So you are planning a Turkish dinner party? Then you will need food and lots of it, so prepare to Party your way through the alphabet. Forget about three courses, Turkish food and drink start coming and keep on coming! Firstly you will need some appetisers and mezes, served with small glasses of the infamous Raki or yoghurt drinks. When I say appetisers, I am talking about several rounds of wonderful hot and cold dishes that often end up as the main attraction. There are hundreds to choose from, but you should include stuffed vine leaves, mini meatballs, marinated peppers, hummus, cheeses, garlic yoghurt, spicy tomato dip, olives and flatbread. Lots of it! For the main course, oven-cooked foods are just as popular as grilling in Turkey. You will need at least three different ones, so choose two meat and one vegetable to suit all tastes. For instance, a good choice would be marinated chicken kebabs, hearty fried vegetables with beans and a spicy lamb stew. Do not forget the green beans in tomato sauce, stuffed peppers, pilau rice, shepherd’s salad and more bread as dishes. If you can fit anything more in, then it is on to the sweet course. You could try making the favourite Aşure, with nuts and dried fruits, or Turkish rice pudding, but basically, anything really sweet will fit the bill. The sweeter, the better. Then it is time for a welcome cup of very strong hot coffee served with Turkish Delight, a plate of fresh fruit and maybe one more glass of Raki to relax. Turkish food and drink are really very easy!
After studying Byzantium history at Cambridge, the author Jason Goodwin contributed to our knowledge of the past, especially the East, with his book, ‘The Gunpowder Gardens or A Time For Tea: Travels in China and India in Search of Tea’. For this book, he used family history of China and India to reflect on the past with regards to tea. ‘On Foot to the Golden Horn’ is the results of his travel, on foot, walking to Istanbul from Poland; this won the John Llewellyn Rhys/Mail on Sunday Prize in 1993. Following this, he published ‘Lords of the Horizons: A History of the Ottoman Empire’. His fascination with the Ottomans has continued with a series of historical mysteries based in Istanbul, and a Turkish cookery book. the recipes in the book come from his Detective Yashim novels. Inspector Yashim is a eunuch living in Istanbul. Set in the latter years of the Ottoman Empire, 1830’s -1840s; the books are a delight, introducing the reader to Istanbul of that period with interesting plots imbued with authenticity and recipes. The newly published ‘Yashim Cooks Istanbul’ is not just an ordinary cookbook. Its recipes are a reflection of the wonderful rich cuisine of the Ottomans; that, if you look, can still be found in Istanbul. The book also contains extracts from the novels and is beautifully illustrated with early photographs and scenes reminiscent of that period. Both the series and this unusual Turkish cookery book are highly recommended reading.
Turkey is a country with a long gastronomic history; it’s unique traditions reflect their cultural heritage. As part of the Silk route for many years, and it’s position juxtaposed between Europe and the East, many of the Turkish food traditions centres around being sociable to the many travellers that have passed through. Turks are very social people, welcoming family and strangers alike to share their food. Mealtimes are typically fun, noisy, with food aplenty. Turkey is a vast country with many Turkish food traditions special to a particular area. You will find many a Turk will wax lyrical about ‘Balik Ek MEK’ (fish sandwich bought In Eminonu) Istanbul or Kahramanmaras (ice-cream made in the traditional way). The making and serving of Turkish coffee is a fine art, with a long history back to the Ottoman times. Turkish girls still serve Turkish coffee to potential mothers in law, but there is not as much pressure as there used to be earlier, for it being perfect! Turkish food in the UK is traditionally linked to kebabs and doners, and while these are wonderful, Turkish cuisine is so much more. A Turkish Cypriot chef brings modern culinary arts to traditional cuisine in London, mixing favourites with traditional dishes. Here you can find the ‘ocakbasi’ concept, an indoor BBQ where people can sit and watch their food being cooked. Popular all over Turkey they again epitomise the social aspect of eating. Turkish food offers much to a discerning foodie so if you have not tried anything other than a kebab you are in for a very pleasant surprise.
