So some of the amazing savoury and sweet dishes we see that originate from Turkey look amazing and you may think you need a Michelin Star to create such amazing food. You don’t. Yes maybe the odd dish is a little difficult to make but most are pretty simple.
TARHANA CORBASI ( Sour-dough Soup )
Tarhana is a kind of Turkish tomato-onion based sourdough that’s used in this traditional soup. To make from scratch you first need to make your own Tarhana dried mixture…
2 red peppers
2 Cups thick strained live-yoghurt
7 grams of yeast
1 Teaspoon dried mint and/or parsley (optional)
1 Cup chickpeas (optional)
Coat the bottom of the pot with olive oil and add the onions, tomatoes and red peppers and let cook for about 20 minutes on low heat.
When the vegetables are fully cooked and softened, remove them from the liquid, leave to cool.
Combine the vegetables with yoghurt, yeast and gradually add the flour to make a stiff dough, your choice if you’d like to add dried mint and parsley. It’s also optional at this time to add boiled chickpeas into the mix to help speed along the fermenting process. Knead the dough until smooth.
Place the dough in a plastic or glass bowl and cover with wax paper. Allow the dough to ferment at room temperature for about 7-10 days. Be sure to check on it every day, kneading the dough for 5 minutes each day, you may have to add additional flour into the dough if it becomes too watery or separate the dough into different bowls to make it more manageable. It’s the end of fermentation when the dough no longer puffs up. After 4-5 days the taste will become sour, after 7-10 days it will become sweet again, that’s when you’ll know it’s done.
Break the dough into small pieces and spread on a sheet to place outside under the shade to dry for 1-2 days, occasionally turning them over. It is essential that the mix is completely dried before bringing inside.
Once dried, crumble the mixture as fine as you can rubbing it between your hands or pressing through a sifter.
Store in cloth bags or glass jars in a cool place or refrigerator, it can be stored for up to 2-3 years.
To make the soup using your mixture…
- 5 cups water
- 3 tbsp Tarhana powder
- 2 teaspoon tomato paste
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon dried mint
- 2 clove garlic crushed
- 1 teaspoon red hot chilli pepper flakes
- Put butter in a saucepan and melt it at medium heat and then add the tomato paste and stir them a minute or two.
- Add the water, dried mint, crushed garlic, pepper flakes, salt and Tarhana powder. Bring the mix to boil and stir constantly for approximately 20 minutes. (never stop stirring during the 20 minutes).
SARMA ( Stuffed Vine Leaves ) and DOLMA ( Stuffed Peppers )
Sarma means rolled. Typically you can roll cabbage and Swiss Chard leaves, and as here, vine leaves. The stuffing includes eggplant, tomatoes, and courgettes or marrow.
If you decide to include meat in your filling, then it must be served hot. If your stuffing is basically rice and onion, that means it will be a cold meze. It appears difficult to roll the leaves and make them look neat but practice makes perfect.
30 grapevine leaves
350 grams minced lamb or beef
2 med onions, finely chopped
115 grams of long-grain rice, rinsed and drained
1 large tomato, grated + 1 small tsp tomato paste (both optional)
1 bunch/approx 150g fresh dill finely chopped
1 good handful parsley finely chopped
1 teaspoon dried mint
3 tbsp olive oil
Salt and ground pepper to taste
1 cup water to cook the stuffed vine leaves
6 tbsp or more plain yoghurt to serve
Before starting, line the base of a heavy saucepan with some torn or otherwise spoilt vine leaves (this is to prevent sticking). snip off the stalks and the main vein if tough. If left, the leaf will tear when rolled. Snip off the stalks and the main vein if tough. If left, the leaf will tear when rolled.
Place the minced beef or lamb in a bowl and stir in the onions, herbs and spices. Add the grated tomato and tomato paste if using. Season, combine with 1 tablespoon olive oil and knead well.
Lay one of the vine leaves with the matte side facing you on a flat surface and spoon some filling in the middle of the leaf. Pull the leaf over the filling, fold in the sides, then roll into a tight log (try not to overfill, as the filling may ooze out). Arrange the vine leaves, seam side down, in a deep wide pan. Pack them tightly together, layer by layer.
Mix the remaining oil with 1 cup (8 fl oz) water, then pour over the vine leaves. The water should almost cover the top layer, so you may need to add more. Place a heavy plate over the rolls and put the pan on medium heat.
