Citizens, the glorious cuisine of Turkey is sadly less known in the West than it deserves to be – I consider it one of the finest I’ve ever sampled!
Its roots in the Ottoman Empire mean that Turkish “royal” cuisine is amongst the most lavish and rich you’ll find anywhere in the world!
This dish exemplifies that philosophy – Turkish Sultan’s Delight (Hünkâr Beğendi in Turkish) combines some of the most spectacular flavors, textures and richness you’ll ever find in any dish!
Hünkâr beğendi, or simply beğendi (the name means that the sovereign/sultan liked it), is an Ottoman cuisine dish dating back hundreds of years.
It is made from smoked and spiced eggplant, which is grilled, then pureed, and stirred with milk, melted butter and roasted flour. Finally, the mixture is topped with cubes of sautéed lamb.
As noted on the blog almostturkish.blogspot.com:
I have heard two different stories surrounding the name of this dish, Hünkar Beğendi, which literately translates as “the Sultan liked it.”
The first one is that the dish was created for Sultan Murad IV (1612-1640) and obviously he liked it. Where the dish was created–in the palace kitchens or in the kitchen of a moderate house that Murad IV spent a night on his way back from a hunting trip–is not clear.
The second rumor is that the same dish was served for Empress Eugenie, the wife of Napoleon III, in Sultan Abdülaziz’s Beylerbeyi Palace in 1869, and she liked it so much that Abdülaziz promised her to ask his chef to give Eugenie’s cook the recipe. And the rumor goes that Abdülaziz’s chef was reluctant to share his recipe.
No matter what its origin, this is a much beloved recipe in today’s Turkey and I hope it finds a suitably resplendent home in your kitchen, Citizens! 🙂
I have made several duly noted tweaks to the recipe that I find improves the already wonderful recipe even further – feel free to disregard my changes to make the canonical version! Enjoy this paired with the classic dessert of the common people!
Battle on – The GeneralissimoPrint
- 2 ¼ pounds trimmed, boneless lamb leg meat, diced into 3 cm (1″) pieces
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 2 tbsp capsicum paste (optional but TFD preferred, this is the Southern Turkish way – replace with tomato paste if not using)
- 3 garlic cloves, crushed
- 2 onions, finely chopped
- 3 bay leaves, Turkish of course!
- 2 tbsp olive oil, preferably Turkish
- 1 tbsp. Urfa Biber pepper flakes (totally optional, TFD addition)
- 1 green pepper, finely chopped
- 1 yellow pepper, finely chopped (TFD alteration, original called for green)
- 4 ripe tomatoes, diced
- 3 tbsp butter
- 1 cup lamb stock (preferred), chicken stock or water
- ½ cup parsley, finely chopped
- Eggplant pureé
- 4 large eggplants
- ½ a stick of butter
- ¼ cup plain flour
- 1¼ cups whole organic milk
- ½ cup grated Turkish hard mature cheese (kasar) or kashkaval cheese (see Note)
- Place the lamb in a large bowl. Add the tomato and capsicum pastes, garlic and half the onion and bay leaves. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover with plastic wrap and place in fridge for 6–12 hours to marinate.
- Place a saucepan over medium heat, add olive oil, and sauté the remaining until golden and tender. Add the lamb, green capsicum and tomato, butter and stock or water. Increase heat to high, bring to boil, then reduce heat to low and sinner gently for 45 minutes, or until the lamb is tender, season to taste.
- To make the eggplant puree, place the eggplant on open fire such as a charcoal barbecue, or gas stove. If using a gas stove, line the stove with foil to protect from dripping juice.
- Place the eggplant on a heavy metal rack and cook on high heat, turning occasionally until the skin of the eggplant is burnt and the flesh very tender (approx. 30 mins). Set the eggplant aside to cool, then cut in half lengthways, scoop out all flesh and mash.
- In a separate saucepan over medium heat, melt 50 g butter, add flour and cook, stirring for 2 minutes. Whisk in the milk until smooth, then add mashed eggplant. Cook, stirring often for 6–7 minutes, or until thickened, adding kasar cheese in the final two minutes. To serve, divide the eggplant puree among plates, top with the lamb and scatter with parsley.
- Note: Capsicum paste and kasar cheese are available in Turkish food stores.
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