Results tagged “vine leaves”

Turkish style stuffed greens

turkey
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In Turkey all kinds of things get stuffed with delicious rice - aubergines, tomatoes, peppers, cabbage leaves, vine leaves and more.  ‘Dolma’ are stuffed things and ‘sarma’ are rolled or wrapped things, so strictly these parcels are sarma.  They work really well with spring or summer greens, which arrive in my weekly veg box.

smspringgreensarma0003.JPGVersions of sarma are also found in Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Poland and elsewhere - sometimes with meaty fillings.  This combination of rice, pine nuts, currants and warm spices is typical of western Turkey - around Istanbul and down the Aegean coast, where the Romans established pine tree plantations millennia ago to feed their pine nut addiction. 

The trick is to partially cook the rice before filling the leaves - cooked enough so they won’t burst their wrappers in the cooking pot, but uncooked enough to expand a little to form tight parcels.  Sarma might be fiddly to make, but when you taste the results of your labour, you’ll realise why they spread so far.  


Ottoman or not?

bulgaria, greece, romania, turkey
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Now that we've spent some time in Turkey, some in Romania and Bulgaria before that, and now some in Greece, it's been interesting to try to spot various culinary connections between them.  It's not all pleasant, but they have a lot of shared history via the long presence of the Ottoman empire in Eastern Europe.  Greece was under Ottoman control for hundreds of years; and while Romania (and especially Transylvania) was nominally independent for much of that time, the word "nominally" should be stressed.

Smtopkapicooks0001.jpg

Ottoman chefs: could they tell their
aubergines from their tomatoes?

In some cases, of course, there are clear similarities in techniques and ingredients, but there's really no way to know whether Romanians influenced Turks, or Turks influenced Romanians, or whether they both just thought that spicy meatballs tasted nice.  But in others, you can get some help from the language: if a stuffed vine leaf in Greece has an originally Turkish name, the odds are that it has at least some Turkish origins.

But sometimes we have to do a bit more detective work.  In Romania, the word for tomato is "red" (roşie), and the word for aubergine is "purple" (vinete): so you might ask your greengrocer for a kilo of reds and a kilo of purples.  This does sort of make sense - tomatoes are red, after all, and aubergines are purple - but why just these two?  They don't call cucumbers "greens".  And tomatoes certainly aren't the only red things in a Romanian kitchen, what with all those peppers around.  Well, a conversation with Anca in the Carpathians, a conversation with Özge in Istanbul, some dictionary work, and all became clear ...
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