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saffron last won the day on November 23 2016

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  1. You’re welcome, İbrahim Abi.. Yes, cranberry is part of the confusion. It seems there is a general tendency to put all the Vaccinium species growing in the Black Sea Region (eastern parts) into one fictive category of ‘yaban mersini’.. Bilberry naturaly grows in the region. So not only some local names (likapa, ayı üzümü, çoban üzümü..) a standard name is already established, too, namely yaban mersini, for V. myrtillus , though some writers use this botanical name for blueberry, (even in the scientific literature in English).. The name yaban mersini must be given to bilberry because of the resemblance of the leaves of myrtile (mersin) to the the leaves of bilberry, just like the bilberry which is called ‘V. myrtillus’ for the same reason.. As to the the other Vaccinium species available in the region, cranberry is not native, but cultivated. The term offered for cranberry is turnayemişi, which is a direct translation of ‘cranberry’. I don’t know if this term is established or not in the agronomy circles yet, but at least in the commercial circles it seems to be accepted.. So, within that framework of names, there is no reason to call cranberry ‘yaban mersini’.. Those who make this kind of TV programs either don’t pay attention to the accuracy of terms or simply benefit from this confusion, like those who sell packages of dried cranberries labeled ‘yaban mersini’.. But one thing is for sure: those who buy those packages of dried cranberries labeled 'yaban mersini' hoping to get some improvement in their eye sight will waste their money, unless they have some infectional problems in their urinary tracts, as cranberry seems to make a promise in that regard..
  2. Yes, probably the orginal name was 'mersinlik' , meaning the place where mersins grow or are abundant. There are many more places sharing their names with plants.. Yes, it was called İçel, but even then, the name Mersin was used, but these two names were denoting different administrative concepts: The larger one was covering the smaller district.
  3. I went to Senirkent, an Isparta town, at the weekend. I was surprised to see those small white berries, namely mersin (myrtle or Myrtus communis) as mersin is a typical Mediterranean fruit and grown in gardens for its medical benefits and fragrant flowers (even leaves and branches).. The berries have a strong taste, and, although it is so common, I hardly met anybody who ate the berries.. They are abundant and free in the coastal towns, but in that town market of Isprata , expensive!! Who buy them and why? I think the news about its medical benefits are widespread now. But again, there is a confusion about it: Yaban mersini is bilberry, and those who don’t know the difference think that mersin and yaban mersini are the same fruit..even most of the market sellers don’t know this difference.. Yaban mersini means ‘wild mersin’, but mersin is already a wild plant , not cultivated yet, so they must be the same thing! Yaban mersini or bilberry grows in the eastern parts of the Black Sea Region, and called ‘likapa’ by the local people. In literature, yaban mersini is a standard name for bilberry. But I’m not sure if the dried fruits sold at the markets of the tourist zones are really the dried bilberries or another stuff. As to mersin or myrtle, there is also a dark variety of it, and the name 'murt' is generally used for that dark kind. In Fethiye (mostly white ones are there) the local people believe that it is a kind of natural antibiotic and some literature support this: Researchers say it is traditionaly used as an antibacterial and disinfectant drug, to list only a few of its benefits .(Not only the berries, the leaves and their steam distilled oil are used) There is another reason for its popularity, mythology..or some remote memories of mythology, I should say. In Antakya, myrtle branches are placed on graves. However, nobody knows why.. On some special religious days, boys gather around the cemeteries with myrtle branches to sell.. The Antakya area had witnessed the life and believes of many cultures.. Do they somehow ‘remember’ the association of myrtle with Aphrodite, or the Hellenes who carried boughs of myrtle to funerals? Aphrotide was the guardian of the gates of birth and death, and I’m sure she would be happy to see the myrtle boughs on cemeteries today! Maybe she really knew the secret of going beyond the time limits..
