Do you like eggplant? Do you like tomatoes? Than this Eggplant Casserole is for you! OK, that sounded like a cheap soap commercial. Please do not think that way :) This a perfectly delicious recipe for those who enjoy the combo of vegetables with meat. How did I find this recipe? Well, it happened like in a tale that starts with “once upon a time”…
A couple of months ago, I asked my Facebook friends to forward me their favorite recipes or to name a recipe they are looking for. As a result, I ended up with some neat ideas to work with. Due to my slacking and excellently polished procrastinating skills, it took me a while to organize everything and decide where to begin. I think, I just think that I am done procrastinating :)
The first recipe I want to introduce to you is Eggplant Casserole, also known as Tepsi Beitinijan, in Arabic. This fine recipe was sent to me by my high school friend Kamilla. She is an amazing mother of 2 handsome boys and a wife to one lucky gentleman. Kamillaxon, I thank you dearly for the recipe :)
Tepsi Beitinijan is a famous Iraqi dish. It is a good combination of vegetables and rich beef stew. I followed Kamilla’s recipe to the T. But As we go along with the recipe process, I will give you suggestions on how to make this dish even more delicious than it already is.
As always, adventures, in other words “disasters” decided to team up with me. Here they are in action:
- the umbrella I use for food photography fell…
- external flash was on the same stand with the umbrella…
- both flash and umbrella landed on top of the camera…
- all of the above cracked the leg of pocket wizard transceiver…
- ended up super-gluing the pocket wizard and ruined the umbrella later…
- cut my finger with my ultra sharp Shun knife…
- pressure cooker decided to avenge and burned me as a result
Since I was determined to master this recipe, I didn’t back down! After much “whatda…”, “should have”, “could have”, “would have”s, a bandaged finger and a super-glued pocket wizard, my casserole was ready for consumption. Oh, I hope you like the looks of it :)
Ingredients for soaking the eggplants:
- Enough water in a medium bowl to soak the eggplants (apprx. 1 L)
- 2 Tbsp salt
- 2 extra large or 4 medium size eggplants
Ingredients for the stew and for the rest of the process:
- 1 medium onion
- 1,5 lb beef chuck
- 4 Tbsp canola oil
- 2 Tbsp tomato paste
- 1/2 tsp salt
- pinch of cumin
- pinch of black pepper
- 2-3 medium tomatoes
- 6 cups of water
- 1/2 cup parsley
- 2 cloves minced garlic (optional)
- 2 small potatoes (optional)
- 2 oz. Mozarella cheese (optional)
- More oil to fry the eggplants (apprx. 2 cups)
Preheat the oven at 400 F after you are done simmering the beef stew!
Add 2 Tbsp of salt in the water, set aside until you are done cutting the eggplants. Original recipe calls to cut the eggplants lengthwise. You can choose to cut it lengthwise or in 1/2 inch circles. Please DO peel the skin off your eggplants. In this particular recipe, it is better if you peel it all. I didn’t mind the skin but my husband was not pleased with it.
Once you have the eggplants ready, soak them in previously prepared salty water. While eggplants soak up, cut tomatoes in thin circles. Cut onions in thin half circles and cube the beef. If you are using potatoes slice them thinly, too.
You will need to fry the onions along with the beef and let it simmer in water for a while. If you are lucky to have a pressure cooker, your task is going to be much easier. If you do not have a pressure cooker, then you will need to simmer the beef stew for about an hour and a half in a regular pot.
On medium heat, warm up the pressure cooker and add 4-5 Tbsp of oil to it. Add onions and stir-fry them until they are soft and slightly golden.
Add the meat and fry everything for 5 minutes, constantly mixing everything. Add salt, black pepper, cumin and tomato paste. If you are adding garlic, this is your chance to use it, too. If the meat is sticking to the bottom of the pan, add a little water and finish frying.
Add 6 cups of water and close the lid of the pressure cooker. Cook for about 20 minutes. If you are using the conventional method of just letting it simmer in a pot for some time, mark your watch at 1-1.5 hours. The juice of the stew is much needed later. Do not discard it once you are done simmering the stew.
Meanwhile, start frying the eggplants. I’ve been told that you need a lot of oil to fry the eggplant to obtain that precise softness. Start from 2 cups of canola oil and see how it goes. But one thing I recommend is to dry the eggplants well before they go into the oil and pat dry them right after they come out of the oil. The first step is done to remove excess water from the eggplants. The after method is done to remove excess oil from the eggplants. Eggplants will absorb a lot of oil. The end result of your casserole may not dazzle you, if it is greasy. So, take my suggestion and lay the eggplants flat on top of the paper towel before and after you are done frying them.
Flip the eggplants to the other side once they are slightly brown on the bottom side.
Place the ready stew in a rectangular casserole dish, pour some of the stew liquid. Liquid shouldn’t cover more than half of the casserole dish. Otherwise, it will overflow the dish in the oven.
The recipe calls for two layers of eggplant and top layer of tomato. I am sure you can play around with the layering like I did. If you are using potatoes, I recommend placing them on the lower level, on top of the meat. This will ensure better baking chance for the potatoes.
I placed one layer of eggplants first and then a layer of tomatoes were placed on top of the eggplants. The third layer was a combination between the two.
If you are using cheese, sprinkle it on top of the tomato/eggplants. Chop the parsley and place it on the top level of the casserole. Bake for about 40 minutes in the oven. It is best served with well-cooked Basmati rice and salads like Tabouleh. You can always add another side dish, but having rice is ideal :)