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 and 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, my 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!
Battle on – The Generalissimo