- Course: Main Course
- Skill Level: Easy
- Cost: Moderate
- Favorited: 3 Times
Legend has it that this dish was served to the Empress Eugene, wife of Napoleon III, on a visit to Istanbul in the 1860s. Keen to impress, the Sultan had many of his favorite dishes prepared for her, including this one. Apparently Eugenie enjoyed it so much that she dispatched her own French chef to the palace kitchens for the recipe. But the Sultan's chef was clearly not in the mood to give away his secrets, and he sent the interloper away saying, "an imperial chef needs only his heart, his eyes and his nose." He must have decided to share the recipe somewhere along the line, however, as this dish is now a favorite on restaurant menus around Turkey.
Traditionally the eggplant puree that accompanies this dish is made using a béchamel sauce, but as I'm not keen on gloppy flour based sauces, I prefer to take a lighter approach. In Turkey they use the local Kas gruyere or kasar, a mature yellow cheese, but you could also use a cheddar style. As this dish is fairly rich, it really only needs a simple green salad to accompany it.
- 1½ pounds lamb (from the leg or shoulder)
- 2 ounces unsalted butter
- 2 red onions, cut into 1½-inch dice
- 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 2 teaspoons chopped oregano
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 2 large vine ripened tomatoes, skinned, seeded and diced
- 1 tablespoon hot Turkish red pepper paste (see Notes)
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1-1¼ cups Chicken Stock
- Flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped, to garnish
For the Cheesy Eggplant Puree:
- 2 eggplants
- 1/3 cup heavy cream
- 3 ounces Gruyere or cheddar, grated
- Good pinch of ground nutmeg
- Sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Squeeze of lemon juice
Trim the lamb of any fat and sinew and cut into 1-inch cubes. Melt the butter in a large, heavy based casserole dish over medium heat, then brown the lamb allover and remove from the pan. If necessary, add a little more butter to the pan, then add the onion, garlic and oregano and sweat over a low heat for about 5 minutes. Add the honey, then increase the heat and cook for another couple of minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, pepper paste, salt, pepper and stock, then bring to the boil. Stir well and return the lamb to the pan. Cover the pan, lower the heat and leave to simmer very gently for 1-1½ hours, or until the lamb is tender and the liquid has reduced to a thick sauce.
To make the eggplant puree, prick the eggplants all over with a fork and set them directly on the naked flame of your stove top. Set the flame to low-medium and cook for at least 15 minutes, turning constantly until the eggplants are charred allover and soft. Remove from the flame and place on a small wire rack in a sealed container or plastic bag so the juices can drain off. Allow the eggplants to cool for about 10 minutes. (If you don't have a gas stove, stand the eggplants under the broiler, set to high, turning them regularly until charred. You won't get quite the same smoky flavor, but the effect is reasonable.)
When the eggplants are cool, gently peel away the skin from the flesh, taking care to remove every little bit or the puree will have a bitter burnt flavor. Put the eggplants into a bowl of acidulated water and leave for 5 minutes this soaks away any lingering bits of burnt skin and turns the flesh pale and creamy. Drain the eggplants in a colander and squeeze them gently to extract any moisture then chop finely.
Bring the cream to the boil in a small saucepan and simmer for a couple of minutes to reduce slightly. Stir in the cheese and nutmeg, then season with salt and pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice. Add the chopped eggplant and beat lightly to combine. Taste and adjust the seasonings as required.
To serve, spoon the eggplant puree into the center of a warmed serving platter. Make a well in the center of the puree and spoon in the lamb. Garnish with parsley and serve straight away with a green salad.
You'll find the red pepper paste used here in Middle Eastern food stores.
© 2008 Greg Malouf and Lucy Malouf
Note from Cookstr's Editors
Nutritional information includes 1/8 teaspoon of added salt per serving, but does not include Chicken Stock. For nutritional information on Chicken Stock, please follow the link above.