Turkish restaurants keep popping up all over the place but customers are often surprised that the menu features something other than kebabs! For this reason, Turkish restaurants must improve their overall image, thereby raising the expectations of potential diners. Turkish cuisine can be as much of a fine dining experience as any other cuisine and it is among some of the healthiest food around. The abundance of vegetables and the process of using olive oil in the food preparation helps to keep the Turkish diet varied and healthy. The Oklava restaurant London is a great example of a Turkish restaurant that has an array of healthy options on their menu. The food, prepared by Turkish-Cypriot chef, Selin Kiazim, offers a delicious take on the food of her heritage. Lamb and vegetables are featured significantly and an authentic charcoal grill adds to the ambiance of the place, which not only adds a distinct, unique flavour but is also a healthier option for cooking meat. One of the reasons I like to visit them when I’m in London is because of their extensive wine selection. I’m no wine connoisseur by any means, but I really enjoyed trying Vinkara Kalecik wine when I was at the Oklava restaurant. Vinkara wines are Anatolian wines, hailing from the region where my family and I are originally from. The winery is not very old, having been established in the 1960’s, but the quality of their wine is excellent. I always enjoy the food, the wine and the ambiance at Oklava and it also brings back fond memories of my home in Turkey. Visit a Turkish restaurant in your area and discover the variety of healthy dishes and wines available.
I was so excited to read that a new restaurant was opening and that soon there would be a Turkish restaurant near me. A restaurant that would be easy to get to without having to go all around town, which is the nightmare of my town’s one-way system. Last week we visited and had a meal. I have to say I was very impressed. They had a varied menu with some of my favourites, especially karniyarik (stuffed aubergines). We actually choose to take the table d’hote menu as it looked very appetising and was reasonably priced. We started with Anatolian wedding soup, or Düğün Çorbası. This is a very tasty and filling soup that has a long history, which maybe I will tell you about next post. To follow this soup, we decided on a grilled fish option for the main course. I know, not a very exciting choice, but the fish was fresh and nicely cooked. The main reason we choose fish was to leave enough room for us to have a dessert. My favourite dessert of all time was on the menu: Künefe. This is a sweet cheese dessert that is soaked in sweet syrup, served hot and it just melts in the mouth. Delicious! All in all, an excellent meal and I am so happy that there is now a Turkish restaurant near me I can take friends to and know we will get authentic Turkish dishes.
One of the tastiest cakes I ever ate in Turkey is one I make frequently here, very popular with a cup of good coffee; I might even get the cezme out on occasions and make Turkish coffee to go with it.
Revani was popular in the Ottoman times and you can just imagine the harem ladies gathering around to eat this delicately flavoured sweet cake. The moist sponge is usually flavoured with lemon as is the syrup that it is soaked in but you can use rose water (very reminiscent of Ottoman Turkey) orange zest or orange flower water, but don’t have too heavy a hand with any of these the flavor should be delicate. I have many recipes for revani given by friends all similar, this one is about the same. A couple of tips:
- make the syrup the night before, not only to cool down but let the flavour you have used evolve.
- I always grease my cake tin ( or cupcake cases) with olive oil works better than anything else.
- I like to use Tesco’s Greek yoghurt – nearest to my favourite suzme Turkish yoghurt.
- Revani keeps well for a couple of days so it is something you can prepare in advance but be wary of over flavouring if it is going to be sitting.
- I top with walnuts as I like them but traditionally it is ground pistachio and coconut, really it is to your preference. the cake is versatile but makes an impression.
Turkish tea is probably one of the finest tea you will drink- it is the kind of drink you get addicted to from the get go, and it will most certainly change your life. Turkish tea is quite strong, and it is traditionally served black- rather apt, as it is cultivated on the coast of the Black Sea. It is a piping hot drink that makes for the best conversations starter, as well.
Turkish tea is an extremely strong drink- it is considered an offence to serve someone tea that is weak and light! If you are visiting Turkey, your trip will be incomplete without getting a cup of tea. When you visit a Turkish çay cafe, you will see that the strong brew is brewed in a traditional a two-tiered tea kettle. This kettle is kept on so that the tea remains hot the entire duration, so that it can be served piping hot, no matter when the client demands it.
If you wish to add some more flavour to the tea, you can opt to put some sugar, honey or lemon in it. Some people prefer Turkish tea drunk straight- without any extra additions as well.
If you have some black tea leaves, you can try whipping up your own Turkish tea at home– you just have to make sure that you have the right kettle to brew the tea in, and the right kind of glasses to serve the tea in, the Turkish are rather specific about the way the tea is served preferring glass to the china we at home.