A Glorious Turkish Celebration – I love Turkey; it’s one of our favourite holiday destinations, and I adore Turkish cuisine. So, when I heard about Ghillie Basan’s fabulous new Turkish tome, I couldn’t wait to see It. Well, reader, that wait was certainly worth it; particularly for anyone who, like me, is missing those enticing aromas of grilling, baking and spices. And of course, at £20 for this gloriously illustrated hardback book (published by Lorenz Books) with 150 recipes, it’s a snip. (Not even the price of that PCR test you’ll probably need when those travel corridors open up!)
Award-winning cook and traveller Ghillie Basan has written The Turkish Cookbook a beautiful and detailed exploration of the food of Turkey, and she’s done a magnificent job. She takes the reader through the history of the country, food traditions, religious days and festivals, and of course, Turkish ingredients, in enough detail to be educational, as well as fascinating. One of my key gastronomic memories from our many Turkish holidays is the fabulous, chilled rice pudding. I’m not usually a fan of rice pud, but those Turks take it to another level, so I’ve included Ghillie’s recipe. And another recipe that is perfect for that glut of courgettes in the garden. Hopefully, they will whet your appetite for the whole book.
Roasted courgettes and peaches (Serves four)
“Like most Turks, I love tucking into a platter of deep-fried, grilled or roasted vegetables served with a garlic-flavoured sauce made with yoghurt, nuts or tahini. The combination of summer fruit and vegetables in this baked version of yoğurtlu kabak ve şeftali is particularly colourful and juicy. “
2 yellow or red bell peppers, deseeded and cut into wedges
100ml/3½fl oz olive oil
4–6 plum tomatoes, quartered lengthways
2 firm peaches, peeled, halved, and stoned, then cut into wedges
30ml/2 tbsp pine nuts
For the yogurt sauce:
500g/1¼lb thick and creamy natural (plain) yogurt
2–3 garlic cloves, crushed
juice of ½ lemon
salt and ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas 6. Using a vegetable peeler, peel the courgettes lengthways in stripes like a zebra, then cut into wedges. Place the courgettes and peppers in an earthenware baking dish. Drizzle the oil over and sprinkle with salt, then bake in the oven for 20 minutes.
Take the dish out of the oven and turn the vegetables in the oil, then mix in the tomatoes and peaches. Bake for a further 20–25 minutes, until everything is nicely browned.
Meanwhile, make the yoghurt sauce. In a small bowl, beat the yoghurt with garlic and lemon juice. Season to taste and set aside until required.
Dry roast the pine nuts in a small, heavy pan, shaking them constantly until they turn golden brown and give off a nutty aroma. Be careful not to let them burn. Remove from the heat.
When the roasted vegetables are ready, remove the dish from the oven and sprinkle over the pine nuts. Serve immediately with the yoghurt sauce and some warm bread.
Variation: This dish is also delicious with a tahini dressing. Thin down about 30ml/ 2 tbsp sesame paste with a little water and lemon juice, then beat in some crushed garlic, seasoning and, if you like, a little roasted pul biber.
Chicken Liver Pilaff with Currants, Pine Nuts and Almonds (Serves four to six)
“This is such a traditional Istanbul dish. Flavoured with cinnamon and rich morsels of chicken liver, iç pilavı is in a league of its own. Sophisticated and tasty, it is delicious by itself with lemon or natural yoghurt but is also served as an accompaniment to meat dishes.”
30ml/2 tbsp currants
45ml/3 tbsp ghee, butter, or olive oil
1 onion, chopped
30–45ml/2–3 tbsp pine nuts
45ml/3 tbsp blanched almonds
5–10ml/1–2 tsp ground allspice
5ml/1 tsp ground cinnamon
350g/12oz/2 cups long grain rice, thoroughly rinsed and drained
about 750ml/1¼ pints chicken stock
250g/9oz chicken livers, cut into bite size pieces
a bunch of flat leaf parsley, leaves finely chopped
a small bunch of dill, finely chopped, plus a few fronds for garnish
15ml/1 tbsp pine nuts
salt and ground black pepper
lemon wedges, to serve
Soak the currants in warm water for 15 minutes and then drain. Melt 30ml/2 tbsp of the ghee in a heavy pan and stir in the onion. Cook until softened.
