Friday, 1 January 2016

Goodbye for now ...


but first a very..

Happy New Year to you all!

Istanbul is ravaged by snow but here today in Assos, it's freezing with a brilliant blue sky. 

It's the kind of uplifting day that makes you think about new beginnings and opportunities, a perfect start to the New Year in fact.


today's New Year Market in Küçükkuyu down the road from Assos

I've decided this is an auspicious moment in which to stop writing my blog. It's been five years, after all, five years since my daughter suggested to me that I should start a blog - and to think I didn't even know what that meant!  

I've loved everything about being a Seasonal Cook but for now at least, I feel my mission has been accomplished: to show what to do with the fantastic seasonal produce we get here in western Anatolia from the markets. My recipes have mostly been for dishes that the average Turkish housewife will be making at any given time of the year with the odd English cake thrown in.




I've learnt a lot myself: I've loved researching recipes, trying them out, experimenting with new ingredients like mahlep, getting to grips with börek, and yes, the photographic aspect! I didn't even own a camera at the beginning! 

But what I really loved was the interaction with all of you, my blogging friends and followers, near and far. I never realized how attached I was going to get to you all. Thank you for faithfully sticking with me, commenting, and sharing your ideas - it's been a wonderful experience. 

I love the fact that through the blog, I've been fortunate enough to actually meet some of my favourite fellow bloggers in the flesh and to discover that we really do have a lot in common!

eg:


And if you don't know their blogs, give them a go!

I will still cook seasonally and of course I will still be cooking Turkish-style. But at the same time I am looking forward to a different type of cooking, using different spices, and experimenting with all sorts of other cuisines not only the one of my adopted country. I am also greatly looking forward to developing my photographic skills that writing this blog inadvertently got me interested in in the first place!

So it's goodbye from me although it's not without a pang that I say this.....

today in our very wintry garden...


Mutlu Yıllar!

Friday, 11 December 2015

Amazing Persimmon/Trabzon Hurması Bread

There are many recipes out there and many of them are perfectly fine. However, if you start looking more closely, you will definitely find some that are better than others.



moist and just yummy


And sometimes, you hit upon an absolute winner and this is one of those. 

Don't miss it!

This recipe has made me absolutely ecstatic, it's that amazing. I'm not sure how I found it but it involved delving into recipes using those wonderful orange fruits called persimmons or trabzon hurması. You see them everywhere but you may not be sure what to do with them.


persimmons or trabzon hurması

It is the season for persimmons right now in Turkey: they are on display in every manav or greengrocer, but sadly the vendors seem to be very ignorant as to the two different varieties.


amazing persimmon/trabzon hurması bread

Click here to find out more about hachiya and fuya. The recipe I include there is also excellent but I think this one has the edge.

For this one, you need 3 or 4 very, very fit-to-bust squishy hachiya persimmons. They resemble water-filled balloons about to explode and are the more common of the two varieties. All you do is peel them and then spoon out the pulp or indeed, simply use your hands. BTW this pulp freezes beautifully.

The quantity here makes two fantastic compact loaves. They are very seasonal not only because of the colourful main ingredient but also because they are so evocative of Christmas with the warm spicy fragrance that will waft through your kitchen as they cook.




makes a beautiful bread that cuts easily
persimmon or trabzon hurması bread

This recipe comes from the 'grandaddy of all cooks', James Beard, as David Lebovitz describes him, so that's probably why it is so sublime. But it couldn't be more straightforward:



Persimmon or Trabzon Hurması Bread


  • Two 9-inch (23cm) loaves
  • Using the higher amount of sugar will produce a moister and, of course, sweeter bread.
Ingredients

3½ cups sifted flour
1½ tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground nutmeg
2 to 2½ cups sugar
1 cup melted unsalted butter, cooled to room temperature
4 large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
⅔ cup cognac, bourbon or whisky
2 cups persimmon pureé (from about 3-4 squishy-soft hachiya persimmons)
2 cups walnuts or pecans, toasted and chopped
2 cups raisins, or diced dried fruits (such as apricots, cranberries, or dates)

Method

  • Butter your 2 loaf pans. Line the bottoms with a piece of parchment/greaseproof paper or dust with flour and tap out any excess.
  • Pre-heat oven to 350° F/180°C degrees.
  • Sift the first five ingredients into a large mixing bowl.
  • Make a well in the centre then stir in the butter, eggs, alcohol, persimmon pureé then the nuts and raisins. NB Makes a fabulous batter!
  • Pour into prepared pans.
  • Bake 1 hour or until toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean.
  • Storage: will keep for about a week,if well-wrapped, at room temperature. The persimmon breads take well to being frozen, too.



