Lately, I have been going nuts about making bread which means I have to write about it. I first thought it is a completely different subject from anything I have been writing about on this blog, a subject that might deserve a blog on its own. I am afraid, however, there is no way I can have two blogs because I often struggle with focus. I am known for cruelly eliminating a whole bunch of things from my life at once just so that I don’t have to choose one. I can have 36 open tabs in my browser for a week but then shut them down one fine day without looking back. I was spared a failed exercise in blogging megalomania by this simple analysis and you, my dear readers.
If Turkish cuisine of which we still get to hear now and then is dramatically underrated then what can be said about Turkish wines? Turkish what? Yes, Turks do drink alcohol and grow crazy amount of grapes being in top5 of the world’s grape producers. That’s true that most of it goes into the making of pekmez, raisins and rakı – alcohol beverage many Turks swear by – rather than wine, but you get a sense of the potential. That’s also true that Turkish wine is expensive and often times easily forgettable. But there are many world class Turkish wines. And the world needs to know about them.
Have not you missed updates from our farmhouse so outrageously absent from this blog? I kept silent about it for a while to come back with exciting news: together with talented photographer and Turkey enthusiast David Hagerman we are doing a cooking and photography workshop at our Sapanca farmhouse in September. I can’t wait to give you heads up on the what will be going on and how you can join our small class.
I have kept wondering how come that Turkish cuisine has absorbed so much from the countries it borders with in the West, South and East but the influence from its northern neighbors (Ukraine and Russia) has been barely noticeable. I understand it may be harder to import food traditions by sea than it is by land but it did not seem a problem when it came to importing beautiful women from the North to populate the Harem. Besides such random occasions as the Black Sea ravioli – piruhi that look a lot like Ukrainian vareniki you don’t see Ukrainian- Russian food heritage around much. Or so I thought until I made blini..
Omnivore food festival in Istanbul has brought a few internationally acclaimed chefs to cook in front of the ready-to-be-amused audience. Yet during the day of master classes Turkish visitors of the event have been reassured that we do have our own stars who, well, can do kebabs but also know how to please gourmets with demanding tastes. I am talking about Mehmet Gürs of Mikla.
Gürs surprised. First by introducing Mikla, his renown fine dining restaurant in Istanbul, as a locanta (canteen). Second, by announcing the menu of the demonstration – village extravaganza of testi kebab (countryside lamb stew cooked in a clay pitcher) and Turkish home cooks’ favorite kabak tatlısı (pumpkin poached in sugar syrup). Finally, by noting that he is not going to cook but will speak instead. All spot on, as we all learned in a bit.
Turks do have a few things to teach the world when it comes to the spices. Not every spice used in Turkish cooking originates from Turkey but it does not meat they has not acquired special place and use in Turkish cuisine. And where to get a better idea of the Turkish spices if not at the famed Istanbul Spice market, a venue where spices have been traded for centuries?
Let’s get a few things straight. If you try to educated yourself about the use of spices in Turkish cuisine by visiting the Istanbul Spice Market you may come out with rather inaccurate impressions, at best. Instead of buying what spice sellers would like to sell you should be looking for the spices you are interested in. And here are the tips to get your hunt for Turkish spices started.
I will not hide it – I am jealous. Very very jealous to Robyn and David traveling around Black Sea region of Turkey, eating all the way and – Robyn through her writing and David through his photograpy – making us the rest of us want to get on a plan, train, boat or bus to get us to the same table they are feasting at. What’s the deal with the Black Sea, you ask.