I was delighted to be one of the guest speakers at the Elmbridge Food Festival at the Painshill Park’s, the beautiful 18th century landscape garden, Surrey – England last weekend. The festival showcased the local produce, artisanal bakery as well as ethnic cuisines in Surrey. It was a gorgeous weekend with sun upon us and a well-attended enthusiastic crowd at the demo theatre.
It was a great opportunity to talk about delicious, wholesome Turkish cuisine and that it is beyond kebabs (as much as we love them). Turkish cuisine is based on fresh, seasonal produce. We are a lucky nation blessed with four seasons and abundance of seasonal fruit and vegetables regularly on display at farmer’s markets, pazar. In addition to fresh produce, wholesome grains like bulgur, legumes, dried fruits and nuts also feature frequently in Turkish cuisine. Here is some more information on Turkish cuisine and culinary traditions, if you like.
The dried bell peppers, eggplants (aubergines) and baby okra attracted a lot of attention (thanks to my sweet helpers!) during the food festival. This is a mainly southern Turkish tradition; the excess produce of meaty peppers, aubergines (eggplants) and baby okra are dried under the hot sun in the summer at the southern part of Turkey. The flesh and seeds of the eggplants and pepper are taken out and left for drying at the regions of Antakya and Gaziantep. They will end up having a rich, concentrated flavor and delicious when stuffed with ground meat and aromatic rice, as in these stuffed dried eggplants and peppers, kuru patlican ve biber dolmasi.
The fresh produce, grains and legumes are also flavored with artful use of spices in Turkish cuisine. For instance, we use pungent, warm cumin often. Combined with chickpeas and tahini, cumin is the spice that makes hummus taste like hummus. Cumin is wonderful on lamb and beef; with chickpeas, lentils, cabbage, eggplant and cooked tomato; or combined with spices like dried mint, paprika, cilantro (coriander) and saffron. It’s also perfect with garlic or fennel.
How about the hearty Red lentils and bulgur soup, Ezo Gelin Corba? This spicy red lentil soup is one of my favorites; rich in fiber and protein and flavored with the refreshing dried mint and smoky, spicy Turkish red pepper flakes or chili flakes. It is a very satisfying, heartwarming meal itself with some crusty bread aside. You can read more about spices used in Turkish cuisine here; they are a wholesome way of adding flavors naturally.
We finished our talk with the Turkish Delights, Lokum, one of Turkey’s hallmarks. The real thing is much more fragrant, less sweet and packed with flavor, compared to the ones I came across abroad. Therefore I decided to make my own Turkish delight and demonstrated in one of of Turkish cookery classes. You’d be pleasantly surprised to see it is easier than you think, though bear in mind that home made lokum will be softer than the commercial ones but packed with flavor. Here’s my home made Turkish delight recipe, if you’d like to try out.
One of the highlights of my talk at the food festival was the hospitality, generosity of Turkish cuisine and culture. Hospitality is a big part of Turkish culture and you can feel it everyday life all around. I vividly remember friends and extended family members knocking the door of my Grandmother’s 400 year old house in Antakya spontaneously and happily welcomed to the dinner table. We would all sit around her courtyard dinner table under the fig tree and have a feast of senses with arrays of wonderful mezzes, abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables cooked in olive oil (Zeytinyaglilar), succulent kebabs and many more. You will be offered tea or Turkish coffee in the banks, shops, wherever you go with a smile. Turkish saying “Basimin ustunde yerin var” (“I would place you above my head”) I think sums the Turkish hospitality very well. We Turks place our guests at the top of our heads and would be delighted to share our food with them, even it is some fresh bread and cheese.
I hope this inspires and you keep on enjoying delicious, wholesome Turkish cuisine.
your children are too cute!!!
Tesekkurler Jaz, they were a big help!:)
Such an interesting chat on Turkish food..,as always, I’m excited to see the basic similarities between our cuisines and styles of hospitalty. So wonderful. Please give my hugs to the most adorable models!
Thank you dear Peri, it was a wonderful platform to talk about Turkish cuisine and the little helpers were most helpful 🙂 I count myself very lucky to enjoy such wonderful Indian meals together with you and I know what you mean about your culture’s hospitality, very memorable and special. Hugs to your boys, Ozlem xx
. . a feast for the eyes, indeed! You know, one of the delights of travelling here in Turkey for J and me is the sure and certain knowledge that there will be a 24/7/365 çorbacı with a selection of delicious, fresh soups and mounds of crusty bread whenever, wherever we feel the need.
I love that constant accesibility of freshly made food at home too Alan, so comforting, enjoy for us too! Sana ve J’e cok selamlar, Ozlem
Do you have a published cookbook and if “yes” where can I purchase it?
Merhaba Canan, many thanks for stopping by; I don’t have a published cookbook yet but I would love to make it happen, hopefully in near future sometime – thank you for your kind interest, selamlar, sevgiler, Ozlem
I love Turkish food. It took me forever to figure out what the white powder is on Turkish delight (I can’t eat wheat, so I was concerned). I’m very happy to say it’s cream of tartar, and of course I can eat it. And I did eat lots of it when I was in Istanbul last. Great stuff. Delightful in fact.
Oh, so glad you are enjoying Turkish food and can have the Turkish delight, Christopher, it is a special treat! Many thanks for stopping by, Ozlem
I was so warmed and happy to read about this wonderful event and see the lovely photos of you and your adorable helpers. You are such a perfect ambassador for Turkey’s culture and cuisine, you just exude the enthusiasm that Turkish food really deserves. The festival’s sponsors were very lucky to have you. Very, very nice posting. Çok sevgiler ve yardımcılarına selam söyle. Öptük. J
Sevgili Jolee, thank you so much for your kind words and wonderful encouragement as always, it means the world to me. I guess one realizes the value of home, warm Turkish culture and rich Turkish culinary heritage when abroad. It was a lovely platform and a wonderful audience to share, pleasure all mine : ) Little helpers were amazing! 🙂 Cok sevgiler, cok tesekkurler 🙂
I would have loved to be there. I wonder if Kath knew about it.
How I wished you to be there too BB; I wondered if Kath knew too – with all the prepping and getting ready, I missed emailing her, will remember next time. Cok Selamlar, Ozlem
I was at the festival (well, Painshill is my local park after all) but I was only able to make one quick visit and very sadly I missed your talk. The festival did seem successful – I don’t remember ever seeing that many people in the park before. So sorry to have missed you.
Merhaba Phil, I am very sorry to miss you too, I should have done a better job letting you all know, I will make sure of that next time. Glad you could stop by, such a beautiful park and so glad that the festival was well attended. Hope to see you at the next one!:)
Looks like you’ve got yourself two good little helpers there, Özlem. 🙂 Great you got to spread the word about Turkish food to others – and in such a beautiful setting, too.
Tesekkurler Julia, they were wonderful helpers indeed : ) A great opportunity to talk about Turkish cuisine, always a pleasure to share : )
Your daughter is so cute, really a gorgeous girl!!
Very kind, thank you!