Exclusive Recipe & Wine Match from Rebecca Seal

Published by Roberson Wine on 31/07/2013

To celebrate the launch of her fantastic new book, Istanbul, Recipes from the heart of Turkey, we’ve teamed up with Channel 4′s Rebecca Seal to give our customers an exclusive preview of a recipe from the book, as well as (of course) two wine matches chosen by Rebecca from our range.

Hunkar Begendi, Rebecca Seal

Hünkar Beğendi: Aubergine Purée Topped with Lamb Stew

This is a rich and satisfying Ottoman dish of lamb stew on a bed of aubergine and cheese, and it smells progressively more delicious as it slowly cooks, making it harder and harder to resist dipping a corner of bread into the pot! The name means the Sultan’s Delight (or the Sultan liked it), and there are two stories about its origins: one is that it was created for a sultan in the 1600s who did indeed like it; the other is that it was served in the nineteenth century Sultan’s court to Napoleon’s wife, who liked it so much she requested the recipe (the chef refused to give it to her). A salad of bitter leaves with a sharp dressing goes nicely here, or some winter greens. Serves four.

For the Lamb Stew

  • 850 g (1 lb 14oz) boneless stewing lamb (shoulder, shank or leg), cut into 2.5 cm (1 in) dice, excess fat removed
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • Pinch of salt
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon Turkish tomato paste or concentrated tomato puree (paste)
  • 2–3 fresh tomatoes, peeled, deseeded and roughly chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 200 ml (7 fl oz/generous 3/4 cup) hot water
  • 1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley

For the Aubergine Purée

  • 4 large aubergines, trimmed
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 30 g (1 oz/2 tablespoons) butter
  • 30 g (1 oz/. cup) plain (all-purpose) flour
  • 350 ml (12 fl oz/1⅓ cups) milk
  • 60 g (2 oz/. cup) grated kasseri, parmesan, comte or other hard cheese
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper


  1. Prepare the lamb. Brown the meat in a deep saucepan with a lid, or a deep flameproof casserole, over a high heat and in batches (if the pan is too crowded the meat will stew rather than caramelise and be less tasty).
  2. Turn the heat down to low, return all the meat to the pan and add the onion and salt. Allow the onion to soften and become translucent for 10 minutes, stirring to prevent sticking, then add the garlic and cook, stirring frequently, for 2 minutes.
  3. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring again, for a further 2 minutes.
  4. Finally add the fresh tomatoes, dried herbs and hot water (the meat should be just covered, so add a little more water if it is not). Stir thoroughly and cover.
  5. Simmer for about 2 hours, checking frequently that the sauce is not sticking or reducing too fast – add splashes of hot water whenever necessary to prevent this. The stew is ready when the tomatoes and liquid have reduced and thickened and the meat is just beginning to fall apart.
  6. About 40 minutes before the stew is fully cooked, start the aubergine purée (don’t worry if timings over-run – the stew will keep happily with a lid on. You could even make it the day before). Either thoroughly char and blacken their skins for 10 minutes directly over a gas ring  or place under a grill set to its highest temperature, and allow the skins to blacken and wrinkle, turning them regularly. (If you prefer a less smoky flavour, grill or broil them more slowly, further from the heat.)
  7. When the skins are charred, set them aside in a bowl and splash over the lemon juice. Allow them to cool and then scoop out the flesh by splitting each one down the middle with a spoon and using it to gently scrape out the insides. Pull out any large strands of seeds and discard, roughly chop the flesh and place in a colander to drain.
  8. Meanwhile melt the butter in a saucepan big enough to take all the milk and the cooked aubergines, over a low heat. Warm the milk in a separate pan. When the butter is foaming but not brown, add the flour. Mix well and cook over a very low heat for 2 minutes. Slowly add the hot milk, a quarter at a time, stirring to incorporate each time. (Don’t add it all at once as the sauce will become lumpy.) When all the milk has been added the sauce should be thick enough to just coat the back of a spoon. If it is too thick, add a little more milk and whisk it in.
  9. Add the cheese and the chopped aubergine and cook for 2–3 minutes over the lowest possible heat. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.
  10. Just before serving, stir the parsley into the lamb stew and taste to check the seasoning. Spoon the hot aubergine purée in a thick layer onto a warm serving dish and top with the lamb stew, or serve as individual portions in bowls.

Rebecca’s Wine Choices

Vourla 2010 from Urla winery is a particularly delicious wine, given masses of structure, I think, by the Boğazkere in the blend, which is a Turkish grape known for being very rich in fine tannins. It stands up well to the richness and gentle spicing in my Adana-style kebabs, or marinated lamb kebabs, which are spicier and served with some charring from the grill. It’s also particularly good with hunkar begendi – it’s a complex and hearty dish and needs a wine with some backbone to deal with all the different flavours and textures.

Another wine which goes wonderfully with hunkar begendi is Ellipse 2010 from Zélige Caravent, which works in part because of the tomatoes in the sauce. They cook for two hours in the stew so are thoroughly melted and melded with the lamb and herbs by the time the dish gets to the table, but lend a gentle tang of acidity which cuts through the richness of the aubergine. The Ellipse is a more delicate wine than the Vourla but it has more than enough depth to cope.

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