Afiyet olsun!

The only comment I can add to this is: simply scrumptious!!!


Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Turkish Rice Pudding/Sütlaç either Baked in the Oven/Fırında or not ...

When I was going out with my now-husband - I want to say when we were courting but that sounds rather old-fashioned - we used to come to magical Istanbul from Ankara from time to time, and every time, I was introduced to some new kind of street food or local speciality.

One day, with a look of eager expectancy on his face as he presented me with yet another Turkish taste (we were somewhere by the Covered Bazaar I recall), TT said to me, well what do you think? I remember this well because I said it's rice pudding! Yes! It was! Good ole rice pudding, a beloved English favourite. After all sorts of other Turkish delicacies ranging from kokoreç/intestines to işkembe/tripe, I think I was in some small way relieved! At last, something I could handle!




Turkish rice pudding/sütlaç, two ways

I can't say we had it at home because we didn't. My mother was French and I suppose rice pudding wasn't her thing. But my wonderful English aunt, my father's sister, who looked after us during halfterms, introduced me to the English rice pudding: a whole dish, with jam in the middle, skin on top, warm and milky, straight out of the oven. It was quite delicious, definitely comforting, and I must say to this day, I much prefer it warm, unlike the Turkish version which is served cold or even chilled in individual serving dishes.

The concept is different. Here, milk puddings are in a category of their own. They are not eaten at the end of a meal as dessert but rather at any time of day, when you find them in speciality milk pudding shops which are called muhallebici. They will only sell puddings such as this sütlaç or other variations of muhallebi made with perhaps rose water or mastic as well as tavuk göğüsü/the famous chicken breast milk pudding, and kazan dibi, the oven tray version. I love the idea that schoolgirls will pop by, or perhaps a family, and have a simple pudding each and a çay: so innocent, so traditional. Nowadays, places like Sütiş will have a range of milk puddings along with other conventional savoury dishes.



Sütiş, Çengelköy with an array of different milk puddings

I have been on a bit of a mission trying to find the definitive rice pudding to describe here.This has included watching several UTube videos as well as reading many online recipes - as always, I have thoroughly enjoyed this aspect of researching the recipe!  All I can say is that there are many versions. 

I think the following recipe which is taken from The Sultan's Kitchen by Özcan Ozan suits my palate: TT and I both find this sütlaç just delicious. By the way, just for the record, are you aware that there are two different ways of serving this rice pudding: one is as is, sprinkled with cinnamon and the other is cooked exactly the same way but then put in the oven sprinkled with a little granulated sugar and put under the grill until the top is lightly browned. This makes the difference between simple sütlaç and fırın sütlaç.




fırında/baked in the oven


Turkish Rice Pudding/Sütlaç

Serves 6

Ingredients

½ cup short-grain rice
2 cups water
4¼ cups whole milk, divided
 ¼ cup heavy cream NB in Turkey use one of those little packets
¾ cup sugar
3 tbsp cornstarch/nişaştı
pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla crystals OR 1 tbsp vanilla extract
ground cinnamon/toz tarçin

Method


  • In a medium-sized saucepan over high heat, bring the rice to a boil in the water. Lower the heat, cover, and cook very gently for about 25 minutes, until the rice is tender and has absorbed the water.
  • Stir in 4 cups of the milk, the cream,and the sugar. Bring the mixture to the boil.
  • Meanwhile dissolve the cornstarch in the remaining ¼ cup milk, then gradually add it to the boiling rice mixture, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon.
  • Lower the heat to medium, add a pinch of salt and the vanilla crystals or extract, and simmer for about 15 minutes, uncovered, stirring frequently.
  • Transfer the mixture to individual serving dishes and let it cool.
  • Place in the refrigerator for several hours to chill the pudding. Sprinkle with ground cinnamon and serve.

for the oven-baked version or fırın sütlaç:

  • Once the pudding is cooked, transfer it to individual ovenproof bowls NB those little earthenware dishes are ideal and let it cool at room temperature. Sprinkle the pudding lightly with sugar and place the bowls in the oven under the grill until the pudding is lightly browned. Serve hot or refrigerate and serve chilled and topped with ground cinnamon.