Add the pine nuts and almonds. When they begin to turn golden, stir in the currants, spices and rice and mix well.
Pour in the stock, season with salt and pepper, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the liquid has been absorbed. Turn off the heat, cover the pan with a clean dish towel, and place the lid on tightly. Leave to steam for 10–15 minutes.
Meanwhile, melt the remaining ghee in a heavy pan and sauté the chicken livers until nicely browned. Fluff up the rice with a fork and toss in the chicken livers and herbs.
Dry roast the pine nuts in a small frying pan until golden. Transfer the pilaff to a serving dish and garnish with the extra dill fronds. Sprinkle over the pine nuts and serve with lemon wedges for squeezing.
Classic Almond Milk Pudding (Serves four)
“This Ottoman milk pudding, keşkül, is thought to have got its name from the oval bowl called keşkul that beggars would carry from house to house seeking food. Perhaps for that reason, it is revered, and always served in individual bowls. Traditionally, it is decorated with grated pistachios.”
115g/4oz blanched almonds
600ml/1 pint milk
25g/1oz rice flour
15–30ml/1–2 tbsp finely grated pistachio nuts
Using a mortar and pestle, food processor or nut mill, pound or grind the almonds to a paste. Blend the paste with a little of the milk until smooth and set aside. In a small bowl, slake the rice flour with a little more milk to form a paste with the consistency of thick cream. Set the bowl aside.
Pour the rest of the milk into a heavy pan. Add the sugar and bring the milk to the boil, stirring constantly. Stir 30ml/2 tbsp of the hot milk into the slaked rice flour and then add this paste to the pan. Make sure you keep stirring to prevent the rice flour from cooking in clumps. Cook until the mixture coats the back of the wooden spoon.
Stir in the almond paste and reduce the heat. Simmer the mixture gently for about 25 minutes, stirring from time to time, until the mixture is thick. Pour into individual bowls or glasses and leave to cool.
Sprinkle the grated pistachio nuts over each bowl of keşkul – this is often done in a thin line across the middle – and chill in the refrigerator.
Variation: Another classic milk pudding is mulhallebi, which is made in a similar way but without the nuts, and which is flavoured with mastick and dusted with icing (confectioner’s) sugar. It can also be set in a mould and cut into blocks, then served with rose water
The German Doner Kebab comes to Twickers
GDK opened its first restaurant in Berlin, where it developed its products and recipes, creating a unique blend of spices, signature sauces and its distinctive ‘Doner Kebab’ waffle bread. The brand’s grown apace in the UK, Europe and the Middle East plus the USA, Canada, Saudi Arabia, and Ireland.
The Twickenham branch opened recently, and as its Turkish community introduced those German doner kebabs in Berlin, I thought it worth mentioning that we, too, can now enjoy fabulous doner kebabs at a very reasonable price.
GDK’s doner kebabs are made using premium ingredients. To maintain quality and consistency the company uses lean meats imported from Germany and fresh locally produced vegetables that are delivered and prepared daily, along with the handmade bread. Portions are very generous indeed and there’s something on the menu to suit all tastes and appetites. The fries are amazingly good and available in three additional flavours. Kebabs, wraps, burgers, low cal salad kebabs, quesadillas, spring rolls, nachos and much more are on the menu. You can eat in (ideal for a quick family meal and very child-friendly) or you can get takeaway or order online for home delivery. We really enjoyed the dishes we’ve had, and I know it will be a popular addition to the Twickenham food scene. I suspect its main competitor is likely to be Nando’s, in terms of ambience and pricing.