Results tagged “turkey”

It's sweet in Turkey

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Smplatelokum0001.JPGDrinking tea all day has contributed towards to the sweet tooth I seem to have developed in Turkey, as the little glass is always served with two sugar lumps on the side.  (Except in the Southeast, where you usually get three - Southeasterners liking their foods generally spicier, sweeter and tangier than their equivalents in the rest of the country.)  Sugar is found in large doses in many of the Turks’ favourite foods...

Teatime in Turkey

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Smteaglass0001.jpgDespite being an unashamed coffee snob and addict, five weeks in Turkey has almost converted me to tea.  This is because you can’t avoid it, and soon learn that no social meeting, business transaction or meal is complete without a glass or three of çay.  Of course, Turkey used to be famous for its strong shots of thick coffee, but these days it’s glasses of tea you see all over the ‘café’ tables.

Nettle bake

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Erhan Şeker is a talented Turkish chef who makes great use of wild greens and herbs.  He cooks all sorts of weird and wonderful leaves, shoots and tendrils, most of which I wouldn’t know how to find back at home in the UK.  But one thing we can definitely find at home is stinging nettles.  In many areas they’re abundant.  And of course they’re free, and very good for you.  

Smnettlebake0001.JPGThis dish, called ‘çırpma’ in Turkish (meaning ‘mixed’, as I guess you could mix up all sorts of greens in here if you wanted, wild or otherwise), was expertly made for us in Erhan’s kitchen by his assistant Nesrin, using Erhan’s homemade goat ricotta. It’s the kind of comfort food that feels like it should be bad for you it’s so satisfying, but is actually incredibly good for you.  Wild greens are more nutritious than cultivated ones as they’re higher in antioxidants and other goodies that the plants must have plenty of in order to defend themselves from pests.

As you will see, the ingredient quantities in the recipe need some refining, so let me know how it goes if you make it.

Kalbura bastı (aka Hedgehogs)

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I named these Turkish syrup-drenched cakelets ‘hedgehogs’ due to their spiky appearance and potential appeal to kids.  Making them is great fun, involving an unusual use for a colander (a ‘kalbur’ in Turkish).  I helped make them in Erhan Şeker’s restaurant kitchen, under the watchful eye of his assistant Nesrin.  Impossible to find in restaurants, kalbura bastı are commonly made in Turkish homes.  So for a true taste of Turkish home-baking, get out your colander...

Smhedgehogs0001.jpgThe ingredient quantities in this recipe probably need some refining, so please let me know how it goes if you make it.


Erhan's easy courgette salad

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While staying with Erhan Şeker on Turkey’s Aegean coast, we watched in awe as he whipped up dish after dish in front of us in no time at all.  Erhan likes to use plenty of herbs (his aim is to grow all 250 herbs in his ‘Herbs and Spices of the World’ book, and he’s making good progress), and he likes his food to be simple, fast and fresh.  He also loves inventing new dishes and trying them out on passing culinary anthropologists.  

Smcourgettesalad0001.jpgTo demonstrate these principles he went out and picked a bunch of fresh oregano, sliced up a couple of small courgettes and had this delicious salad on our plates in what seemed like seconds.  Cooking from scratch does not need to be labour intensive.  I think it would also work well with other herbs, such as basil, parsley or dill.  To keep the flavours simple, I’d just use one herb though, two at the most.


From tree to treacle

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Smbarnabycarobtree0001.jpgToday Barnaby got rather over-excited when he came across a carob tree growing among the castle ruins in the little village of Kaleköy on Turkey's Mediterranean coast.

Ever since Barnaby first tasted the deeply fruity and complex treacle-y molasses called pekmez (at Zeliş Farmhouse), he has been a bit obsessed by it.  (He gets like that sometimes).  He has sampled it in grape, mulberry, apple, sugar beet and fig varieties (all delicious), but his clear favourite is the carob kind.  So when he found carob growing wild all over the place in Kaleköy, he couldn't help but investigate...

Gözleme

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We ate maybe a hundred gözleme each in Turkey.  It is a kind of flatbread (yufka), folded up around a filling such as cheese, potato or spinach, and cooked on a metal dome (saç) over a fire until the outside is browned and crispy and the inside is soft and hot.  They are absolutely delicious and make the perfect breakfast or lunch hot snack. 

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In Cappadocia I spent one hilarious day making them with three expert women in the village of Göreme.  Gülcan, Hamide and Hatice showed me how to make the fillings, knead and roll the dough, fold it up in a parcel around the filling and then cook it over the tandır fire.  Here is the recipe and several short video clips.  Warning: some clips contain explicit language (in Turkish).

This session around the traditional tandır oven is now sadly a rare occurrence in Cappadocia, where it was once a very socially significant event for the women of the cave houses, and it was probably Hatice's last.  You can read the full story here.

