Creamy Eggplant Puree (Hünkar Beğendi)

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…)

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Oven-cooked Eggplants and Peppers in Tomato Sauce

A kind of Greek, rustic ratatouille that can be made with any combination of summer vegetables. I particularly like it with just eggplants and green bell peppers plus plenty of onions and garlic, all baked slowly in my fragrant tomato sauce.

 

 

We can find all kinds of delicious eggplants here and choose whichever we want for our summer dishes. For this I prefer the long ones –which are similar to the Chinese and Japanese– because they better retain their shape. But any kind of eggplant is fine, and I strongly suggest you use the fresher you find in your farmer’s market —Molly Stevens explains beautifully the flavor variations between the various eggplants, which make little difference for this particular dish.

 

 

 

Serves 4-6 (more…)

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Oriental Orange ‘Cream’

With no eggs or cream, this light fruity dessert is based on Portocal Peltesi, a Turkish recipe I tasted in Istanbul. You can make it with any fruit juice –lemon, tangerine, grape, pomegranate etc.  You can also use the fruit ‘cream’ as filling for a pre-baked tart shell. I like to serve it with cakes, as well as with Sweet Orange and Pistachio Couscous

 

 Photo by Anastasios Mentis from my ‘Mediterranean Hot and Spicy’

 

 

Serves 6 (more…)

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Chard Leaves Stuffed with Vegetables, Rice, Herbs and Fish

The garden offers me plenty of large chard leaves, often in different colors, all through May, and it is so easy to roll them into large bundles, preferably without blanching them first.

In my last book I have the vegetarian version of the stuffed leaves, although the original idea came to me from the salt-cod-stuffed lettuce leaves I had many years ago at a tavern near the archaeological site of ancient Corinth.  Here is my adaptation of that recipe.

 

WATCH the video

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Make the dish at least a day in advance and let cool completely before refrigerating; then you can serve it room temperature or reheat briefly reheat it. Accompany with yogurt, labne or with skordalia (garlic sauce).

 

Serves 6 (more…)

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The Green, Winter Greek Salad

Inspired from the traditional Lesbos winter salad as I adapted it from the recipe in my book The Foods of the Greek Islands.   Greek Salad is seasonal here; in the summer tomatoes are its basic ingredient but in the winter it is definitely green.

 

 

Greek Salad is seasonal here; in the summer tomatoes are its basic ingredient, but in the winter it is definitely green.  From the first October rains up until the end of April, the greengrocers of Mytilini, the capital of Lesbos, used to sell each head of romaine lettuce tied together with two or three sprigs of borage (often with its little blue flowers), two or three scallions, several sprigs of peppery arugula, four or five sprigs of dill or fennel fronds, a few sprigs of peppery wild cress and either fresh mint or a little wild celery. Once home, these essential ingredients for the local green winter salad are thinly sliced and tossed with a simple vinaigrette.

It’s important to cut the greens at the last moment and to slice them very thin. If they are coarsely cut, the salad will taste different.

 

 

Makes 4 servings (more…)

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