Weekend Meals: Hünkar Beğendi
Words & Photography Eda Ildam
This is a traditional Turkish dish with an extraordinary story. In the late 1800s, Sultan Abdulaziz invited Napoleon III and his wife to his palace. As Napoleon was otherwise engaged, only his wife, Eugenie, could make the visit, and brought her French chefs to accompany her. One evening, whilst cooking his dish of eggplants on embers ready for a mezze, a Turkish chef watched on intently as one of the French chefs prepared a Béchamel sauce. Inspired by what he saw, the Turkish chef decided to mix the Béchamel with the grilled eggplants and Turkish cashar cheese and serve it together with the tender cubed lamb meat. The Sultan and his valued guests were delighted. Henceforth the dish quite literally took its name from this moment; Hünkar Beğendi – Sultan liked it or Sultan’s Delight.
I hope you will like it as Hünkar (The Sultan) did.
300g cubed lamb meat
1 onion, finely chopped
1 can of tomato paste
Salt & Pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
For Eggplant (aubergine) puree:
1 cup of grated Turkish cashar cheese (you can use an aged cheddar)
2 cups of milk
2 tablespoon of flour
1 tablespoon of butter
Salt & pepper
Wrap the eggplants in foil and grill them on the stove or under the grill.
In a deep stew pot, heat the oil and add the meat to sear. Add the finely chopped onions and cook for a few minutes before adding the tomato paste. Add hot water until the meat is covered and stir until the tomato paste blends with the mix. Close the lid and cook until the meat is tender.
Peel and slice the grilled eggplants.
In a pan, heat the butter. Before it fully melts, add the flour and whisk. Gradually add the cold milk whilst whisking. When you have the texture of Béchamel sauce, add sliced eggplants, grated cashar cheese and season.
To serve, put 3 tablespoons of the eggplant puree onto a plate, topped with a spoonful of the tomato sauce and a few cubes of meat.