Sunday, November 11, 2007

Hunkar Begendi - Roasted Egglpant Puree - Sultan's Delight

If you ask my opinion, eggplant is the king of vegetables. I can eat almost anything that is made with eggplants. And my favorite is a dish called Sultan's Delight. It's an Ottoman dish, made since the 1,600's. It was first made for a Sultan who fell in love with it, and it is still cooked today in modern Turkey.

This recipe is from my mom. I have tweaked it over the years, and it is one of the tastiest dishes that I can think of. It's easy to make, doesn't take too much time, and you can almost substitute it for mashed potatoes. Basically you are roasting the eggplant, adding it to a sauce bechamel, then adding some cheese:)

Traditionally this dish is eaten with a lamb or beef stew called "Tas Kebab". If cooked right the meat is so tender that it will crumble at the approach of a fork. I will add that recipe to my next blog.


HUNKAR BEGENDI - SULTAN'S DELIGHT - ROASTED EGGPLANT PUREE

Ingredients:
2 lb. eggplant (the big round kind, not the Japanese long kind)
2 tbsp. fresh squeezed lemon
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1,5 cups milk

Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup kashkaval cheese, you can substitute Romano cheese (Kashakaval can be found at Armenian or Greek markets)

Salt and Pepper to taste

Directions:
First you need to roast the eggplants. There are several ways to do this. The easiest and the less messiest is to prick the eggplant 3-4 times and and roast in a 425 degree pre-heated oven for about 40 minutes.

Another way to roast is to use the broiler. You can keep turning the eggplant around as soon as you see the skin is charred on the side that is under the broiler. It should take about 4 minutes for each side. Make sure all of the eggplant is roasted.

The tastiest but the messiest way to roast an eggplant is by turning one of your gas burners on and putting the eggplant directly on the burner. You will need to watch it closely and turn the eggplant around as soon as you see the skin turning black and start cracking. I use a pizza crisper on top of my burner and this helps keep the burner clean. You can have some fun searching for a "pizza crisper" on Amazon.com. I'm sure that any of them will do this job and more.

After the skin is charred with any of the methods you use wait for it to cool down enough to handle. As soon as you can handle it take the skin off and keep the eggplant in a sieve so you can get rid of the black juices which make the eggplant bitter. Discard the seeds if any. Once it has waited around long enough either puree with a blender or use the back of a spoon/fork to mash the eggplant. You can use the lemon to keep the eggplant from browning, but it makes the taste tangy and you should be able to use the eggplant as soon as you puree it. So I skip using the lemon.

You will need to prepare a basic bechamel sauce while the eggplant drains. In a medium sauce pan melt the butter over medium-low heat. Once the butter melts add the flour and stir until you get a paste. It will turn a light golden sandy color. About 6 to 7 minutes.

Here is the trick for not getting lumps in your sauce. Heat the milk, never use it cold, until it is just about to boil. Do not boil the milk. Add milk 1/2 cup at a time stirring constantly until it comes to a boil. You can increase the heat to medium to medium-hot after you start adding the milk. The sauce will thicken.

Once the sauce is thick add salt, pepper and nutmeg. Beat in the pureed eggplant, reduce the heat to low, stirring occasionally for about 5-10 minutes. Take it off the heat and mix in the cheese, beating until cheese is melted and you have a thick puree, almost like mashed potatoes.

You can use the bechamel sauce for lasagna or to make any other kind of white sauce as this is the basic sauce that starts other ones.

Next, "Tas Kebab" or "Stewed Kebabs in a Bowl"....

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