The first meal of Turkish origin I tired was actually a week or so ago, when a friend came around for dinner. I decided to put on a bit of a feast (I have a lot of time at the moment), and served up a spread including chickpeas in tomato sauce, eggplant mezze, stuffed cabbage, pilaf and shepherd’s salad. I also served up what was supposed to be brownies but turned into very dry biscotti due to my difficult oven and inappropriate ingredient substitutes – but that’s not Turkish, and I don’t have a photo, so lets forget it happened.
Sadly, I got wrapped up in conversation and forgot to take pictures until everyone had started eating, so most of the photos are of semi-destroyed dishes.
Everything was good, but the eggplant mezze dish was the definite winner. It was well cooked and oily in a good way, and the tomato sauce was a perfect match. A recipe for this is at the end of the post.
The cabbage rolls were a little beyond my dexterity and fell apart when lifted. They tasted pretty good though, with some heavy handedness on the dried mint and sultanas.
Shepherd’s Salad is a Turkish take on an internationally popular combination: cucumber, onion and tomatoes with herbs. This one has garlic, coriander and parsley, with a little lemon juice and vinegar as dressing.
I went with a mixed pilaf with sultanas, a little orange capsicum, onion, garlic, herbs, and some left over chickpeas. This is probably very un-Turkish, but it is what I had. I added a little clove, cinnamon, salt and pepper to flavour it. I’m not personally a big fan of sweet dinner food or non-citrus fruit in savoury dishes, but this was okay. I used a combination of recipes from the land of the internet, but they all involved cooking the rice in some olive oil, then added the onion, then vegetables, then stock and fruit, and cooking the liquid off.
The chickpea dish was based on a recipe from the book, Contemporary Turkish Cooking, by Filiz Zorly (2007). I changed it due to ingredient availability, as I can’t get dry chickpeas, cumin or good tomatoes. It turned out really nicely, a little spicy but not too hot, and quite flavoursome. I’ll post my recipe below, but do check out the original if you have access to dry chickpeas, because I imagine that would be even better.
The recipe for the stuffed cabbage rolls also came from Contemporary Turkish Cooking, which I perused at a public library in Vienna, on a cold, too-tired-to-tourist day.
Chickpeas with Tomatoes
- olive oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1-2 good tomatoes, diced
- 2 cups drained and rinsed, tinned chickpeas
- 2 tbs tomato paste
- 1/2 tsp curry powder
- 1 tsp corriander powder
- dash cinnamon
- dash tsp cayenne pepper (use as little or as much chilli as you want. I and my friend both have stomach problems that mean no more hot foods without risk of ulcers and stomach cancer, so not much chilli for us :( )
- Juice on half a lemon
- salt and pepper to taste
- I would have added a little cumin, if I had access to it.
- In a little olive oil, sweat the onions until translucent.
- Add the garlic and fry until fragrant (about 3 minutes).
- Add the tomato, chickpeas, tomato paste, spices and 1/3 cup water. Bring to the boil then return to simmer until the tomatoes are falling apart. Add more water if necessary. This took me about 15 minutes, with occasional stirring.
- Add the lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste. Let sit until, and reheat before serving. I let mine sit for about an hour, and it became much more flavousome with the time.
The recipe for the eggplant mezze dish was originally found somewhere on the internet, but I can’t find it now, of course. I’ll attribute when I figure it out, but this is what I did.
Eggplant in Olive oil with Tomato Sauce
- 1 large, long eggplant (or two smaller eggplants)
- Olive oil (the amount is up to you, but at least 3 tablespoons)
- 1 medium brown onion, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 large tomatoes, chopped
- 2 tbs tomato paste
- 1-2 tsp sugar (if your tomato paste isn’t sweet)
- salt and pepper
- 1/3 – 2/3 cup water
- Peel strips of the eggplant, lengthways, so that it looks a little like a circus tent. Slice the eggplant into rounds, salt, and let sit for 30 minutes.
- Wash and dry the eggplant slices. Heat a little olive oil in a non-stick pan, and fry the pieces, turning once, in batches until they are all cooked through and lightly browned. I used about 1 tbs of olive oil here, but there are versions of the recipe that use up to 1/3 cup, so do what you please.
- Arrange the cooked slices on a serving dish, and drizzle with remaining olive oil (I used about 1 tbs here).
- In a small saucepan, cook the onion in a little more olive oil, for about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for a further 5 minutes, though don’t let the garlic burn.
- Add the diced tomatoes, and cook, stirring occasionally, until they fall apart.
- Add the tomato paste here, and then taste test – if it tastes sour add some sugar. I add salt and pepper here.
- Add 1/3 cup of the water and continue to cook the sauce, stirring occasionally over low heat, for another 25 minutes. It should cook down, and all the tomato pieces should be pulp by now. Add extra water if it becomes dry before this point.
- If you are a careful sort, pull out the floating bits of tomato skin (or remove them before hand, as shown in my post on ratatouille). I decided not to bother this time.
- Pour the sauce over the eggplant slices, and refrigerate. Serve cold or at room temperature.