>Hünkar Beğendi- "Sultan’s Delight" (Lamb Stew on Creamy Eggplant Puree)

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I can assure you that it tastes much better than it looks!!

This is a recipe that we feature in our restaurant, and besides being popular, it is a delicious dish that is well suited to the cold, winter weather we’ve been having. Think of it among the likes of our “comfort food,” with a velvety texture and a rich substance. It will stick to your ribs!! The eggplant is first roasted and pureed then combined with cream (light, heavy or milk if you so desire) and shredded mozzarella cheese to give it multiple layers of flavor. Roasting the eggplant is much easier if done on a charcoal or gas grill (preferably outdoors) but can be done right on the stove top- as I tried. Although it makes a bubbly mess all over the place, the smell (and taste) are well worth the later scrubbing.

Nothing a little elbow grease can’t fix

Though this was my first time making this and I had no clue if I was doing it right, it sure smelled like I knew exactly what I was doing!

*Recipe is loosely based on Ayla Algar’s “Morsels of lamb Served on a Bed of Smoked Eggplant Cream” from the Classical Turkish Cooking cookbook. It has been tweaked, as follows…

Lamb Stew (or beef)

1 1/2 lbs. lamb shoulder (I used Beef Round Top London Broil)
3 tbsp. butter
1 c. chopped onions
1 1/2 c. chopped tomatoes
5 sprigs of parsley
5 sprigs of thyme
1 bay leaf
1 cup beef broth (or water)
1 tsp. tomato paste
salt and pepper to taste

Eggplant Puree

2 large eggplants (about 3 lbs. total)
3 tbsp. lemon juice
5 tbsp. butter
6 tbsp. flour
2 c. cream or milk, heated
salt
1/2 c. mozzarella cheese
1/2 tsp. garlic powder

Stew:

Cube meat into 3/4 inch pieces, and saute in a medium size pot with 3 tbsp. melted butter.

Stir and cook, uncovered, about 10 minutes or until the meat is browned on all sides and the butter/liquid is soaked up.

Add onions and cook until lightly browned, then add the tomatoes, paste, herbs and spices. Cook about 1 minute, add the salt and pepper and the stock. Cover and simmer on low for about 45 minutes, stirring once in a while.

Remove the thyme, parsley and bay leaf. Sauce should be somewhat thick, but if it is too watery, turn the heat on high for a short time (while stirring) to thicken it up in a flash.

Eggplant:

Poke the eggplants with a toothpick to allow the heat to penetrate. Roast(or grill) the eggplants on high heat- be careful while turning- and cook all sides until collapsed.

Set aside in a dish and let them cool until you can handle them.

Remove the skins and as much of the seeds as possible, and place the remaining pulp in a bowl of water with the lemon juice added. (As simple as this task sounds, it took a lot longer than I imagined to efficiently peel (rather, “pick”) the skins off).

Soak the pieces in the lemon/water for at least 20 minutes. Squeeze the water out and drain as much as possible, then shred the pieces into chunks.

Melt the remaining 5 tbsp. butter in a saucepan and add the flour to make a roux. Stir while cooking until the mixture turns a golden color (about 2 minutes). Add the eggplant pieces and stir continuously to make a smooth paste. Stir in the cream/milk and cook a few more minutes. Blend with a an immersion/stick blender or in a food processor (be sure that the mixture has cooled before using a blender or covered mixer or it could burn you when it splatters!!!) until smooth like mashed potatoes. Season with salt and garlic, then add the mozzarella cheese and stir until creamy.

Doesn’t look like much, but it just replaced my baked Macaroni and Cheese winter standby!

Spoon the eggplant puree into dishes and top with a spoonful of the lamb stew.

Algar, Ayla. “Hünkar Beğendi”. Classical Turkish Cooking: Traditional Turkish Food for the American Kitchen. New York: HarperCollins, 1991. 96. Print.

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http://www.betterworldbooks.com/classical-turkish-cooking-id-0060931639.aspx

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