  4. What would you do, if you want some pudding in the middle of the winter, made of something other than milk? But you have beans,chickpeas, wheat, raisins, dried appricots, dried figs.. in your cellar, don’t you? Oh yes, oranges are on the market, what about the fantastic aroma of orange peels? Even more you can add: peanuts, hazelnuts, actually I should say, whatever the nut you love, pinenuts, for instance..! Then red currents, cinnamon, cloves.. Red currents and cinnamon bars maybe put in the puding or stay on top, but you can add cloves while cooking (in a small bag, to take it out after cooking is over.) Is it autumn ? So you have also pomegranate to decorate you pudding.. I feel like hearing the question ‘are you sure that all that stuff should be in one ‘pudding’? Oh, I have not yet mentioned of the rice, milk, almonds, dried plums..the list of the ingredients becomes longer, depending on the creativity of housewives, or the locality you live. Actually the basic combination includes wheat, beans, chickpeas, raisins and a few other dried fruits, if available, and sugar. Although no starch is added, it is as thick as a pudding, owing to wheat : the special kind of wheat used for that purpose is called ‘aşurelik buğday’. ‘Aşurelik buğday ‘ is soaked in water overnight. Then the water is replaced with fresh water. It is simmered for 45 minutes, uncovered. After the heat is turned off, it should stay in this hot water for another 3 hours. This process gives it the pudding consistency. (There are alternative processes of boiling wheat to ensure consistency). Beans and chickpeas should be boiled separetely, and mixed with the boiled wheat. The other material should be added considering the time needed for cooking: nuts and cloves afterwards and finally the dried fruits and sugar. And you can decorate your pudding with pomegranate seeds, nuts, red currents, cinnnamon.. I can give some rough measures, but the amount of water will be fixed by experience, if you hesitate, you can decide on it while it is still processed , before nuts and fruits are added as the latter will not have much effect on consistency. As to the amount of nuts and fruits, don’t ask me, as I would fill it with orange peels and roasted hazelnuts! Ok, a rough measure: for two units of wheat, 1 unit of beans and 1 unit of chickpeeas, 1 unit of raisins , 2 units of other dried fruits like figs and appricots, ½ unit of peanuts, some small amount of pinenuts and red currents. 4 units of sugar. Just a minute, someone is knocking on my door, my neighbour with a large bowl of aşure, hopefully?
  5. The answer: the mother and her daughter! No, nobody fell into the cauldron by accident, don’t worry!! ‘Analı kızlı’ is the name given to a soup, probably by a funny housewife first, which means ‘ with mother and daughter’.. In this cast, mother is the egg-sized balls made of bulgur, enveloping fried mince (the famous ‘içli köfte’) while the daughter is only the small bulgur balls with no mince inside..yet there is one more actor or actress whose name is forgotten: meat cubes (what do you suggest?) Yes, ‘içli köfte’ is the famous speciality of the Southeastern Anatolia cuisine, and the pride of local housewives. The outer part is made of bulgur, but a thin type of bulgur which is called ‘köftelik bulgur’ ( you may need this word if you think about trying a Turkish version of Tabbouleh: 'kısır') . Those tiny bulgurs become elastic when wetted, and with addition of eggs, firm enough for frying or boiling. The dough made out of bulgur and eggs is divided into small parts which are given an egg-shape, with a hollow inside. Mince is fried with onion, then tomato paste, parsley, wallnut (crushed) and spices are added.. This material is placed in the hollows, the bulgur balls are closed and fried (or sometimes boiled). The amount of water needed to make a dough out of bulgur, and giving a shape to it is a matter of experience.. The only guaranteed way of enjoying this specialty is to have a neighbour from Urfa, Gaziantep or somewhere around!
  6. What did you expect? Tas means bowl..but small bowls for serving soup, etc are called 'kase' A tas kebabı or bowl kebab is called so because, after meat, onions, garlic ,tomato paste and spices are mixed and cooked until the meat is fried enough, (meat is fried first, then onion and garlic and finally tomato paste is added) the meat in the pot is covered with a bowl and water is added . So meat is not directly cooked in water..(there are varities with potato or other stuff). But the word 'tas kebabı' is used by ordinary restaurants only for meat cooked with potato and spices...
