A vegan version of a dish cooked by both the Turkish and Iranians. Aubergines stuffed with lentils cooked in a tomato and saffron sauce.
Origins of this Dish
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.’
A Vegan Version
The recipe below is a vegan version, as Iranian food can be quite heavy on the meat. 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.
What to Serve with this Dish
- 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
Prepare and Roast the Aubergines
- Pre-heat oven to 180°C (fan) / 200°C (conventional) / Gas Mark 6.
- Slice aubergines lengthways. Then take a knife and criss-cross the flesh. Brush aubergines with olive oil and some of the crushed garlic and season well. Place on baking tray and roast in oven for 30 mins or until flesh is soft and cooked through.
Make the Lentil Stuffing Mixture
- In the interim, take a frying pan, add 2 tbsp olive oil and place over medium-high heat.
- Add onions and fry until they turn golden. Then add carrot, celery and garlic (reserve a little garlic for the tomato sauce) and cook until vegetables have softened.
- Add turmeric, smoked paprika and chilli flakes. Follow with tomato purée and stir until evenly distributed in the mixture for a few minutes.
- Add lentils, cherry tomatoes, water and maple syrup. Reduce the heat to low and let it cook for about 5 to 10 minutes until water has been absorbed and the cherry tomatoes have softened.
- Remove aubergines from the oven. Scoop out some of the flesh, gently taking care not to tear the aubergine cases. Add 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.
Make the Tomato Sauce
- Take a shallow casserole pan with a lid, place it on medium-low heat and add 1 tbsp olive oil and remaining garlic. Let it infuse with oil, being careful not to let it burn. Add chopped tomatoes / passata, the bloomed saffron and season. Let it simmer gently for 10 mins.
Assemble the Dish and Simmer
- 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. 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 Garni Yarikh
- Serve aubergine garnished with fresh coriander accompanied by rice or bread and 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.