Afiyet olsun!

Some recipes include zest of one lemon which is also nice; others omit the cream but I think it is a great addition.
This is an excellent recipe which makes a pudding of just the right consistency, I think.
Try it and decide for yourself!

a variety of milk puddings decorated with ground pistachios and nuts in a local muhallebici

Sunday, 22 November 2015

What is Lakerda? We set off to find Balıkçı Resul in Şile....

Last Sunday we drove out to Şile on the Black Sea coast to investigate what will hopefully be Turkey's third Earth Market.

It proved easy to find and we spent a couple of very enjoyable hours there. Then we drove the few minutes down to the liman or harbour in quest of Balıkçı Resul whom TT had read about with great interest in Hürriyet newspaper recently. As you can see, we found him! 


Meet Resul.. 
What was so special about this particular fisherman, you may wonder? Well, his lakerda or salted bonito is supposed to be second to none and a good lakerda is exquisite. You find it in good fish restaurants as a meze. I say 'good' because you must be very careful where you eat it as the quality can vary considerably. Keep away from the supermarket variety.

It's made from the fatty torik which swims down the Bosphorus during November and December ie now. Torik is the name given to the palamut/bonito as it grows in size. It can be made from other fish but apparently the lakerda made from torik caught in November in the Bosphorus is the one to go for.

You must have seen the displays of palamut, that beautiful shiny firm fish in the local fishmongers around the city?

It wasn't difficult to track Resul down. All we had to do was ask. Luckily he was there as otherwise of course he would be out on his boat. He was with a couple of cronies who were drinking tea and watching him deftly filleting his fish. 


these are small bonito or çingene palamut

Needless to say, they invited us to sit with them and have çay too. Resul was an extremely pleasant guy; it wasn't difficult to get into conversation with him and his friends. In fact, it was one of those perfect Istanbul encounters.


as fresh as can be!

Now, what Resul told us was very interesting: this year the torik aren't fatty enough so he isn't going to make any lakerda at all! 


the harbour in Şile

















I have lived here long enough to know that the making of lakerda is one of those specialized jobs that only the highly competent attempt. Not a job for the novice, that's for sure. People here have been preparing torik for millennia so there is a certain mystique attached. 

The first challenge comes from knowing which torik to select...Nowadays palamut itself is often used as there aren't that many torik.

The actual preparation involves removing the head and tail of the fish, cleaning it and then cutting the body into 3 equal parts. Each part must be washed very well indeed as it's essential that all blood is removed. Plenty of iced water is used and it's changed at least 4 times a day until the water runs clear. No trace of blood must be visible. After that, copious amounts of coarse salt are spread at the bottom of either a jar or a bowl, and more is rubbed into the fish before it is placed upright in the container including the exposed flesh. It's then refrigerated for 10-15 days with the fish pieces being inverted daily.


Here's a little video of the process but not surprisingly it's in Turkish..

http://www.uzmantv.com/lakerda-nasil-yapilir. 


The traditional way of serving lakerda is sliced, skin removed, salt carefully washed away and each slice on a red onion ring. As I mentioned above, it is a meze in fish restaurants and you drink rakı, needless to say!

delcicious meze at Vira Vira in Arnavutköy, lakerda and red onion in the foreground.
This is our favourite fish restaurant!
 So either go to Şile to the charming little harbour and see if you can find Resul Reis, or else make sure you order lakerda when you're next in a fish restaurant! It's a delicacy not to be missed!

PS Lakerda can be preserved in fresh brine made with 1 handful of salt per litre of ice water. This is how it can be eaten throughout the year, not only now.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Şile Earth Market: Following the Slow Food Movement in Turkey

On Saturday evening TT and I decided that the next day we would drive out to Şile (pron: Shilay) which is located on the Black Sea about one hour's drive from where we live in Fenerbahçe on the Asian Side of Istanbul.

The reason was that I had read that Şile is in the process of becoming Turkey's third Earth Market, after Gökçeada and Foça. The philosophy derives from the Slow Food idea which is 'based on the foundations of good, clean, and fair food' (The Guide Istanbul Sept-Oct 2015). There are no middlemen: 'the products are produced using environmentally-friendly methods which sustain local food culture and stand up to agricultural biodiversity.' There are over 57 villages which are represented there and no, it's not a kadınlar/women's initiative. 



slow food

Here you see husbands and wives, friends and family participating side by side in the event. The produce is not necessarily organic but it is doğal or natural and I am very happy with that. The idea is to spread awareness of GMOs and artificial additives which is something that we should all support.

