I found a lovely cook from Kingston Library, Canberra which has inspired me to again reflect on our travels in Turkey in 2014 (see previous posts if interested).

I really enjoyed the writing of this Sydney based author, Leanne Kitchen, who is a trained chef with “a highly successful cooking career in Australia and New Zealand spanning 14 years”… “carrying her camera, Leanne travels extensively around Asia and the Middle East, capturing amazing images of the people, places and food that inspire her. To read more about Leanne, there are some good reads at http://www.sbs.com.au/Leanne Kitchen. Great to hear of a female Chef getting their share of attention, as a worldwide trend in last decade or two, has mostly been on male chefs.

Here’s her food philosophy summed up:

“I was a professional chef for a long time, so I used to be hung up on technique and presentation.  Now I’m interested in “real” food cultures. It’s usually incredibly simple: using great ingredients with respect, and not tricking them up.”

Leanne firstly explores Meze and Soups (starters), followed by breads and side dishes including rice and burghul; Fish/Seafood; Poultry/Meat; and finally the most beautiful Turkish desserts – some so simple too which is my kind of dessert!

The photographs are also beautiful and I plan on buying the book – a gorgeous one to keep on the coffee table although browzing through might have us thinking too much about eating!…

Other traditional foods she includes in her book are Gozleme and Borek (“the making of which is considered something of an art form”).   We tried all these foods on our month of travel through Turkey.

Turkish restaurants in Sydney and Canberra:

This book reminds me to try more Turkish restaurants in Sydney where there are larger Aust’n/Turkish communities.  One of our favourite restaurants in Sydney is Efendy in Balmain (inner west of Sydney) where I have family still living – although many older members of the family, including our parents, have passed away now. I do have one Aunt, Ann now 90, who is the last of our mother’s original Balmain family of 10 children…she’s still going strong and visits Balmain (a village of inner Sydney) occasionally. I’ll be meeting up with her son (my cousin of course) in Scotland this Sept! We’ll be visiting some family history sites together so looking forward to that!

The renowned chef and cookbook author of Efendy, Somer Sivrioglu, has opened another restaurant, Anason, in the city’s newest development, Barangaroo. So we’ll be staying in the Rocks area again this November (walking distance from Barangaroo) and we hope to have another family catch-up there. Later this year, I’ll come back and note down how that went.

Canberra has many Middle Eastern restaurants (one at least in almost every town centre) and a great produce store in Mawson but not nearly as extensive as in Sydney due to our smaller population. However, being the capital city and the centre of government, we do have plenty of people coming/going/staying to keep a large number of restaurants thriving – which is great as it helps to keep the place interesting and vibrant we feel!

Two of our local restaurants in Canberra are Pomegranate in Kingston (inner Sth) and the other is Little Istanbul near Lake Tuggeranong – a pretty place for a walk after lunch (20 min drive from inner Sth).   I got to know the owners of Little Istanbul when I worked as a teacher in that area…they’re lovely people and I still return often for a morning tea or coffee and sometimes one of their homemade pastries…baklava etc.

The above 2 restaurants serve tasty, home-style cooking at average prices in a relaxed yet elegant setting.  A more up-market restaurant (recently receiving 2 Hat Award here) is The Ottoman in Barton, Canberra.  We haven’t been there for a few years but we intend to go this year.  It’s described as “A swanky, Art Deco pavilion with view of Islamic-style gardens”…so in order to see the gardens (which I always love doing if there’s a garden to see), we’ll go for lunch or an early dinner, once day light saving starts again in summer.  The menu offers many traditional favourites using local produce including very fresh seafood as Canberra isn’t far from the coast (a 2 hr drive) so we receive regular deliveries of seafood via refrigerated trucks, and of course by plane, if the seafood is coming from further afield.

Back to our travels in Turkey:

We travelled by public ferry from the mainland to the Turkish Island of Bozcaada. It was a short and easy trip – only about an hour. Tony stood with the bags and took in the view. I did a bit of that but wanted to check out the little kiosk they had on board – it was set up with tables and most people were sipping Turkish tea. There were also some small sweets on offer including Turkish Delight and simple biscuits which looked homemade.  All very nice on a public ferry trip!

The Rome2Rio app shows that it’s possible to take a car (or pedestrian) ferry from near the Gallipoli Peninsula to Bozcaada.  It takes approximately 4 hours and is very inexpensive.  Even though we heard that the public ferries are excellent, 4 hours on a ferry didn’t appeal to me so we contacted an agent (a Turkish/Australian couple based in Sydney) and after feedback from us, they mapped our trip and organised cars/drivers between a few destinations along the way.   In future posts I’ll write more on some of those other interesting stops along the way.  My next post on Turkey will be Gallipoli.  The distance between Gallipoli and Bozcaada is only 66 km I just noted so that had me wondering why you would take the long ferry trip but perhaps there are other interesting stops along that route? Something for us to investigate if we ever return…would like to, but might need another lifetime for that😉

Ferry to/from the mainland is a very good service

On the ferry there were a variety of local people – some in traditional Muslim dress (just a loose/colourful scarf over women’s heads);  others in modern clothing…depending on age but with young ones wearing jeans, t-shirts etc.   In this part of Turkey, unlike the traditional village we left the day before, most young and mid age people can speak English very well.   Some seemed to be communicating between themselves in English, so maybe they were tourists from elsewhere like us, although by the end of our month in Turkey I was able to distinguish if people were speaking Turkish – well I think I could! Tony and I only learned a few words which I should note down here later.

