Secret Kitchen menu, 18th Feb 2012

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Smstuffedmussel0001.JPGthinking of Turkey

Rakı and pomegranate cocktails
Istanbul style stuffed mussels

Leek & cheese cigars, haloumi grilled in vine leaves,
beetroot & yoghurt dip, lentil & coriander dip,
minted labneh and homemade bread

Ottoman lamb & prune stew
with saffron rice

Apricots with clotted cream, figs with halva ice cream,
dates with pistachio paste
Turkish tea


About tonight’s menu

Most of my favourite food and cooking memories are from Turkey, where we spent six weeks travelling the length and breadth of the country to learn about its culinary traditions.  

Istanbul has some fantastic restaurants, but perhaps the best food we had was on the street, in particular the stuffed mussels sold at the harbour to commuters waiting for their ferry across the Bosphorus.  We have tried to recreate them tonight.  It's tricky - the mussels have to be stuffed while still alive, and then cooked.

The meze dishes are a mix of those we loved in Turkey and others from neighbouring Syria.  The buttery Ottoman stew recipe is courtesy of Sharon Croxford who we met in Istanbul.  Sharon works with food historian Özge Samanci to research old Ottoman dishes, and the pair of them were our fantastic culinary guides to the city.

Turks seem to love dried fruits and nuts, and certainly the country produces and exports vast quantities of them.  To be more authentic, the clotted cream should be made from buffalo milk, but we have used that from Riverford's cows in Devon, which is almost as delicious.  The dried fruits were poached with pekmez - molasses made from grape or mulberry juice, something more people should keep in their cupboards!

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