There are as many folk stories about the origin of Turkish dishes as there are combinations of lamb and eggplant. The story I like about this dish is that it was served to the French empress Eugenie when she passed through Istanbul on her way to the opening ceremony of the Suez Canal in 1869. Eugenie’s personal chef got together with the sultan’s chef and added béchamel sauce to the original palace recipe. It then was named Hünkar Beğendi (‘the sultan liked it’)—probably because all possible combinations of the words for lamb and eggplant had been used up.
I solved the lamb-repetition problem by using beef cheeks (rare in Turkish cuisine) and I’ve lightened the mash by not using flour. There are no sultans in Turkey any more, so I’ve changed the Turkish title to ‘the gentleman liked it’, making this dish more democratic—if not gender-neutral.
Place the beef cheeks on a board and trim off any sinew or fat. Finely slice the onion. Remove the stalk and seeds from the bullhorn pepper and roughly chop. Roughly chop the garlic and tomatoes.
Heat the olive oil in a large flame-proof casserole dish over medium heat. Add the onion and cumin seeds and brown for 4 minutes. Add the chopped pepper and garlic, and fry for 2 minutes. Add the fresh tomato and tomato paste and stir to combine. Add the beef stock, salt, pepper and red wine. Add the beef cheeks, reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, for 5 hours.
While the beef cheeks are stewing, pierce the eggplants with a fork and char the skins by placing the eggplants directly onto the flame of your cook top. Using tongs, move the eggplant around to evenly blacken and then remove from the flame.
Once the eggplants are cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh into a large bowl. Discard the skin. Add 1 litre (
Add the olives to the casserole dish and continue to stew for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat. Put
Place one beef cheek on each plate. Drizzle a little of the reduced sauce over each cheek, and serve.
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