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)
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.