Sultan’s Delight Recipe from the Imperial Kitchen at Topkapi Palace

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Sultan's Delight Recipe from the Imperial Kitchen at Topkapi Palace www.compassandfork.com
Sultans Delight

This is a fantastic Sultan’s Delight recipe, you will be proud to serve it for family and friends.

The recipe dates back 600 years. It originates in the Royal Kitchens at Topkapi Palace in what is now the city of Istanbul. The sultan was so delighted with this meal and the name, Sultan’s Delight, stuck.

There are many variations of Sultan’s Delight. We ate it in a restaurant in Turkey and made it at home. We liked the one at home better and this is the Sultan’s Delight recipe below.

But first a bit of context, as mentioned in the introductory post about Turkey, one of the major influences on modern Turkish cuisine is the Imperial Kitchen. With a tour of Topkapi Palace in Istanbul, this influence comes to life. And provides context for much of what you see while wandering around Turkey sampling Turkish cuisine.

History of Topkapi Palace

The Topkapi Palace, built between 1460 and 1478 by Mehmed the Conqueror. The Palace was used by many Sultans until the mid 19th century when Dolmabahce Palace replaced it. Prominent on the Istanbul skyline, if you have the chance -visit it! We toured the Palace and the Harem. At the time of our visit the history of Turkish coffee was a special exhibition. Turkish coffee is the subject of another post as it worth an explanation all its own.

Sultan's Delight Topkapi Palace Istanbul
Topkapi Palace Istanbul

The ceramics in this palace and the Blue Mosque are spectacular, and a longer explanation of Turkish ceramics is worth a read.. Ceramics and Turkish rugs are two of the most popular souvenirs from Turkey.

The Imperial Kitchen

But back to the Imperial Kitchen, this area is part of the tour but unfortunately for you dear readers, it is not an area where you can take pictures. So this picture shows the ten towers comprising the kitchen area. It is an extensive area within the Palace grounds.


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Sultan's Delight Imperial Kitchen At Topkapi Palace
Imperial Kitchen At Topkapi Palace

At its peak, the Imperial Kitchen employed approximately 1500 people and fed close to 10,000 people daily. This includes the royal family, workers at the Palace, visitors, and guards. The kitchen staff was responsible for provisioning, record keeping (accounts, payroll, management of supplies) and of course food production.

Work in the Imperial Kitchen was highly specialized. The guild system was in place and apprentices trained in the culinary arts including: butchers, bread bakers, confectionery, pastry, butchers, hunters, jams and preserves, cheese makers, and many more.

The confectionery kitchen, where jams and preserves, desserts, puddings, bread, medicines, drinks and elixirs, and essential oils were made. Herbs and flowers were used to create medicines, tonics, elixirs, “sherberts” (drinks served in beautiful urns infused with flavors), and rose water puddings by specialized staff in the confectionery kitchen.

Wandering around modern Istanbul today you still see highly specialized eateries following these long established divisions: shops selling borak (a large flat pastry similar to filo but not as flaky), grilled meats (kebap), pastry shops, pudding shops, fish restaurants. This system survives from the strong influence of the guilds and the Imperial Kitchen. (The influence of the guilds is also evident in the organization of the Grand Bazaar.)

The Royal Family and the Harem

The Harem conjures up pictures of barely clad women lounging around waiting to attend to powerful men. In reality, Harem is the term for the private rooms of the Royal Family. The Royal Family, the concubines (girlfriends in today’s terminology), and the eunuchs (castrated males) responsible for looking after the concubines all lived in these quarters.

There is a series of novels by Jason Goodwin, featuring a crime solving character, Yashim, a eunuch. The setting for the novels is the 1830’s, when the Ottoman Empire still reigned supreme. Both of us read the second book The Snake Stone while travelling. It is a great book for imagining what life might have been like during this time period. You can also view our other recommendations for Turkish novels and books in our shop.

Sultan’s Delight

So without further ado, here is a true comfort food. A beautifully rich lamb stew sitting on a bed of smoky eggplant puree. A perfect main course for a dinner party or family meal.

More Winter Warming Foods

Fancy trying some other great, winter comfort foods from around the world? Here are some to try:

Pork Goulash from Romania may surprise you. It’s beautifully spiced and the sour cream gives it a real touch of class. Popular with all family members.

