simply better that way. In many parts of Italy vegie food is a staple because meat is too expensive for every night, and quality over quantity is a great starting point for eating meat free – enjoy free-range chicken once a week instead of eating cage-raised chicken three nights a week. Winter is also a great time of year to indulge in some hearty vegetable dishes that are filling and satisfying but still light on the hips! Take your hand to ratatouille with pasta, warm salads with pumpkin, roast beetroot, lentils and goats curd, delicious soups and vegetable curries.

One of my favourite vegetarian meals is the turkish dish Imam Biyaldi – literally the priest fainted (presumably because it tastes so good!) The great thing about Imam Biyaldi is that is easily transfers between a summer and a winter dish depending on whether you serve it hot or cold, with a salad or on couscous. In winter I always make a richer tomato sauce by adding a few slugs of good sugo and a splash of red wine into the mix. This is my version, it’s not traditional but it’s wholesome and yummy!

Imam Biyaldi – stuffed eggplant. Serves one

Preheat oven to 180°C

Halve one small eggplant and slash flesh into large squares. Heat 2 tbl olive oil in a frypan over medium heat and fry eggplant, flesh side down, until softened and beginning to colour. Scoop out flesh and keep half, leaving the shells hollow and intact.

Dice two beautifully ripe tomatoes and place in frypan with 1 tbl extra oil, one clove garlic (crushed), 1 tbs pinenuts,   1 tsp sugar, 1 tbs balsamic vinegar, 1/2 sliced onion, half a diced green capsicum and reserved eggplant flesh (diced). Tear through a small handful of parsley leaves (add sugo and wine here if using) and scoop mixture into the eggplant halves.

Transfer to oven and bake until eggplant shell is cooked and filling is heated through.

Drizzle with oil and salt and pepper. Serve with a chickpea salad or couscous and greek yoghurt.

(Sometimes I turn this into a meat dish by adding 100g of premium mince with the tomatoes).

But I also learnt that it takes more thought and care to ensure the correct protein and fibre are included in your diet, as a pilates instructor and fitness professional I found my energy levels wavered on days when I thought I could get by with a raw carrot/cucumber/tomato lunch and a bowl of pumpkin soup for dinner. This doesn’t mean stocking up on carbs to fill you up – a bowl of pasta with tomato passata does not suffice for dinner every night, so when you do do veg, plan your menu to balance protein, fibre and carbohydrates – include legumes/lentils/eggs/nuts/root vegetables/chilli/garlic/ginger/tofu/ etc…and then let the vegetarian ingredients shine!

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