Islim Kebab Wrapped in Eggplants (Patlıcanlı İslim Kebabı)

Last month, I attended a Turkish cooking class called “A Turkish Feast Fit For A Sultan” taught by Özlem Warren at my favorite supermarket. It was exciting to see a Turkish cooking class in the Foodie magazine of the market (unfortunately, this is rare). Last year, I had seen her scheduled class in the Foodie magazine, but I had to miss it due to prior commitments. This year, I did not want to miss it again, so I actually canceled my previously arranged plans for that night, so I could attend her class. Good thing I did. Obviously, since I am writing about it, I truly enjoyed it. She had some useful cooking tips.

The menu for the class included the following:

Mercimek Çorba (Lentil Soup with Red Pepper-Infused Olive Oil)
Cevizli Biber (Walnut, Red Pepper Paste and Onion Dip with Toasted Bread)
Patlıcanlı İslim Kebabı (Lamb Wrapped in Grilled Eggplant Slices with Tomato Sauce)
Sade Pilav (Rice Pilaf)
Cevizli & Fıstıklı Baklava (Baklava with Walnuts and Pistachios)
Türk Çayı (Turkish Tea)
Lokum (Turkish Delight)

Also, there was Turkish beer “Efes” and wine.

The class included an overview of Turkish cuisine history, Turkish spices, Turkish eating traditions and customs, Turkish Cookery Books (by the way, my favorite Turkish cookbook “Anatolian Feast” was in the top of her list) as well as where to get Turkish cooking ingredients. I suppose I am lucky to live in Houston where there is a small Turkish market, but for those of you who cannot find Turkish ingredients in other cities, most Mediterranean stores should have them as well as online Turkish stores. She also provided the recipes of the dishes she made during the cooking class.

Everything made in the class tasted great, however the Islim Kebab and the Cevizli Biber were exquisite! Cevizli biber (an appetizer) is very popular in Southern Turkey and thus, it reminded me of my home city. I could not hide my excitement when I heard where Özlem was from in Turkey. She is from “Antakya”, the same city my husband is from and the same province I am from which is an hour or so away from where I grew up. She not only talked about food, but also briefly talked about Antakya (the old name is Antioch) and the famous St. Peter’s church where the first word of ‘Christian’ was used for the first time according to historians.

Özlem was kind enough to allow me to publish her own recipe “Patlıcanlı Islim Kebabı” (an Ottoman dish) and I typed her recipe almost exactly as she had it written. Only a few insignificant changes were made to her recipe when I made it. I added garlic since I add garlic to everything, I used olive oil for frying since that’s what I had on hand and I used boneless leg of lamb since that’s what I had on hand. Everything else, I followed exactly as she had instructed.

Thanks Özlem for great tips and I look forward to your cookbook.

Here is the recipe.

1 lamb shoulder or leg of lamb or lamb shank –approximately 2lb
5 large Holland eggplants (the huge ones)
2 medium tomatoes (sliced)
5 green peppers (sliced lengthways)
1 medium carrot (coarsely chopped)
1 large onion (coarsely chopped)
2 cloves garlic (coarsely chopped)
3 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 bay leaves
6 whole black peppercorns
2 ½ tsp salt (adjust to your taste)
2 cups water

For Sprinkling on Eggplants:

Salt (as much as it takes)

For Frying:

Olive oil (as much as it takes)

For Sauce:

1 ½ tbsp tomato paste
2 cups water
Salt and pepper (adjust to your taste)

Cut the lamb shoulder or leg into approximately 1 inch thick chunks. Heat olive oil in a pan and add the lamb chunks and the bone. Add the onions, garlic and carrots and sauté for a couple minutes. Add the tomato paste, bay leaves, peppercorns and the water. Cover and cook gently for about 2 hours, until the meat falls off the bone. Season with salt and set the pan aside. Let it cool off and discard the bone.

Peel eggplants lengthways in stripes like a zebra.

Slice the eggplants lengthways, about ½ inch thick.

Sprinkle with some salt on both sides and leave for about 15 minutes.

Squeeze out their moisture with paper towel. Then shallow fry them in the oil for about 2-3 minutes until golden brown.

Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on the paper towel to absorb the excess oil. Let the fried eggplants cool off.

On a board or a plate, place one eggplant slice horizontally and the other slice vertically on top of each other and place the meat mixture in the middle.

Fold over the slices to wrap the meat mixture and place eggplant package seamside down, in a greased Pyrex dish. Lay a slice of tomato on top and the green pepper and fasten the structure with a cocktail stick.

Preheat oven to 350º F. Mix the tomato paste with water and season with salt and pepper. Pour this sauce around the eggplant packages.

Bake in the oven for about 25-30 minutes. Serve on a dinner plate with tomato sauce and rice pilaf.

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