Imam Baildi

6/16/2014 06:15:00 PM

Imam Baildi - made by me

Brrr... hasn't it been cold lately? I am definitely in the mood for comfort food, and this cheesy-eggplant quinoa bake really does the trick on a cold night!

This isn't my recipe, but rather Chef Leigh Robbin's from HQ's restaurant in the Radisson Hotel on Flagstaff Gardens. You see, a little while ago, I was invited to try out dinner at HQ's. It was a fun night and there was lots of delicious food, (see some photos at the bottom of this post!), but what I was really impressed with was Chef Leigh Robbins' take on imam baildi. Traditionally the dish consists of whole eggplants, stuffed with onions, garlic and tomatoes and simmered in olive oil, but Chef Leigh's version was a little different. His imam baildi consists of a base of quinoa topped with Turkish-spiced eggplant and tomato ragu, slathered in saganaki and baked. It was so good, and super comforting!

Imam Baildi at HQ's in the Radisson- Turkish spiced eggplant and tomato ragout, saganaki cheese, quinoa, fresh yoghurt and coriander - $16

After the meal, I emailed the PR company who invited me to see if Chef Leigh would mind sharing the recipe, so I could put it on my blog, and - hooray! - he agreed and they sent it to me. I made it at home for a dinner party (the quantities were huge but I wanted to test if it would work), we all loved it, and now I'm sharing the recipe with you. (Rewritten in my own words and with some slight adaptations to make it easier for home cooks).

The recipe is quite easy, but it does take a little time, as there are a few separate components to prepare. You start by cooking some quinoa...

Cooked quinoa

You then cut some eggplants into cubes, and roast them in the oven for ten minutes. 


The par-cooked eggplant cubes form the base of the ragu, with onion, garlic, fresh coriander, chickpeas, tomatoes and some spices added too. (Just FYI I increased the amount of tomato from 500 grams to 800 grams, because I like a saucy ragu... and I could only find 400 or 800 gram tins of tomatoes!)

Spiced eggplant cubes

I loved all the different spices - smoked paprika, tumeric, cumin, coriander. It made the kitchen smell lovely!

With tomatoes, coriander and chickpeas

I suppose if you wanted you could cook the spicy eggplant ragu by itself, and serve it with rice or couscous (both of which are easier to cook than quinoa). But, it is really nice all together, and I can always find room for a little extra cheese in my life. So, you layer the quinoa, the ragu and some cheese in a dish...

Ready for the oven

... and bake! Ta-dah!


I know my version doesn't look quite as pretty as Chef Leigh's, but it tasted good and it went down a treat! Leftovers reheated really well in the microwave too - bonus! I think you could easily make a big batch of this on a quiet weekend, and then have delicious lunches ready for the week.

Sarah's Spinach Salad

The dish, with its quinoa, sauce and cheese, is really a complete meal in itself, but I think some crusty bread and a green salad alongside are a good idea. I also added some lemon wedges on the side, and a mixture of Greek yogurt and tahini. The salad I chose to make was a spinach, pine nut and currant salad - simple but very tasty and versatile. I'll share my recipe with you soon, but for now please enjoy Chef Leigh Robbin's recipe for his delicious imam baildi! Thank-you for sharing the recipe with me, Chef!

Imam Baildi
Recipe by Chef Leigh Robbins from HQ's, with some adaptations by me

400 grams quinoa
1 kilogram eggplant (you can use half Lebanese, half regular)
2 brown onions, diced
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 bunch coriander - roots, stems and leaves
800 grams tinned whole peeled tomatoes
150 grams tinned chickpeas
10 grams cumin powder
5 grams coriander powder
5 grams turmeric
5 grams smoked paprika
Salt and pepper to taste
200 grams saganaki

Cook the quinoa according to packet instructions then drain and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 190C. Cut the eggplant into 1 centimetre dice, place in a bowl, sprinkle generously with salt and set aside for 30 minutes. Place eggplant cubes on an oven tray with some olive oil, toss to coat. Roast for 10 minutes, then set aside.
Heat some olive oil in a large pot, add the onions and garlic and cook until the onions are cooked through. Add chopped coriander roots and stems, cumin powder, coriander powder, turmeric and smoked paprika. Cook together for 2 minutes while stirring.
Add the roasted eggplant cubes and stir to coat. Add the tinned tomatoes and chickpeas. Bring to the boil, then turn the heat down and simmer for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and add the roughly cut coriander leaves. Taste for seasoning.
Increase the oven temperature to 220C.
Brush your desired serving dish lightly with olive oil. (I used three 20 centimetre pie dishes). Place the desired amount of quinoa in the bottom of the dish, then cover with eggplant ragout.
Thinly slice the saganaki and layer on top of the ragout.
Bake until the cheese is melted and golden brown, and the filling is piping hot.
Serve with a green salad, lemon wedges, crusty bread and Greek yogurt mixed with tahini
Serves 8

So as I mentioned above, here are some of the dishes we tried at HQ's the night we were invited. Overall, the food was very good, and the portions were huge! Based on the dishes we tried, I found that the entrees would make a nice lunch or light dinner, and the mains could easily be shared between two.

Lamb Shoulder Salad - Victorian farmed lamb braised in Middle Eastern spices with tomato, watercress, quinoa, harissa, labneh, sumac and fresh herbs - $17

I really liked the lamb shoulder and quinoa salad - there was a generous amount of very tender lamb underneath the quinoa, and a nice mixture of spice and freshness from the herbs, labne and harissa.

Prawn and crab linguini - Australian caught prawns and blue swimmer crab, tossed in crab bisque with caper, confit tomato, fresh peas and herbs topped with pangrattato - $28 

I enjoyed all the flavours in the prawn and crab linguine - I can't resist bisque - and there were lots of prawn and crab throughout the dish. My only (minor) complaint was that the linguine itself was cooked a tiny bit more than I like.

Twice-cooked duckling - baby beetroot, French lentils and preserved orange with caramel sauce - $32

The twice-cooked duckling was both tender and crisp, and the sweet caramel sauce gave a nice counterpoint to the rich duck without being sickly sweet.

Sarah and Sandra dined at HQ's as guests.

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  1. I love Imam Baildi and yes warm, comforting soft textures are perfect for this weather! :D

  2. Ohh so interesting never heard of Imam Baildi before but I like that it uses Quinoa it's sort of a new thing for me :) I love ordering it but never cooked it at home hehe

  3. Yum that does look good. And saucy ;) Haha it's late. I'm getting delirious. lol

  4. The prawn and crab linguini would definitely do it for me, and I would love to try Imam Baildi! Nothing like that in the country!

  5. I'm such an eggplant fan, and I love how simple this looks! It also looks like it's easy to substitute if you wanted to as well, ie brown rice instead of quinoa.

  6. Imam Baildi sounds interesting. And your version looks very delicious! And the other cuisines from HQ are very irresistible!



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