Sunday, 7 September 2014

Life in a Turkish Village

Just wanted to say Sleepless in Seattle but no .... in Assos is what I mean. 

Ooofff.....

I'm usually quite an equable sleeper but this takes the cake. Non-stop drumming all night - in the end, I had to take the radical -for me - step of closing all the windows and putting on the AC! I hate AC, I really really hate it!

I totally understand that the season is now over, schools have not yet started, money is in, so it is time for sünnet/circumcision or wedding düğün/parties. You have no idea about these Turkish villages ....!!! Just like all of us, they love a good get-together with family and neighbours, read the entire village.. We have invitations for the next three weekends ...

What I did love was that apparently this sünnet was quite extraordinary in that crates of rakı were brought in and all the village men got totally plastered ...it was a three day event: unheard of!! The son of Ali the dondurmaci or ice-cream maker was getting circumcised! I don't know what made him so special.

So yesterday, Saturday, I was quite wiped out but we had a wedding in the evening! In fact, we delayed our final return to Istanbul after the summer just so we could attend this wedding as it was a pretty unique affair.

It was the wedding of the daughter of the lovely people who run Zeytin Çiçek down on the beach whom I sometimes mention. Seval is pretty special in her own right: she studied Japanese at 18 Mart University in Çanakkale and is now studying for a PhD in Japan!!! And just to add to the adventure, she fell in love with Gabriel from Paraguay!!! What I love about this story is that the family here who are after all relatively simple local people from a village up in the hills, have totally accepted this union and last night we were privileged to be a part of the celebrations. 

These weddings are always held in a suitably large open area so that everyone can comfortably attend. In this village of Sazlı it was in a purpose designed open space with proper kitchens and the like. We went at about 7.30, in time for dinner. 


I have to say, my husband came up trumps by preparing something in Spanish AND Japanese for the young couple-here
they are looking suitably overcome as he reads
it!
The family greeted us warmly and showed us to a table all set and brought us a huge tepsi or tray with our dinner set out in little dishes. Separate plates were brought for us along with forks!! The norm is to all eat off the plates together with spoons which is something I for one, just cannot do.


the typical wedding feast

Needless to say, there is not a drop of booze. The whole evening is done on water!

But it was certainly joyous and Gabriel entered into the spirit of it as only a Latin American could ...


Gabriel and Seval: the opening dance

What was fantastic was that a group of their young friends from Japan came   specially to attend the wedding! I'm sure you can imagine the buzz amongst the local headscarved brigade when they made their appearance in their traditional exotic kimonos!

This occasion should be an example to the world as to how to get on with different peoples from different countries, backgrounds and religions. It was perfectly harmonious and I for one really enjoyed the sight of the young Japanese girls trying to belly dance in their kimonos! It was all such fun!


We would like to wish Seval and Gabriel all the luck in the world!
Much love from Claudia and Turhan

Monday, 1 September 2014

Tomatoes, Tomatoes, Tomatoes ...

August is THE month for the best, the tastiest, the reddest, the juiciest of tomatoes!

Here in the Assos region, those from  the tarla or fields around Çanakkale are the ones most available and well-deservedly considered the best. In the pazars, they cost an unbelievable 1 lira per kilo, almost given away.

this type is said to be best for salça or tomato paste. these are at the market in Küçükkuyu

So what have I been doing? 

Bottling them, as I do every year! But this year I realised that half of my jars are still in Istanbul so I have only done about 23 from 15 kilos. But I'll buy some more tomatoes when we return and finish the job once home.

Here's the link to my post about how to do this: I refer to it every time! 

We set off to Ayvacık last week to buy our kilos of tomatoes with this project in mind - I always buy them in lots of 10 kilos, 1 or 2 plastic bags full, but just out of the house, I spied a truck filled to capacity with crates and crates of the things! So it seemed like a good idea to buy them there and then and to leave them at home before proceeding to the market.


here he is, parked in the main square as you enter Behramkale .. I bought
15 kilos for 1½ liras a kilo


Tomatoes in this region are so plentiful, I think there should be a tomato festival to celebrate this glorious abundance! Imagine! prizes for the tastiest salça, the biggest tomato, the best producer etc! Limitless!

a crate of tomatoes at Gülpınar pazarı
a kamyon stashed with crates of beautiful tomatoes, also at Gülpınar pazarı
just look at that..
this is probably my favourite tomato picture taken in Selçuk Saturday market


So don't delay: buy your tomatoes NOW and do whatever you want to do with them: bottle them like I do, make tomato paste or sauce. It really is worth the effort!  In winter whenever I open a jar to make a typical yemek, that smell takes me right back to the open blue skies and sunshine of our summer in Assos.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

The perfect summer teatime treat: Lemon Rosemary Yogurt Cake


lemon rosemary yogurt cake

How do you like Pinterest? (have you noticed my little P pinterest button on the right?)

