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Turkish Cuisine

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Turks may be lazy?…..but are always  busy: talking, eating, visiting.

Walking along the streets of any town in Turkey one realises how popular  ‘snacking’ is.  One barrow  sells  cooled peeled salted cucumbers, another  warm roasted almonds, another steaming  salted maize and yet another roasted chestnuts. Would you like me to continue…….stuffed mussels, etc etc…

Also a street-food is the convenient Sandwich! …..a culture  found with transliteration  all over the world…(the Earl of Sandwich’s  gambling compulsion forced him to sustain himself with salted beef-in-bread… known in Turkey as  a ‘sandvic’!    

Most famous is the Doner. This  consists of layers of lamb-mince and lamb grilled on a  turning pole, glazed with butter …so delicious that  one requests some of the dripping to be added to the bread to the accompanying pickles.

Less known is the ‘Fish Sandwich…’balik-ekmek’ …an essential part  of Istanbul’s street culture.Fishermen in their boats at  Galata Bridge or  `Kumkapi in Sultanahmet grill or fry their catch accompanied by  a squeeze of lemon  in half a loaf of bread......delightful!

Another favourite street sandwich is ‘Kokorec’  crisply  roasted intestines in a roll.

Some street sellers need a bell to announce their presence; not so the Kokorec seller! 

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Turkey has speciality restaurants; soup restaurants,pide and lahmacun restaurants, seafood restaurants and further afield the  ’kendin pisir’ kebab restaurants where one orders  different cuts of meat by the kilo and cooks it at  the table’s private grill….very much a male job!

In busy areas such as bus stations  one finds the  ‘Bain-Marie’ restaurant where one queues up with a tray to choose  from  a row of tantalising steaming recipes…Sulu Yemek….meat and vegetarian dishes  accompanied  by a scoop of rice…. the most famous being ‘kuru’, white bean stew  accompanied by pilav and a crushed  onion!

The Meyhane is a traditional meeting place for happy revellers and lost souls where Raki is King. For some it is a club for others a special night out. Drink to celebrate, drink to drown your sorrows, talk, eat  and  sing to extend the evening into night.  Meyhane songs  are an important  part of the  culture  and performed with a singer and small band …song requests are handed in. Repeat requests are frequent!

The speciality of the Meyhane are the many ‘meze’ served on small plates often with the addition of spice, salt and garlic..... eaten slowly to the accompaniment of raki and  conversation. By tradition with the first round of drinks a plate of white cheese and  honeydew melon arrives.

 We can translate the word 'meze' into  starter, generally cold and vegetable based; there are also warm starters such as garlic mushrooms, mini-meatballs, and crusty thin  cheese pastries called ‘sigara boregi’…..

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Bread is the staple accompaniment to all meals. Einkorn and Emmer wheat cultivation  dates back 10,000 years with Rye grown where the soil was poor. On the Anatolian plateau during the summer months large  batches of round  unleavened pastry are cooked  on a grid over the fire; dry and wafer-thin they are piled high. Covered in muslin the hoard awaits use through the winter months; fifteen minutes before a meal, several are removed, watered, folded like a napkin and taken to the table. 

Anatolian houses also have an outdoor oven conveniently  buried outside the kitchen door…the Tandir  or Tandoori . A fire is lit deep inside the oven. Once the flames have burnt low terracotta pots are lowered into  the oven, each sealed  one on top of the other; meat stew, a pot of potatoes, pilav….. all cook together. This accomplished,  balls of leavened bread are thrown onto the walls  of the oven and the oven is sealed again….. 20 minutes later the meal is ready….The Anatolian woman is a multitasker; mother, shepherdess, wife: her kitchen consists of an open fireplace with a couple of pots, salt and spices a shelf above and a floor table with plates  spoons,  …..under which is spread a table cloth to catch the crumbs. Her water bottle is also of clay and  gives the water a cool sweet taste.

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Hunkar Begendi…..Sultans Delight is a popular dish even today:

Diced leg of lamb cooked in tomatoes, capsicums, garlic and onions, served over a bed of creamed roasted aubergines garnished with melted yellow cheese and parsley.

 

Silver Service comes with extensive  menu, quality wines and  over-intentive waiters ready put right the slightest fault. There are some areas in Turkey where for religious reasons restaurants do not serve alcoholic drinks....

A  proverb: Seytanla ortak buğday eken samanını alır….whoever plants  wheat with the devil will be left with the straw!

Silver service...quality wines...varied menus. Beach front venues offer great views and and evening breeze of the rising tide. Sounds of shingle float through the hum of voices and soft background music...From simple to sophisticated…the Ottoman  Cuisine is rich and varied:

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