If you grew up in an Azeri/Persian household or if you have Persian friends you must know by now that Persians love their eggplant dishes, and that Persian cuisine has quite a few very tasty methods of preparing this low calorie and nutritious, but otherwise notoriously bland tasting vegetable called eggplant. Garniyarikh is yet another eggplant recipe among many that I have shared and will share with you.
Garniyarikh translates to “split belly,” and is a popular Azeri recipe that is an open-belly stuffed eggplant dish with tender eggplants and a spicy filling simmered in a light saffron tomato sauce.
Garniyarikh is made with peeled eggplants that are baked or fried until tender enough to push the flesh aside and fill the belly with a delicious stuffing mixture that usually consists of ground meat, herbs, spices, garlic, and tomatoes. I prefer the baked method because this process uses considerably less oil and is healthier. There is another stuffed eggplant dish that is called Dolmeh Bademjan. The ingredients, taste and look of these two eggplant dishes are quite different. For one thing, Dolmeh Bademjan is made with large Western Globe eggplants and the unpeeled eggplant is hollowed out before stuffing it with cubed meat, yellow split peas, grains and spices.
I usually use the Italian eggplants for this recipe because they have very little seed and have a very tender texture. The eggplants are peeled, leaving the top cap intact (this is the traditional presentation of this dish which by the way keeps the tender eggplant from falling apart during the cooking process). A shallow slit is made in the belly of the eggplants leaving one inch from the top and bottom intact.
The eggplants are baked and cooled in the baking sheet. Next, the flesh is carefully pushed aside to make room for the stuffing. The meat is browned with chopped onions.
The ingredients are mixed and transferred to a medium bowl. The sauce is made in the same skillet and transferred to another small bowl.
Baked eggplants are stuffed and arranged in a single layer in the same skillet. Sauce is drizzled over and around the Garniyarikh (s), then covered and simmered until the sauce is reduced and eggplants are tender. Spoon the sauce over the eggplants several times during this cooking time.
Serve Garniyarikh warm with Sangak, Barbari (types of Persian bread), or pita bread with Salad Shirazi or Sabzi Khordan (fresh herbs) on the side.
Bake the eggplants for 30-35 minutes, then broil for 2 minutes
- 7 Italian eggplants
- ¼ cup vegetable oil
- 1 pound lean ground beef, lamb, or turkey
- ¾ cup finely chopped yellow onion
- 1 tsp Persian Meat Spice or your favorite curry powder blend
- ¾ tsp kosher salt
- ¼ freshly cracked black pepper
- 3 TBSP tomato paste
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- One large yellow onion, thinly sliced
- 3 TBSP vegetable oil for frying the onion
- 1 cup small-diced ripe tomatoes
- 1 Serrano pepper, deseeded and chopped small (wash your hands immediately with soap and water, these peppers are very hot)
- ½ cup small-diced red bell pepper
- ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
- FOR THE SAUCE
- 1 TBSP butter
- 2 TBSP tomato paste
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- Dash cayenne pepper
- ⅛ tsp ground saffron (optional)
- 1 cup boiling hot water
- Preheat the oven to 425 F, center rack
- Peel the eggplants but leave the top cap attached. Starting at 1-inch below the cap use a knife to make a shallow lengthwise slit in the belly of each eggplant that extends down to 1-inch from the bottom. Add the eggplants to a large bowl and drizzle 1 tsp of oil in the belly of each eggplant. Rub the rest of the oil over the eggplants.
- Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil, grease it lightly, and bake the eggplants in a single layer for 30-35 minutes or until easily pierced with a fork. Without changing the position of the rack change the oven temperature to broil setting, and broil the baked eggplants for 2 minutes to give them a nice golden brown color. Cool the eggplants in the baking sheet on a rack before removing them. Gently push the flesh inside the belly slits aside to make room for the stuffing. Set aside.
- Meanwhile heat the vegetable oil in a large nonstick 12-inch skillet and fry the sliced onion to golden brown. Transfer the fried onions to a bowl and set aside. You will use the same skillet for browning the meat.
- To make the stuffing: Mix the finely chopped onion and the ground beef. Add the meat spice, salt and pepper. Sauté in the large skillet over medium high until the meat is browned. Stir frequently.
- Add the tomato paste and sauté for another 2 minutes on medium high, stirring frequently. Remove the skillet from heat.
- Add the minced garlic, fried onions, diced red bell pepper, chopped Serrano pepper, diced tomatoes and the chopped fresh parsley to the skillet and stir to combine all the ingredients. Transfer the ingredients to a medium bowl.
- To make the sauce: In the same skillet melt 1 TBSP butter over medium heat. Add 2 TBSP tomato paste to the butter, stir and saute for 1-2 minutes or until the mixture starts to bubble.
- Add a pinch of cayenne, ⅛ tsp ground saffron and 1 cup boiling water to the skillet, stir to combine. Bring the sauce to a low boil and transfer it to a small bowl. Set aside.
- Stuff the belly of the baked eggplants with as much stuffing mix as it fits. Arrange the stuffed eggplants in a single layer in the same skillet.
- Pour the sauce on and around the eggplants. Bring it to a slow boil, then reduce the heat to low and cook covered for 45 minutes, until the eggplants are very tender.
- Serve the Garniyarikh warm with Sangak, Barbari or pita bread and a side of Salad Shirazi or Sabzi Khordan (fresh herbs).