We're off on a trip to Turkey in a few weeks and I am having a fine old time immersing myself in Turkish culture. I've been attempting to learn Turkish from a book that seems obsessed with food and drink ("Getting started: Pour yourself a drink. Write down three reasons for wanting to learn Turkish. Have a drink." And so on.) I've read Turkish Nobel prize winning literature and historical conspiracy thrillers set in Istanbul. I've watched a 90s documentary about Byzantium that features a proper English chap abroad (complete with white suit and Panama hat) clambering abode on ruins and pontificating in streets surrounded by some of the finest moustaches I've ever seen. I've made myself a playlist of musical hits, including the excellently named Mustafa Sandal. But of course the most fun is the food. Here's what I've made so far.
Gözleme - basically stuffed flat bread. You make a bread dough, roll it out thin, pop in the stuffing, fold it over and fry it in a hot pan. The example above was with spinach, using a recipe from Almost Bourdain (which seems to have gone private all of a sudden so I won't give a link). We've also been enjoying the recipe in Casa Moro, which has a rather delicious potato and dill filling (Mr 'Splorer's favourite). We officially love these - not too fiddly, really tasty, good lunchbox fillers. (All the recipes say you MUST serve them hot, and they are better that way, but I think they work cold too.)
Red lentil soup - I love red lentil soup enormously, and have been investigating variations for a while now. A knowledgeable source informs me that there are two types of Turkish red lentil soup: mercimek and ezogelin. I think what I made here (Maddhur Jaffrey's Turkish red lentil soup) was mercimek, as it was a simple lentil soup. Ezogelin appears to be lentil and bulgur wheat. Which would mean that this soup from Hugh is ezogelin. We made and loved that soup a few months ago, without really registering it was Turkish. So far, of the two, I prefer the ezogelin - it's more interesting and tastier. And it has a better story. But my investigations continue.
Stuffed cabbage leaves - inspired by a meal in My Name is Red, I sought out a recipe for stuffed cabbage leaves. They were quite nice, but I think my cabbage leaves were a bit thick, so I wasn't happy with my cabbage to filling ratio. However, the technique of dolloping on some yoghurt and then sprinkling on some chilli flakes is serving me well.
Grilled red peppers - I stumbled across this simple recipe for grilled red peppers and would highly recommend it. The vinegar and the thyme work wonderfully with the peppers.
I still have so much to make: kofte, lahmacun, pide, menemen ... The list is growing by the hour. It's so fascinating and exciting getting really stuck into a cuisine that's always been lurking in the periphery of my vision, and which turns out to contain so many things I love. No doubt I'll be back shortly with more developments. If I can resist the temptation to eat gözleme for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
So, any recommendations for Turkish dishes to try?