This is a very non-Turkish recipe taken from Claudia Roden and, as usual, vaguely adapted. Preserved lemons are not generally used here in Turkey, are much more of a north Afrıcan thing. The artichokes are finishing here now and the broad beans are starting to get too big for this recipe. But we will be enjoying it again next year!
It starts with half a kilo of broad beans and two large artichokes. The broad beans need to be big enough to be podded but not so big that they need their inner skins removing. You pod the broad beans. You reduce the artichokes to the bottoms (or hearts or whatever you call the edible bits), cut those into sensibly sized pieces and put them in lemony water. Slice up a quarter of preserved lemon peel (I can’t find this in Turkey – I make it myself).
Then you heat some good olive oil in a pan with a teaspoonful of cumin/jeera/kimyon. Throw in the beans and the artichoke bits, stir them in the oil for a minute or so then almost cover with water, ram on a lid and simmer for about 40 mins. The peel goes in towards the end (though I have put it in at the beginning with no discernible ill effect). The timing is not critical as long as the artichoke is tender and the beans are not burned.
It is not particularly photogenic but it is delicious.
It is becoming hard to find good oranges. The apples are no longer looking up to very much. The spring fruit has not really got going yet. It is that difficult time when the autumn and winter fruit is finishing and we are waiting for the spring fruit. There are strawberries but in another month or so they will be so much better, right now they do not taste of much. We have seen melon and watermelon but these are imported, expensive and probably not that good. There are local green almonds but neither of us are fans.
At least there are good local bananas and kiwifruit.
There are workmen across the road, building a new house. Next door to them has a plum tree. The fruits are tiny, green and probably very acid. The builders are helping themselves, the Turks seem to really like unripe plums. Our neighbours have not as yet noticed the scrumping.
This weekend we managed to find some really nice apples. The tomatoes are starting to become good enough to eat fresh rather than just fit for cooking with. More varieties of beans are appearing, the peas remain wonderfully sweet but are finishing. We are no longer on the limited selection of winter vegetables.
One of the joys of seasonal foods is seeing the first summer courgettes, the first peas and broad beans. And hopefully soon the first cherries. We never really know what we’ll find on market until we go, sometimes there are surprises like the first time we found kohlrabi (with full explanations of what it is, how good for you it is and how to cook it, in Turkish), but generally it is very seasonal local produce.
Most evenings it is staying above 18C in the house without any heating, so we decided we no longer need the wood soba. It if gets cooler (and there probably will be some cold nights) we have plenty of other heating options, but we can dispense with burning wood. Today we cleaned the flue, a messy task, soot gets everywhere, and put the remaining wood away. As a result of using a wood stove the walls need a wipe down and a lick of fresh paint, this will get done over the next week or so.
Whilst we were cleaning the flue and packing wood away our neighbours decided it was a good day to gather in their garden and cook outside, their first such event of the year. We therefore had to stop work late morning to eat gözleme and be social, and then mid-afternoon another enforced break for kısır and coffee, followed by reading of the coffee grounds. Apparently we are going to come into lots of money, go travelling on a plane and a boat, attend a wedding and so on. Odd that, we are going to a wedding on Saturday, and we are planning a trip to Greece in the summer which would cover the boat part. It goes to show the coffee readings are never wrong!
The swallows have returned, more are arriving every day. For the last few days there has been one on the wire outside our house. It might be one of the pair from last year, they nested next door and raised several broods. Today there was a pair, singing together, investigating the nest from last year. It is good to hear them, good to see them, and good to know the rising number of flying insects is going to be hunted and eaten.
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.
Sunday, we got up when it was still dark for a trip with Zirve Dağçılık to Gerga. We made it to the meeting place in time for a glass of tea before the bus left. Then it was a two hour drive to the last half an hour up a narrow winding road south of Çine. We got out of the bus to admire a Roman Bridge. Then we walked to Gerga, about a two hour walk along unmarked trails, not all easy walking, some was quite challenging (steep and slippery rocky bits) but not so challenging that it detracted from enjoyment of the landscape.
Gerga itself is impressive. There has been some work there, but it’s not in the slightest bit restored. It’s spread between a series of fields separated by stone walls. Two massive monolith-type structures, several smaller structures, a few inscriptions (most of which say Gerga or Gergas in Greek script) and a couple of stone lions, so worn away that you can hardly tell they are lions. Ashley spotted they were lions before the guide pointed them out to us.
We got a talk about the history of the place and some of the attached mythology. In Turkish, of course, though Hilary did understand most of it. The guide spoke good English and told us the same stuff in English a bit later. There is not a lot known about Gerga, it appears to have been fairly small, referred to as a village at one point.
Below Gerga there is a dam, it’s made a big reservoir. We understand there is more old stuff beneath the water. The views were good, the dark clouds and rain over the reservoir were particularly impressive., We were actually quite lucky with the weather, rainbows and intermittent showers when we were walking, torrential rain at times when we were on the bus.
On the way home we stopped to sample the famous Çine köfte which were delicious.
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’.
A few days ago we were chatting with Oya, a Turkish friend of ours, about food. We got onto the huge courgettes / marrows that are around right now. She makes mucver with them, we suggested stuffing them. She seemed dubious, and then gave us one. This was not like an English marrow. It was shaped like a bottle gourd, about 10 inches in diameter with a thinner ‘neck’.
The idea was we stuff it and take it back to her at her restaurant. There was considerable debate over how to approach the project. We considered taking off a ‘lid’, stuffing it and cooking it whole. We considered halving it (through various axes) and debated whether to cook it open side down or open side up. We ended up cutting off the ‘neck’ then halving it through the equator. On investigation it was more like a huge courgette than a marrow, and very pithy in the middle. We removed all the pith stuffed it with rice, nuts, chick peas, peppers, onion, sultanas, pul biber and cinnamon a few other bits and some herbs and spices, poured some diluted salca over, and shoved it in the oven. It took longer than expected to cook.
Due to being double booked with a dentist we took it back a day early. It was an interesting experience, riding the Harley with a hot (glass) baking tray on Hilary’s knee. Fortunately Oya was there – we thought she probably would be as we had discussed the double booking with her daughter the day before. The family were phoned and, whilst Hilary was preparing the salad (failing to cut the lettuce small enough, due to unfamiliarity with the knife), numerous relatives arrived. Gözleme, menemen and baked aubergine appeared, (all delicious, Oya and Mama are extremely good cooks) along with huge amounts of bread. A large bottle of Fanta was provided and we all ate. There were eight of us all together. We got through half the marrow. We were glad some was left as we had promised some to one of the local polis who is expecting to get fed tomorrow.
We stayed on for a while, chatting and drinking tea. Came home with the empty tray, a load of ripe plums and some gözleme.