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Wednesday, January 9

reminiscing of Istanbul with Sultan's Delight

Months after Istanbul, the husband and I were browsing through TV shows to watch online. We came across Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations- Istanbul. Those of you that don’t like him because of his attitude, I am almost with you. His snarky comments and his brash behavior are rude but the guy eats well, mostly. In this episode, we enjoyed seeing familiar streets and places. One worth mentioning, again, is Dürümzade. If you find yourself in Istanbul, this place deserves a stop or two or three.

But that’s not why I am writing today. I am sharing a recipe because it was inspired by Anthony’s trip. Often he has a “host” that tours the city with him and more often than not the host invites him to their home for a homemade meal. This woman hosted Anthony and the crew at her parent’s place for dinner and her mom made a dish that resembled lamb in tomato sauce served with eggplant. As the cameraman zoomed in while it was being served, both of us looked at each other and said we had to make that, as soon as possible! It looked mouth watering and like homey, comfort food of Turkey. With the weather cooling down it gave us a good reason to try this recently.

After many internet searches and finds, I found 5 recipes that seemed similar with small variations on herbs and spices. I interpreted the dish the way I thought would be best. I added Oregano and Aci Pul Biber because we purchased those at the Spice Market in Istanbul. I omitted the traditional Parsley because I am not a fan of the herb. Don’t judge me.

I've used lamb for a traditional taste however when in India, we substituted cooked chickpeas (garbanzo beans) for the lamb and it was well received.

Sultan’s Delight
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 kilogram (1 pound) lamb, cubed (preferably from leg or shoulder)
1 onion, finely chopped
1 green chili or bell pepper, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tomatoes, petite diced
1 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon Aci Pul Biber* or red chili flakes
1/2 teaspoon dried Turkish oregano (if unavailable, Greek is fine)
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme (I would increase this to 1/2 teaspoon next time)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1-1 1/2 cups hot water

for eggplant puree
2 medium eggplants
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 cup milk
1/2 cup grated Turkish hard mature cheese, Kasar**, (also known as Kashkaval) or aged Swiss cheese
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Aleppo Pepper, Aci Pul Biber, red chili flakes
*Aci Pul Biber is a spicy Turkish pepper. Syrian Aleppo (also grown in Turkish towns near the Syrian border) is milder in heat. I’ve only purchased it at Pensey’s and tasted Turkish grown Aleppo pepper so unfortunately I don’t have a point of reference for the true Syrian Aleppo.

**A hard, yellow Turkish cheese made from cow’s milk.

Season the cubed lamb with salt and pepper. In a dutch oven or pan on medium high heat, melt butter and add cubed lamb. Brown the lamb on the first side for 5 minutes and then turn and brown on the other side. Remove lamb from the pan, reduce heat to medium low. Stir in onions and pepper and sauté for 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook briefly before stirring in tomatoes, tomato paste, biber, oregano, thyme, salt and pepper. Cook the mixture until tomatoes simmer. Then add the lamb and its juices back to the dutch oven along with hot water. Increase heat to high and bring the liquid to a boil. When bubbling, reduce the heat to low (as low as it goes), season with a pinch of salt, cover and cook for 2 hours, minimum.

45 minutes before lamb’s finished, make the eggplant béchamel sauce. (If roasting eggplant in oven, start 1 hour before lamb’s finished)

Wash and pierce the eggplants with a knife or fork. On an open gas flame (or grill), roast the eggplants on one side, turn frequently and continue browning until the skin is completely charred and black. Once charred, place the eggplants in a large bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Allow the eggplants to cool for 20 minutes.

If roasting in an oven, set the oven temperature 400°F/200°C or as high as it will go and rotate every 10 minutes for 40 minutes. Although the oven method won’t give it a charred skin effect, the eggplant will be cooked.

Once cool, remove the stem and charred skin from eggplant. Mash the eggplant with a fork or potato masher into a fine paste.

Heat milk in the microwave or on the stove until warm to touch. Melt butter in a saucepan on medium heat. Whisk in flour and cook for 1 minute or until the mixture is lightly browned (this is known as blonde roux). Reduce the heat to low, slowly whisk in the heated milk and simmer for 5 minutes. Continue whisking to avoid lumps. Add the mashed eggplant, salt and freshly ground pepper. Cover and cook the mixture for 10 minutes. Uncover, stir in the cheese and simmer for 2 minutes. Taste and adjust with salt and black pepper, if necessary.

Taste the cooked lamb with sauce and adjust seasoning. Continue to simmer uncovered until the sauce is thick, 10 minutes. Remove from heat and serve hot or warm over eggplant béchamel sauce.

Serve eggplant on a plate and top with lamb and its sauce.

Although we did not try this particular dish during our visit, it will be one more added to the list of many things we ate in Turkey that invokes wonderful food memories of the trip.


  1. This looks amazing and I love the idea of subbing chickpeas! I'm always so intrigued by non-rice sides and can't wait to try the eggplant puree. Thanks for sharing!

  2. you're welcome. I would love to hear how it turns out for you.

  3. Must. eat. now. Totally going the chickpea route, will report back.