With a tribute to Southern Turkish Cuisine Foreword by Ghillie Basan GOURMAND World Cookbook Awards WINNER, Heritage: Turkey “My very warm welcome to you – Hosgeldiniz” This book is Ozlem’s tribute to the wonderfully diverse cuisine of Turkey and a celebration of her Southern Turkish roots with local recipes from her home town, Antioch, Antakya. She hopes these recipes will take you on a Turkish journey – to learn, taste and enjoy the delicious foods of her homeland and most importantly to feel the warmth and sharing spirit of Turkish culture. Turkish cuisine is based on seasonal fresh produce. It is healthy, delicious, affordable and easy to make. She shows you how to recreate these wonderful recipes in your own home, wherever you are in the world. Her dishes are flavoured naturally with: olive oil, lemon juice, nuts, spices, as well as condiments like pomegranate molasses and nar eksisi. Turkish cuisine also offers plenty of options for vegetarian, gluten-free and vegan diets. Living abroad, it can be difficult to access speciality ingredients, so she also offers substitutes and/or alternatives wherever she can. She hopes her recipes inspire you to recreate them in your own kitchen and that they can bring you fond memories of your time in Turkey or any special moments shared with loved ones. Her roots – Ancient Antioch, Antakya Her family’s roots date back to ancient Antioch, Antakya, located in the southern part of Turkey, near the Syrian border. This book is a special tribute to Antakya and southern Turkish cuisine, as her cooking has been inspired by this special land. Her parents, Orhan and Gulcin, were both born in Antakya and she spent many happy childhood holidays in this ancient city, playing in the courtyard of her grandmother’s 450 year old stone home, under the fig and walnut trees. Her dad’s father, Ahmet, was a soap maker (her father’s surname “Sabuncu”, means “soap maker”) making the city’s landmark olive oil soaps. Her mother’s father, Suphi, was a food merchant, trading fresh and dried produce within the city as well as with Syria. She grew up with the abundance of fresh produce as her grandpa would share cases of figs, aubergines and tomatoes with family and friends at the family home in Antioch. Love of good food and sharing has been instilled in her since childhood and she grew up with the generosity of her parents and extended family. Her mother and grandma would cook lunch and dinner every day and everyone would be welcomed to their table. Her grandma would leave an extra plate or two on the table as someone would always turn up at mealtimes and they would be warmly welcomed to the dining table. They would all sit around her courtyard dinner table under the fig tree and have a feast of senses with arrays of wonderful mezzes (small plates of appetizers), an abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables cooked in olive oil (Zeytinyaglilar), succulent kebabs and many more. The Turkish saying “Basimin ustunde yerin var” (“I would place you at the top of my head”) sums up the Turkish hospitality perfectly. For Turks guests are the most important people. Turks place their guests at the top of the table and they are always delighted to share whatever food they have. A typical Turkish table Preparing dishes is a personal choice and it is perfectly fine to tweak a recipe to reflect your taste as well as making use of what you have in your cupboard. When tackling a new recipe, say stuffed vegetables, it always starts with a phone call to Ozlem’s mother. Her mum talks about how she makes it, and Ozlem tells her about the ingredients she can get (for instance instead of pointy red peppers, it could be bell peppers), and things she may be able to substitute with others. They remember how they would all gather at preparing the filling for dolma, her dad collecting vegetables from the market and settling into removing seeds from peppers, her mum preparing the filling and whoever is around the house setting the table and helping to stuff the vegetables. She is mindful and very grateful to have grown up with such a love of food, caring for one another and helping one another. Turks love to have family and friends around and there’s always an abundance of food at the table. A typical Turkish meal usually starts with soup, a very important part of Turkish cuisine. And there is always some hot and cold mezzes on the table; it could be filo pastry rolls with cheese and parsley, Sigara Boregi, or perhaps spinach and feta pie with filo pastry, Ispanakli Borek. Depending on the season and the region, on the table there may be pureed eggplants (aubergines) with lemon and olive oil sauce, Patlican Salata or red pepper paste and walnuts dip, Cevizli Biber. Then there is often a meat based course; it can be a hearty stew or casserole with meat, chicken or in season fish and seasonal vegetables or salad. Turks love their dessert; from baklava to stuffed apricots with walnuts, there’s always time for dessert. And they finish off with a wonderful Turkish coffee or Turkish tea, cay, savoring every sip in the company of friends and family. Today in Turkey, food and mealtimes are still the hub of everyday life. Time is always taken to share meals with family members or friends, to relax and enjoy conversations. Participants wish each other “Afiyet Olsun”, literally meaning “May you be healthy and happy with this food you eat”. This is followed by a tribute to the creator of the meal, “Elinize Saglik”, meaning “Health to your hands”. Guests are always received with the most cordial hospitality and it is believed that no one should ever leave a Turkish table without feeling satisfied and happy. Antakya’s Cuisine Antakya’s cuisine has an incredible richness of fresh herbs, spices, grains like bulgur and freekeh, natural condiments like olive oil and pomegranate molasses. It’s a cuisine packed with flavour and ancient traditions, from where her cooking has been inspired. Antakya’s (ancient Antioch’s) cuisine is influenced by Ottoman, Arabic and French cuisines (Antakya was under French rule for a short period after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, before it became part of the Republic of Turkey). Antakya also hosts many diverse communities, including the Vakifli Armenian village and various religious groups. Jews, Christians, Muslims live in harmony, under one roof. She loves that you can hear the church bell alongside the muezzin call tor prayer at the mosque’s minarets for Muslims. Her food merchant uncle in Antakya would celebrate Christmas and Hannukah with his Christian and Jewish friends, as well as breaking his fast with the Muslim community during Ramadan. She hopes this book will provide you with a good, inviting introduction to Turkish cuisine. These are some of her own favorite Turkish recipes – lovingly made and passed down from her grandmother to her parents and now to her own family’s table. She truly hopes they will inspire you to create, cook, experiment and most of all enjoy the magnificent cuisine of Turkey.
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