Flipping gözleme! Hatice's last tandır session

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Smgozlemeprodline0001.jpgIt wasn’t until afterwards, when we persuaded Gülcan to translate some of the preceding fast and furious conversation, that we realised just how colourful it had been.  An elderly neighbour had come round to lead us in our gözleme-cooking session over the tandır, and, it turned out, she’d spent the entire time hurling insults of the most explicit kind at anyone and everyone, for no apparent reason.  Really, it was so rude I can’t write one word of it here.  (And there was me thinking she’d been animatedly discussing the fine art of gözleme-making.)  Gülcan’s husband Andus reassured us she’d loved it all really, and was even quite emotional at the end, since it was probably the last time she would ever cook over the traditional tandır oven.

Smsoganlicavechurch0001.JPGWe’d already heard about the tandır earlier in our Turkish travels - it’s a deep clay-lined hole in the ground in which you build the fire.  (We suspect the similarity with the Indian tandoor is not a coincidence.)  But it was not until we reached Cappadocia that we first saw one.  In fact we saw lots - their remains are still clearly visible carved into the floors of the hundreds of cave dwellings dug into the cliffs.  Many date back over a thousand years to Byzantine times. 
Smancienttandir0001.JPG We were intrigued - how long had people been living in caves here, how and what did they cook in them, and why would Hatice, our garrulous elderly neighbour, not be using a tandır any more? 

How fortunate that we were staying with a cook and an anthropologist...

Turkey I: Bulgaria to Georgia (nearly)

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Smsimitbaker0001.JPGGiven just how big Turkey is, we originally thought we'd be sensible and really not try to cover the whole country.  Obviously we'd go to Istanbul, we should probably see some of the archaeology on the Aegean coast, and we'd probably have time in between to see a bit of the middle, maybe visit Cappadocia if we were feeling adventurous.

But as soon as we started talking to people in Istanbul about what was out there - from the perspective of food and culture as well as good old tourism - we realised we really had to do a lot more than that.  It took longer than we'd planned (sorry Greece, sorry Slovenia) - but it was definitely worth it.

This is the story of the first half - from crossing in over the hills on the Bulgarian border, to getting to our easternmost point in Erzurum (about 150 miles from Iran).  Read all about it - there's mosques!  Aubergines!  Preserved yoghurt!  Getting stopped by police!  Getting massaged by blacksmiths!  And lots lots more ...

Crazy, crazy honey

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Smbarnabyrhododendron0001.jpgBeing an avid amateur classicist, as well as a honey-loving bear prone to the odd spot of light substance abuse, one of Barnaby's favourite stories is the episode from Xenophon's Anabasis in which thousands of retreating Greek soldiers are rendered helpless by the narcotic effects of the local honey.

Imagine his excitement on arriving in the Kaçkar mountains in north-eastern Turkey and being told by the local Hemşin people that it all happened right here! 

Show me the honey, he thought.

Sadly it turned out to be the wrong time of year for honey.  Or perhaps not so sadly - it turns out that the honey in question is known as deli balı or "crazy honey", and is made from a particular species of rhododendron long known for its strange and potentially dangerous effects.

So Barnaby had to make do with admiring (and sniffing) the flowers.  But he did sleep very well last night.

Mehmet's Ottoman eggs

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We were honoured to be given ‘soğanlı yumurta’ for breakfast while staying with Mehmet and Kadar Demirci at their eco-lodge in the foothills of the Kaçkar mountains.  It was one of the best breakfasts we had in Turkey - the lightly caramelised, meltingly soft onions went superbly well with the eggs, which were of course directly from their chickens in the coop next to the little outdoor kitchen.  

Smottomaneggs0001.JPGLiterally translated as ‘oniony eggs’, soğanlı yumurta is an old Ottoman recipe - the sultan’s favourite breakfast no less.  Mehmet also told us that according to the original version, the onions should be slow-cooked for six hours, as was presumably done by the breakfast team in the sultan’s crew of a thousand cooks at Topkapı Palace in Istanbul.  You might think that’s asking too much of your Sunday morning.  But do give it at least half an hour - it’ll be worth it.

Hemşin fondue

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Mehmet Demirci kindly made ‘mulhama’ for us when we stayed at his eco-lodge.  Mehmet and his wife Kadar are Hemşin, that is to say mountain people of the Kaçkar mountains in northeast Turkey, originally of Armenian descent. There are several traditional dishes typical of the Hemşin, of which mulhama, a hearty cheese fondue, is perhaps the most well known. 

