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Sultan’s Delight – Lamb ragout with pureed eggplant and béchamel sauce; Hunkar Begendi


Hunkar Begendi - Sultan's Delight; chunks of delicious meat served over the eggplant puree

Hunkar Begendi – Sultan’s Delight; chunks of delicious meat ragout served over the eggplant puree

This classic lamb dish is served with smoky tasting eggplant with cheese in a béchamel sauce. When Empress Eugenie, the wife of Napoleon III, visited Topkapi Palace – Istanbul as a guest of the Sultan, she admired the puree so much that she sent her chef to Topkapi Palace to learn the technique. Once you’ve mastered the eggplant puree, it goes well with any grilled meat, chicken and for a vegetarian option, topped with more baked vegetables, such as zucchini, peppers, mushrooms.

This dish is one of the landmarks of our cuisine and very popular at home. It is great for entertaining; looks very inviting and the marriage of the eggplant & béchamel sauce with the lamb ragout is divine. You can also make it with beef or chicken too.

I am passionate about my homeland’s delicious, healthy Turkish cuisine; over 90 authentic Turkish recipes are included at my cookery book, Ozlem’s Turkish Table, Recipes from My Homeland (please note this recipe is not included at my current book); Signed hardback copies are now 25 % OFF here, and delivered worldwide – ebook option available too. Afiyet Olsun.

Serves 4-6
Preparation time: 35 minutes Cooking time: 1 hour

For the lamb ragout
500 gr/ 1 1/4 lb leg of lamb cut in chunky cubes (or  chunks of chicken or beef, if you prefer)
2 medium onions, finely chopped
30 ml/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
4 tomatoes, skinned and chopped (or 400 gr/14 oz can chopped tomatoes)
240 ml/ 8 fl oz hot water
15 ml/ 1 tablespoon tomato paste
15 ml/ 1 tablespoon red pepper paste (optional, Southern Turkish way)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Chopped Italian (flat leaf) parsley for garnish

Cibatta bread slices or plain rice to accompany

For the eggplant puree
4 medium / 2 lbs eggplants
1 squeeze of lemon juice
60 ml /4 tablespoons butter
45 ml/ 3 tablespoons plain white flour
480 ml / 16 fl oz warm milk
60 gr /3fl oz mature hard cheddar cheese, grated
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Grated nutmeg

Sauté the chopped onions gently in the butter or olive oil until soft. Season the meat with the salt and pepper and add to the onions, stirring occasionally until evenly browned. Add the chopped green pepper and garlic, and when these are sizzling, add the chopped tomatoes. Continue cooking until the juice has evaporated. Add the hot water, tomato paste and red pepper paste, cover and simmer for about 35 – 40 minutes or until the meat is tender. Take care it doesn’t dry out and add a little more water if necessary. Check the seasoning and adjust accordingly.

For the eggplant puree, cook the eggplants on a barbecue grill or over an open gas flame turning occasionally by the stalks until the outer skin is charred and blistered and the inner flesh soft. Alternatively, you can prick and bake the eggplants in a hot oven (200 C/400 F) for about 40 minutes or until they feel very soft when you press them and the skins are wrinkled. When cool enough to handle, peel away the burnt skin and discard the stalks. Put the flesh in a colander to drain away any bitter juices and then mash together with the lemon juice using a fork or a potato masher.

Make the béchamel sauce by melting the butter on a low heat. Add the flour and beat well to make a roux. Slowly add the warm milk whisking thoroughly to get a smooth consistency and cook for about 7 minutes. Add the mashed eggplant, a little salt and freshly ground black pepper and simmer gently for a further 2 minutes. Remove from the heat, stir in the cheese, a little freshly grated nutmeg and simmer gently for a further couple of minutes.

Serve hot, the meat sitting on the top of a bed of the eggplant puree and garnish generously with chopped parsley. This dish goes very well with some crusty bread (pide bread works well) or plain rice aside.

Afiyet Olsun,


Notes:1) If you reheat the puree, you may need to add a little more milk to ensure you achieve the right consistency.

2) You can marinate the cubed lamb with some olive oil, red pepper flakes and seasoning a couple of hours before cooking, this can make the lamb tenderer. Refrigerate until cooking.

3) You can also prepare the smoked eggplant flesh a day in advance. Mash the flesh with lemon juice and a little (about 1 tablespoon) milk. Cover and keep in the fridge.

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10 Responses to Sultan’s Delight – Lamb ragout with pureed eggplant and béchamel sauce; Hunkar Begendi

  1. Casmin October 22, 2014 at 2:43 pm #

    Love it, love it, love it!!!

    • Ozlem Warren October 23, 2014 at 8:19 pm #

      Thanks for stopping by, glad you enjoyed it!

  2. Fiona July 6, 2019 at 12:13 pm #

    Oooh Özlem….,!! Your special recipe for Hunkar Begendi was a real delight for my family!! I hope this tecipe is in your recipe book which I hope to get when we’re back in Scotland. This recipe was simple and you explained it all in detail. Many people in the UK are not that fond of aubergines -this dish will change their minds.The tomato and red pepper makes the dish quite light. I used beef in this dish and added some mixed spice for a nice touch. I will definitely make this again and recommend this lovely dish to people who think they don’t like aubergine. Thank you so much.

    • Ozlem Warren July 8, 2019 at 8:37 am #

      Merhaba dear Fiona, thank you so very much for your kind note, so glad you enjoyed Hunkar Begendi! I love this and all forms of aubergines, and we Turks have over 200 recipes showcasing aubergines. Once you know how to cook and treat aubergines – getting the bitter juice out – it is an incredibly delicious treat. I don’t have this recipe in my cookery book Ozlem’s Turkish Table but I have many many aubergine dishes in the book, including this style Smoky aubergine puree in Aba Ghanoush, Stuffed aubergines, Baked chicken kebab with aubergines and many more. Over 90 authentic Turkish recipes in the book with stunning photos and stories from my homeland; many thanks for your kind interest and I hope you enjoy it.

      By the way, the Signed copies are now 20 % off at this link and delivered worldwide including US (please enter promo code: summer-sale at the check out) , until end July :

      Many thanks and Afiyet Olsun,

  3. BN February 2, 2021 at 12:51 am #

    Hi actual meaning of this in English should be ” Sultan was delighted” means that when Hunkar/ Sultan tasted this first time he was very impressed and delighted 😀

    • Ozlem Warren February 2, 2021 at 10:50 am #


      Absolutely – I explaind this way in the recipe too, though it doesn’t work as a recipe title, hence, authors give this name, thank you for your kind note, afiyet olsun : ) Ozlem

  4. Pauline Scholey October 28, 2022 at 1:18 pm #

    Making this for the first time today fir eating tomorrow. . Just made the red pepper sauce, smells and tastes incredible!

    • Ozlem Warren October 28, 2022 at 2:22 pm #

      Hi Pauline,

      What a lovely surprise! Thank you so much for making this – one of my favourite recipes, hope you enjoy it – Afiyet Olsun!
      Ozlem x

  5. Philip July 17, 2023 at 5:48 pm #

    Hi Ozlem,
    What is Poy and Hulebe? Just curious because I found a sauce but I can’t find any further reference to this herb or spice

    • Ozlem Warren July 20, 2023 at 9:07 am #

      Merhaba, I haven’t come across before, but searching about it, it looks like a spring herb, also regarded as frenk cumin – it is used to coat around Turkish pastirma too, I will look out for it when I back home, thank you, Ozlem

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