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Coriander is not known much..Only some local folks appreciate it, like the Southestern Anatolia people..But it occupies a very important place in Antakya cuisine, and let me share a secret with you: if there is no coriander in the famous Antakya dürümü (stuffed rolls), it is never an Antakya dürümü in the real sense! Sure, the paste of a local variety a red pepper shouldn't be ignored. Coriander, or Coriandrum sativum, is called 'kişniş' in Turkey: Kishnish. As far as I know, only its seeds are used. It has a unique and strong aroma. Maybe because of this, it is not so widely used as maybe expected, considering its health benefits. Yes, its essential oil has antibacterial and antifungal features..Other benefits are pronounced as well, and there is some literature about that, if you are interested in it, I'm sure you can find some reliable material, as I found..As to its antimicrobial features, I guess this is why the Southeastern people use it, the region is hot, and local people love to eat meat..Coriander seems to protect the meat..But what is more important than this, its antimicrobial features help bowels keep the intestinal flora in balance.. Where to find? If you cannot find it at your local supermarket, try herbal shops, but try to find the product of the current season. How to use? if just for taste, you can add it into sauces, as seeds , when it was boiled , but for health benefits, grinding and adding it into food or sauces as raw, small particles is better..You can even chew it, as I do..well, not much enjoyable but it worths..
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..
Probably anybody who lived in Turkey for a period long enough to taste at least the basic Turkish foods has already heard of Tarhana..Yes, that powder, with a sweet soft orange tone, having a unique aroma..This aroma is so unique that, you cannot confuse it with another food; if something smells like tarhana, yes, it is tarhana, yet, there is no standard way of preparing tarhana!! The only two standard ingredients are flour and yoghurt; to this material, you can add anything you like from a long list of vegetables, herbs, legumes, even fruits; you can add them raw and grinded, or boiled or fried,..but the result is always tarhana.. The tradition of preparing tarhana does not differ from one region to another, as you may expect, but it can be different even from one village to another, neighbouring village.. So what's the magick? It is fermentation.. The bacteria in yoghurt work on the flour; the dough made of these two and other ingredients is spread on a cloth in the open air, wait for a special period, from a few days to ten, depending on the local humidity and temperature, and fermentation takes place..then it gets dry, and grined by hand.. If you buy some tarhana form your local vegetable market, but you think that its taste is not rich enough, don't worry, add onion, pepper, tomato or paste of them, any spice you like, your soup will welcome all..But if you live in a coastal region, or upper/higher/colder areas of them, the chances are small for a plain tarhana to emerge on the market. The rich flora of those regions will make tarhana something special: you can even smell fenugreek (boy otu/çemen otu) , the herb that is used for preparing 'pastırma', but this is another story!