This is my take on Hünkar, which is traditionally prepared with sheep’s milk butter; but I find that this olive oil variation can be equally sumptuous. Cheese plays a very important role in my version and can alter the taste dramatically: Gruyere and cheddar make a richly sweet dish, but smoked cheddar or provolone combined with Feta adds a spicier note.
An Ottoman Sultan, a French Princess…and Hünkar Beğendi – all the necessary ingredients for romance, intrigue, and culinary invention. According to legend this rich and creamy eggplant puree was created in the 18th century by one of the Sultan’s cooks. The occasion was a dinner given in honor of a French Princess visiting the palace of the Ottoman ruler in Istanbul. The French were known for their love of vegetable purees, so the cook paid homage to the Princess by presenting an Oriental version, using the Empire’s most admired vegetable. The dish was a great success. We know less about the Sultan’s pursuit of the Princess…
In Turkey and in Greece hünkar traditionally accompanies a tomato lamb or beef stew. I love it on its own, or topped with my Basic Tomato Sauce. You can also serve it with braised kale or other hearty greens. Hünkar makes a great appetizer: serve it with toasted pita triangles to scoop-up the creamy puree or spread it on toasted, garlic-rubbed multi-grain bread.
Adapted from my Mediterranean Vegetarian Feasts
Serves 4 as a main dish, or 8-10 as an appetizer (more…)