Because I am there so regularly, I feel very in tune with the seasonal changes on the fish front. We’ve had the explosion of palamut or bonito and now we’re seeing the appearance of the bluefish or lüfer, another firm favourite here.
This is another migratory fish which is now swimming down from the Black Sea via the Marmara to the Aegean after spawning over the summer months. It is an important fish for Turkey and major lüfer fisheries exist all along the Turkish coast. It’s at its best in January and starts its seasonal migration northwards again in spring.
Like palamut, lüfer has different names according to size:
(defne yaprağı/bay leaf: the smallest, never eaten) →çinekop → sarıkanat → lüfer →kofana
However there is an issue of over-fishing which last year led the government to issue a size limit on commercially caught lüfer from 14cm to 20cm. Predictably enough this caused an uproar amongst Istanbul fishermen but it is a fact that numbers are declining and sustainability is an issue that has to be addressed.
This is just a bit of background to this most delicious of fish sometimes called the King of Fish here. You can see from these pictures that the fish markets in Karaköy are simply bursting with three of the four sizes. The words olta balıgı mean caught by rod ie not commercially.
Traditionally lüfer is left whole and grilled, or baked in the oven which is exactly what I did. It’s completely different in texture to the bonito with light not dense flesh, not at all heavy or oily – a real treat for fishlovers!
· Simply buy one freshly cleaned and gutted fish per person. Place on your lightly oiled oven tray (you can line it with foil to make washing up easier if you like) or in an ovenproof dish.
· Drizzle with a little olive oil and lemon juice, season with salt and pepper, add some lemon slices and bay leaves, plus some tomato halves also seasoned if you like cooked tomatoes.
· Cook in an oven pre-heated to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4 for about 25 minutes or till done (depends on size).
· Serve each fish topped with the lemon slices. Garnish with the bay leaves, slices of red onion and rocket leaves or a green salad. Add the tomato halves on the side.
We had a mixed salad and homemade chips and it was a really delicious meal!
My latest thing is shaving carrots and cucumbers-
I drizzled this with olive oil and pomegranate molasses/nar ekşisi.
and here are the chips!