Stuffed aubergines in a tomato sauce
Garni Yarikh comes from the Azerbaijani province of Iran (northwestern Iran bordering Iraq, Turkey, Armenia, and the Republic of Azerbaijan). The region is mostly populated by Azerbaijanis also known as Iranian Azeris, who tend to speak Azerbaijani (a Turkic language) as their first language.
Garni Yarikh translated is ‘torn belly’ with the Persian equivalent being ‘Shekam Pareh’. Traditionally the aubergine is stuffed with a mixture of mince meat and then simmered in a rich and tangy tomato-based sauce. The Turkish version, and where it originates from, is called ‘Karnıyarık.’
The recipe below is a vegan version as Iranian food can be quite heavy on the meat, so, where an opportunity presents itself, I like to adapt a recipe to be plant-based. To make the recipe vegan, I have replaced the mince meat with lentils and added vegetables to the stuffing mixture. You can use any lentils you want. I buy pre-cooked lentils as it reduces the preparation and cooking time. My go-to lentils for this dish are Merchant Gourmet Beluga Lentils. They absorb the sauce brilliantly and have a lovely texture.
If you have time, I recommend salting and leaving the aubergines for 30 minutes to draw out some of the water. Aubergines can afford to lose a little water pre-cooking but it isn’t an issue if you just want to launch into the recipe as per the steps below.
In my little family, we eat Garni Yarikh with a tabbouleh salad and hummus on the side but this dish can also be served with rice or bread as an accompaniment.
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- 2 large aubergines
- 1 onion (finely diced)
- 1 carrot (grated)
- 1 celery stick (finely sliced)
- 4 garlic cloves (crushed)
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 1/2 tsp dried red chilli flakes
- 2 tbsp tomato purée
- 1 pack Merchant Gourmet Beluga Lentils (250 grams cooked weight)
- 250 ml water
- 1 tbsp maple syrup
- 150 g cherry tomatoes (halved)
- 400 g tin of chopped tomatoes or passata
- 1/8 tsp ground saffron bloomed in 2 tbsp of water (optional)
- A few sprigs of fresh coriander (for garnish)
- Salt and pepper to season
- Pre-heat the oven to 180°C (fan) / 200°C (conventional) / Gas Mark 6.
- Slice the aubergines lengthways. Then take a knife and criss-cross the flesh. Brush the aubergines with olive oil and some of the crushed garlic and season well. Place on a baking tray and roast in the oven for 30 mins or until the aubergine flesh is soft and cooked through.
- In the interim, take a frying pan, add 2 tbsp of olive oil and place on medium / high heat.
- Add the onions and fry until they start to turn golden. Then add the carrot, celery and garlic (reserve a little garlic for the tomato sauce) and cook until the vegetables have softened.
- Add the turmeric, smoked paprika and chilli flakes. Follow with the tomato purée and stir until evenly distributed in the mixture for a few minutes.
- Add the lentils, cherry tomatoes, water and maple syrup. Reduce the heat to low and let it cook for about 5 to 10 minutes until the water has been absorbed and the cherry tomatoes have softened.
- Remove the aubergines from the oven. Scoop out some of the flesh, gently taking care not to tear the aubergine cases. Add the flesh to the lentil mixture, stir and season to taste. Let the flavours of the mixture combine by gently cooking for a few minutes, stirring now and again.
- Take a shallow casserole pan with a lid, place it on a medium / low heat and add 1 tbsp of olive oil and the remaining garlic. Let it infuse with the oil, being careful not to let it burn. Add the chopped tomatoes / passata, the bloomed saffron and season. Let it simmer gently for 10 mins.
- Take one aubergine half and gently place it on the tomato sauce. Fill it with half the lentil mixture and then place the other half of the aubergine on top. Repeat with the other 2 halves of aubergine. Don't worry if some of the lentil mixture falls into the sauce - it will add to the overall flavour. Leave to simmer with the lid on the pan for approximately 20 mins.
- Serve the aubergine garnished with fresh coriander accompanied by rice or bread and a salad with a citrus dressing. If you feel confident serve the aubergine with the split facing upwards like I have in my picture so it looks like they have been stuffed.