|I bought this years ago as a decoration never thinking I would one day |
be using it regularly in my own kitchen!
These days my mortar and pestle are my best friends. Isn't that funny? I find I am more and more interested in spices and those fabulous little shops that somehow were not on my radar until recently: the aktar.
|literally, Ginger Aktar! - this is my local treasure trove|
In Istanbul we have the exotic Spice Market or Mısır Çarşısı in the old traditional area of Eminönü just by the Golden Horn. Mısır actually means Egyptian. It offers every spice under the sun but the funny thing is that the average Turkish housewife will not use them in her everyday cooking. Nowadays you would not describe Turkish cuisine as particularly spicy. The most common and possibly most over-used one is pul biber or flaked red pepper. I actually like that one myself but as much for its beautiful red colour as for its spicy hot taste!
|these are all different types of flaked red pepper on display|
outside the Spice Market, Istanbul,
acı=hot and spicy
Winter is absolutely the time for spinach here. If you are feeling weak at the knees at the thought of preparing a huge mound of the fresh which comes stalks and all, you can now find little plastic boxes of the stuff in the main supermarkets that has been more or less prepared for instant use: you only have to wash it but not as many times as the spinach you buy from the markets. I confess: I used one and half boxes for this dish tonight!
|here is a sinkful of fresh from the market!|
|you have to separate the roots from the leaves and then wash, wash, wash!|
You can also use ground cumin/kimyon instead of the seeds but as I am in love with my mortar and pestle as I mentioned, I preferred the seeds.
|pounded cumin seeds/kimyon tohumu|
Pine nuts and tiny black currants are staples here: çam fıstığı and kuşüzümü respectively. Kuş literally means bird and üzüm means grape. They are used a lot in dolma and special pilafs too. I particularly enjoy that nutty slightly crunchy taste of the pine nuts which incidentally are also great in salads especially if you toast them first in a frying pan.
Turkey is a huge country located primarily in Asia with its heartland based in Anatolia. This dish hailing from this part of the world combines simple everyday ingredients to make a delicious side for any meat. With the yogurt dressing, it could easily be a vegetarian main dish too.
Anatolian Spinach with Currants and Pine Nuts
- 8oz/225g spinach/ıspanak, washed and cooked NB do not add any extra water while cooking as the water clinging to the leaves will be enough
- 1 small red onion/kırmızı soğan, finely chopped
- 1/2 tsp sugar/şeker
- 1/2 tsp cumin seeds/kimyon tohumu, crushed, OR ground cumin/toz kimyon
- 1 tbsp olive oil/zeytinyağı
- 1 tsp currants/kuşüzümü, chopped if liked
- 1 tbsp pine nuts/çam fıstığı
- 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes/pul biber
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the dressing:
- 2 tbsp thick creamy yogurt/süzme or Tikveşli is ideal in Turkey
- squeeze of lemon juice/limon
- 2 cloves garlic/sarmısak, crushed with salt
For the dressing:
- Mix the yogurt with the garlic and lemon juice. Add a little salt to taste and put aside.
For the spinach:
- Chop the cooked spinach. In a small shallow pan, soften the onion with the sugar and cumin seeds in the oil. Stir in the currants, pine nuts and red pepper flakes.
|here are the currants, pine nuts and flaked red pepper|
- Cook for 2 minutes and then add the spinach. Mix well, season to taste, and cook for 2-3 minutes.
- Transfer the spinach to a serving dish. Spoon the yogurt over it and serve hot with pide or bread.
|delicious warm Anatolian spinach with currants, pine nuts and garlic lemon yogurt|
I really recommend this dish: it's easy to make not to mention cheap, and above all, very tasty!
|here you can see more rustic mortars and pestles in our village kitchen in Assos|
|and just to finish with, here is part of the historic skyline taken from the ferry approaching|
Eminönü with the Spice Market in the middle