Sunday, 12 February 2012


I arrived back from my trip to Istanbul less than 72 hours ago. Already, there’s only one piece of the sublime pistachio baklava left—supremely buttery but not overly sweet. The chewy, almond-orange biscuits from a sepia-toned bakery in the Besitkas neighbourhood are gone completely, and we’ve made considerable inroads into the pistachio-sesame halvah, bought from a shop that’s been in the same family for nearly 150 years. For folks who claim not to have much of a sweet tooth, that’s an awful lot of sugar.

In between, I’ve been cooking up some savoury dishes with my new stocks of grains and spices. Last night, we began with a winter salad of bulgur, celery, walnuts and pomegranate from the Moro 3 cookbook. Our main course was minced lamb kebabs, seasoned with fruity-hot red pepper flakes (aci biber), dried mint and oregano and garlic, and served with flatbread and a salad of onions, parsley and sumac.

For breakfast this morning, we used the rest of flatbread to scoop up a take on the Turkish scrambled egg and pepper dish, menemen. Lunch was somewhat more ambitious, a spinach and cheese borek, or savoury pastry. Some compromises were necessary: we used Greek filo pastry (the slightly thicker Turkish yufka only being available in a few North London shops), and a mix of feta and ricotta in place of Turkish white cheeses. The filling was made savoury with sautéed onions, to which I also added some more of the aci biber and dried mint. In a change from the Greek versions I’ve had, the remaining yogurt-oil-egg mixture used to moisten the pastry sheets was poured over the assembled dish, softening the crust but becoming almost soufflé-like in the oven.

I have plans for pilaus, other types of kebabs and lots more salads and dips, as well as most anything which will make good use of my ample dried mint supply. And as soon as I get my notes and photos in order, I’ll have plenty more ingredients, vendors and dishes to write about.

For now, though, my ambitions centre on that last piece of baklava.

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