Since my personal disappointment this summer with Çanakkale tomatoes, I am all for it!



'aday' means candidate, in this case, to be an Earth Market

So I was very curious to see what this market was all about.

It's held twice a week, on Fridays and Sundays, starting at 7.00. We arrived at 10.00 and that was just fine. I think that's a good time to arrive: no crowds as yet, but yet the beginnings of a hustle and bustle. 


it's the season for persimmons
more wonderful fresh persimonns 

fresh bread
roasting chestnuts on a sac/sudge
like the cup of çay!
this is all he was selling: his own lettuces
a selection of village produce
dried thyme with dried mint behind.

I found all the stallholders smiley and welcoming. Not one woman refused to have her photo taken which made a welcome change. Here are some of those friendly open faces which I'd like to share with you:


Şile Earth Market: some of the women stallholders

Many of the women were occupied in making gözleme or pide: 






here's me munching my spinach-stuffed gözleme: delicious!


This market was very appealing: clean, well-organised, friendly.

Next time the sun shines, take a trip out to Şile on either a Friday or a Sunday to visit it. You'll love it, just like we did. We had such a positive experience and I am sure you will too.
Actually, it doesn't have to be sunny as the market is covered.
So go and see! I'm sure this is going to become the new foodie destination!

One final photo: there was a minibus parked outside the market. It was piled to the roof with chestnuts and walnuts. Now, this lady didn't want to be photographed but I reassured her by saying I only wanted to photograph her wares. Whereupon, after asking me where I was from (!), she said that she'd like to offer me some of her nuts:
sevdim seni, she said.
'I liked you'.
What could be nicer than that?





Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Lentil, Mint, and White Cheese/Feta Salad with Pomegranate Dressing /Nar Ekşili Mercimek, Nane,ve Beyaz Peynirli Salata


I would be amazed if Leanne Kitchen found a salad like this when she was travelling through Turkey. 



lentil, mint and white cheese salad with pomegranate dressing


I absolutely love her book 'Turkey Recipes and Tales from the Road': the recipes are interlaced with gorgeous photos not only of the dishes themselves but the country and the people showing the Turkey that we know and love. As an aspiring photographer myself, I think they are excellent.

But it wouldn't be fair to say that this recipe is typically Turkish. The ingredients are very Turkish which is why I went for it, but the salad itself isn't. When you are in a Turkish restaurant, the choice is usually a 'mevsim' /seasonal, or yeşil/ green salad. A salad is different from a meze, you see. Either is of course perfectly fine but it is always the dressing that lets both of them down. Invariably, you will be offered a choice of olive oil, lemon juice, or maybe pomegranate molasses that you add yourself. But the point is, you will never be able to make a real dressing if these ingredients are offered to you in this way. 


lentil, mint and white cheese salad with pomegranate dressing

Salad dressing ingredients always need to be mixed/stirred/shaken together beforehand. The dressing for this salad includes crushed cumin seeds - oh the aroma as they toasted! - and chopped garlic and what a difference that makes! I always make my dressings in a jam jar with a lid so I can give it a really good shake. 

We loved this salad: it would make an ideal meal for a vegetarian as it's certainly nourishing, not to mention very tasty indeed. Just one glance at the ingredients should be enough to persuade you to make this salad. It was for me, anyway! I had just been to the market so all the greenery was as fresh as could be. Combined with the crunch of the walnuts, the subtle taste of the green olives and the slightly charred red onions not to mention that syrupy sweet-tart taste of the pomegranate molasses, this salad is a winner!

The recipe makes a copious amount: serves 4-6. I would say more like 6! It also keeps very well in the fridge so long as you haven't added the dressing. I actually divided it into two lots as there was so much, and kept one in a bowl covered with clingfilm. The leaves don't wilt if they are not mixed into the lentils.