I for one really enjoy playing around with it if I have any spare time! One of my favourite boards is Recipes I Have to Try which is full of photos of appetising dishes that have caught my eye.It's such a clever site: all you do is click on the photo and you find your way to the original site of the recipe. It's not only recipes, I hasten to add: your boards can be of anything at all, and you share to your heart's content!


can you see how light and moist it is?

Right now I am back in Assos with more old friends visiting from the UK. Having lived in Istanbul, they are Old Turkey Hands and feel very much at home here. They've also been here with us in the village before so know how there are some items we cannot easily find: everything we eat here we make fresh and from scratch.

Soooo .....

I thought I would make a couple of cakes to say Hoş Geldiniz/Welcome (they came yesterday)! I had 'pinned' this Lemon Rosemary Yogurt Cake very recently from a blog called Baked Bree and thought it would be ideal. We always have lemons, rosemary grows in abundance in the garden and we have homemade yogurt made from the milk of our very own cows! I loved the picture of it!





It turned out to be a winner with a hint of a lemony tang, a faint whisper of rosemary and light and moist thanks to the yogurt. As far as summery cakes go, this one is hard to beat and I will definitely be making it again.

Lemon Rosemary Yogurt Cake
Ingredients


3/4 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tbsp lemon juice
zest of 1 lemon
2 tsp vanilla
½ cup vanilla yogurt (I used plain)
3 eggs
1½ cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 tbsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped

Glaze:

1 cup powdered/icing sugar

3-4 tbsp fresh lemon juice

rosemary sprigs for decoration (optional)


adding the lemon juice to the powdered sugar for the glaze


Method

  • Preheat oven to 180C/350F.
  • Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add lemon juice, zest, and vanilla. Add yogurt, and add eggs one at a time. Add flour, baking powder, salt, and rosemary. Mix for an additional minute, scraping the bowl, until everything is smooth and combined. Pour batter into a loaf tin that has been lined with damp greaseproof paper (or sprayed with cooking spray but we don't get that here).
  • Bake in the preheated oven for 45-50 minutes. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Remove cake from the pan and let cool on a baking rack.
  • Make glaze by whisking powdered sugar and lemon juice. Add more sugar and lemon juice as needed. Drizzle over cake and add small sprigs of rosemary to decorate. Let glaze stand until completely set.
Afiyet olsun!

delicious!

Ideal for family or friends: why don't you try it this weekend?

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Künefe: the syrup-soaked, cheese-filled 'shredded wheat' dessert

Turkish desserts are not normally my thing: on the whole they are just too calorific for me to have even the remotest desire to make them!


I would say that baklava is probably the best-known Turkish or Middle Eastern dessert but when there are specialist baklava shops in many neighbourhoods, I ask myself why would I ever want to make it? When I have visitors from abroad, I take myself round the corner to a small branch of Güllüoğlu and buy a selection of the choicest walnut or pistachio-filled treats that you can imagine. All the classics are readily available: they are all scrumptious, I am not disputing that, but not a good idea to have in your home on a regular basis.

Butttt.....

last week I had a special request for a Turkish dessert. This was from an American family who were visiting family members currently residing in Istanbul who wanted to spend a few hours cooking together. Fortuitously, they were put in touch with me!




Many of you, well those of you on facebook, know that I now have a new string to my bow: cooking classes! It's all very exciting and I am lucky enough to have the use of a great kitchen in an old historical building in Kuzguncuk, which is a wonderful traditional part of the city. It's perhaps not quite as convenient as cooking in your own kitchen where you know where every last spatula is, but on the other hand, the pluses are great: a super space in wonderful, warm colours with a huge table and a terrace with views of the Bosphorus to die for. And it is very well-equipped as it is the kitchen of popular chef Refika Birgül! Her weekly TV shows are filmed right here in this kitchen! So I consider myself privileged to be able to use it.






