In this classic Turkish dish, savory lamb stew is complemented by smooth, smoky eggplant puree. This is not a quick and easy recipe; this is slow, elaborate food that is, however, worth the effort. The name hünkarbeğendi means "the sultan liked it."
In this version, we avoid citric acid (corn, soy) by cooking down peeled tomatoes rather than relying on tomato paste. This slow process is also, of course, perfect for tenderizing the meat.
In the original recipe, pureed eggplant is mixed with cheese sauce (béchamel with kaşar cheese). Béchamel is extremely unusual in Turkish cooking; this sultan must have had a French chef. I replace it with mashed potatoes, which provide the right kind of smooth, creamy texture without dairy or wheat. This also makes the dish a bit lighter and is a great use for leftover mashed potatoes.
I admit that this version is a bit more tedious than most because of the adjustments to make it nonallergenic. If you are not allergic to corn, wheat and dairy, you might prefer to look up a "regular" recipe for hünkarbeğendi.
2 lb. vine-ripened tomatoes (See Produce in the Glossary)
salt (See Salt in the Glossary)
good sprinkle of black pepper (See Spices in the Glossary)
1 tsp. paprika (See Spices in the Glossary)
2 lb. lamb, cut into bite-sized cubes
frying oil (See Oil in the Glossary)
1 onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, peeled
1 bay leaf
3 one-pound eggplants
3/4 c. mashed potatoes
fresh squeezed juice from 1/2 lemon (See Juice in the Glossary )
6 T. olive or other oil (See Oil in the Glossary )
1/4 c. washed, dried parsley leaves (See Produce in the Glossary)
First peel all the tomatoes: dip each tomato into boiling water for about 15 seconds and then into cold water to stop it from cooking.This will allow the skins to slide off easily. Remove the seeds and roughly chop up the tomatoes and bring them to a boil in a large saucepan. Add a good sprinkling of salt, the black pepper, the paprika and 1/2 cup of water.. Cover and simmer for half an hour. Puree the tomato sauce with a food-processor or blender.
On medium heat, saute the lamb in a couple tablespoons of frying oil until nicely browned on all sides. Dredge the meat out of the pan and add it to the tomato sauce.Thinly slice or mince two of the garlic cloves. Add a smidge more oil to the pan if needed, and, stirring frequently, gently saute the onion, with a good sprinkle of salt, on low heat until it is translucent and soft. Add the sliced or minced garlic and cook for another minute or so: do not scorch the garlic. Add the onion to the meat sauce.
Add the bay leaf to the sauce and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally; add small amounts of water at later stages if necessary to keep the sauce from sticking and burning. Cook until the tomatoes are mostly cooked down and the meat is tender. This is likely to take a couple of hours or so. Adjust salt to taste and remove the bay leaf.
Use an outdoor barbecue or a broiler to grill the eggplants, on all sides, until their peels are quite charred and their insides are very soft. If you use a broiler, the eggplants should be cooked about 6 inches below the element. Cover with a lid and allow to cool for a few minutes; peel. Food-process the peeled eggplants with the remaining 2 cloves of garlic, the olive oil and the lemon juice. Adjust salt to taste. Heat the mashed potatoes if they are cold, and mix them well with the eggplant.
To serve, spread a layer of the eggplant puree on each plate. Ladle meat sauce on top of it, and garnish with parsley leaves.