This classic, French, Coq au Vin, prepared in the slow cooker, is perfect for busy people. For another slow cooker recipe this time using beef and Pinot Noir try a Red Wine and Herb casserole.

Here are two, easy casseroles from Greece to try. Beef Stifado and Drunken Pork (also using red wine). There is a trend here!

 

Let us know how you like this Sultan’s Delight recipe. To save this Sultan’s Delight recipe for later, Pin it using the button below this post.

Sultan's Delight a beautiful Turkish lamb with eggplant puree. Gluten free, paleo www.compassandfork.com

 

 

Sultan's Delight from the Imperial Kitchen at Topkapi Palace
Sultan's Delight
Sultan's Delight
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There is a little bit of work in char-grilling the eggplant but it is well worthwhile to get that smoky eggplant flavor. Anyone who has had the wonderfully smoky baba ghanoush will appreciate that. When I make this recipe, I prepare the eggplant the day before on the BBQ when I am cooking something else such as kebaps. The smoky flavors have a chance to further develop. I also marinate the meat overnight.
Servings Prep Time Cook Time Passive Time
4people 30minutes 1hour 12hours
Servings Prep Time
4people 30minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
1hour 12hours
Ingredients
Servings: people
Units:
Ingredients
Servings: people
Units:
Instructions
  1. Place the lamb in a bowl. Add the garlic. Add 1 of the 2 bay leaves and 1 of the 2 chopped salad onions. Add the tomato paste and the pepper paste. Season with sea salt and ground pepper. Stir to combine, cover with kitchen wrap and refrigerate overnight or until needed.
  2. Place the whole eggplant on an open bbq grill (open fire or gas)*. Cook over a high heat and turn occasionally until the skin is charred. Remove and allow the eggplant to cool. They may collapse at this stage. Don’t worry that is what we want! When cool enough to handle, cut in half lengthways and remove the flesh leaving behind the charred skin. Mash, cover with kitchen wrap and store in the refrigerator until needed for the puree. Preparing eggplant for Sultans Delight while cooking Shish Kebap www.compassandfork.com
  3. Place a large saucepan over medium heat and add the olive oil and the remaining bay leaf and salad onion. Stir until the onion is translucent. Add the green bell peppers and stir for a further 1 minute. Then add the reserved lamb mixture, tomatoes, dried figs, butter and hot water. Stir to combine and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 1 hour. Check for seasoning when about to serve.
Eggplant Puree
  1. When the stew has about 10 minutes to go, prepare the eggplant puree. In a separate saucepan, melt the butter over a low to medium heat. Add the flour and stir for about 2 minutes. Turn the heat up to medium. Then slowly add the milk, whisking as you go. Then add the eggplant mash, stirring often for about 5 minutes. The mixture should thicken. Then add the feta cheese and stir for a further 2 minutes.
  2. To serve, place the eggplant puree on the plates and top with the stew. Garnish with the parsley.Serving Sultans Delight www.compassandfork.com
Recipe Notes

It really is worth using lamb for this dish. Lamb will produce a moister meat as the fat slowly bastes the stew as it cooks. It also has a wonderfully slight, gamey flavor. If you must, you can substitute with a good quality stewing beef.  If you live in the US and you can't source lamb, we have seen Australian legs of lamb sold in Costco or you can purchase from here.

To make the dish Gluten Free substitute corn starch, arrowroot or other flour of your choice for plain white flour. In this recipe, the flour is merely a thickening agent.

For an authentic, Turkish tomato paste, try this.

The Turkish pepper paste gives this dish an underlying depth of flavor. If not using, double the amount of tomato paste or Turkish tomato paste.

For something a bit different and very Turkish, add the dried figs. You could also use fresh figs and if so, add these to the stew right at the end of the cooking process.

The whole eggplant can also be cooked under a hot broiler (grill). If so, use a metal rack and place foil underneath to catch the drips. We char-grill the eggplant on the day that we purchase them and then let the smoky flavor develop in the fridge until they are needed for the puree.

The goat’s milk feta is quite sharp and mildly salty. Source the product in better delicatessens or Amazon.

