|fit for a sultan|
Once upon a time many centuries ago, there was a Sultan who was a guest at a poor peasant’s house. There was no food to offer him as such and this was the only dish the poor peasant wife could quickly prepare. She said this is ‘dar hane’ soup, meaning this is the soup of a ‘poor house’ and thus over time the word evolved into tarhana.
So goes the story.
Tarhana is in fact the first instant soup ever and was invented by the Central Asian Turks many moons ago; over time it spread to the neighbouring Balkans.
When you next go to the market, look out for containers or sacks of these rather nondescript-looking powdery granules. If you are like me, you won’t even register them unless you know what they are.
Tarhana is not something that I or anyone I know would ever aspire to make from scratch: this is the preserve of the villagers who do a marvellous job of cutting, trimming and drying all the glorious summer vegetables and herbs to make this winter staple and it happens at the end of August or early September. Basically it is a mixture of crushed wheat with yogurt and flour along with peppers, onions, tomatoes and bunches of fresh mint and parsley. Sounds fabulous, doesn’t it? This is prepared and laid out on rooftops to dry out over a 4-5 day period. As it dries, the village women crumble it by hand until it eventually looks like this. It keeps well in a dark corner or in the fridge which is where I keep mine.
|closeup of the tarhana granules|
To tell you the truth, I was never a big fan till I bought some from the Kastamonu Market a couple of Sundays back. I now know how to correctly prepare it and TT and I are truly converted. In fact, there are many different types of tarhana depending on the region but the treatment is more or less the same, give or take a few ingredients.
2 – 3 tbsp tarhana
½ cup water
1 tbsp butter, cut up into small pieces
1 tbsp tomato paste/salça
2-3 cups chicken stock
1 tbsp dried mint
Red pepper flakes/pul biberi – to taste
100g mince (beef) (optional)
· Place the tarhana in a pan and cover with the ½ cup water. Let stand for 1-2 hours to dissolve.
· Then add the other ingredients. If using the mince, fry gently in a little of the butter. Add the tomato paste and mix well. When it is cooked, add it all to the tarhana mixture in the pan.
· Stir constantly over medium heat. Adjust the consistency by adding more water if necessary. Check seasoning. Keep stirring. The soup will slowly thicken.
· Serve piping hot with additional flaked red pepper and dried mint if desired.
Adding the mince is a good idea.It adds extra taste and interest.
I really don’t know if tarhana is available outside Turkey but if you live here, I really recommend that you get some from a reliable source. It’s the kind of thing your cleaning lady will bring you back as a present after a visit to her memleket or hometown.