Another sign of spring here in Selçuk is the arrival of bakla on the market. Bakla are broad beans but, this time of year, you don’t get big seeds in the pods. The inside beans are tiny and tender and you eat the entire thing. Like runner beans. They are a very Aegean thing. And wonderfully easy to cook to deliciousness.
This is how I do it: Take half a kilo of bakla and remove the tops, tails and any dodgy-looking bits. Break them in half or, if very long, three bits. You don’t even really need a knife for this. Then take a medium sized onion and cut it piyazlık (I nearly always cut onions this way for zeytinyağlı dishes, in thin, longitudinal half moonish strips). And some garlic (depending how much you like) cut in thin slices or strips. Put lots of good olive oil in a sauté or frying pan with a cover and warm it up before softening the onions, then the garlic. Add in the bakla and stir it round for a bit. About half cover it with water (I used a mugful), add a sugar cube and salt if you like it (I don’t). Bring to the boil and, now for my secret ingredient…
The rinsed peel of about a quarter of a preserved lemon. I’ve not found a place to buy them here and I’ve not really looked. I make my own. This is not traditional and certainly not essential. Turn it all down to a simmer, cover it and leave it on a low light till well done. 30-40 minutes. Longer doesn’t hurt as long as it doesn’t fall apart. Towards the end, throw in some chopped dill.
As with all zeytinyağlı, it keeps well in the fridge and improves for the first couple of days.
Today, after what seems like more than a week of rainy days and grey skies, the sun came out. We went for a walk along the beach and through the wetlands at Pamucak. Amongst a mass of gulls, a pair of migrating flamingos, an adult and a juvenile. They were later joined by another juvenile which appeared to be injured, hard to be sure, wild flamingos do not tolerate people getting close to them. Both of us, however, thought that it had an injured leg.
There was also a marsh harrier, larks, masses of plovers, gulls in weaving flocks, almost like a shoal of fish, shining in the sun, migrating geese, wild flowers, and tortoises freshly out of hibernation. It really was a lovely afternoon out.
On the market spring fruit and vegetables are starting to appear. The first fresh peas and broad beans. Tomatoes from Antalya, no doubt grown under glass. Sorrel, gathered wild. This all makes a nice change from the winter vegetables. The Turks are very fond of the first fresh fruits and vegetable of the seasons, so are we.
The recipe Hilary used for these peas comes out of our Turkish Cookery book – ‘Lezzet Sofrası’. Hilary does tend to adapt everything… First she sautéed an onion, cut in half moon rings (what they call piyazlık) in plenty of very good olive oil, then she threw in a cubed carrot, a potato cut into smallish dice, then she put in the peas, sauteed a little bit more, seasoned the lot with salt, pepper and a cube of sugar then poured on hot water about half way up, covered the pan and cooked on low-medium heat till everything was done. Towards the end she threw in some dried mint and finely chopped fresh dill.
On Saturday we got some winter tea from the market. This was made up for us by our favourite herb and spice lady. She showed us the pot they had brewing on the stall and asked if we would like the same mixture. We got the impression that winter tea is not a single thing – everyone seems to have their own formula.
We were given three bags. One contains linden tea, one contains hisbiscus, rosehips and juniper berries. One contains cinnamon sticks, ginseng, turmeric root, dried ginger root, black peppercorns, cloves, camomile and echidna. This is for seven days of tea. You take one of each root and a cinnamon stick and some of the contents of that bag and some of the contents of the other bags and steep them with half a cup of water in the bottom part of the teapot. We guess it is diluted when you drink it… Not tried it yet.
Later we went to Carpouza and Hilary took a photo of the poster saying what their winter tea contains: Hisbiscus, rosehip, liquorice root, eucalyptus, camomile, linden, quince leaves, sage, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, turmeric and havlıcan (which we have not yet managed to translate).
We have now tried out the tea at home. It is not precisely like Carpouza tea but itis good. We filled the bottom teapot and put water in the top pot in case it needs dilution. Ashley’s comment ‘needs more honey’.
We are going to light the barbeque tonight. We have some beef, entrecote steaks, not quite the same as they are back in the UK, the beef is younger, not exactly veal but not exactly matured beef either. It is fairly inexpensive, a bit over £5 for a pound of steak, which is vastly cheaper than the Scottish, organic, named herd, Aberdeen Angus, filet steak we were partial to back in the UK. It’s also somewhat chewier, but the flavour is good.
It is in a marinade right now, one we invented and seems to compliment and bring out the flavour the beef really well.
