This slow cooker beef and eggplant stew, is inspired by a dish that Galya taught me, five years ago; Imam Bayalda (or The Imam Fainted). It’s a one dish meal, but since I always crave raw veggies with my dinners, I would serve a simple chopped salad alongside.
By the way, I get a lot of requests for crockpot recipes, and the requests are usually filled with stories of the bland and mushy foods that they’ve experienced. Below this recipe, you’ll find some crockpot and slow cooker tips and tricks. I hope they help.
Easy Crockpot Beef & Eggplant Stew (aka Imam Bayalda)
This recipe is fairly low fat without the optional olive oil. I don’t recommend low fat eating, so be sure to use the olive oil in the recipe or in your chopped salad. If you have good quality lamb or grass fed beef, you can brown the meat and use it as is, fat and all. Traditional diets were rich in the healthy fat of these animals, which are far healthier than most vegetable oils. Dietary fat is extremely important for the production of hormones, so eat fat, and cut calories elsewhere!
1 lb ground beef or lamb, browned and drained
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 large eggplant, cubed
1 large yellow or white onion, chopped
10+ garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 tbsp ground cumin
4 tbsp sweet paprika
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp salt
5 tbsp tomato paste
enough water to just cover the ingredients
1-2 tbsp chopped parsley, per serving (optional)
1-3 tsp extra virgin olive oil, per serving (optional)
The night before, brown, chop, and assemble all the ingredients, then refrigerate overnight.
Bring your water to a simmer. Place all ingredients EXCEPT the parsley and olive oil in your crockpot or slow cooker. Add enough simmering water to just cover all the ingredients. Stir gently to combine and dissolve the tomato paste.
Cover and cook on low all day long or on high when you’ll be back sooner. Personally, I like the long slow cooking that takes all day. It brings the flavors together better.
Stir well, taste, and add more salt, if necessary.
Serve in shallow bowls. Pour olive oil over the top and/or top with chopped parsley, if desired.
I really don’t think you’ll have any issues with today’s recipe, since it was written with the below tips and tricks in mind, but you never know what you can learn to make a bland, mushy, or tasteless recipe into real winner.
Crockpot and slowcooker recipe tips and tricks.
The crockpot was designed to be the modern day equivalent of hearth cooking, or simmering a caldron over low coals all day. It wasn’t really designed to make the one pot meals that many slow cooker cookbooks encourage you to make. While chili might be fine, stews fall apart unless you take many steps to add ingredients over time. If we had the time to add all these ingredients in throughout the day, we wouldn’t need a slow cooker.
Typical problems of slow cooker recipes
- mushy potatoes, carrots, etc
- not salty enough
- pick up the drumstick and the chicken falls off the bone
- too watery
- the meat falls apart
To these problems, I say “stop making stew,” “add more salt,” “make chicken for soup or tacos,” “use less water,” “awesome!” and “why don’t you use more spices?”
To a large degree, use of the crockpot or slow cooker comes down to your expectations. I use mine to make meat for tacos, soups, and stews, but not the soups and stews, themselves. I obviously don’t make tacos in the crockpot. When the meat and broth is done, it very easy to simmer cut up veggies and potatoes in the broth for 20-30 minutes, stir the shredded, chopped, or pulled apart meat back in, and yell “soup’s on!”
Some other things that the slow cooker excels at are making broth or stock (which should hit on all of the above bullets, anyway, chili con carne, chili colorado, imam bayaldi, and anything else that you want to meld together over a long, long time, until it is
mush tender and delicious.
Start last night so you can slow cook today
One other issue that I heard about is the amount of time it takes in the morning to chop, brown, dice, measure, and season. To this I say, do it all the night before, put it in the fridge, and you have a head start on tomorrow.
tips, tricks, dos and do nots
- Do not refrigerate the “crock,” and do not use it to store the food until morning. A cold crock stays cold too long and will result in undercooked food and dangerous temperatures as the crock heats up.
- The night before, cook, chop, brown, season, and dole out all the ingredients of your concoction into a large storage or mixing bowl. Do not add the liquid that you plan to use tomorrow. Cover the ingredients, and refrigerate overnight.
- In the morning, bring your liquid to a simmer, and set aside.
- Add all ingredients (spices, meat, veggies, etc.) to the room temperature crock, then add the hot liquid. Use a spoon to evenly distribute everything so that there’s nothing sticking up out of the liquid. Depending on your recipe and the length of cooking, you may not need to fill it up and over the ingredients.
- Cover and put the cooker on high or low, using your slow cooker’s instructions for guidelines. I’m usually gone from 7am to 6 or 7pm, so I tend to use “low” an awful lot. Whatever you do, DO NOT use “warm.” That’s just for keeping it warm after it’s done cooking.
- Taste it. Too thick? Add water.
- Too thin? Uncover, turn it up to high, and do some housework, take a shower, hubba-hubba, or make a salad. Give it time to reduce. If you have a ton of liquid, scoop some out and pretend it never happened. Use less liquid next time.
- Too bland? Add salt and/or more spices. Will it be the same? No, but It’s still good. We live in a world where we’ve been told to avoid salt. In addition, slow cooker recipe books make the unusual claim that, because of less evaporation, less salt is needed, but often the recipes go too far.
What about you?
Have you had good or bad crockpot experiences? I’d love to help you fix them and come up with some dishes that you and your family will love.