Alinazik or Ali Nazik kebab is a scrumptious Gaziantep specialty and one of our favorites. It is a delicious marriage of char-grilled smoked eggplant puree mixed with yoghurt and topped with tender lamb stew. We serve Alinazik with rice pilaf and grilled vegetables aside. It really is a feast to all senses and a special dish to share.
I was curious where the name Ali Nazik came from and found two different stories. One of them dates back to 16th century Ottoman Empire, during the reign of Yavuz Sultan Selim. On a trip to the city of Antep, (today’s Gaziantep in Turkey), the Sultan was greeted with this local delicacy of delicious eggplant and yogurt mash with grilled lamb over. Sultan Selim liked the dish so much and asked “Who’s ‘gentle hand’ (“eli nazik” in Turkish) made this?” The story tells that the name, ‘ali nazik,’ has stuck since then.
Another story says that is that the name was adopted from the old Ottoman Turkish language, where ‘ala’ meant ‘beautiful’ and ‘nazik’ meant ‘food.’ Over the centuries, this turned to ‘ali nazik’ (In modern Turkish, ‘nazik’ means ‘polite,’ thus the meaning ‘polite Ali’).
The highlight of this dish for us is the delicious smoked eggplant puree, mashed with plain yoghurt (strained or thick, creamy yoghurt is recommended. Brand Fage works well). To get the smoky flavor for the eggplants, I highly recommend roasting them over a coal fire (here’s how to roast the eggplant over the burner) or over the gas burner (In Turkey, a very simple gadget called “Kozmatik” is used to cook the aubergines over the burner. It has a steel base with holes on it, a genius idea to cook if you can get it). It makes a bit of a mess but the smoky taste of the eggplants is well worth it. You can cook the eggplants a day ahead of time. Once mashed, mix with juice of ½ lemon to help retain its color and keep in the fridge, covered.
Traditionally, stewed tender pieces of lamb in a sauce are used in Ali Nazik, though you may replace it with a meat of your choice. The creamy eggplant and yoghurt puree is just heavenly with the meat topping, hope you enjoy Ali Nazik.
- For the eggplant and yoghurt puree:
- 4 medium purple eggplants
- 16 fl. oz. / 2 cup thick, whole milk yoghurt (brand Fage works well)
- 2 cloves of garlic, crushed and finely diced
- 15ml/1 tbsp. olive oil
- Salt and ground black pepper to taste
- For the meat topping:
- 450gr/1 lb. small chunks of lamb (or meat of your choice)
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- ½ tbsp. red pepper paste or 2 tsp. chili flakes (optional, if you like a spicy taste)
- 1 tbsp. tomato paste
- 30ml/2 tbsp. olive oil
- 30 ml/ 2 tbsp. water
- Salt and ground black pepper to taste
- For the roasted vegetables:
- 3 medium tomatoes, quartered
- 1 green, yellow and red bell peppers, deseeded and quartered
- 1 onion, quartered and sliced
- 30 ml/ 2 tbsp. olive oil
- Salt and ground black pepper to taste
- Handful of chopped flat leaf parsley to serve
- Preheat the oven to 180 C/ 350 F
- First prepare the eggplants. Place the eggplants or aubergines directly over the burner on medium heat and roast for about 15 - 20 minutes, turning occasionally.
- Use metal tongs to turn the eggplants around so that all sides would cook evenly and the skin is nicely chargrilled. Cook until the skin is burnt and the flesh is soft (you can also cook this way over barbeque).
- Remove the cooked eggplants to a colander to allow them to cool. Once cool, peel and discard their burnt skin and leave them in the colander to drain its bitter juices. I like to gently squeeze the eggplant flesh to drain as much water as possible.
- Chop the flesh of the eggplant and mix in the chopped garlic, season with salt and ground black pepper. Combine well, cover and set aside until the lamb stew is ready (If you’d like to prepare the eggplants a day ahead of time, then mix the eggplant mash with juice of ½ lemon to help retain its color and keep in the fridge, covered).
- To roast the vegetables, spread the quartered and sliced onions, tomatoes and peppers in a tray and stir in 2 tbsp. olive oil. Season with salt and ground black pepper and combine well. Roast at the preheated oven (180 C/ 350 F) for 30 – 35 minutes.
- For the lamb stew, cut the lamb into chunky, generous bite size pieces.