Among the classic Turkish desserts that I do in fact make are ayva tatlısı or quince dessert, 
and kabak tatlısı/pumpkin dessert, but the fact of the matter is that neither of these are in season right now.

So I thought long and hard about what to make. The idea of künefe came to me as I relived my foodie walks in Eminönü: which dessert was unusual in itself with unusual ingredients, and at the same time quite a little showstopper?



künefe or the 'shredded wheat' dessert baked in the traditional metal dish

Künefe's main ingredient is commonly described amongst the foreigners as 'shredded wheat'. It is made from yufka dough which has been put through a sieve resulting in fine, long strands and called tel kadayıf/ 'wire' pastry strands. 


separating the pastry strands, making sure they aren't clumped together


Two desserts are commonly made with it, one simply called kadayıf with walnuts, and the other künefe with a meltingly soft cheese sandwiched between 2 layers of heavily buttered pastry strands. As it comes out of the oven, a syrup is poured over it. Can you imagine the result? The seductive oozing of the cheese as you cut into it with a fork, warm with the sweetness of the syrup and the final OMG touch of ground pistachio nuts sprinkled on top?


here, I used chopped walnuts which is equally acceptable


Künefe: the syrup-soaked, cheese-filled 'shredded wheat' dessert


Serves 6

Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4
You will need 6 small ovenproof dishes or 1 large one.

Ingredients

1 cup sugar

¾ cup water
½ tbsp lemon juice
250g/8oz tel kadayıf (pastry strands): available from traditional yufka shops
½ cup melted butter
250g/8oz unsalted cheese, grated, eg mozarella, ricotta or any melting cheese. I used dil peyniri. You could use lor too.
¼ cup ground pistachio nuts/fıstık (traditional) for garnish, OR chopped walnuts



Method

          for the syrup:

  • Place the sugar and water in a pan and simmer uncovered over a low heat for about 15 minutes. Add the lemon juice, heat through and then remove from the heat. Set aside to cool.        

  • Place the pastry strands in a bowl and separate them out. Pour the melted butter over. Using your hands, mix it well so that the strands are well soaked. Use more butter if necessary. 
  • Divide the strands into two (or 6 if using small dishes).  Place one half in the dish and spread out all the way to the sides. At the same time, rub it around the dish so the base is greased. Press down.      
  • Sprinkle the grated cheese evenly over the kadayıf and then cover with the remaining half. Press firmly down.      

 TIP If you wish to make this in advance, cover with 2 layers of cling film and refrigerate till needed 
  •  Otherwise, place in the preheated oven for about 40 minutes or until a deep golden colour. (If using smaller dishes, keep your eye on them to make sure they don't burn).      
  • Pour the prepared syrup over it and sprinkle with the ground pistachio nuts.       
  • Serve warm or hot while the cheese is still gooey!

here's the künefe I made at home as a trial practice: moist and sweet!

Afiyet olsun!

TIP: The first time I made künefe, I used a large dish. In the class, I used 6 small, traditional künefe dishes which Refika kindly offered me. The larger size worked better I think, because it was easier to divide up the pastry strands into 2 lots as opposed to 6 and then halve each. I now see that it is important to make sure that the base of the dish is indeed well-buttered AND that the cheesy layer is covered all over with the strands otherwise everything sticks. Not that the taste is impaired in any way!

Further tip: I think the little dishes are probably too much of a good thing which makes the large dish easier to serve a spoonful each. Seconds on demand!

BTW this dish is not nearly so good if served later: the cheese hardens and you don't get the same melt-in-your-mouth sweet sensation!


künefe in all its sticky glory

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Roasted White Eggplant/Beyaz Patlıcan, Sliced, Stuffed with Cheese, Tomato & Fresh Herbs!

I was at the mini pazar in Ayvacık last week when I spied these:


white eggplants/aubergines

I don't know about you but I have never seen white eggplants before - have you?  Big and bulbous, the veritable Moby Dicks of the patlıcan family!








Purple I know...









Stripy too ....












But these?

I looked at them curiously and the stallholder, a woman I vaguely know from previous market forays, said 'Do you know what to do with them?'

