Stories swirl around the beginnings of the Turkish dish hunkar begendi, aka “Sultan’s Delight”. One legend has it that it was first served to Sultan Murad IV in the 17th century and—clearly—met with his approval. Another story dates it to the 19th century, and a visit by Napoleon III and his wife, Empress Eugenie, to the royal palace in Istanbul. The Empress was so greatly taken that she asked to have the recipe conveyed to her chef but the palace cook was not keen to share his secret.
Either way, the Sultan’s Delight that has made its way into modern cookery books via the likes of Claudia Roden and Greg Malouf consists of a luxuriously creamy, lightly smoky eggplant puree topped with a spicy braise.
Traditionally the topping is based on chunks of lamb cooked with tomato but in Turkey you may also find variations using chicken, beef, meatballs or vegetables.
Here, Fiona Hammond has created a spicy, chunky Ottolenghi-style braise built around pumpkin and chickpeas, spiked with fragrant cumin and a dash of chilli (if you have some biber salcasi preserved capsicum paste from the TMix+ Summer/Autumn 2016 issue in the pantry, consider slipping in a spoonful of that as well).
You can accelerate production of this dish by cooking the eggplant in the microwave (you’ll find directions in the TMix+ Spring/Summer 2015 issue Baba Ghanoush recipe). This will leave your kitchen tidier but comes at the price of losing the characteristic flavour that comes from charring the skins. We've varied the eggplant puree as well, by thickening and enriching it with white beans and yoghurt instead of the traditional cheesy bechamel component—this makes the dish gluten-free.
Either way, it will be as delightful as the version that entranced the sultans of the stories, and their visitors. Serve it with a scattering of herbs, plus crumbled feta, if you like, plenty of warm Turkish bread, and watch it disappear.
Spiced Pumpkin & Chickpeas
- Place each eggplant on a stove gas flame or barbecue on a low setting. Cook for about 30 minutes, turning the eggplant every 5 minutes until the skin is blackened evenly all over. The eggplant should be collapsed and the flesh soft. Transfer to a colander sitting over a bowl to drain. Set aside until cool enough to handle.
- Peel away blackened skin from cooled eggplant. Place flesh into the Thermomix, it should weigh 400–450 grams. Add the beans then mix for 1 minute/speed 8, the mixture should be smooth.
- Scrape down the bowl and lid then add the yoghurt. Mix 20 seconds/speed 5.
- Add lemon juice and mix for 5 seconds/speed 4.
- Scrape down sides of mixing bowl. Season to taste with salt, pepper and extra lemon juice, if desired. Mix 5 seconds/speed 4.
- Transfer to a bowl and cover while making the spiced pumpkin & chickpeas. The eggplant should be served neither hot nor chilled; it is best re-warmed gently or served at room temperature.
Spiced Pumpkin & Chickpeas
- Place cumin seeds into the mixing bowl and roast for 3 minutes/Varoma/speed 1.
- Mill 10 seconds/speed 8 to coarsely chop seeds. Remove cumin and reserve.
- Add the oil and onions and chop 5 seconds/speed 5. Scrape down the bowl and cook 15 minutes/100 degrees/Reverse/speed 1.
- Add the garlic and cook 1 minute/100 degrees/Reverse/speed 1.
- In following order, add the reserved cumin, chilli flakes, paprika, tomatoes, capsicum and pumpkin—the bowl will be very full. Mix together 1 minute/Reverse/speed 1.
- Add the water, passata, salt and pepper. Remove MC and place basket over lid to prevent dangerous hot splashes escaping. Cook 20 minutes/90 degrees/Reverse/speed 1.
- Add the chickpeas and cook 5 minutes/100 degrees/Reverse/speed 1 with MC on. Make sure the pumpkin is cooked through. If not, cook a few minutes longer.
- Check seasoning and adjust to taste with pepper and salt.
- Fold in the spinach leaves at the last minutes and allow them to wilt.
- To serve, spread the eggplant puree over a serving platter or individual plates. Spoon the vegetable braise on top. Garnish with chopped parsley scattered over and feta if using.