Thursday, December 22, 2016

Lamb-Stuffed Baked Eggplant

My parents served eggplant and lamb dishes often. Some recipes featured only eggplant; in others, lamb was the star. On occasion, both ingredients ended up in the same pot.
Lamb-stuffed eggplant with Bulgur Pilaf
When I spoke with my sister the other night, we discussed our first introductions to ‘Beyli Baghli’ or ‘Imam Bayildi’, stuffed eggplant dishes. My sister recalled the first time she tasted this concoction was when her Armenian mother-in-law, originally from Bursa, Turkey, prepared it. My first sampling was prepared by my mother-in-law, whose Armenian roots came from both Kharpert and Dikranagerd.

I found Beyli Baghli included in the index of Charles Kasbarian’s work-in-progress, ‘The Dikranagerd Mystique Armenian Cookbook’. This recipe also appears in ‘The Assyrian Cookbook’, a compilation of recipes very similar to foods of Dikranagerd. So, is this a Dikrangerdtzi dish?

Our family has Dikranagerdtzi roots, so why were we only introduced to this through our mothers-in-law? We don’t know for sure. Perhaps because the Armenian dishes we grew up eating were mainly influenced from our maternal grandmother’s Musa (Ler) Daghtzi repertoire. But we know for sure that our mom’s mother made her own version of this wonderful meal.

No matter. This dish, by any name and from any region, is delicious, and deserves a permanent place on everyone’s table.

NOTE to VEGETARIANS: This dish can easily be converted to please vegetarians. First omit the meat (obviously). Once the eggplants have baked, carefully scoop out the pulp and chop it. Saute your favorite vegetables – peppers, mushrooms, zucchini, etc. and cook them along with the onions and seasonings. Add the chopped eggplant and cook a little longer. Spoon this mixture into the eggplant shells, and follow the rest of the recipe.  

Lamb - Stuffed Baked Eggplant
Recipe adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi, Sami Tamimi, and our Mothers-in-law!
Serves 4

2 large eggplants (4 smaller eggplants can be substituted), cut in half lengthwise, stem trimmed
Olive oil

Meat Stuffing Ingredients:
1 1/2 tsp. ground allspice
2 tsp. paprika
1 Tbsp. ground coriander
1 large sweet onion, chopped finely
1 LB. ground lamb or beef
1/3 to ½ cup pine nuts
1 cup Italian flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste

1-15 oz. can diced tomatoes with juice
1 Tbsp. red pepper paste (or tomato paste)
1 Tbsp. lemon juice, optional
1 Tbsp. sugar
Salt and pepper to taste

Garnish: chopped Italian parsley, optional


Preheat oven to 425°F.

Generously sprinkle cut surface of eggplants with salt; allow to rest for about 30 minutes to help draw out any bitter juices. Rinse eggplants and pat dry.
Baked eggplant
Place eggplant halves, skin-side down in a baking pan so they fit snuggly. Brush cut-sides of eggplant with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, or until soft and golden. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

Prepare the meat filling while eggplant is baking:

Sauteed onions with spices
In a small bowl, stir together the allspice, paprika and coriander. Heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil in a large skillet. Add the onions and half of the spice mix. Cook over medium-high heat for about 8 minutes, stirring often.
Meat filling
Add the ground lamb (or beef), and cook until meat is crumbled and no longer pink; drain any excess grease. Add pine nuts, parsley, salt and pepper to taste. Cook another 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from heat.

For the sauce, place the remaining spice blend in a mixing bowl with the diced tomatoes and their juices, red pepper paste (or tomato paste), lemon juice (if using), sugar, and salt to taste. Mix well.
Baked lamb-stuffed eggplant
Reduce the oven temperature to 375°F. Pour the sauce mixture into the baking pan to surround the eggplants. Spoon the lamb mixture to cover the top of each eggplant. Cover the pan with foil and bake for about 1 hour. Carefully lift foil and baste the eggplants halfway through baking.
Garnish with freshly chopped parsley, if desired.

Can be served warm or at room temperature.

Suggestions: serve with bulgur pilaf, plain yogurt, and crusty bread.


  1. This seems very similar to a dish called gharneh yarekh. The main difference is that the eggplant is slit along its length, fried, stuffed with the ground meat mixture, then baked. I do believe that dish also originated in Dikranagerd.

    1. It does sound pretty similar, Ara, and just as delicious!