Once it starts to bubble, lower the heat, cover and cook gently for about 40 minutes until the rice and meat are cooked. Serve hot with yoghurt and a slice of crusty bread.
Turkish cuisine is well known for its stuffed pepper dishes called dolma. Green or red peppers stuffed with rice, and meat. They are easier to make than other stuffed and wrapped dishes because the peppers don’t need much preparation. Just remove the stems with your thumb and they’re ready for stuffing.
6 Large Bell Peppers or 15 Capsicums
250g of lean beef mince
1 cup of white rice
50g of margarine (or 150mL of vegetable oil)
1-2 handfuls of flat-leaf parsley
1 tbsp of tomato paste
2 cups of boiling water
Salt and pepper, to taste
Red pepper flakes
Wash the peppers, cut the tops off (but keep them) and remove all the seeds. Salt the inside of the peppers lightly, using your finger.
Rinse the rice and drain well.
Peel the skins from the tomatoes, remove the seeds and dice them.
Peel and dice the onion.
In a large bowl, combine the minced beef, onion, half of the margarine, rice, tomatoes, dried mint and parsley and mix thoroughly. Season with salt and pepper.
Fill the hollowed peppers with the mixture. Note: be careful not to fill them too much, as the rice will expand as it cooks. Put the tops back onto the stuffed peppers and stand them upright in a large saucepan.
n a bowl, combine the remaining margarine, tomato paste and boiling water. Pour around the peppers in the saucepan.
Bring the water to the boil and then turn down to a gentle simmer. Cook gently with the lid on for approximately 30 minutes, or until the stuffed peppers are soft to touch with a fork and the rice is cooked through.
This for me I can cook with my eyes closed. Its the same as Shakshuka a Tunisian dish I make regularly that was taught to me by my mother-in-law. It’s so simple to do and it tastes amazing. You can make it two ways. With the eggs scrambled into the sauce ( right picture ) or crack your eggs and let them poach in the sauce ( left picture )
6 beef tomatoes
2 green peppers
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon chilli flakes
Peel tomatoes by scoring them with a sharp knife and blanching in boiling water for one minute. Take out and leave to cool. The skin should then peel off without effort. Chop the flesh finely, discarding seeds.
Chop peppers and saute in butter until soft.
Add chopped tomatoes and cover the pan, simmering until they have softened into pulp. Take off the lid and continue to heat until liquid reduced. Add seasoning and herbs.
Now you can either crack your eggs into the mixture, cover an leave to poach. Or you can beat the eggs and stir them into the sauce, once the egg starts to solidify, serve in the pan or in serving dish accompanied by lots of bread.
IMAM BAYILDI ( Vegetarian stuffed aubergine )
Imam Bayildi (which translates as “the Imam fainted”) is usually found in Ottoman regions and is still very popular in Turkey. It is best eaten the day after it’s made and served at room temperature.
8 aubergines (eggplants)
3 medium-sized onions
125 ml extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, chopped
3 medium-sized tomatoes, peeled
10g chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
A good squeeze of lemon juice
A pinch of sugar
Cut the aubergines in half (lengthwise), and cut a slit lengthwise in the fleshy side of each of the halves, stopping a little short of the ends. Cut onions in half (from tip to tip) and then chop into slender wedges.
Heat half of the oil in a heavy-based saucepan or frying pan with a lid, and add the onions. Cook gently until they are transparent. Add the chopped garlic and cook for about a minute. Pour this mixture into a large bowl, and stir in the chopped tomatoes, parsley, salt and pepper, as well as the lemon juice, sugar and water, to make the mixture used for stuffing the aubergines.
Heat the remaining oil in the pan until it starts to smoke, then add the aubergines and cook over high heat for about 5 minutes, until they are lightly browned all over, but still nice and firm. Then remove from the heat.
Arrange the aubergines in the pan with fleshy sides upwards, and spoon the filling mixture into the slits. Try to stuff in as much as possible, and spread any remaining filling on top. Put a lid on the pan and cook over a gentle heat until tender (approx 45 minutes). Check on it occasionally, adding more water to the pan only if it is getting dry (aubergines do release a great deal of water).
Alternatively, you can arrange the stuffed aubergines in a covered ovenproof dish, and cook for about 45 minutes at 180 degrees.
Remove from the heat, and let the stuffed aubergines cool to room temperature. Serve as an appetizer/meze, or as a light meal with fresh bread and/or yoghurt. It can also be refrigerated and served chilled.
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