July 14, 2013

Bademjan Shekam-por - Persian Stuffed Eggplant

بادمجان شکم پر -Bademjan shekam-por is an open-faced fried eggplant stuffed with ground beef and vegetables simmered in a rich and tangy tomato-based sauce and topped with slivered almonds. This tasty eggplant dish is from the north-western region of Azerbaijan, Iran. I'd just like to point out that although the following words have a slightly different spelling and pronunciation, they all mean the same thing: بادمجان، بادمجون، بادنجان بادنجون  - bademjan, bademjoon, badenjan and badenjoon. Eggplants have been part of the Persian cuisine for hundreds of years and due to their versatility, great flavor and silky tender flesh, they have brought about many popular and well-known dishes such as khoresh bademjan, borani bademjan, kashk-e bademjan, mirza ghasemi, and torshi bademjan (pickled eggplant), just to name a few. I am always looking for new Persian eggplant recipes and I'm determined to write about every eggplant recipe I find from homes in every corner of Iran. My favorite eggplant dish, however, is still simply pan-fried unpeeled eggplant slices lightly seasoned with salt and pepper. I personally like the taste of the eggplant skin and normally I wouldn't remove it unless I'm serving guests.

According to the article about Persian Food in the Huffington Post recently, "Persian food is criminally underrepresented in America." I agree with this statement and would add that in my opinion it is often misunderstood as well. One of the misconceptions is that Persian food is not vegetarian friendly which in my opinion is not true. Aside from an array of globally known Persian kabab/kebob dishes, most if not all khoresh - stews can be prepared without meat. There are also many terrific vegetable dishes such as a variety of kookoo/kuku, borani and the hearty ash reshteh. Not to mention that there's always a platter of sabzi khordan - fresh herbs, as an accompaniment to lunch and dinner every day along with salad and torshi - pickled vegetables. Plus we eat fruits like there's no tomorrow!

For a healthier version of a traditional bademjan shekam-por you can bake the eggplant in the oven before stuffing them or just prepare the dish the traditional way by frying the eggplants. Also, in the traditional recipe eggplant are peeled fully or partially by leaving in some stripes. The choice is yours whether to bake or fry, remove the eggplant skin or leave it intact. You may stick to a more traditional recipe or tweak it to your dietary needs and preferences. For a vegetarian variation of this dish you may use rice instead of ground beef. Bademjan shekam-por could be served as a main dish with rice or as a side dish/appetizer.

Bademjan Shekam-por - Persian Stuffed Eggplant

Serves 4

4 medium-sized eggplant, peeled in stripes using a vegetable peeler
1/2 pound ground meat (lamb or beef)
1 large onion, chopped
3 medium-sized potatoes, peeled, cubed (small)
1/2 pound fresh green beans,  trimmed, cut into 1-inch pieces
3 medium-sized firm tomatoes, 1 finely diced, 2 sliced
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/3 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon cumin
A pinch of red pepper
Salt and pepper to taste
Juice of a lemon
2-3 tablespoons slivered almonds
Olive oil (extra virgin) or vegetable oil


  1. In a large frying pan heat 3-4 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat, fry eggplant until golden brown. Set aside to cool.
  2. In a large skillet, add enough oil to cover the bottom over medium-high heat, sauté the chopped onions until translucent. Add the minced garlic, sauté for a couple of minutes and then add the turmeric powder, stir. 
  3. Add the ground beef and brown until well cooked and tender. Add the potatoes, green beans, and chopped tomatoes respectively and sauté each for a few minutes before adding another. Add cumin, red pepper and salt and pepper to taste. Sauté all the ingredients together. Stir well and add 1/2 cup of water.  Cover and cook on medium-low heat for 40 minutes.
  4. Once the eggplants are cool enough to handle, gently cut open lengthwise. Sprinkle a small pinch of salt into the eggplant and with a fork gently loosen up the inside a little bit. Generously spoon the mixture into the open eggplant and top with slivered almonds.
  5. In the meantime, heat a tablespoon of oil in a large pan over medium heat, add the tomato paste to the pan and stir well. After a couple of minutes, arrange the tomato slices in single or overlapping layers. Place the stuffed eggplant over the layered tomatoes, add a cup of hot water and fresh squeezed lemon juice. Cover and let simmer for 15-20 minutes on low heat.
To serve place the stuffed eggplant onto a platter with rice or warm bread and yogurt.