Yiayia Vali’s Smoky Aubergine-Stuffed Tomatoes

Vali lives in the fancy northern Athenian suburb of Kifissia, in a home painted bright yellow to match her personality. There are books everywhere I look – including my own, Grand Dishes – and an entire cupboard dedicated to cookbooks. As I step back in time into her kitchen with its 1970s tiles and coral cupboards, she apologises profusely, and I have no idea why. I love a retro kitchen. 

Perhaps owing to her stints living abroad, Vali is experimental in the kitchen. This dish borrows from her heritage in Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul), taking inspiration from hünkar beğendi or ‘sultan’s delight’, a smoked aubergine (eggplant) and cheese dish in a tomato sauce. The inclusion of butter and cream and the creation of a roux nods to Vali’s time in France. This rich dish is best served with a light leaf salad and a crisp glass of Assyrtiko wine.

Yiayia by Anastasia Miari (Hardie Grant), Photography by Marco Arguello


Makes 8 stuffed tomatoes

  • 1 kg (2 lb 4 oz) aubergines
  • 8 medium to large tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, plus extra as needed
  • 50 g (2 oz) unsalted butter
  • 50 g (2 oz/scant 1/2 cup) plain (all-purpose) flour
  • 200 ml (7 fl oz/scant 1 cup) single, light cream
  • 1 egg
  • 2 heaped tablespoons grated graviera, plus extra for sprinkling
  • sugar, a sprinkle


  1. Preheat the oven to 200ºC (425ºF/gas 7).
  2. Char the aubergines by placing them over an open flame on a gas hob (stovetop) or on the barbecue until soft. Vali adds a sheet of foil under the ring to catch any falling pieces of charred aubergineskin. You’ll need to reposition them a few times so that the entire aubergine receives a generous blast of heat and its entire skin is charred. Allow to cool, then peel off the charred skins and chop the flesh and transfer to a sieve to drain out any remaining moisture.
  3. Next, prepare the tomatoes by slicing off the tops (reserve the tops), scooping out the middle and setting the flesh aside in a separate bowl. Sprinkle a little salt and sugar in the bottom of each tomato.Pour the tomato flesh into a food processor and blitz until smooth, then add the olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and set aside.
  4. In a saucepan, melt the butter over a low heat. Add the flour and whisk fast to combine and create a paste. Quickly add the chopped aubergine as soon as the butter and flour have combined, stirring for a further 1–2 minutes before pouring in the cream. Season with the remaining salt and continue to whisk until you have a thick, creamy filling. Then take off the heat and whisk in the egg, followed by the cheese.
  5. Fill the tomatoes with the aubergine cream, placing their lids on top and pouring in the blitzed tomato flesh you set aside earlier. Then sprinkle with a final grating of cheese. Bake for 30–40 minutes until the tomatoes are browning on top. If the tomatoes are getting a little too brown on top, cover with kitchen foil and remove it again for the last 5 minutes of baking.