Seafood Markets:

We visited a few seafood markets in Turkey – the most memorable being Kusadasi…our arrival point from Samos, Greece (see previous post if interested as this way of entering Turkey is highly recommended!).  We also visited a small seafood market here on the island – there are many restaurants, mainly seafood, as it’s a popular holiday resort for both overseas visitors and locals.  It wasn’t the peak season when we were there (quite cool but not cold) but there were still plenty of restaurants operating and enough holiday makers to give most cafes and restaurants a pleasant buzz.

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Cool weather but still a nice place for a morning cuppa/evening drink – we walked to restaurants

Leanne notes in her book that “Turkey has a coastline which stretches for kilometres around the borders where the Black, Marmara, Aegean and Mediterranean seas lap it’s shore. Red mullet, trout, bonito, mackerel, sea bass, sea perch, tuna, swordfish and sardines are popular, as are squid and mussels.”

In the book she also notes that various seafoods are “subject to the simplest of treatments – grilling or baking usually – and are served with unfunny accompaniments, leaving the fish tasting of the sea, river or stream from which it was plucked.”

Leanne says “Turkish cooks pride themselves on their ability to cook rice well – the grains should still be somewhat firm and separate, never sticky or clumped together. It is this pride in cooking simple things very, very well that exemplifies the spirit of the Turkish kitchen. Likewise, burghul has had an important place on the table in Turkey since ancient times and is also fashioned into pillars and salads.”

Leanne’s Simple Burghul Pilaf Recipe:

2 cups coarse burghul (bulgur); 2.5 tablespoons olive oil; 1 large onion (finely chopped; 1 garlic clove, crushed; 1 cinnamon stick; 3 cups chicken stock.

Method: Wash burghul under cold running water until the water runs clear, then drain well and set aside. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over a med heat. Add onion and garlic and cook 5-6 min, stirring often until softened. Add cinnamon stick & stock, bring to boil, then reduce heat to low, cover and coof about 12-15 min, or until zoo liquid has been absorbed. Season with salt and pepper, fluff grains with a fork, Serve warm or at room temp. Serves 4-6

Goes well with her slow cooked lamb leg with apples...some of her recipes use Pomegranate Molasses which we buy at a Middle Eastern Grocery shop in Mawson, Canberra.

Another book I love (also borrowed from library but I intend to buy) is Rick Stein’s Venice to Istanbul (another BBC book) “Discovering the flavours of the Eastern Mediterranean”.

Here’s a couple of the Turkish recipes he recommends:

Grilled Mackerel Stuffed with Hot Red Pepper Paste

4 fresh mackerel; 2 tbsp red pepper paste (will type prep for that soon); 2 tbsp pine nuts; 2 tbsp tomato paste; 6 cloves garlic finely chopped; 1 onion, finely chopped; handful flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped; 1 tsp pomegranate molasses; olive oil for brushing.

Method:

To prepare the mackerels take a thin bladed, flexible knife and cut just behind the head down to the backbone. Don’t cut through it. Turn the blade towards the tail. Rest your other hand on top of the fish and cut the fillet away from the bones until you are about 3 cm away from the tail. Turn the fish over and repeat on the other side. Pull back the top fillet and snip out the backbone close to the tail, with scissors. The fillets will still be attached by the tail. Discard the head and backbone.

Make a paste by mixing all the remaining ingredients. Spreading a quarter over the inside of each mackerel. Tie the fish at 3 places along their length, brush liberally with olive oil and grill on a barbecue or under a hot grill for 4-5 min on each side.

Serve with warm pilaf or a grain salad in summer.

See Rick S’s Note at end about Mackerel and Bonito (the fish used for this recipe in Turkey)…our sons might be interested in this as both are recreational fishermen. In their mid 20s they restored a small boat together and we sometimes go out with them on calm lakes of the Sth Coast eg. Narrawallee (near Mollymook), Burrill + the lakes and river near Nelligen (closer to Bateman’s Bay and even Canberra…less than 2 hr drive from Canberra, if traffic is light.