Finely chopped chilli pepper
Sour Pomegranate molasses
None of the quantities are vastly critical. We make a small amount as we need it since we always have the ingredients.
Later, when the beef is off the barbeque we will put a large aubergine over the coals and leave it to cook for a few hours. This becomes the basis of a creamy aubergine salad which we usually top with something spicy.
Whilst we were in Chania, a lady from Popay – the excellent restaurant we frequented – asked us about the difference between Greek and Turkish food. Which was interesting. Assuming we are talking about Aegean food of Greece and Turkey. There are some very obvious similarities. Both make extensive use of wild herbs (though, in Turkey, oregano is not really distinguished from thyme – both are used dried rather than fresh and most frequently to make teas). Both make extensive use of dried pulses and olive oil. There are also some very obvious differences. In Greece you get quite a lot of pork. Pork gyros, pork souvlaki and pork casseroles of various types. In Greece they use more cinnamon and less sumac and allspice. In Greece you get wonderful feta.
We really enjoyed the food we had on holiday. We ate masses of feta, souvlaki, gyros, moussaka, stews and casseroles and swordfish. We didn’t eat any chicken (we eat loads and loads of chicken at home because it’s so good and so cheap here). It was a wonderful change but, first day home we went for lunch at Hacı Baba in Tire – a timely reminder of just how wonderful Turkish food can be!
There are more subtle differences – differences in the types of pulses used. We bought gigantia beans in Santorini, we can’t get the really, really huge beans here in Turkey. We strongly suspect that in Greece they cook more with alcohol. That would not be approved of here as many people do not touch it (many people, of course, do touch it but that doesn’t make it a traditional ingredient in cooking) and that is what gives the stews and casseroles their particular richness. Here in Turkey the richness comes from onions and tomatoes and, of course, stock.
Sometimes the difference is in the name. Fava in Turkey is broad beans commonly pureed, in Greece it is a lentil puree. The Greek version of fava is a speciality of Santorini though does turn up elsewhere, we saw it on the menu in Crete. We don’t think yellow split peas would taste quite the same but might be close. We really liked the Greek fava and bought some of the dried lentils home along with the recipe.
Our neighbour very kindly gave us a large bowl full of mulberries, dut in Turkish. These were of the white variety, in our view not as tasty as the red or black ones which make really nice jam. We did consider trying to make jam with them but in the end thought better of it. We thought about making some sort of fruit cordial but without very fine filtration it would remain cloudy so rejected that idea. So we thought why not turn them into a fruit sauce, the sort that could be used to glaze meat or added to stews. We tested out the result as a glaze for chicken along with some pul biber and the result was delicious.
None of the quantities are in the least bit critical.
Wash large bowl full of mulberries, a kilo or so, and put into a pan along with a small quantity of water. Bring to the boil and simmer in a closed pan for an hour or so, until all the fruit has gone soft. Pour the berries and liquid into a sieve and crush the berries to obtain as much liquid as possible. Strain through a finer sieve. Return the liquid to a pan, add some lemon juice and sugar, we used juice of one lemon and half a tablespoon of sugar to approximately a kilo of fruit. Reduce the liquid by 75% or more. Bottle and store until needed.
Locally the raw syrup would be reduced down further, and thickened to the consistency of molasses. This would be dut pekmez.
Our neighbour has a whole tree full of white mulberries so if anyone has any good recipes or things to do with them…. It would be appreciated.
This is the third day in a row of warm and sunshine. It really is wonderful.
So, goodbye to winter salads. Commonly grated carrot, red cabbage and radish, with sultanas and a little oil and lemon. Sometimes with added sumac, sometimes with walnuts. The radishes here have been great all winter but are starting to be past their best now. We have been fortunate in having excellent cucumber all winter, grown locally under glass and the lettuce remains good, both of which have been used in a variety of winter salads, along with our home made pickles (and some shop bought ones).
Adding variety to the limited options we came up with this. A sort of cheating oriental salad. The precise quantities do not matter that much. Cut carrot and radish into matchsticks. Cut cucumber into wedges and salt for an hour or so. Wash off the salt, and dry the cucumber. Mix the cucumber with the carrot and radish. Make a dressing of grated ginger and a little garlic, along with some vinegar, soy sauce and pul biber (chili flakes). Pour the dressing over the vegetables and stir. This keep well for a couple of days, is actually at its best after a day or so, so is good with the local black radish. Back in the UK we would have used mooli and rice vinegar, here the radish and grape vinegar work just as well.
Tonight we are using up the last of the radish, tomorrow is market day, time for spring fruits and vegetables.