To me, the food scene in Dubai is without a doubt as interesting and exciting as the architecture and ever changing skyline. And the beauty of it all is that you can dine on anything from piping hot falafel that will set you back a few dirham to splashing out at fine dining venues that make an expensive meal in Cape Town look like child’s play. One thing is for sure, there is some incredible food in the city. And there are gems you will return to often without tiring of the menu. Orfali Bros is one of those unassuming gems that we keep going back to. For no other reason than the good food, a no fuss atmosphere and listening to Mohamad Orfali telling you about the inspiration and history of the dish you are about to eat. And even with accolade after accolade rolling in this past year, that no fuss atmosphere has remained, with Mohamad still coming to the table to chat a few times during the evening, no matter how busy it gets.
The 3 Orfali brothers created a bistro serving dishes that links back to their past and while respecting tradition they break the rules, pushing boundaries to discover and serve new flavours and sensations. One of the dishes on the menu that we have every time we go is the Orfali Bayildi, a interpretation of Imam Bayıldı, that literally translates to ”the imam fainted”. It is a dish found mostly in Ottoman regions and consists of whole aubergine stuffed with onion, garlic and tomatoes, and simmered in olive oil.
According to Wikipedia, “the name supposedly derives from a tale of a Turkish imam who swooned with pleasure at the flavour when presented with this dish by his wife, although other more humorous accounts suggest that he fainted upon hearing the cost of the ingredients or the amount of oil used to cook the dish. Another folk-tale relates that an imam married the daughter of an olive oil merchant. Her dowry consisted of twelve jars of the finest olive oil, with which she prepared each evening an aubergine dish with tomatoes and onions. On the thirteenth day, there was no aubergine dish at the table. When informed that there was no more olive oil, the imam fainted.”
At Orfali Bros the chilled, roasted aubergine (eggplant) is dressed with makdous muhammara, tarator, walnut, verjuice and nasturtium and this is my loosely based version of that dish that I am convinced will become a summer favourite on your table. It is not much of a recipe but more a “blueprint” that you can amend and tweak to your taste and it is incredible easy. One of those no fuss yet maximum reward dishes.
The aubergine needs to be roasted until the skin is charred – that will give a smoky flavour to the dish that is delicious. You can do this in the oven at a high temperature under the grill or over an open gas flame or barbecue. Roast until blistered and charred and let the aubergine cool down. Remove the skin and place in the fridge. The aubergine will release quite a bit of liquid as it chills so dab it dry with paper towel before starting to assemble the dish.
Muhammara is a spicy dip of walnuts, roasted red pepper, garlic, breadcrumbs and pomegranate molasses. There are many recipes for this dip but you can also find it now at Middle Eastern delis. Tarator is a Lebanese tahini dip and I replaced that with a tahini yogurt, mixing equal quantities of greek yogurt and tahini and adding loads of garlic and lemon juice. At Orfali Bros the Imam Bayildi is garnished with beautiful nasturtium and micro herbs. I used fresh mint and sprinkled chopped roasted walnuts on top for crunch and texture. Serve and enjoy.
The Orfali Bros Imam Bayildi is delicious as light summery lunch or a veggie side dish with a roast or barbecue and I do hope you will enjoy it. If you’ve made it, share it with me by tagging @heinstirred on Instagram with the hashtag #heinstirred. It is always a treat to see the recipes made and enjoyed.
- 1 aubergine per person
- muhammara (made or shop bought)
- greek yoghurt
- lemon juice
- walnuts toasted and chopped
- fresh mint
- micro herbs
- Roast the aubergine under the grill or over and open flame/barbecue until the skin is charred and the aubergine is cooked through
- Cool down and remove the skin, then place in the fridge to chill
- When ready to serve, use a paper towel to dry the aubergine from all liquid and place on a serving platter
- Dress liberally with muhammara (made or bought)
- Mix equal parts yoghurt and tahini, add crushed garlic and lemon juice to taste, season and spoon over the muhammara
- Garnish with fresh mint, walnuts and micro herbs (optional)