Oven-Roasted Chicken With Sumac, Pomegranate Molasses, Chilli and Sesame Seeds

Rick Stein starts the recipe by saying:

“This is an ideal dish for an outdoor party. However, I favour cooking it in the oven (Tony uses an outdoor Weber oven) because the marinade is apt to burn on the barbecue…I kept the heat low to avoid too much blackening….Sumac is Turkey’s favourite spice. It’s a red berry with an astringent, lemony flavour, the fruit of a small bush. It’s the sort of dish that’s ideal as part of a warm and cold buffet where people have a bit of everything, including a rice pilaf.”

Rick S goes onto say that he often cooks this at his place on Mollymook Beach (where outdoor climate is generally pleasant all year) but when he invites friends, he really needs to stop chatting and concentrate – sounds like me!

It might even benefit from a bit of slow/covered roasting first to ensure inside isn’t raw/outside burnt?? Nothing worse with chicken. I’ll ask my cook extraordinaire!…aka Tony😉 and report back once we’ve tried this dish.

Rick Stein has a range of seafood recipes as well in all his books, including this book, and he often cooks those at Mollymook (as do we) as the seafood is so great there…fresh off the boats at Ulladulla. The best seafood is sold at Lucky’s in Ulladulla…mostly all from Australian waters.

One book we do use a lot is his “Coast to Coast” book…it has an excellent yet simple recipe for Turkish kofta kebabs with minted yoghurt and kohlrabi and carrot salad“. We needed to substitute something else for the kohlrabi as it wasn’t available at Ulladulla…I just use the Net to work that out and recipe usually works well although I’m not as precise as some other home cooks! I sometimes jokingly tease Tony when he goes out hunting and gathering for some obscure ingredient…he quite enjoys that sometimes but I don’t!

Serves 4-6

1 whole chicken (about 2 kg), jointed into 8 pieces; 3 tbsp olive oil; 1 tbsp sesame seeds

For the marinade: 2 tbsp ground Sumac; 2 large cloves garlic, crushed or grated; 1/2-1 tsp chilli flakes; 1 tbsp tomato paste; 1 tbsp Pomegranate molasses; 1 tsp salt.

Method:

Mix all marinade ingredients together, rub well into the chicken and leave for 1 hour. Heat the oven to 200 deg C. Put the chicken in a roasting tin, drizzle with olive oil and scatter the sesame seeds over. Roast in the oven for 30 min.

Another recipe of Rick Stein’s that will appeal to Tony is on P216 Grilled Seabass with Greens…the greens are cooked into a potato dish. Tony loves 🥔! A simple but tasty sounding one. Actually originating from Croatia (see Croatian posts if interested). Croatian food seems to be a mix of Croatian/Venetian/Middle Eastern influences. Croatia is another great place to visit (just try to avoid the cruise ship arrivals in Dubrovnik as now so crowded like Venice) and reminds me to write more on our two holidays in various parts of Croatia.

TO FINISH UP…

We’ve been doing too much eating this weekend and not enough exercise so…beautiful sunny winter day here in Canberra so must get out and about as the late afternoons have been cooling down fast although not much wind so if well rugged up when outdoors, it’s still been very pleasant.  So don’t let winter put you off visiting Canberra!

Have a good week whoever might be reading this!…my post next weekend (if all goes well) will be on galleries and cultural precincts of Cape Town followed by our fabulous day in Johanessburg where we would like a longer stay in the future.  We have friends visiting both places soon.

Note on Mackerel/Bonito by Rick Stein:

I wrote this recipe to honour the culinary reason for the existence of Istanbul. A series of fishing villages in the Bosphorus (a huge straight separating Europe and Western Asia…see map) were originally made prosperous by enormous shoals of bonito, known in Turkey as palamut.

Byzantium was the Ancient Greek city and precursor of Istanbul that was founded by Greek colonists, drawn to the area, I am sure, not just by its strategic position between the Mediterranean Sea and the Black Sea but also by the abundance of fish.

Bonito is still a very popular fish in the city. Go into any fish market in the autumn and bonito are displayed in glistening rows with their bright red gills turned outwards so you can see how fresh they are. If you can get hold of good chunky bonito, use it. Mackerel, however, is the closest thing for the rest of us.

RICK’S TURKISH SPICED PILAF – P268

I’ve already included Leanne’s traditional pilaf recipe above but when we come to try this, I’ll compare both list of ingredients and decide which one to go with.

Growing Dill: We might substitute a different herb for dill as we have many herbs in our garden, but we haven’t tried growing dill. Must find out whether it is an easy one to grow?…I only go for hardy herbs as we come/go from Canberra/Coast and elsewhere a lot these days so herbs need to look after themselves pretty well. We have put a v basic watering system in place in Canberra as it doesn’t rain very much here.

Ingredients:

300 g basmati or long-grain rice, rinsed; 2 tbsp olive oil; 1 onion halved and sliced, 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon; 1/2 tsp salt, 6 turns black Peppermill; 450 ml water, small handful flat-leaf parsley, chopped; small handful dill, chopped; 2 tbsp pine nuts; 2 tbsp currants.