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Turkish Lamb Stew over Eggplant Puree (Hünkar Beğendi)

Hünkar Beğendi

Cuisine: Turkish
Region: Common

This is an ultra-classic, traditional Turkish recipe whose name translates to “Sultan’s Delight”. As we can reasonably imagine there are many, many variations of Hünkar Beğendi: some recipes call for cheese and milk, others for milk and flour. Some call for lamb, others of beef. Some call for butter, others for olive oil and some “Westernized” versions even call for … vegetable oil and margarine (hello?).

We chose a version that (we believe) is most representative of Turkey and its people.

Most people in Turkey would choose to cook the stew in the previous day, leaving only the eggplant puree for the day of the meal. One reason is that a day-old stew is incredibly tasty; another reason is that it splits cooking time over two days. Enjoy!

Serves: 4
Cooking time: 90 min
You need: a skillet or pot for the lamb stew, a baking tray, a saucepan and a wooden spoon for the eggplant puree.

Ingredients

For the lamb stew (Hünkar)

  • 1/2 Kg lamb, leg or shoulder cut, cubed
  • 3 medium-large tomatoes, minced
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 Tsp tomato paste
  • 1 Tsp thyme and oregano (mixed)
  • 1+1/2 Tbsp of butter
  • 1 glass (cup) hot water
  • Salt and pepper for seasoning

For the eggplant puree (Beğendi)

  • 3 medium sized flask eggplants
  • 4-5 Tbsp grated cheese *
  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • 4 Tbsp flour
  • 1/2 litre warm milk
  • 1 bunch chopped parsley to garnish

Instructions

For the lamb stew

  1. Take a pot, put the butter in it, turn on the fire to medium heat.
  2. When the butter melts, add the lamb and saute lightly.
  3. Add the onion and the garlic.
  4. Saute the mixture for 4-5 minutes, until the onion is golden and the meat brown.
  5. Add the minced tomatoes, the tomato paste and a glass (cup) of hot water.
  6. Stir the pot well.
  7. Add the thyme and oregano mix, salt and pepper.
  8. Give it a stir and it let it simmer.
  9. Once the stew is simmering, cover the pot with the lid and turn the heat to low.
  10. Let is cook for one hour, until the lamb is soft and the sauce has thickened.
  11. Turn of the fire and let the stew rest.

For the eggplant puree

While the stew is cooking…

  1. Preheat the oven to 240C/460F.
  2. Prick the eggplants with a sharp knife and put them on a baking tray. *
  3. Put the baking tray in the oven.
  4. Bake the eggplants for 15 to 20 minutes, until soft.
  5. Turn off the oven, take the baking tray out, and put the eggplants on the side to cool off.
  6. Then, take a knife and slit the eggplant lengthwise.
  7. Take a spoon, scrape off the eggplant pulp, mince it and put it on the side. Discard the eggplant skin and the seeds.
  8. Take a saucepan, add the butter in and melt it over medium fire.
  9. Add the flour little by little while stirring continuously with the wooden spoon.
  10. The mixture is now solid. Start adding the milk a little at a time, stirring continuously to keep the mixture smooth.
  11. After the milk has all gone in, the mixture will start to thicken.
  12. Now is the time to add the eggplant.
  13. Keep stirring until the mixture is smooth.
  14. Finally add the grated cheese and (you guessed it) keep stirring so that the puree is smooth and thick enough to provide a nest for the lamb stew.

Serving

  1. Make a puree nest on each plate and empty a scoop of lamb stew in it.
  2. Sprinkle it with parsley and serve.

Notes on the Turkish Lamb Stew over Eggplant Puree (Hünkar Beğendi)

  • Hünkar Beğendi will taste good, maybe better, the next day too.
  • For the lamb stew: you could substitute the thyme & oregano mix with a pinch of cumin. It could take some more ground pepper, too.
  • For the eggplant puree: you could add a pinch of nutmeg if you so like BUT, if you do that pay attention to the taste of the cheese you’re using. In Turkey they use “Tulum” which is sharp and salty so, a pinch of nutmeg here may do very nicely but it may not work with well e.g. Asiago cheese. So, when/if you feel like experimenting with spices we would encourage you to start building the spices from the cheese up.
  • Potential cheeses for the eggplant puree: Tulum (of course), Parmesan (subtle and sweet), Pecorino Romano (sharp and potent), Asiago (nutty and creamy), aged Cheddar, etc.