Hunkar begendi

by Victoria Brown

Cimen Teale of The Turkish Deli shares her recipe for a rich, Turkish lamb stew, recreated by Victoria Brown

This recipe was given to me by Cimen Teale of The Turkish Deli, as part of a series of interviews with Borough Market traders on the foods that are important to them. Read the article here.

Hunkar begendi is one of the rich Ottoman dishes that Cimen’s grandmother used to cook. The name literally means ‘the sultan liked it’, though it is usually translated as ‘sultan’s delight’. There are several stories behind this unusual name. One theory is that in 1869, Sultan Abdulaziz asked his chefs to create a special dish for a special guest, Empress Eugenie of France. They created many new dishes and this was the one he liked best.

“Afiyet olsun” (bon appetite).


For the stew:
25g butter
1 large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
500g lamb for stewing, e.g. shoulder, diced
2 tomatoes, peeled and diced
1 tbsp tomato paste
375ml water
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the begendi:
3 large aubergines
75g butter
2 tbsp flour
400ml warm milk, approx
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
A pinch of nutmeg
300g kasar (or cheddar) cheese, or to taste

For the garnish:
A small bunch of parsley


Melt 25g of butter in a large heavy-based saucepan over a low heat. Add the onions and garlic. Cover and sweat for 5 mins or until soft, stirring occasionally.

Turn the heat up to medium, add the diced lamb and fry until the meat is browned, stirring continuously. Add the tomatoes and tomato paste and cook for a further 5 mins, stirring frequently. Add the water and cover.

Turn the heat down to low and simmer for approximately 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Meanwhile, to make the begendi, chargrill the aubergines over an open flame (either a barbecue or the gas element on your stove) until the skin is burnt and the flesh is tender. Once cooled, cut in half, scoop out the flesh, mash in a bowl with a fork and put to one side.

Melt the butter over a low heat in a medium saucepan. Add the flour and whisk constantly to keep the flour from burning and forming lumps. Cook for a few mins or until it starts to colour slightly.

Slowly add the milk and continue whisking to avoid lumps. Add enough milk for a thick, creamy béchamel sauce.

Add the mashed aubergines to the béchamel, season with salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste. Reduce down until it reaches the consistency of mashed potatoes. Add the cheese at the end and stir until melted.

To serve, make a bed of begendi on a plate, top with stew in the centre and garnish with parsley leaves.