  7. It was the first visit of my grandma after I was born.. As she lived abroad, she couldn’t find an earlier chance to see her granddaughter. So, I had grown enough to appreciate the fantastic dolls and toys she brought with her. . Two things remained in my memory from this visit: A big Mickey Mouse with a broad smile on his face and a soup, which we all loved and called it ‘grandma’s soup’. However, when I later read the tale of ‘Stone Soup’ , ‘a-ha!’ I said to myself, ‘this must be my grandma’s soup!’ Yes, it was.. In the Central Anatolia town we lived, all you could give to a hungry stranger knocking on your door on a winter day for something to make some soup was what you could find in your cellar ( in reality, a hungry stranger is invited in for a meal): flour, legumes, rice, erişte (home-made pasta), bulgur ( wheat boiled first and crashed into granules), and sun-dried vegetables, ( other material: dried fruits, pekmez, tomato paste, tarhana) and..and? this was all, except for butter and cheese, and some fried meat if you are not poor.. In those years, irrigation facilities were limited, the winters were harsh, so people had to depend on what they kept in stock.. We didn’t have the habit of stocking food, we were an urban family. Maybe because of that, the idea behind my grandma’s soup was a total surprise to all of us.. Rice and pasta, together, huh? And beans and green lentils, together? Well, this is the secret.. Actually I don’t remember what other components of the soup were, as my imagination changed them over time.. Whenever I wanted to cook something at home and couldn’t find much in stock, I tried a ‘grandma’s stone soup’.. I tried different combinations of pasta or erişte, rice and bulgur. Depending on the other material, I mean, peppers ,onions, etc, sometimes more pasta/erişte gave a better flavour, yet sometimes more bulgur.. Rice shouldn’t say the ‘final word’ here, it should remain as the secret hero.. Instead of pasta you can use erişte: the flavour of erişte is slightly different than pasta, because, its dough includes eggs, and, unlike pasta, which is made of durum wheat, erişte is made of ordinary wheat’s flour. Without any beans, only green lentils, mixed with this list of material, with or without tomato paste will make a good winter soup of this culture. If you add beans, you ‘ll have a more typical winter soup.. Dried vegetables depend on you: I prefer peppers.. As most of the components are starch based, the soup will have a sweet flavour, so you can add carrots, too.. If you have not tried yet, bulgur goes well with many soups. In particular if you want a thicker soup which is also richer in flavour.. It goes well with vegetables, meat, even with other wheat products like itself.. If you ever tried ‘ezogelin soup’ at restaurants and liked it, it is just another version of the winter-stone soup.. Use red lentils instead of green ones, don’t use pasta or erişte, only rice and bulgur, and, add onions and garlic, tomato paste, some spices (red and blackpepper, mint), you’ll have an ezogelin çorbası.. Ok, the measures are: red lentils: 1 tea cup , rice: 1 tablespoon or less, bulgur: 1 tablespoon, onion: a small one is enough, garlic: a small amount, depending on your choice, tomato paste: 1 tablespoon. Flour: 2 tablespoons Butter: 1 tablespoon or a little more, Water: 8 tea cups. Red pepper, blackpepper and mint. Fry onions an garlic together, add lentils, bulgur and rice, stir them for a few minutes, put some water and let them boil, when they become smooth enough, put the flour with butter in another pan and fry the flour a little, then add tomato paste, mix it with flour while stirring, add hot water and spices. When boiled, add the content of the other pan and let them boil until lentils are cooked enough.
  8. Kızılcık, the bright red beauty of this pale but peaceful autumn.. Maybe I should call it the autumn ruby.. I mean, yes, cornels or cornelian cherry (or Cornus mas).. Not bright red always , there are many varieties in this Anatolia, one of which is has a color between light brown and orange. Actually this was the type I knew in the name of ‘kızılcık’, like most of the Central-Anatolian people, therefore, I was extremely surprised when I met those big ( as big as an olive), bright, and a little juicy , transparent- red fruits called ‘ergen’ , in Elmalı (Antalya) , as I didn’t expect that there was any fruit left that I had never heard of in this country.. This was still a mystery when I met smaller varieties of it around Burdur, with a slightly different taste, still called ‘ergen’ , yet called kızılcık by some of the local people. Finally, in this Isparta town I live, I started seeing them on the trees with hanging down branches full of these red fruits, some of which you could freely pick , while the summer was gradually turning to autumn.. One day, those fruits looking like an invitation for a healthy life attracted me so much that I decided to give it a try and make some jam.. I set to work, and when the fruits boiling with sugar started smelling like a kızılcık jam, the mystery was totally solved. Their taste was somehow different than the kızılcık I knew, when eaten raw, but while boiling, the fantastic aroma of kızılcık jam invaded the whole house… Let them call it ergen or kızılcık, but