No, I said.

And here is what she told me, kindly slicing a normal purple eggplant to illustrate what she was describing.

Cut finely from one end towards the stem end without cutting all the way through; then slice through again below that cut. This time, cut through so you have what looks like a sort of folder, a sandwich idea but joined at one end.


two white eggplants


In it, she said, put cheese, parsley and mint, brush with olive oil and bake in the oven. This sounded enticing so I bought two to experiment with.

The next day, I cut through my two white eggplants so I had 8 pockets. I brushed inside each with olive oil and seasoned well. Then I  put a slice of cheddar cheese, some fresh parsley, dried mint - I didn't have fresh - and dried thyme in each. I thought a dab of colour would be appetising so added a slice of bright red tomato. I closed each pocket as much as I could, brushed the outside with olive oil and put them in an oiled pyrex dish in a preheated oven (180C/350F).

I think they took 40  minutes - they didn't need any further attention, just a little look to see how they were progressing. 


this is how they looked out of the oven stuffed with cheese, tomato and fresh herbs


We had our friends from the UK with us so this was lunch: I would definitely do this again as they were extremely tasty, just as you would imagine! 

Next time however I'll add some garlic - can't think how I overlooked it!

So this is yet another way with eggplant. Or aubergine. Or whatever you want to call it. Try it and see how you get on.

Afiyet olsun!

roasted eggplant sliced, stuffed with cheese, tomato & fresh herbs

PS as far as I can see, whatever the colour, they all taste the same!

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Spicy Red Lentil Kofte/Mercimek Köftesi

Whenever I am invited to a teaparty by a Turkish friend, more often than not, these little beauties are part of the spread.

spicy red lentil rissoles or kofte/mercimek köftesi

When I first came to Turkey, it came as a surprise to see these gracing the table along with say, yaprak sarma or rolled vine leaves, and typically, a börek or two. These would be as well as the sweet offerings of course...

Teaparties here are serious business and by our standards, there is usually way too much food! I always wish I had a fabulous metabolism and could really tuck into it all! Needless to say, everyone is always on a diet but somehow rises to the occasion and manages to do justice to the hostess' best efforts!

Now, I really appreciate these little rissole-shaped köfte: they can be made in advance, for a start and make ideal finger-food eg for a picnic. Not too soft, not too hard, easy to transport, keep well in the fridge .. and everyone always loves 'em!


mercimek köftesi

The ingredients are nothing if not healthy: red lentils - which don't require soaking - and bulgur wheat, the fine variety. I love both of these! Here, they are considered staples of the Turkish pantry. Add onions, fresh parsley, tomato and/or red pepper paste, plus some spices, and the result is a highly seasoned, spicy mix. Not necessarily spicy hot/ acı, I hasten to add - that depends on you! Just spicy as in zesty! Serve with lots of lemon wedges: the tart lemon really enhances the taste.




Ingredients for Spicy Red Lentil Kofte/Mercimek Köftesi

Serves 4-6

2 tbsp virgin olive oil/sızma
1 cup red lentils/kırmızı mercimek
1 cup fine bulgur wheat
1 small onion, finely chopped
6 spring onions, finely chopped
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp red pepper paste/biber salçası (hot/acı OR mild/tatlı)
1 tbsp paprika/flaked red pepper/pul biber
1 tbsp cumin/kimyon
1 tbsp dried mint/kuru nane
1 cup parsley, finely chopped
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
lemon wedges to serve
lettuce leaves to serve (optional)


Method

  • Rinse the lentils, put in a pan with 3 cups of water and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes.. Add the bulgur and continue cooking for a further 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave to stand for 20 minutes. The bulgur will absorb any extra water. 
  • Heat the olive oil in another pan and gently cook the finely chopped onion till softened but not browned.
  • Take the cooled lentil-bulgur mix and add the cooled onion, about 2/3 of the spring onions keeping the remainder for garnish, tomato and pepper pastes, spices, chopped parsley and season well with the salt and pepper.
  • NB seasoning is very important, especially salt, otherwise the taste will be bland
  • Mix well, cover, and let stand for about 15 minutes.
  • Shape the mixture into either rissoles, balls or small ovals about the size of a large walnut. If you choose the rissole shape (as I did), make indentations with your fingers. This is traditional!
So is this method of serving:

Serve on a bed of lettuce leaves decorated with lemon wedges. To eat, squeeze lemon juice into the indentations and roll up the köfte in a crunchy lettuce leaf.

