Meatballs in Tomato Sauce with Aubergine Purée

Hünkâr beğendili köfte

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A classic Istanbul dish, a relic of the Ottoman Empire; literally translated as köfte with ‘Sultan’s Delight’. The beğendi component is the aubergine purée, which can also be served with a number of other grilled meat and köfte dishes. The meatballs and sauce can be prepared ahead of time, hut the beğendi is best served fresh. You can replace kaşar peyniri with Parmesan.

Ingredients

For the köfte

  • 1 lb/450 g minced beef
  • 2 onions, grated
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed with salt
  • small bunch of parsley, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon kırmızı biber
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons plain flour for rolling
  • sunflower oil for frying

For the sauce

  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, crushed with salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 5 tomatoes, skinned and chopped
  • 2 hot green peppers or 1 green chilli, kept whole
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the purée

Beğendi

  • 4 aubergines
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoons plain flour
  • ½ pint/300 ml milk
  • 4 oz/120 g kaşar peyniri, grated
  • salt and freshly ground pepper

Method

  • Mix all the köfte ingredients in a bowl and knead well. Shape the mixture into tiny balls, roll them in the flour, and put aside in the refrigerator or a cool place.
  • To make the sauce, soften the onion and garlic in the olive oil. As they begin to colour add the tomatoes and peppers. Stir in the sugar and vinegar, and cook for 20-25 minutes. Add a little water if the tomatoes are not juicy, and season to taste.
  • Prepare the purée. Cook the aubergines over a gas flame or charcoal grill until soft. Remove the flesh and chop to a pulp. Melt the butter in a saucepan, and stir in the flour to make a roux. Then pour in the milk, stirring all the time. Add the cheese, and stir until the sauce is smooth. Beat in the aubergine pulp and season to taste.
  • Heat a thick layer of sunflower oil in a pan and fry the köfte until brown. Drain on kitchen paper, then drop them into the tomato sauce. Cook together for 5-10 minutes. Serve hot with the warmed-up beğendi.
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