Pera Palas pie

This recipe, a sort of Turkish shepherd’s pie, is drawn from memory of the first meal I had in Turkey, in the empty dining room of the historic hotel. Once made, it can be kept and reheated at any time over the next few days.

Ingredients

  • 1 large aubergine, about 350 g
  • lemon juice or white wine vinegar for sprinkling
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 30 g pine kernels
  • 2 large cloves garlic
  • 500 g lean minced lamb
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • good handful of dill
  • 50 g plain flour
  • 600 ml whole milk
  • 250 g curd or other soft
  • white cheese
  • sea salt, black pepper

Method

Cut the aubergine across into roughly 1 cm thick slices and smear all over with lemon juice or vinegar. Sprinkle with salt and leave to drain in a colander in the sink for half an hour.

Rinse the aubergine slices under cold running water to remove the salt, pat well dry with kitchen paper and cut into small cubes. Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large frying pan over a high heat, add the aubergines and stir around for a few minutes until soft and browned. Tip onto a plate.

Set aside 1 level tablespoonful of the pine kernels. Tip the rest into the frying pan, stir for a minute or two until browned and then tip them onto the plate with the fried aubergines. Peel and finely chop the garlic.

Add the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil to the frying pan over a high heat. Add the minced lamb and stir it around, breaking it up, until browned and any liquid has evaporated. Add the chopped garlic and paprika, stir for a minute or two and then remove the pan from the heat. Lastly, chop the dill and stir into the meat with a sprinkling of sea salt and black pepper. Turn into a wide, fairly shallow ovenproof dish. Heat the oven to 190°C/Gas 5.

To make the topping, tip the flour into a cold saucepan and stir in 2-3 tablespoons of the milk with a wooden spoon to make a smooth paste.

Stir in the remaining milk, put the pan over the heat and bring to the boil, stirring all the time. Let it bubble, still stirring, for 2-3 minutes. Remove from the heat, add the curd cheese and stir or whisk until thoroughly blended into the sauce. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.

Now stir in the reserved fried aubergines and pine kernels and pour the topping over the lamb in the dish. Scatter the reserved pine kernels on top. Bake the pie towards the top of the oven for about 30 minutes until the topping is browned.