Lentil, Mint, and White Cheese/Feta Salad with Pomegranate Dressing

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

325g/11½oz/1¾ cups brown or green lentils/yeşil mercimek
TIP soak them overnight or a few hours first to make them more digestible
2 red onions, peeled with root ends left intact
2½ tbsps olive oil
50g/1¾ oz/½ cup walnut halves, coarsely chopped
80g/2¾oz /½ cup pitted green olives, rinsed
1 handful flat-leaf parsley, leaves chopped (optional) but I recommend it
1 cup mint leaves
100g/3½oz/2 cups baby spinach leaves
200g/7oz white cheese/feta/beyaz peynir

for the pomegranate dressing

1 tsp cumin seeds
2 garlic cloves, very finely chopped
1 tbsp pomegranate molasses/nar ekşisi
½ tsp caster(superfine) sugar
1 large pinch dried chilli flakes/pul biber
125ml/4 fl oz/½ cup extra virgin olive oil/sızma zeytinyağı
2 tsps freshly squeezed lemon juice

Method

for the dressing:

  • dry fry the cumin seeds in a heavy-based frying pan over low heat, shaking the pan for 2 minutes or until fragrant. Use a mortar and pestle to coarsely grind the cumin seeds, then combine in a bowl with the garlic, pomegranate molasses, sugar and chilli, whisking well to combine. Whisking constantly, add the olive oil in a slow, steady stream, then whisk in the lemon juice. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and set aside.
  • Put the lentils in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to low, partially cover the pan and cook for 25-30 mins or half that time if they were soaked overnight, or until just tender. Take care not to overcook or they will be mushy. Drain well and cool to room temperature.
  • Meanwhile, heat a chargrill pan to medium. Cut the onions in half lengthways then cut each half into 5mm/¼ inch thick wedges. Gently combine the onion with the oil, tossing well to coat. Cook the onions, in batches, 3-4 minutes on each side, or until tender and lightly charred. Remove from the heat and cool.
  • Combine the cooled lentils, onion,walnuts, olives, parsley and mint in a large bowl and add the spinach leaves. TIP roughly chop both the mint and spinach leaves. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Toss gently to combine. 
  • Divide among serving bowls, top with the white cheese/feta/beyaz peynir and drizzle the dressing over the top just before serving.



lentil, mint, and white cheese salad with pomegranate dressing


Afiyet olsun!

A meal in itself: why not try this healthy salad  for lunch today?
It's got a lot going for it!

Monday, 2 November 2015

Little Apple & Plum Pots with Honey and Cream

Like hemlines, desserts come and go, don't they? Remember sherry trifle and those delicious savarins?  Brandy snaps? Soufflés?  Tiramisu hasn't earned its place as a classic but even that has slipped off the dessert list here in Istanbul. 

Up until now desserts for me always meant a tart, a pie, or maybe a festive cake or Swiss roll. Cheesecake, maybe.

But what do you do when one of your guests can't tolerate flour, and what's more, her partner is trying to keep her company? You suddenly have to rethink your dessert repertoire.



apple & plum pots with honey and cream

This is what happened this weekend and I suddenly remembered a childhood dessert called apple snow. I thought something light, seasonal and no flour at all would fit the bill.  Something just a little bit sweet to round off the meal not laden with calories. And I have some little dishes from Japan that always make a dessert look pretty.

The apples are delicious right now and so are the plums so I thought a combination would work perfectly. And it did! With a little bit of honey to sweeten plus a tad of sugar, topped with whipped cream and flaked almonds! You could also use a mixture of cream and plain yogurt if you prefer.



here's the fruit I used: 2 apples and 4 plums
peeled and chopped, with the honey


What could be simpler?



apple & plum pots with honey and cream



Apple & Plum Pots with Honey and Cream

Serves 4

Ingredients

250g/4 plums/erik
2 tart dessert apples/ekşi elma
4 tbsp clear honey/bal
3 tbsp sugar, castor if you have it, otherwise granulated/toz şeker
142ml double cream, whipped
150g plain yogurt
50g toasted almonds/badem, to decorate

Method

  • Stone and roughly chop the plums. Peel, core and roughly chop the apples. Place the fruit in a small saucepan with the honey and 4 tbsp of cold water.
  • Cook the fruit for 5-8 mins or until it has softened slightly. Cook more if you are going to pureé it completely. Stir in the sugar and then, using a stick blender, purée to a smooth consistency. 
  • Pour into 4 bowls or glasses and allow to cool.
  • Beat the cream in a separate bowl until it holds its shape.  Add the yogurt if using, or increase the cream slightly.
  • Using a metal spoon, spoon a little of the cream mixture over each portion and chill for at least one hour before serving.
  • Decorate with the toasted almonds.

little apple & plum pots with honey and cream

Afiyet olsun!

Try this soon with seasonal fruits: simple, quick and just the thing to round off a meal!


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