Sultan's Delight (Hünkar Beğendi) | Turkish Food | Turkish cuisine - main dishes | World cuisine recipes | TheNavagePatch.com

Sultan’s Delight (Hünkar Beğendi)

Sultan’s Delight is decadent braised lamb served over creamy pureed eggplant. It is one of Turkey’s most famous dishes that dates back centuries. From humble ingredients comes the most incredible flavor!

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Sultan's Delight (Hünkar Beğendi) | Turkish Food | Turkish cuisine - main dishes | World cuisine recipes | TheNavagePatch.com

Jump to Recipe

I have lamb on the brain. My thoughts keep drifting to glistening chunks of lamb shank, dripping fat into an open fire. But that fantasy will have to wait until summer. It is the dead of winter now, and the days are short and the nights long and cold.

I also have Turkey on the brain. The country, not the bird. The bird (as proffered by Swanson and Butterball) is a tasteless meatsack, devoid of character and charm, suitable only for that once-a-year glutton-fest, Thanksgiving. The country, on the other hand, is a rich tapestry of people and cultures, sights, smells and tastes and has given the world some exceptional cuisine. One such dish is Hünkar Beğendi, or Sultan’s Delight.

Sultan’s Delight has an interesting, if disputed, history. The literal translation of “Hünkar Beğendi” (pronounced hyOON-car bay-EN-di) is “The Sultan Liked it.”  Turks can be quite literal when naming things. Handan also tells me there’s a dish called Imam Bayıldı (An Imam is like a priest in Islam), which means “Imam Fainted.” I guess he really liked that meal too. It will be the subject of a future post. Now, back to the origins of Sultan’s Delight.

As one story goes, the dish was first prepared for Sultan Murad IV (1612-1640), and from what I’ve read and from what Handan has told me, he was a ruthless ruler. To say that he was violent and prone to tantrums is a gross understatement. He would patrol the streets of Istanbul at night, incognito, just so he could apprehend scofflaws, throw off his disguise, and chop off their heads with his own sword. He would often sit in a small kiosk on his property on the banks of the Sea of Marmara and wait for local fishermen to drift too close to his shores, whereupon he would greet them with a hail of arrows from his bow. This wasn’t a nice guy we’re talking about, here. It is also told that if he didn’t like a meal, OFF WITH THE CHEF’S HEAD!! Gives new meaning to “pressure cooker.” Given the short span of his life, you might think it was this dish that killed the Sultan, perhaps with the help of some arsenic. In fact, his death was far more ironic. You see, Sultan Murad was responsible for banning alcohol (and coffee and tobacco) in Istanbul, yet he himself remained a chronic drunkard. His cause of death: cirrhosis of the liver. Politicians have been hypocritical liars since the dawn of civilization and shall remain so until the last nation burns to the ground.

The other story maintains that this dish was first prepared for Empress Eugenie, the wife of Napoleon III, in Sultan Abdülaziz’s Beylerbeyi Palace in 1869. It seems this fair-skinned conniver enjoyed the dish so much that she implored the Sultan to finagle the recipe from his chef. The chef, echoing the sentiment of great chefs throughout history, demurred. As I’m now sharing the recipe with you, perhaps one of the Empress’s handmaidens (or the Empress herself) used her subtle cunning and ample bosom to loosen the lips of the Sultan’s Chef. We’ll never know…

Printer-friendly recipe at end of post.

Sultan’s Delight (Hünkar Beğendi)

Serves 4

Ingredients

for the braised lamb

  • 2 pounds lamb shank or shoulder, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 2 onions, finely diced (I use one large sweet onion)
  • 2 tomatoes, finely diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely diced
  • 2 Tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • salt and pepper
  • parsley (for garnish)

for the eggplant puree

  • 2 large eggplants, skins and stems left on
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup cotija, parmesan, or other hard cheese, grated (use Turkish kashkeval if you can find it)
  • salt and pepper

Method

  1. Liberally salt the lamb, then wrap tightly and refrigerate for at least an hour and up to two days. The salt will not only flavor the meat, but it will also help tenderize it.
  2. In heavy Dutch oven or cast iron pot, heat oil over medium high heat. Working in batches, brown the lamb well and set aside. Discard oil.
  3. Reduce heat to medium, add butter and onions. Cook onions for a few minutes until they start to caramelize.
  4. Add tomatoes and tomato paste and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring often.
  5. Add garlic and cook for another minute.
  6. Return meat to pot and add about 1 1/2 cups of water.
  7. Throw in some freshly ground black pepper and a little more salt. If you didn’t salt the meat before cooking, add more than a little salt.
  8. Cover pot, reduce heat to low and simmer for about an hour, or until lamb is tender and the liquid has reduced and thickened. If needed, add more water as the lamb cooks.
  9. While the lamb cooks, make the eggplant puree.
  10. Prick the eggplants a few times with a fork. If you have a grill, place eggplants over a flame and let the skins char. If you don’t have a grill, you can broil them. You want to char the skins and then bake or grill them until they are cooked throughout and soft.
  11. Let the eggplants cool, then peel them and put the flesh in a mixing bowl.
  12. Add the lemon juice and mix with an immersion blender until smooth. If you don’t have an immersion blender, you can use a standard blender.
  13. Heat a large pan or medium pot over medium heat and add the butter.
  14. When melted, add the flour. Whisk for a minute or two, then slowly add the milk, stirring constantly.
  15. When the sauce has thickened, add the eggplant puree and stir until combined.
  16. Add the cheese to the puree and stir until incorporated.
  17. Taste for seasoning and adjust accordingly.
  18. If needed, thicken the lamb stew by cooking, uncovered, until liquid has reduced.
  19. To serve, spread the eggplant puree on a plate and top with the stew. Garnish with fresh parsley.