- Pour in 2 tbsp. olive oil in a wide, heavy pan and stir in the diced onions. Sauté over medium to high heat for 3 minutes, the onions will start to soften.
- Stir in the lamb pieces and sauté with the onions for 5 minutes, mixing regularly. The lamb will release its juice.
- Add the red pepper paste and/or red pepper flakes (if using) and tomato paste to the pan, combine well. Check the seasoning and turn the heat to low. Stir in 2 tbsp. water, combine and cover the pan. Simmer the lamb gently for about 20 minutes, until tender.
- Just before serving, pour in 1 tbsp. olive oil in a pan and gently reheat the eggplant & garlic puree until it is hot. Turn the heat off and stir the yoghurt to the eggplant pure and combine well.
Delicious. I hate the mess my stove to gets into when I smoke the aubergines so I’m afraid I cheat with a jar of ready smoked. Still tastes good though.
Merhaba BB, I know what you mean with this mess and I am grateful for my kozmatik gadget! Cooking the eggplants/aubergines this way add so much flavor – I guess bbq would be ideal weather permits 🙂
Özlem’ciğim, I fondly remember the first time I had Ali Nazık kebab in Edirne. I thought I had died and gone to heaven. Thanks for this recipe. I’lll be sure to make it. I actually make Hunkar Beğendi quite often which is a bit similar but without the yogurt, I think. Am I right? Yine çok teşekkür ederim ve sevgiler, öpüyorum.
Rica ederim sevgili Jolee, you are right, similar to Hunkar Begendi though lighter. Bechamel sauce is mixed with the smoked eggplant puree in Hunkar Begendi, whereas it is yoghurt in Ali Nazik – I like the lighter, creamy taste with garlic, indeed heavenly. Glad you’ll give it a go : ) Cok sevgiler, Ozlem
This is a truly unique dish and serving style, Ozlem, I love the beautiful contrasting colors and textures. Will certainly try out the stew, it looks delicious. XxPeri.
Many thanks Peri, another creative way of incorporating yoghurt in main courses, brings out such a delicious, creamy flavor, healthy too – I know you’re not a huge eggplant fan, with the yoghurt sauce, it is quite a special taste, if I can tempt you 🙂 Ozlem xx
. . we are lucky enough to have a delightful little restaurant in Ortaca that serves this and other wonderful regional dishes – heaven is just down the road!
Indeed heavenly Alan, enjoy that lokanta in Ortaca and other local treats, selamlar!
A Friend of mine has a Kozmatik (which I think he has only used once!), but knowing what kind of thing it was I used a couple of foil BBQ trays, poked quite a few more holes in them using a flat blade screwdriver and put them on top of the hob with the aubergines on top of them. Worked pretty well although it took about 30 minutes until they were well cooked.
Just in case anyone else finds it useful – they glow red hot, but saves getting too much mess on the cooker!
A great innovation Rob, glad it worked for you. Is it aluminum foil tray you used? I wasn’t sure if you can use them on top of the hob?
Yeah I just used the regular foil trays like these http://goo.gl/wsyvNV . Cost a few pounds for 4 at the supermarket.
I wrote my comment after I had finished cooking the aubergine, but before we ate.
I have to say – I ate Ali Nazik at a restaurant a few months ago and it was so totally unremarkable that I didnt even remember until I found the receipt a few days ago when I was clearing my wallet. This recipie is awesome – absolutely stunning. Taking the time to properly smoke the aubergines is the key I think – apparently restaurants will frequently char them lightly on the fire, then cook them in the oven. I also spent about ten pounds on a nice bit of lamb tenderloin and I’m pleased I did because it doesnt cook for a long time and would be such a shame to ruin the hard work of the aubergine with below standard lamb.
Thanks again though – we absolutely loved this!
Hi Rob – many thanks for stopping by – I absolutely agree, smoking the aubergines is the key here, so glad you enjoyed making it, afiyet olsun!
I’m American and I married a handsome Turkish man and made this for him and is other Turkish friend tonight, both loved it and had second helpings!! I used ground beef instead of lamb because my husband doesn’t like lamb of beef chuck.
Merhaba Krista, many thanks for your note, so delighted you all enjoyed Ali Nazik, afiyet olsun!:)
I have a very nice enameled ‘kozmatik’ that I use on the grill, not on the hob. No mess!
thanks for sharing!