Ali Nazik: Ground mutton (or lamb) with smoked eggplant

Ali Nazik literally means "gentle hand" in Turkish. As the story goes, this dish was made for a Sultan in the Gazientip Region of Turkey in the 16th century. He enjoyed the beautiful confluence of flavors and asked whose "gentle hand" had made this dish. Thus, this dish was born. Every now and again I come across a recipe that is spectacular, gorgeous to look at, fabulous flavors and a crowd pleaser. This is that dish.

Pul biber or Aleppo pepper is a beautifully scented chili pepper from Syria or Turkey (hence the 2 names) that is bright red and has a mild heat. It is that perfect pepper to add that touch of chili and lots of fruity flavor to any dish. Here is brings alive the roasted eggplant and the ground meat. It is quick tempered in butter for richness and to extract the fruity flavors. The combination of ground meat and roasted eggplant is common in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine and varies from region to region. This combination is the most unique variation on the theme, and one that I truly enjoyed. The soft cooked eggplant is topped with a spicy crisp fried ground meat, splattered with creamy yogurt and drizzled with Pul biber pepper cooked in butter. A rich and elegant dish that I could not stop eating. This is an amazing cookbook by a British chef who specialized in cuisines from the Middle East and across Turkey. This book is filled with recipes for kebabs, stews and other Turkish favorites, as well as, some more contemporary dishes. Everything I have cooked from this book has been fantastic, this is one of my favorite Turkish cookbooks.

For more wonderful recipes from this cookbook, click here.




Ingredients:

2 large eggplants

1 cup Greek yogurt + 2-3 tablespoons for garnish

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 lb ground mutton. Can substitute ground lamb or chicken instead)

2 1/2 teaspoons Chili flakes, preferably Aleppo pepper flakes

2 teaspoons tomato paste, or 1 tomato puréed

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

2-3 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup parsley, minced

1 teaspoon pepper

Salt, to taste

Pita bread or any flatbread


Prick the eggplant in a few places with a fork and roast the eggplant in the over (the grill is always better) till soft and completely mushy, about 15 minutes. You know the eggplant is cooked when it is charred in spots and when you poke a skewer through the eggplant and it goes through without any resistance. Cool, peel off the charred skin, and mush the eggplant, with your fingers is best. Be sure to collect the roasted juices from the eggplant, they are the most delicious part.


Mix the mushed eggplant with the 1 cup yogurt, pepper and salt to taste. Set aside.


While the eggplant is roasting, heat the oil in a large frying pan and add the ground meat and sauté on medium heat till cooked and is beginning to crisp and turn golden. Be sure to continuously break up the meat to a fine crumble while it is frying, you do not want large lumps. Add the Aleppo pepper, tomato paste, oregano, pepper and salt and mix well, Taste and adjust the spice and salt. You want the meat to pop with flavors and have a wonderful bright heat to them. Set aside.


To assemble, heat the eggplant till very hot. Heat the meat till it begins to crisp again. Layer the hot eggplant in a wide shallow bowl or plate. Add the heated meat on top sprinkling it all over the eggplant, it does not need to be even. Splatter with the remaining yogurt . Melt the butter is a small pot over a very low flame so as not to burn it. Add the Aleppo pepper to the heated butter and sizzle for 2-3 seconds, it burns very fast, and pour the hot oil over the meat and eggplant, Top with parsley and serve immediately with pita or other flat breads.

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