Smmulhama0001.jpgWe’d spent the afternoon walking in the foothills getting soaked by the perpetual mist and rain (this is the wettest part of Turkey), so the warm, gooey fondue could not have been more perfect for our meal that night.  Mehmet cooked it for us on a wood-burning stove in his little patch of paradise on the mountainside.  So the power cut didn’t deter us - we just needed to walk back through the wood to the car to retrieve our torch.  We felt very self-sufficient.

Something to do with tea

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Smteaglass0001.jpgAs we've been collecting recipes in the various countries we've travelled through, we've noticed that not only does the food itself change as we move, but the way of talking about it changes too.  People tend to measure volumes, for example, in terms of the utensils they're used to and have handy.  In the UK people might talk about pints; in the US, they tend to think in cups.  Here in Turkey, they talk about glasses and cups - but, of course, they're Turkish glasses and cups.

This means they're much nicer to look at.  It also means they're not the size you expect (even if you recognise the name).  And, of course, it means we need to work out what to call them.

Tea is çay; a glass is a bardak.  So is a tea glass a "çay bardak"?  Not likely - this is Turkish ...

Doing a twirl in the harem

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Smottomancupboard0001.JPGToday Barnaby explored an old Ottoman mansion in Safranbolu.  He was very interested in the strict divide between the public selamlık and private haremlik sides of the house. 

He learnt that this was due to the culture of women having to stay at home and out of sight of men outside their family (which he has noticed still persists today in some particularly conservative parts of Turkey). 

This meant that when male visitors came to the house, they were entertained by the family's menfolk in the public selamlık, while the womenfolk stayed hidden behind closed doors in the domestic haremlik.

However, this system had one potentially disastrous flaw:  Turkish men not generally being renowned for their domestic flair in the kitchen department, all the cooking happened on the harem side of the house, leaving the men and their guests in danger of growing hungry.  How could the food cross the border without people seeing each other?

The ingenious solution was this rotating cupboard.  Food was placed inside from the harem side, spun round and collected by the men on the other side, without the women having to expose an inch of themselves to the guests. 

Curious as to which side he would feel most comfortable on, Barnaby spent the day spinning between them both.  Click here (or the picture) to open the cupboard and watch him twirl.

Meatballs, kebabs and more vowels

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Smbaklavaci-kofteci.jpgWell, after my initial excitement about Hungarian and its way with vowels, I've been even more excited to be surrounded by people speaking Turkish.  As with Hungarian, it's unrelated to any of the European languages I have experience with, so most of the words are unrecognisable (although there's some noticeable French influence which makes a few things a bit easier), and the basic structure is very different too (verbs go at the end, for example). 

Importantly, this means it manages to rival Hungarian in the unguessability of its word for "wine": I think şarap is just as hard to spot as bor for an English-speaker; although "beer" comes as the disappointingly obvious bira rather than Hungarian's near-unbeatable sör.

Even more excitingly, there's vowel harmony here too.  But it's even better

Springtime for frogs

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Smfrog0001.jpgIt must be spring.  We've been staying up in the hills near Mudurnu (about 6 hours east of Istanbul), and couldn't help but notice that the local fauna is starting to wake up and look around.  This includes the frogs in the pond next to where we're staying (the Değirmenyeri mountain houses), which have been making an unmissable noise most of the night.

Click here to listen.

Click here for more audio samples.

Record-breaking hospitality

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Smzelihaoven0001.jpgAfter four days of eating our way round Istanbul’s restaurants, markets and street stalls we had intended to fast for a few days.

But that was before realising how talented, enthusiastic and generous a cook we were about to find in Zeliha İrez - a Turkish record-setting medium-distance runner turned cook and host extraordinaire...

Özge's boiled egg meze

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This recipe is really thanks to Zeliha İrez, Özge’s mother, but I’m naming it after Özge as she helped make it while we stayed with them.  In fact, Özge has not (yet) taken after her mother kitchen-wise, but does know how to boil an egg.  This is a great little starter or amuse bouche, and so simple to make. Go on, try it!

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Broad bean and dill purée

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This wonderful appetizer made from dried 'bakla' (broad beans) was one of dozens of beautiful meze which Zeliha Irez cooked for us at her guesthouse in Turkey.  The recipe is hers, and I have yet to make it myself at home.  Let me know how it goes if you try it…

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Aubergine cooked with olive oil

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The aubergine (patlıcan) must be the Turks’ favourite vegetable.  It is prepared 100 different ways and features in appetizers, mains and even desserts.  The zeytinyağlı method of cooking is common in western Turkey, along the Aegean coast where olive oil is plentiful.  

Copy (1) of Smzelispazaraubergines0001.JPGPatlıcan zeytinyağlı could be served as an appetizer, lunch dish or accompaniment to meat.  In Turkey it would be a meze, with which you would drink rakı turned cloudy with water.  The recipe comes from the wonderful Zeliha Irez, who runs a superb guesthouse in the hills east of Istanbul.
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