I know it is now November but keeping up with all the winter preparations that Turkish women cover in the last moments of summer is actually really tricky.
At last, I am able to cover another very important activity that makes the Turkish winter dishes so delicious.
Drying aubergines or eggplants, whichever you like to call them, is very important and totally necessary for those who wish to eat these wonderful vegetables in winter time.
In the village in which I used to live, the women never ever went into town to the market. A truck would come up our hill every 2 months offering 50kg sacks of flour, rice, barley, lentils and every other possible dried good you could think of. The rest was grown in their gardens. Jam packed full of goodness. And of course all the dairy produce and eggs were right on hand. No fresher could be found.
And in summer when everything is more than plentiful, it is the time to cure it for winter. There’s no stopping these ladies. They are busy 24/7.
In the height of summer, there is a total glut of aubergines and you will never find them cheaper. At this point too, the weather is perfect for quickly drying the eggplants out and being able to store them away before they get too dusty.
It does take a few hours to prepare them and is not the easiest task in the world. If you feel so inclined to try this next summer then consider inviting a friend to come round and join you or watch TV whilst you prepare them, is not a bad idea.
In Fethiye, we have a lovely friend who is incredibly industrious the whole summer through. She will spend days digging out the insides of eggplants and threading them up. My limit is about 3 kilos which will still take me the best part of an afternoon, whereas Şerife will easily do 10 kilos over a few days, before she is satisfied.
The process is simple enough. First of all she suggests that you pick the paler eggplants that are not too long or misshapen. Ones that you will cut in half and be able to dig out fairly easily. You want to able to get the knife close to both ends of the two halves of the aubergine, as if you were going to prepare dolma.
As the main use for these dried aubergines, will be to use them as dolma shells, it is best not to use overly large aubergines or there will be a lot of wastage on the plate. One can only eat so much dolma in a sitting!
The reason for choosing pale aubergines is that they have less seeds. I rarely have noticed seeds in the eggplants I am cooking and it has not really bothered me. However, I was unable to buy pale eggplants when I decided to do my winterising and really regretted it. Digging out the innards, I then noticed a huge amount of seeds and as they dried, more seeds started flying all over the deck. They never seemed to end.
TIME TO COOK THEM …
When it is time to use these dried eggplants, they should be rinsed well first. Then they should be placed in a pot of cold water and the water is brought up to boil. If they are placed directly into hot water I have been told they will be tougher. They should be boiled from anywhere between 5 to 15 minutes until they are soft when tested with a fork.
STORING THE DRIED AUBERGINE
If there is any chance of the aubergines not being completely dried out, then they can be strung up and left hanging as a decoration or placed in a calico bag or a jar with a cloth covering, rather than being sealed tightly. The last thing you need is for them to go mouldy after all that work!
If they have been stored openly, don’t forget to rinse them well before cooking.
Photo courtesy of Claudia Turgut
As the rice is not cooked when making the stuffing mixture, the dried aubergine dolma shell is not filled completely.
or for a vegetarian option Claudia’s Stuffed Pepper recipe