Bulgur balls in aubergine & tomato sauce – Patlicanli Eksi Asi – Afiyet Olsun

This is a speciality from Antakya and I make it often for special occasions, using good quality can of tomatoes. Dried mint adds a fresh flavour and the tangy pomegranate molasses complete the finishing touch. The meaty-like aubergines/eggplants melt in the mouth in this dish and complement the bulgur balls well. Omit the minced/ground beef for a vegetarian version
Author: Ozlem Warren
Cuisine: Turkish cuisine
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 2 medium aubergines/eggplants
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 cans of 400g/14oz good quality plum tomatoes
  • 10ml/2 teaspoons red pepper paste, biber salcasi
  • 15ml/1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 15ml/1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
  • 45ml/3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 900ml/1½ pints water
  • 10ml/2 teaspoons dried mint
  • 5ml/1 teaspoon Turkish red pepper flakes or chili flakes
  • Salt and ground black pepper to taste
  • For the bulgur dough:
  • 110g/4oz fine bulgur, koftelik bulgur (if you can only get coarse bulgur, you can pulse it a few times in a food processor to make it fine)
  • 90ml/3fl oz warm water to wet the bulgur
  • 120ml/4fl oz warm water to knead the bulgur
  • 40g/1½oz coarse semolina
  • 30ml/2 tablespoons warm water for semolina
  • 60g/2oz extra lean (double grind) minced/ground beef
  • 15ml/1 tablespoon red pepper paste, biber salcasi
  • 5ml/1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 5ml/1 teaspoon Turkish red pepper flakes or chili flakes
  • Salt to taste
Instructions
  1. First make the bulgur balls. Place the fine bulgur in a large mixing bowl. Stir in the red pepper paste, cumin, salt and red pepper flakes and mix them all well. Then pour the 90ml/3fl oz warm water all over it. Using your hands, give the mixture a good mix and let it absorb the water for 10 minutes. In the meantime, place the semolina in a separate bowl and stir in the 30ml/2 tablespoons warm water. Knead and turn the semolina mixture into a soft dough. Semolina is important here as it helps to bind the bulgur dough.
  2. Have the 120ml/4fl oz warm water bowl next to you and start kneading the bulgur mixture for about 5 minutes. Wet your hands continuously while kneading. Stir in the semolina dough and knead together for another 5 minutes. Add the meat and knead for 10 minutes, until you get a smooth dough.
  3. Have a bowl of cold water aside to shape the small round bulgur balls. Wet your hands and take a large cherry size bulgur dough into your palm and shape it like a small ball. Place the bulgur balls side-by-side on a tray and continue until you finish all the bulgur dough.
  4. Quarter the aubergines then slice each piece diagonally in 3cm/about 1in chunks. Lay them on a tray and season with salt. Leave for about 15 minutes. Drain the excess moisture by squeezing them with a paper towel.
  5. Place the plum tomatoes into a food processor and process until you achieve a coarse purée.
  6. In a deep, heavy pan, pour in the olive oil and stir in the aubergines/eggplants. Sauté for 3-4 minutes, until they have a nice golden colour. Place the sautéed aubergines/eggplants on a wide plate over a paper towel to get rid of the excess oil. Stir in the garlic and the onions and sauté for another 2-3 minutes.
  7. Pour in the puréed tomato, tomato paste, red pepper paste and the water to the pan. Stir in the aubergines/eggplants, season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Combine well gently. Cover and cook on a medium heat for 15 minutes.
  8. Then carefully drop the bulgur balls into the pan and combine well. Cover and cook on a low heat for another 25 minutes.
  9. Stir in the pomegranate molasses, dried mint and red pepper flakes, combine well. Turn the heat off and serve warm with pide bread or crusty bread aside.

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