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 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 couple of recipes – one that’s perfect for that glut of courgettes in the garden. Hopefully they will whet your appetite for the whole book.
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 yogurt 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 the 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.
Courgette And Apple With A Hazelnut And Lemon Sauce (Serves four)
“The Turkish nut sauce, tarator, is delicious served with many vegetable and seafood dishes. Along the Black Sea Coast, tarator is often made with the local hazelnuts, which makes a lighter sauce than the walnut version in Istanbul. The courgettes and apples are roasted in this recipe, taratorlu kabak, but they could be cooked by any method, such as grilling or steaming. This dish can be served as a side dish or part of a meze spread.”
2 firm, fat courgettes
2 sweet, firm red, pink, or yellow apples
30–45ml/2–3 tbsp olive oil
15–30ml/1–2 tbsp chopped roasted hazelnuts, to garnish
For the nut sauce:
1–2 garlic cloves
30ml/2 tbsp olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
15ml/1 tbsp grape pekmez, or molasses or clear honey
salt and ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas 4.
Using a vegetable peeler, partially peel the courgettes in stripes. Slice them on the diagonal. Quarter and core the apples then cut each quarter into 2 or 3 segments.
Place the courgette and apple slices in an ovenproof dish and pour over the olive oil. Roast in the oven for 35–40 minutes, or until golden brown.
Meanwhile, make the nut sauce. Using a mortar and pestle, or a food processor, pound the hazelnuts with the garlic to form a thick paste. Gradually beat in the oil and lemon juice, until the mixture is quite creamy. Sweeten with the pekmez, molasses or clear honey, and season to taste.
Arrange the roasted courgette and apple on a serving dish and drizzle the nut sauce over them. Sprinkle the chopped roasted hazelnuts over the top and serve while still warm.
Variation: Other vegetables served this way include whole bell peppers, sliced aubergine, pumpkin and squash, and fruit such as plums.
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