Hünkar Begendi (Eggplant and Béchamel Sauce with Braised Lamb)
From Matthew Altizer
The title of this dish translates as “the Sultan liked it.” You will, too. This is a delicious dish, composed of three parts – eggplant, béchamel sauce and spicy stewed lamb with a generous drizzle of a simple tomato sauce on top. This also works equally well with chicken or pork. Ras el hanout is a Moroccan spice blend that you can find at specialty food stores and The Silk Road Spice Merchant. Sumac is a dried fruit used as a garnish that provides an intense citrus flavour for extra zip.
- 3 medium eggplants
- 3 T. butter
- 3 T. flour
- 1 c. whole milk
- salt to taste
- juice of 1/2 lemon
Char the whole eggplants directly on a barbecue, as you would roasted red peppers, or bake them in a 400°F. oven until they’ve collapsed and their flesh is soft. Put them on a pan to cool and drain. When they are cool enough to handle, peel the charred skin and put the flesh in a colander to drain for 30 minutes. Finely chop the eggplant and set it aside.
Melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for a minute or two over low heat, until it’s slightly browned.
In another pan, heat the milk until it’s just ready to boil. Add the hot milk to the flour mixture slowly, whisking constantly. Cook the béchamel sauce on low, whisking to prevent burning, until the flour is cooked through and the mixture is thick. Add the lemon juice and the eggplant to the béchamel and heat through. Reserve and keep warm.
- 2 lbs. lamb shoulder meat, cut into bite-sized pieces of about 1/4-inch
- salt and pepper
- 3 T. olive oil
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- salt and pepper
- flour to dust the meat
- scant t. of cumin and ras el hanout
- 1 c. beef or veal stock
- sumac and parsley mix to decorate
Sprinkle the lamb pieces with salt and pepper. Leave them to marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes.
In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat the oil and then sauté the onions and garlic. Dust the stewing lamb with a mixture of flour, salt and pepper. Add the lamb to the onion and garlic mixture and allow it to brown slightly. Add the spices, stir to coat, then add the stock, bring the stew to a low boil and cook it until the meat is tender and the stock has reduced to a thick consistency, about an hour.
- 2 large tomatoes, seeds and peel removed, grated, or 2 c. passata tomatoes (available at Italian specialty stores)
- 1 T. parsley, minced
- 1 t. sumac
To construct the Hünkar Begendi:
First, pour a large spoonful of eggplant sauce onto each plate. Then add a spoonful of the lamb stew in the middle and spread it out with the back of your spoon, leaving the eggplant to frame the meat. Gently pour a bit of the tomato sauce over the meat. Garnish with a mixture of sumac and minced parsley.
Serves 6 to 8.