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.