This past week, Marnina and I went on a Turkish kick. We literally ate and prepared all things Turkish for lunch and dinner. Marnina’s mother recently bought and sent us a signed copy of The Ottoman Turk and the Pretty Jewish Girl. It is a wonderful cookbook that should be on every foodie’s shelf (especially if you love Mediterranean cuisine!). The pictures reminded us of our culinary journey through Turkey this past summer and left us yearning to recreate some of those memories in our kitchen. While the recipes are simple and involve few and easy-to-find ingredients, most are not quick to prepare. We had taken a cooking class in Istanbul and afterwards we had still not fully understood how many steps were involved in most of the dishes we had prepared.
Now, when reflecting on our recent week of Turkish culinary fun, we have more of an appreciation of the effort that goes into preparing each dish. The recipes are easy but often involved many different steps. Our Turkish culinary adventure was perfect for our week of finals when we had lots of down time. We spent an entire afternoon making grape leaves. We made a zucchini and beef stew which took 3-4 hours as well as a rice with dill dish which took 1 1/2 hours. While each dish has numerous steps, the hard work pays off when you indulge in the “melt-in-your -mouth” deliciousness. I think we can finally say that we have more appreciation for the love that goes into the preparation of each dish.
Our favorite dish from our Turkish cooking class was an Ottoman classic called Sultan’s Delight (translates to Hunkar Begendi). This dish usually consists of stewed, tender bite-sized beef served on a bed of smoky eggplant puree. but to make it vegetarian, we replaced the stewed beef with a mushroom ragout. The dish was one of the most delicious pairings of food we have ever had. The smoky eggplant was mixed with a bechamel sauce and grated cheese to provide a rich and creamy taste without any heaviness. The subtle use of spices in the mushroom ragout enhanced the dish without overpowering the freshness of the vegetables.
Most Turkish dishes are cooked with some spice, seasonal vegetables and light sauces which augment the food without overpowering it. Dill and mint seem to be the most predominantly used spices. Meat is plentiful in Turkish cuisine too, and in all the dishes, no spice or sauce is overpowering.
For those who get didn’t get to see our Turkish cooking class pictures, here are a few pictures of the vegetarian Sultan’s Delight:
We wanted to try the meat version of the dish, so we picked up all the ingredients (omitting the cheese and substituting soymilk for the milk and cream), and a few hours later, we TOO were feeling like sultans.
Images and recipe below:
To try the Sultan’s Delight, get your hands on: The Ottoman Turk and the Pretty Jewish Girl