Sunday, February 12, 2017

Red Cabbage Meze

Meze is a selection of food served as an appetizer course usually served with Rakı because they are a  perfect complement to the aniseed flavours of the traditional drink. Mezes vary across the country creating a vast array of specialities , many with strong regional associations. But it is more than just a starter. It is an experience. In Turkey, eating meze is a social activity; it’s chatting with friends and drinking rakı around the table for hours on end, while sharing spoons of hot and cold mezes, dipping bread into pickled or olive oil dressings, listening to traditional Turkish music. No need to look at the menus the restaurants have a food on show and you will find yourself gazing at the variety of meze dishes in the long glass fridges. Usually it is so tempting that you order many and skip the main meal altogether.

1 medium size Red Cabbage
2 cloves garlic
1 cup bread crumbs
1 cup strained yogurt
1-2 tbs olive oil
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1-2tbs lemon juice 
1 teaspoon lemon zest
100 gr walnuts
salt & pepper

Cut the red cabbage in chunks and place them in a food processor with lemon juice and salt. Shred them to small pieces. 

Add spices, olive oil bread crumbs, crashed garlic cloves and walnuts and turn for 2 minutes until everything mixes together. 

Add yogurt, mix and  adjust seasoning. Reserve in fridge for 2-3 hours. Add dill on top and drizzle some olive oil before serving.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Turkish Quince Dessert with Rose Apples

It is winter and Quinces are abundant now in Istanbul. We love our Quince and that is why the biggest producer of Quince in the world is Turkey. And we have not forsaken this precious fruit even though most of the world did. Once the Golden Apple, the fruit of Aphrodite associated with love and fertility, believed wherever she walked quince trees sprang up, the fruit that started the Trojan war, even poems were written, 10th century Arab-Andalusian poet Jafer al Mushafi wrote;

''It is yellow in colour, as if it wore a daffodil tunic
 And it smells like musk, a penetrating smell
 It has the perfume of a loved woman and the same hardness of heart 
 But it has the colour of the impassioned and scrawny lover

 Its pallor is borrowed from my pallor; 
 its smell is my sweetheart’s breath.
 When it stood fragrant on the bough and the leaves
 had woven for it a covering of brocade

 I gently put up my hand to pluck it and set it
 like a censer in the middle of my room.''

With the quickening pace of life they were increasingly regarded as too much of a hassle to cook and so fell out of favour, oranges,apples and pears were preferred and soon they were forgotten. Such a shame.

The earliest known quinces grew wild in the foothills of the
Caucasus Mountains. This seemingly inhospitable area is actually very fertile and many fruits thrived here, like grapes. The valleys below formed many of the ancient trade routes and quinces spread rapidly to east and then to west. They quickly became very popular and were credited with both mythical and medicinal powers. From ancient times right up to the late Middle Ages Quinces were, in most places, more widely used and better known than apples.

One of Quince’s earliest possible claims to fame is as I mentioned before is the judgement of Paris in Greek mythology. Eris is the Greek goddess of strife and in a foolish miscalculation she was the only god not invited to the wedding of Peleus and Thetis. Understandably furious, she barged into the wedding ceremony and threw down a fruit inscribed ‘For the most beautiful.’ This fruit was described as a golden apple and was, almost certainly, a Quince. Hera, Athene and Aphrodite each claimed the fruit, so Zeus decided that the matter should be settled by Paris. 

Hera offered him empire, Athene guaranteed military glory and Aphrodite promised him the most beautiful woman in the world. This was Helen who was unfortunately already married to Menelaus of Sparta. Paris gave the fruit to Aphrodite and she in turn helped him win Helen, thereby sparking off the Trojan War. 

Like I said we love and cherish this forgotten gem. Leave a quince on a sunny windowsill it will slowly release its delicate fragrances of vanilla, pineapple, citrus and apple all over your house. We like to eat it raw by gently breaking it into small pieces,( cutting it releases the juices which makes it even harder to eat) sometimes squeezing some lemon on top as a fruit dish on meze tables where our traditional drink Rakı is served. We stuff it with minced meat, or use it in beef or lamb stews. It is a favourite fruit to make jam in fall and winter. And then comes the shiny ruby dessert, a feast to the eyes as well as our tastebuds 'Ayva Tatlısı'. Everything you dreamed of has come together in this heavenly dessert, those fragrances blossoming into a magnificent perfume while magically cooking turns this fruit from a bright yellow tone to all shades of rose. 

I wanted to give the most plain recipe so that you can enjoy the flavours of this wonderful fruit, poaching in red wine, using ginger or star anise are all options ...


2 Quinces(serves 4)
120 g sugar
2 apples
50 g sugar
1 pomegranate juice
200 ml red wine(or water)
5-6 cloves
2-3 cinnamon stick

Turkish Kaymak(clotted cream) 
pistachio flakes
pomegranate seeds

Peel and cut quinces in half, core the middle. But do not throw away the trimmings. The seeds and the trimmings will turn the fruits to pink and the pectin will jellify the juices. 

Spread the peels of quince as a layer in a heavy pan, wide enough to have 4 quince halves in one layer. Place the quince halves on top, spread the sugar evenly over the halves and add the reserved quince seeds with cloves, cinnamon sticks, pomegranate juice,wine add water if necessary slightly below top. The juices will make it more reddish and plus it will add more fruity flavours.

Simmer over low heat for about 45 min- 1 hour. Take the quinces out and let them cool. Sieve the juice.

Core the apples and cut them in half. With a mandoline slice them about 2-2.5 mm thick . Pour the juice in a pan , add 50 gr sugar , if necessary add more water and blanch the apple slices until soft for about 5-8 minutes. 

Take the slices out and let them cool.Pour the syrup on top of the quinces.

Make roses from the apple slices and place them inside each quince. Sizzle some more syrup on top and serve with pistachio flakes, pomegranate seeds and clotted cream. 

This dessert is traditionally served with clotted cream (kaymak) and you will never find any home or restaurant that serves it without it. It is a must. The sweetness of Turkish Kaymak combined with the sour tangy flavours of the fruits are a match made in heaven.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Celeriac & Yogurt Meze

This is another meze dish very quick and easy to make. You can serve it as a side dish or a salad on its own. Celeriac roots are quite often used in Turkish cuisine. I love the earthy flavours of this versatile winter root vegetable cooked or raw.

2 large celeriac root
2 carrots
150 gr walnut
1 tb orange zest
2tbs orange juice
4 pc dried chillies
2 cloves garlic
2 cardamom seeds
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
salt & pepper
1 cup strained yogurt
1 tbs mayonnaise

Grate the celeriac roots and squeeze some lemon juice on top to prevent oxidation.Grate carrots slightly larger than celeriac.
In a large bowl mix orange zest, grated walnuts, grated garlic, the spices, mayonnaise and yogurt. 

Add grated carrots and celeriac. Mix well. Add the chillies on top. Reserve 2-3 hours in the fridge before serving. Add some chopped parsley and drizzle some extra virgin olive oil on top.

The earthy flavours of celeriac and the fruity flavour of the orange balance well with the chillies and the yogurt.