OR

Place on a serving dish and scatter the remaining chopped spring onions on top. Garnish with the lemon wedges and make sure that everyone squeezes the juice on their köfte.



Didem's mercimek köftesi
and here are neighbour Esma's mercimek köftesi 
Afiyet olsun!

Monday, 28 July 2014

Vegetarian Delight: Colourful Casserole of Summer Vegetables

A dish of mixed vegetables in Turkey is generally known as türlü and is one of my personal favourites.

vegetarian delight: colourful casserole of summer vegetables

The weather outside is 30+ degrees so why would I feel like a hot casserole of veggies? Well, it all started the other day when I mentioned the word 'ratatouille': I casually said do you remember the days when all we did with aubergine was make ratatouille? That got me thinking...

Personally I have been on quite an aubergine journey since those days! How about you? Have your boundaries been pushed? Have you broadened your aubergine scope? In Turkey, patlıcan is the queen of the summer vegetables so it isn't surprising that there are so many wonderful ways in which to prepare it. Not that there is anything wrong with ratatouille .... but it is just one way.

Anyway, I just love vegetables so I really did feel like cooking up some sort of medley. I have already posted on something very similar with lamb but this one is vegetables pure and simple that you cook slowly for over an hour until it reaches a glorious, thick, fragrant consistency. The taste is enhanced by the golden olive oil in which it's cooked. It contains all the summer vegetables including green beans and okra. The peeling and chopping is a bit endless but it is oh so worth it. It couldn't be more seasonal if it tried!


 a colourful casserole of mixed vegetables

Here are the ingredients:

Vegetarian Delight: Colourful Casserole of Summer Vegetables

adapted from a recipe by Rena Salaman in 
'The Cooking of Greece and Turkey'

Serves 4-6

Pre-heat oven to 190C/375F/Gas Mark 5.

500g/1lb aubergines/patlıcan, peeled in stripes and cut in large cubes
4 tbsp vegetable oil
150ml/1/4 pint olive oil, best quality
2 medium onions, finely sliced
3 cloves garlic, finely sliced
250g/8oz okra (ladies' fingers)/ bamya, peeled carefully* SEE BELOW
250g/8oz green beans, trimmed and cut in 2-3 pieces
2 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped
2 red or green peppers, chopped
500g/1lb courgettes, cut in large cubes
250g/8oz tomatoes, peeled and chopped, OR a 250g/8oz can, chopped
1 tbsp dried oregano or thyme/kekik
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1/4 tsp sugar
1 tbsp tomato purée, diluted in 150ml /1/4 pint hot water
salt and pepper.


*You need to take care when preparing okra: you don't want to release those sticky juices inside. Therefore, cut off the stalk and then, as if sharpening a pencil, take a sharp knife round the hard little cap, leaving a pointed end.

LIKE THIS:



here are the okra, with the ends carefully peeled away

TIP: When buying, don't choose the very small ones nor the large ones: go for middle of the road.


assembling all the vegetables

Method


  • Soak the aubergines in salted water for 30 minutes; then rinse and drain the pieces, squeezing them gently. NB This soaking is to prevent too much absorption of oil.
  • Using a frying pan, heat the vegetable oil and fry the aubergines briskly, stirring continuously until the flesh is pale golden. 
  • Remove from the heat and place on paper towelling.
  • Heat the olive oil and lightly brown the onions and garlic in a large saucepan; add the okra, beans, potatoes, peppers, and courgettes and sauté together for 5-6 minutes. 
  • Add the remaining ingredients, and cook in the pre-heated oven for approximagely 1hr 20 minutes. NB You could also cook this, covered, over a gentle heat on top of the oven for about 30 minutes.
  • Stir occasionally and add a little water if needed. NB if your tomatoes are juicy, this probably won't be necessary.


vegetarian delight: colourful casserole of summer vegetables with a slice of sough dough bread on the side

Afiyet olsun!

PS If there is too much olive oil in this recipe for your taste, you could simply layer up all the vegetables BUTTT as this recipe points out, '..... it is the essence of the dish'!. 
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