Sultan's Delight (Hünkar Beğendi) | Turkish Food | Turkish cuisine - main dishes | World cuisine recipes | TheNavagePatch.com

Sultan's Delight (Hünkar Beğendi) | Turkish Food | Turkish cuisine - main dishes | World cuisine recipes | TheNavagePatch.com

Sultan’s Delight (Hünkar Beğendi)

Sultan's Delight is decadent braised lamb served over creamy pureed eggplant. It is one of Turkey's most famous dishes that dates back centuries. From humble ingredients comes the most incredible flavor!
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Course Main Course
Cuisine Turkish

Ingredients
 

for the stew

  • 2 pounds lamb shank or shoulder - - cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 2 onions - - finely diced (I use one large sweet onion)
  • 2 tomatoes - - finely diced
  • 2 garlic cloves - - finely diced
  • 2 Tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • salt and pepper
  • parsley - - for garnish

for the eggplant puree

  • 2 large eggplants - - skins and stems left on
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup cotija - - parmesan, or other hard cheese, grated (use Turkish kashkeval if you can find it)
  • salt and pepper

Instructions
 

  • Liberally salt the lamb, then wrap tightly and refrigerate for at least an hour and up to two days. The salt will not only flavor the meat, but it will also help tenderize it.
  • In heavy Dutch oven or cast iron pot, heat oil over medium high heat. Working in batches, brown the lamb well and set aside. Discard oil.
  • Reduce heat to medium, add butter and onions. Cook onions for a few minutes until they start to caramelize.
  • Add tomatoes and tomato paste and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring often.
  • Add garlic and cook for another minute.
  • Return meat to pot and add about 1 1/2 cups of water.
  • Throw in some freshly ground black pepper and a little more salt. If you didn't salt the meat before cooking, add more than a little salt.
  • Cover pot, reduce heat to low and simmer for about an hour, or until lamb is tender and the liquid has reduced and thickened. If needed, add more water as the lamb cooks.
  • While the lamb cooks, make the eggplant puree.
  • Prick the eggplants a few times with a fork. If you have a grill, place eggplants over a flame and let the skins char. If you don't have a grill, you can broil them. You want to char the skins and then bake or grill them until they are cooked throughout and soft.
  • Let the eggplants cool, then peel them and put the flesh in a mixing bowl.
  • Add the lemon juice and mix with an immersion blender until smooth. If you don't have an immersion blender, you can use a standard blender.
  • Heat a large pan or medium pot over medium heat and add the butter.
  • When melted, add the flour. Whisk for a minute or two, then slowly add the milk, stirring constantly.
  • When the sauce has thickened, add the eggplant puree and stir until combined.
  • Add the cheese to the puree and stir until incorporated.
  • Taste for seasoning and adjust accordingly.
  • If needed, thicken the lamb stew by cooking, uncovered, until liquid has reduced.
  • To serve, spread the eggplant puree on a plate and top with the stew. Garnish with fresh parsley.
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12 Comments

  1. Damn you Greg, the insurance just said they don’t pay out if there’s drool on the keyboard. I actually heard the mother board go fizzzt 🙁 On the mobile now so I can just comment quickly. That looks scrumptious. I’m going to ask Shaun to make us some as soon as I find cling wrap to protect his laptop

    1. It’s a great recipe, Michelle…you guys are going to love it! Take some pics if Shaun makes it. I know you South Africans love grilling over a wood fire, so I’ll be getting some recipes out this spring/summer for incredible Turkish grilled meats and kebabs!

  2. Yum! Lamb is one of my favorites, though we don’t eat it often due to expense. Definitely adding this to my list of recipes to try. Thanks for sharing at the #happynowlinkup!

    1. Thanks, Leslie! I agree about lamb expense when it comes to chops, but I keep my eye out for whole leg of lamb on sale (just a few dollars/pound), then buy the whole leg (or two), cut it up into cubes and freeze them in portions for later.

  3. Well, I know what’s for dinner this weekend! One question. Does the immersion blender destroy the little seedy bits in the eggplant, or do I need to remove them? BTW, I’m so enjoying your blog posts! You write like I talk, so it’s good to know I’m not alone in the universe!

    1. Hi Suzi, I don’t notice the seeds after I blend the eggplant, but that’s not to say they aren’t there. If they bother you, then I would suggest removing them beforehand, but they aren’t too noticeable. Let me know how it turns out! PS – you’re not alone! 🙂

  4. This looks pretty amazing. I love a good eggplant dish and any kind of lamb curry is a definite plus. As it’s summer here it might be a great summer night dish to eat outside on the patio. Looking forward to trying it some time (maybe when I can convince Mom to make something new ? )