Sunday, 15 May 2011

Pastırma: the Ultimate Spicy Turkish Bacon Lookalike

Today we had a perfectly lovely day: we were invited to a lunchtime BBQ with old friends including my very special old friend who has now moved to the UK and whom I don't see very often. The sun shone and it was beautifully warm as we sat out on her son's beautiful terrace in one of the new suburbs of Istanbul.
But this evening is the big match – or so I gather – between local teams Fenerbahçe and  Ankara Gücü. Apparently it is critical: Fenerbahçe, our team, must win! What do I know?

pastırma ready to be popped in the oven

It is obviously a rakı evening so just a little something was required: you don’t just drink rakı by itself. What we had that lent itself to the occasion was some pastırma which is a kind of cured beef. This is sometimes mistakenly called the Turkish bacon. Why I am not quite sure as it isn’t pork.  I suppose because it looks like rashers. But there the resemblance ends.
Actually I have to confess it smells divine especially once it is in the oven.  Nothing like bacon which I also adore. This has a spicy zing to it. You buy it either by the gram from a delicatessen or in a packet from a supermarket. There is a further choice: do you want it with an extra spicy edge or without?  Personally, I think, with. This is called çemen: a cumin-based paste including not only cumin but fenugreek, garlic, and hot paprika. Mmmmm.

slices of juicy lemon add to the taste as well as tomato and green pepper

you wrap it up like this
 Anyway, I opened up the packet and laid out all the slices on a large sheet of foil.  On top I put slices of lemon, tomato, and a few green peppers. I then folded the edges over so the contents were totally enclosed and then into the oven preheated at 180C/350F for about 25 mins. I must admit the smell that all those flavours together emitted was positively mouthwatering.

after cooking: all those juices and spices have mingled

Finally I served it to TT who was well installed in front of the TV and he was delighted! He especially enjoyed the presentation on a wooden board with a couple of slices of brown bread.

I guess he liked it!

The match has just finished with a resounding win for Fenerbahçe: 6:0!!!