26 Responses

  1. Kelly
    | Reply

    Love the history you give in these posts!

    • Editor
      |

      Thank you. The Sultan’s Delight story is a famous one in Turkey.

  2. Gina
    | Reply

    I have never had this before. It sounds exceptional. I love eggplant and lamb.

    • Editor
      |

      It’s richly flavored. You are right eggplant and lamb are a perfect match. I hope you enjoy it as much as did.

  3. Liesbeth
    | Reply

    Did they also invent a vegetarian version of this? 🙂 Looks delicious otherwise!! 🙂

    • Editor
      |

      I would substitute the meat for another vegetable, it could be good with mushrooms or tofu. The eggplant puree is excellent and you could definitely try it.

  4. Menorca
    | Reply

    Interesting story!I love finding about the local cuisines and their history..so fascinating!

    • Editor
      |

      Menorca, Yes discovering the history of some foods we eat everyday is always interesting. I was amazed how much Turkey has influence much of what the world eats today, and most of us would have no idea it has anything to do with Turkey!

  5. I love Turkish food, and this looks delicious!

    • Editor
      |

      Erin, It is one of my favorite Turkish dishes. I think the eggplant makes the dish.

  6. Allison (funfamily.vacations)
    | Reply

    This looks really good. I have tried to do lamb a few ways and it doesn’t turn out that well for me. I am going to try this recipe!

    • Editor
      |

      Allison, This recipe is lovely. The eggplant puree is beautiful with the lamb. The secret to lamb is not to overcook it. I hope you enjoy it!

  7. Sally from Passport & Plates
    | Reply

    Mmmmm this reminds me so much of time in Turkey! Sultan’s Delight was my FAVORITE. thanks for sharing the recipe – saving this to try out later!

    • Editor
      |

      Sally glad it brought back some memories. Such a great taste and such a history. Thanks for your comment.

  8. Ami
    | Reply

    Seems like a nice dish …any suggestions for Vegetarians 😀

    • Editor
      |

      I think you could substitute the meat for some meaty mushroom and you would be good to go. Thanks for your comment.

  9. Kevin Wagar
    | Reply

    Cool background and an amazing looking recipe. I’ve been looking for some new stew dishes and I think this one will be on the recipe board next week.

    • Editor
      |

      Kevin, it is just a nice dish, with an amazing history. Let us know how it goes. Thanks for your comment.

  10. melody pittman
    | Reply

    yummy! I did not have Sultan’s Delight from Topkapi but I did have it while I was in the city. Delicious. I love eggplant prepared in any fashion. 😉

    • Editor
      |

      And such a rich history to the dish. I love the eggplant puree base and the stew is fabulous. Thanks for your comment.

  11. Marta
    | Reply

    This looks sooo tasty! And thank you for making me think again of the Topkapi palace: I visited Istanbul many years ago and I remember I went photo crazy there – I think I have about 40 photos of the majolicas (and that was before digital cameras came into existence…)

    • Editor
      |

      Well done Marta on the Topkapi Palace tour. How good is it? We spent an enjoyable day there. Istanbul is such a fascinating place with an incredible food history. Thanks for your comment.

  12. Michelle | A Dish of Daily Life
    | Reply

    I always enjoy trying recipes from other cultures. This looks delicious! Looking forward to trying it! Thanks for sharing it with us at #FoodieFriDIY…I’ll be sharing it on my Facebook page tomorrow afternoon. 🙂

    • Editor
      |

      Michelle, Thanks for commenting. I will stop by your Facebook page tomorrow afternoon. See you then. 🙂

  13. Paula McInerney
    | Reply

    I remember eating this and also reading about it. It was delicious, must make it now I have a good recipe. We enjoyed Topkapi Palace in Istanbul a lot.

    • Editor
      |

      Paula, This recipe is quite decadent, simple but really nice. Topkapi Palace was amazing. The size and granduer. I think the harem and the Imperial kitchens were highlights. When we visited there was also a special exhibit about the history of coffee which is over 500 years in Turkey. It was fascinating. We talk about the exhibit in out post about Turkish coffee https://www.compassandfork.com/turkish-coffee-or-tea-anyone/. The ceramics are also very impressive not just at the palace but throughout all of Turkey.

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