2009/02/11

Greg & Lucy Malouf: Turquoise

By JULIETTE ROSSANT

Turquoise, Greg & Lucy Malouf

Many food writers have included Turkish cuisine in books about the Middle East, the Levant, or even North Africa (See Super Chef). Greg and Lucy Malouf have wisely devoted a whole, very large and beautiful book to the country alone.

Turquoise (Chronicle 2008) is more then a cookbook. It is a personal travelogue with recipes that are partly traditional and partly the creation of Greg Malouf.

With a country as vast and complex as Turkey, this approach is bound to include some recipes and memories that, even if you know Turkey well, seem unfamiliar, while others are exactly what you remember – but that is what makes it so interesting. – along with the stunning photographs by Lisa Cohen and William Meppem.

The introduction covers Turkish history up to the present, albeit in a condense fashion – this being a cookbook – but it serves to lay the foundation s of the next section on Food (p. 8). They divide up the cuisine into the standard Ottoman (courtly or urban) and Anatolian (village or rural). Anatolian cuisine is based on seasonal ingredients, sourced locally, and cooked simply following recipes that are not deviated from.
Turks have no fear of simplicity, either and many dishes are pleasingly unfussy. (p. 8)
They cover the introduction of various dishes (stuffed, milk-based, etc) from invading Turkic tribes like the Uygurs and the Seljuks, then they turn to Ottoman palace cuisine:
The Ottoman Empire was vast, spanning at its height three continents, and the chefs in the palace kitchens were the beneficiaries of exciting foodstuffs that flooded into the capital every day from all corners of the empire. In what was surely a forerunner to today's "fusion" cooking, hundreds of new and exotic dishes ere created in the palace kitchens, many with equally exotic names, such as Sultan's Delight, the Imam Fainted, Ladies ' Thighs, harem Navels and Nightingale Nests. (p. 10)
The section mentions only one Turkish chef, Musa Dagdeverin from Istanbul's Ciya restaurant, who has crisscrossed Anatolia in search of ancient cooking traditions.

Greg and Lucy Malouf

The chapters wander through Turkey – Istanbul is paired with Soups, while the Bosphorus gets Dips, Cappadocia gets grains and legumes. Lamb crops up in many chapters, but the Maloufs devote a whole chapter to lamb and variety meats, along with a tour through the early Christian underground cities. They crawl through cramped, damp rooms and then climb up to the surface to eat a wonderful village meal.
And then out came the main dishes, the clay pots of steaming tandr lamb and fasulye (beans). Nurhoyat had started preparing both dishes early that morning, so by now they'd been quietly slow-cooking away at the bottom of the tandr oven for nearly five hours. Both were simple peasant-style dishes, uncomplicated by layers of spices and herbs. The lamb was meltingly tender and juicy in a light tomato stock that was thick with onion, garlic and peppers. (p. 153)
That's only part of the meal. Later, in Kayseri, they learn about Turkish pasturma and buy a tub of the red paste that gives pasturma its flavor and color. The recipes range from Spicy Cig Kofte (p. 158), a raw beef or lamb dish similar to a spicy version of Steak Tartar.

They include a recipe for Antep Pistachio Kebabs (p. 162) that are very popular in Istanbul. They combine lean ground lamb, lamb spice mix (p. 329), and pistachios. American pistachios tend to be larger, but blander than Turkish or Syrian pistachios. It's a good idea to get imported pistachios for this dish.

There are also recipes for Rabbit Kebabs (p. 164), Spicy Liver Kebabs with Onion and Sumac Salad (p. 166), and unusual Skewered Lamb's Sweetbreads with Cumin, Chile and Sumac (p. 167). This last really isn't a strictly Turkish dish, but a marvelous Greg Aloof interpretation of the many dishes of offal in Turkish cuisine.

There are more inventive dishes throughout the book, but especially in the section< On the Old Silk Road that covers dessert. Here you'll find a series of enchanting photographs of yufka rollers, the thin filo-like pastry that is used in savory and sweet desserts. The yufka appears in recipes for Borek "cigars" with cheese (p. 266) and Borek "cigars" with brains (p. 267).

Reading Turquoise: A Chef's Travels in Turkey, is like finding a stack of well-written letters, stunning photographs, and a pile of recipes from a perfect trip through the country. The Turks like to say how hospitable their country is to visitors and it is clears the Maloufs discovered that hospitality – and the all the good food that goes with it. Read this before planning your next summer holiday and you may just find yourself strolling along the Bosphorus.

Previous articles:
Aromas of Aleppo
Claudia Roden: Arabesque
Sufi Cuisine: Nevin Halici
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