I’ve never actually had a Turkish Delight but the term always reminds me of The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. You know the part where the witch lures Edmund into her carriage by offering him tons upon tons of Turkish delights? Really, someone should have told him never to accept candy from strangers. Things would have turned out a lot better that way.

I had Turkish food for the first time a few weeks ago, when my roommate and I went to a restaurant in Brookline. There were SO many items that I wanted to try, but alas I could only choose one, so I came away from the menu promising myself that I would try to cook some of the dishes on my own time. I was so pleasantly surprised then, when the theme for this month’s Regional Recipes turned out to be Turkey. This was just the impetus I needed to force me to follow up on my resolution.

One of the things that I love about Middle Eastern cuisines/restaurants is the variety that they tend to give you on one plate. There is usually a stew-like meat, some kind of vegetable, and a grain. I also really like the ingredients they use, such as lamb, eggplant, peppers, onions, garlic, lentils, beans, pistachios, pine nuts, and olive oil. Perhaps this array of balanced ingredients is why the Mediterranean diet proves to be so effective for so many people!

A dish that especially caught my eye when perusing the Turkish restaurant’s menu was one called Sultan’s Delight or hunkar begendi. It traditionally consists of a lamb stew served on a bed of creamy roasted eggplant puree, although the meat can also be replaced with beef, chicken, or veal. Just the phrase “creamy roasted eggplant” was enough to convince me that this was the dish I had to make. I found a recipe for this in the cookbook Arabesque by Claudia Roden, a book that describes the delicacies of Morocco, Turkey, and Lebanon. I modified it slightly, choosing to use beef instead of lamb (because of expense reasons – the only lamb I could find was $13 a pound…I thought that was slightly insane), but otherwise stuck pretty much to the recipe.

The verdict: it was everything I hoped it could be. The stew reminded me of dishes I’ve gotten at Middle Eastern restaurants in the past and the eggplant puree tasted kind of like mashed potatoes….but way better! Served with some quinoa to soak up the juices, this was a really good meal.

Hunkar Begendi or Sultan’s Delight or Beef Stew with Eggplant Puree
Serves 4, adapted from Arabesque

1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion
1 1/2 lb beef (cubes for stew)
3 cloves garlic
1 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
14 oz canned diced tomatoes
3 1/2 lb eggplant
4 tbsp butter
3 tbsp flour
2 cups almond milk (or regular milk)
1 cup quinoa

1. Preheat the oven to 450.

2. Get the stew going. Heat the olive oil and then cook the onion (chopped) until soft and browned. Add the beef, season with salt and pepper, and brown. Add the garlic, allspice, cinnamon, and cayenne pepper and cook for 2 minutes so flavors can incorporate. Add the tomatoes. Bring to a boil and then simmer. Cook, covered for 45 minutes. Remove the lid and simmer for 30 minutes or until stew reaches desired consistency and beef is tender. Taste for seasoning.

3. While the stew is cooking, make the eggplant sauce. Cut the eggplants in half lengthwise and place cut side down on a greased baking sheet. Roast for 30 minutes. Set aside to cool. Scoop the flesh out of the eggplant and, in a fine strainer, squeeze out the liquid from it. Chop the eggplant and mash it with a fork until it becomes almost paste-like.

4. Heat the milk that you will be using. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Add the flour, whisking until smooth, for two minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the warm milk, slowly. Season with salt and pepper and return to heat. Whisk continuously until sauce thickens, about 10-15 minutes.

5. Add the eggplant to the bechamel sauce, stirring until it is completely incorporated. Taste for seasoning and keep warm until everything else is ready.

6. Cook some quinoa, brown rice, bulgur, barley, or any grain you so desire to go along with this!

I am submitting this to Regional Recipes, which is being hosted this month by dp of Blazing Hot Wok.

You are reading this post on Eats Well With Others at https://joanne-eatswellwithothers.com. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author and or owner of Eats Well With Others. All rights reserved by Joanne Bruno.
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13 Responses to Turkish Delights

  1. Reeni? says:

    I’ve never had mashed eggplant or even thought of preparing it that way. I bet it smelled wonderful cooking. It looks delicious!

  2. Debinhawaii says:

    This looks amazing! I love the stew and mashed eggplant combo. I have Claudia’s book and have to mark this one to try.

  3. The flavors on this dish sound absolutely wonderful!

  4. ttfn300 says:

    looks incredible!! and i, too, am drawn by creamy roasted eggplant 🙂

  5. Natashya says:

    That look so savoury and comforting. I am coveting this book, it’s on the list!

  6. Jeff says:

    I grew up in a horrible family because my parents were constantly trying to get us to take candy from strangers or leaving us in the mall (kidding mom and dad).

    I am going to check out Regional Recipes because I like this idea and would expose me to more items to cook.

    Looks great although I have never been an eggplant fan. Grilled I can stomach it but past that ehh…

  7. burpandslurp says:

    I have never ever had Turkish food before. I am so deprived! I really want to venture to try middle eastern and other cuisines! thank you so much for this recipe, because it actually sounds perfectly easy and doable! I always thought you needed tons of complicated spices and stuff for turkish cuisine!

  8. I totally remember that part of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe! Loved that series growing up. The stew looks so hearty and tummy-warming!

  9. I haven’t had Turkish food before, but this looks like something my family and I would really enjoy.

  10. Joanne says:

    Reeni – It smelled like heaven and tasted even better. Definitely one of my better experiments.

    Deb – This is definitely a must-try from the book, although everything in there looks so delicious that it was hard to choose!

    Alisa – Thanks! I really love Middle Eastern flavors.

    ttfn – Yes, that is one heavenly phrase

    Natashya – It is definitely a great resource. I don’t actually own it but copied a lot of recipes out of it from my library’s copy.

    Jeff – It’s a great event and I like that it forces me to think outside my little culinary box. My brother doesn’t like eggplant either, only deep fried and covered in cheese. He doesn’t like the texture of it, so I understand. If you like zucchini or summer squash, I bet it could be substituted! Or just use mashed potaotes.

    burpandslurp – You should definitely do that once you get back to the states! This recipe was really easy and would have been even easier if I had thought ahead and made it in the crockpot. I think some Turkish cuisine does call for a lot of spices, I just happened upon a recipe that didn’t.

    Cate – I loved that series also, my favorite book was the first one. Thanks for the comment!

    Katherine- Turkish food is great! I think the flavors in this stew are definitely representative of a lot of Turkish food. It’s really not THAT different from Greek or Moroccan food.

  11. Darlene says:

    Interesting with the eggplant and bechemel! I’ve never tasted, heard of or imagined such a combination, but I’m sure it works great. Now I’ll have to try it.

    Thanks for submitting!

  12. Joanne says:

    Darlene – It was quite excellent, definitely one of the best things I’ve made. You should definitely give it a go – I mean eggplant and cream sauce, can you go wrong?

  13. Mary says:

    This really intrigues me. Normally I’d question the texture of a mashed eggplant but it certainly seems to work here.

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