don’t miss that chance before they disappear from the market.. Just make some jam or make an Ottoman syrup: the famous kızılcık şerbeti.. For şerbet, the ratio between sugar and fruit depends on you..for 1 kg of fruit, a minimum of ½ kg of sugar is needed, but if you love syrups like an Ottoman, more sugar you can add..and if you take the risk of shadowing the aroma of the fruit, you can add a bit of cinammon , even cloves...then you will have an Ottoman syrup of kızılcık. Fruits are boiled first, then filtered, water with sugar is boiled seperately and they are mixed (depending on the thickness you want, decide on the quantity of water). When boiling is over, you can add a few drops of lemmon juice. This is rather for preservation. As to my recipe of kızılcık jam, I just use 1 kg of fruit for 1 kg of sugar. The fruits are steeped in sugar overnight, actually I crash the fruits a little, to let them contact with sugar, before soaked in it. Before boiling, I check if the water released by fruits is enough to start boiling. If yes, I put it on heat. When they become smooth enough in boling water, I take the water and pulp out by rubbing the material through a cullender, and let the juice and pulp boil again, until it becomes thick.. Like the other jams, it becomes thicker as it gets cold, but thicker than you may expect.. In other words, it is rich in pectin. (Don't forget to add lemmon juice for preservation) The fruits don’t lie, when they make an invitation for a healthy life.. From cystitis to sleeping disorders, diabetes or some cancer types, there is a long list of medical properties attributed to this fruit, even to the bark of its tree.. Recently somebody told me that its seeds, when boiled, provide relief from influenza.. However, there is one part of the tree that cannot be mentioned in the context of health.. The best sticks to beat somebody is made of cornel sticks (or dogwood sticks) as they are flexible yet never broken! The Ottomans did not only enjoy delicious syrups made of cornels but they knew how to educate lazy pupils under the supervision of hodjas!
  9. Pomegranate syrup is the name given to it, but actually it is not a syrup in the real sense, as there is no sugar added to it.. It is simply pomegranate juice, boiled for hours, until it becomes a thick liquid, and caramelized to some degree.. Unlike the syrups on the market with different labels, giving the impression that they are the pomegaranate syrup, the real pomegaranate syrup, as it is understood in the local tradition, has no additive whatsoever..and if you have tasted the original one, like me, you wouldn’t buy them. If you still buy them, read the ingredients: there must be written one single word: pomegranate, not this or that acid (assuming that the additives are written). Too much fruit and too much labour: this is another definition of pomegranate syrup.. But let me write the original name: ‘nar ekşisi’. Ekşi means sour but any sour liquid obtained from fruits to be used in the kitchen can be called so. Actually, if it is not obtained from sour pomegranates, the liquid is not supposed to be sour.. Maybe something in between a sour taste and a sweet taste.. Because of that sweet taste, it is also called ‘nar pekmezi’. Pekmez, I guess you know, is the name given to a thick and very sweet liquid obtained from fruits but mostly from grapes, by boiling. Yes, too much labour.. Once I worked with the rural women in production of it.. We sat around a small pool , cut the fruits into two, and by hitting them with sticks, we let the arils fall down. Then with a new and clean pair of plastic boots, somebody walked on the arils, to obtain the juice. Later, the juice was filtered and boiled for hours.. But this quantity was for the consumption of a large family and a larger group of visiting relatives.. What about a humble bottle to make your salads very special? Yes you can do that! Your only limit is gas bills, as you don’t have any wood fire in your garden unlike the lucky rural women! Actually there are many dishes which nar ekşisi makes special, but even for salads only it worths trying. If you ever set to work on that, cut as many fruits as you think you have patience with, take the arils out, obtain the juice and filter it: there must remain no seeds , as the seeds change the taste and make it bitter, like the white skin enveloping the arils. Then put the juice on heat, take your favorite journals or turn on the TV program you like and..ooops! too much boiling will make it a caramel!!
  10. Allspice versus yenibahar: there is some confusion about it.. Although the tree of allspice is given a botanical name Pimenta dioica or P. officinalis, yenibahar is sometimes called P. racemosa, and sometimes P. dioica..it can be a mixture of these two, .. I don't know if this is important.. Just as a note, I wrote.. Now big juicy green peppers must be in your garden, just cook this 'iç pilav' and fill the peppers with it!! oh, where was your home? Sure, kaburga dolması! Maybe the best example for iç pilav.. and what about midye (mussel) dolması? You don't need to fill mussels with iç pilav for this special taste..just half-cook the rice with fresh tomatos first, the remaining procedure is the same; mussels should be cooked with rice... Is it too early for dinner?
