Meatballs on a Bed of Eggplant Puree

This is one of the most iconic Ottoman Palace recipes that has a long history behind it. As I always say, Ottoman cuisine is the epitome of fusion cuisine, this is a very simple example. The backstory of this dish goes like this: 

In the 1800's the Ottoman Emperor invited Napoleon the 3rd when he was in France, he could not come to see the Emperor but sent his wife Eugénie to be present at the invitation. She took her chefs from the French palace with her on this trip. As a courtesy during her visit, her chefs were in the palace in Istanbul cooking together with the resident chefs of the Sultan. When the French chefs made bechamel sauce (roux), Turkish chefs wanted to try mixing it with the mashed grilled eggplants, so they did and served it originally with lamb casserole made with a tomato base. It became the famous "Hünkar Beğendi

My version of this iconic dish is with meatballs, here is the recipe: 


Eggplant Puree

4 large eggplants (should be about 1 kg/2.2 lbs)
4 tablespoons of plain flour
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup whole milk
2 tablespoons of cream
a pinch of grated nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste
4 tablespoons grated goat cheese.

Meat Balls in tomato sauce
1 kg Minced meat (50% beef, 50% lamb or any fattier meat)
1 cup fine bulgur
1 tablespoon red pepper paste
1 egg
a bunch of parsley fine chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
1 onion
2 cloves of garlic
2 cups of Tomato sauce (you can use Italian pasta sauce or make your own as in this blog)
2 tablespoons of olive oil.

Grill the eggplants (preferably on a charcoal grill) until they are soft enough for a fork to pierce them since we like that smoky taste. Cooking them in the oven would also work, stab the eggplants before you put them in the oven and cook at 180C for about 45 minutes. Peel the skin chop the eggplants with a knife or mash with a wooden spoon.

Melt the butter in a large skillet, add the flour, stirring constantly until it is golden brown then slowly add milk and nutmeg. Add the eggplants. Continue stirring for 5 more minutes than add the cream and turn the heat off and add grated cheese. This will be your base. 

Chop the onion finely or in a food processor. Mash the garlic. Mix, onion, garlic, pepper paste, egg and bulgur in a bowl and knead thoroughly. Once it forms a smooth paste, then add the meat and the parsley. Knead the mixture until it all holds itself together. Then, form small meatball sized balls in your hands. Approx 1" wide.

Boil the tomato sauce on the side. When it boils add the meatballs, cook on moderate heat for about 30 minutes.

Serve over the eggplant puree. Afiyet olsun! Enjoy! 

-Chef Asli

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