Sultan’s Delight

Puréed eggplant with lamb or veal is a Turkish delicacy dating back hundreds of years


Eggplant features very prominently in Turkish cuisine, says Ayse Uras of Ayse’s Café in Ann Arbor (not far from the North Campus of the University of Michigan), where she serves a Turkish menu. “I [even] had an eggplant dessert recently [in Turkey],” she says.

“This particular dish has a very unique way of serving eggplant with lamb,” she adds. When Anthony Bourdain’s Travel Channel show visited Istanbul, he was treated to a home-cooked meal, which included Sultan’s Delight, a recipe that dates back possibly as far as the 17th century.

Sultan’s Delight  (Hünkar Begendi) (Serves 4)

Eggplant purée:
2 large, fresh eggplants (should be
a shiny purple with a green top and feel slightly soft)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
4 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup milk
1/2 cup kasseri (or mozzarella)
Salt and pepper to taste

1-1/2 pound lamb or veal cut into
1-inch (or smaller) cubes
2 tablespoons butter
1 large cooking onion, chopped
1 large tomato, chopped
1 tablespoon tomato paste
Salt, pepper, and thyme, to taste
1 cup (approximately) hot water

Roast eggplants on the grill or on top of a gas range until soft and the skin is charred and black. (Eggplants also can be baked in a 400-degree oven 15-20 minutes, or until soft. Peel the skin or cut each eggplant lengthwise in 2 pieces and scoop the flesh into a bowl. Add lemon juice immediately to prevent discoloration. Mash mixture well with a fork. Melt the butter in a saucepan, add flour, and cook the mixture until it turns light golden brown. Add the puréed eggplant and stir for 5 minutes. Add the milk and cook 5 minutes. Add cheese, salt, and pepper and cook until cheese melts.

Place meat, butter, and onion in a pan and sauté over medium heat about 10 minutes. Add chopped tomatoes, tomato paste, and spices. Cook another 5 minutes. Pour a cup of hot water into the pot and cook until meat is done. Add a little more hot water if necessary. Meat should be a little juicy.

Serving: Divide eggplant purée among 4 plates and spread it. Put the meat in the center of the eggplant and garnish with fresh parsley.

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