  11. Do you think the pilau served at restaurants or probably at dinners you are invited is the whole story of Turkish pilau? No!! The Ottoman, therefore İstanbul traditon of food consumption was richer than the other parts of the country in some respects.. Pilau is one example for that. Today people hurriedly cook plain pilau as a side dish, or sometimes add ‘şehriye’ (small sized pasta produced for making pilau or soup). But the truth is more tasty than this!. Here is a list of the material traditionaly used and still in use with rice: Almond (badem) Blackcurrent (kuş üzümü) Raisin (kuru üzüm) Chestnut (kestane) Pine nuts (çam fıstığı) Before making the list longer, I should add this note: the two items of the list, namely pine nuts and blackcurrent are the most common ones. Actually if we will talk about the famous ‘biber dolması’ (stuffed pepper) or yaprak sarması (grapevine leaves stuffed and rolled) the pilau inside should be cooked with these too, together with onion and a special spice called ‘yenibahar’, the grinded dry fruits of the tree Pimenta racemosa (bay rum tree). Today, most of the housewifes make this pilau with only onion and dried mint leaves added to the rice, partly because pine nut is very expensive. Though not so common, almond and raisin is another good combination, in particular if you cook pilau with meat. A bit of cinnamon can be added to this combination as well. (Actually cooking meat with cinnamon and plenty of onions , is part of the Turkish cuisine, with a general name ‘yahni’). As to chestnut, you can add it to the almond-raisin combination, to make your pilau a kitchen phenomenon!! (If only salty and half-roasted almond is available, soak them in water, wait until you can peel them, and fry a lttle). If you want to exaggerate, you can add dried appricots, plum juice, mercanköşk (marjoram or Origanum onites; or Turkish oregano), pistachio nuts , nutmeg seeds (cevz-i bevva)…oh, I don’t mean all of them, even for sultans.. Needless to say, black pepper is somewhere around here, if you like. Do you want to try?, ok, first put the onions cut into slices for normal frying as you know, and add pine nuts and blackcurrents in the casserole, fry them a little, until the creamy nuts turn into light yellow, and add water following your normal procedure for pilau. If you cannot find yenibahar, don’t worry, the result will be still great without it. You can do the same for almond and raisins. These combinations go well with 'sweet' type of spices, so you can add a bit of yenibahar or cinnnamon to this almond pilau as well. I can still suggest a relatively plain but a very delicious pilau: Boil the peeled chestnuts, or boil them first and peel , and fry them with butter (oil is not advisable for that), and add water in the usual amount of your recipe for pilau. This is on top of my list!
  12. Maybe I should talk about the tarhana soup, too. Like milk powder, it is a condensed material and becomes consumable with addition of water and some butter. The quantity of water needed depends on two things, the tarhana, itself, and your choice.. As I wrote, tarhana is not something standard.. So the best way to follow is to try.. If not the first, your second attempt will yield the result you want.. But I can give a rough measure: for one liter of water a tea cup of tarhana would be a safe beginning. I use a little more than this, as I love the soup when thick. Butter or oil should be added, too. But as it already contains yoghurt, it is not totally fat-free. You may put a small amount and add more later, if you like. Tarhana gives you a chance to use your creativity in the kitchen.. You can add many things, to create your own version of tarhana!! Do you like garlic? ok, just try..are you worrying about the remaining beans? what about a bean-tarhana soup? The list is long.. Tarhana is actually a kind of fast food. Put the material and water in a casserole, stir it continiuosly -this is important-and wait till it gets boiled:ready! If you like a warm, hot soup in a cold winter night, don't forget to decorate your soup with a long, red, hot pepper floating on your soup!!
  13. You're welcome ! As to the serious side of kakule, as I said, except for the areas bordering Arabian countries, kakule is not an issue of tradition, but it seems it becomes a new trend. So whatever the shopkeeper says will be based on what he reads.. To read what? Some , or in fact, a few of the books they read, ok, have some historical content, but most of the books on sale today have no reliable reference. I don't mean that what they say is wrong, but they lack reference.. A pharmacologist, for instance just sits and writes a book, but what he /she does is actually copying the material from another book, without reference, and this goes on like this..
  14. No, tarhana is never used as a spice. The powder is used to make a tarhana soup, with additon of water and oil or butter. The restaurants trying to look attractive for tourists use different things like curry.. Turkish food culture has no familiarity with curry, but now you can see it served with chicken. It is a soft orange powder, and tangy. Sumak or rhus has a red or dark red colour. It has a sour taste, and is used together with or instead of lemmon in some salads. When you order kebap, and if it is served with sliced onions, those tiny red particles on the onion slices are sumak.. Considering only its color, maybe kimyon (cumin) is a candidate, but Turks never use it with chicken..it is for red meat and some legumes like lentil.
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