Makdous is a delicious Syrian aubergine preserve. I tried Makdous first at a local restaurant, opened by a Syrian refugee, who serves traditional recipes. I love middle eastern cuisine, so I tried their food a few times. I made a small batch for the first time and I would recommend doing that. If you are happy with the recipe, you can get more aubergines and make more. I read that these aubergines can keep nicely in the freezer before being thawed and put in oil and this is what I plan to do next.
While it is not complicated at all to make Makdous, the dish needs a few days to make. It sounds like a bit of a faff, but in fact the amount of time spent actually involved in making it is not long at all. Just keep in mind that the aubergines need at least a couple of days to release water and at least a couple of days to be submerged in oil before they are ready to be served. This makes the dish really good for occasions too, as it’s rich and delicious and the preparation is done well in advance of the event.
As the dish needs a lot of oil it might seem wasteful, but it’s not. The remaining oil can be reused once again for another batch of aubergines, just keep it in the fridge. Alternatively or after you used it twice, you can pour some of that oil on salads or you can use it for cooking.
You will need baby aubergines because they are cooked in their skin and it would not work with standard size aubergines. Another thing to keep it mind is that a lot of salt is needed for preparing the aubergines, as they need to be drenched in salt so they can release all the water. The traditional recipe requires sun dried peppers, but these are not easy to find, so I’ve adapted the recipe to what is available on the British market.
Ingredients for 6 Makdous:
– 6 baby aubergines
– salt (a lot)
– walnuts (a few)
– sun dried tomatoes
– 1-2 peppers
Boil a pan of water. While the water is boiling wash the aubergines and cut the stem. Put the aubergines in the pan and cover them with a plate or a small lid, to keep them from floating to the top and not cooking. Boil the aubergines for 10 to 15 minutes. The vegetables need to be soften, but not cooked completely. I boiled mine for 10 minutes and they needed a few minutes more. They should keep their shape. Blanch the aubergines in cold water to stop them from cooking further.
Leave the aubergines in a colander until they are cool enough to handle.
Make a dent in each aubergine using a finger. Pour a lot of salt in the dent and place them in the colander. Do the same with the rest. Sprinkle more salt over the aubergines. The salt will make them sweat and the salt will be washed with the water released by the aubergines. Place the colander in a bowl. Put a plate over the aubergines and put a couple of big cans over the plate, so the aubergines are pressed. This will help them release the water. The aubergine need to stay for 2 days with the weigh on top.
Make sure you are throwing the water from the bowl once in a while. I kept mine in the fridge because it was hot. Squeeze the aubergines in your hands with care, so you don’t damage them. Put them back in the colander with the dents towards the bottom of the colander. Put the plate back on with the weigh and leave them for another day or two.
Heat the oven and put the peppers whole on a tray. Bake them until they are soft. Take the tray off the oven and remove their skins when they are cool and can be handled. Make the filling by mixing in a bowl the walnuts and the sun dried tomatoes, both chopped in small pieces, and the peppers. As only a small amount is needed you can use only sun dried tomatoes and you can add sweet paprika (natural, without the cayenne pepper).
Stuff the aubergines with the mixture, pressing to add as much as possible. Only a tablespoon will fit in each aubergines, so keep that in mind. Put the aubergines in jars or in a glass bowl or glass storage container with a lid. I used a storage container. Fill the container with olive oil. The aubergines need to be fully submerged to preserve them.