Firinda Nohut Yemegi – Garbanzo Beans Baked In Tomato Sauce

A warm, winter comfort food: Beans and tomato. Good complex carbs, protein and fiber to support your digestive system.

In Turkey, beans are one of those things that miraculously unite all people. Rich and poor, religious or not, city dwellers and people from rural areas, no matter who you are, there is one common food that everyone misses a lot when abroad: Beans in a rich tomato sauce, served with rice and ayran (yogurt drink). Some like it soupy, some prefer thicker consistency varieties. Most favor lima beans over garbanzo, my favorite is by far garbanzo beans.

You can make delicious garbanzo beans baked in tomato sauce at home if you follow these steps:

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Hunkar Pilavi – Pilaf With Lamb, Pistachios and Black Currants

The other day, I decided to try a recipe from a book by Ozge Samanci and Sharon Croxford. If any of you guys remember, that is the book my husband bought for my birthday. It’s called XIX. Yuzyil Istanbul Mutfagi which translates into “19th Century Istanbul Cuisine”. I ended up playing around with the amounts and the ingredients, but still this recipe is inspired by the above-mentioned book.

Ingredients:

3.5 cups of water

300 g (around a cup) of boneless lamb meat, cut into walnut-size cubes

100 g of clarified butter (regular butter would be fine too)

A handful of pistachio nuts, shells removed

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Zeytinyagli Portakalli Kereviz – Celeriac Braised in Olive Oil and Orange Juice

Celeriac is the root of what is called “celery”. In my university years, in Sydney, I hadn’t seen celeriac anywhere for quite a long time,  then one day I came across this non-starchy root vegetable in the vegie isle of a supermarket. As soon as I saw this prince charming hid in the form of an ugly frog, I started jumping up and down like a child. At the check out, I noticed that something was wrong, as the girl kept skipping my lovely celeriac and finished checking out everything else I bought. Then she said she would be back in a minute and left. When she returned, she seemed quite anxious, turned to me and said “please don’t get me wrong, what do you call this thing? I tried to find it in the isle but no luck “, she obviously thought that I would be offended by her ignorance of our cultural habit of eating this weird substance. I smiled and replied, celeriac, celery-root in other words. She was relieved by my calm reaction, glad that I didn’t turn out to be the furious Muslim she was afraid that I was.

Anyhoo, another time at the same supermarket checkout, an old lady asked me about how I prepared “this thing”. I gave her a quick recipe of this olive oil dish and she seemed happy, she said “there is one other Polish lady buying this, I haven’t seen anyone else”. I don’t know how the Polish make this into a dish, but my favorite is an olive oil based recipe.

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Cerkes Tavugu – Circassian Chicken

The answer to what makes Ottoman cuisine so special lies in the wide variety of influences ranging from the Caucasus to the Balkans, from Niles to Euphrates… Even Chinese cuisine had an impact on the Ottomans, as Turks brought an over-1000-year-old heritage from the steppes of Central Asia where they were in close contact with the Chinese. Cuisines of the Caucasus region appear as one of the hundreds of influences within the Ottoman cuisine. Georgian, Laz and Circassian people (one might want to include Armenians and Azeris as well) and their unique ways of preparing food is quite distinctive. Circassian chicken, contrary to what its name suggests, has more likely originated from Georgian territories and is a widely-known dish in today’s Turkey.

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Misir Ekmegi – Corn Bread

Corn bread is quite popular in the Black Sea region of Turkey. It’s usually made without any raising agent in most local cuisines, therefore has a hard and dry texture. But in some regions and from the Ottoman times, there are recipes calling for yeast or baking soda and cream, milk, yogurt, butter or olive oil. This one’s from Kastamonu region, turns out really soft and fluffy, better consumed quick or re-heated before being served.

Ingredients:

1 egg

2 teaspoons of sugar

1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup cream

1 cup of corn flour (finest type, sun dried or oven-roasted)

1 cup sifted wheat flour (bread type)

1 teaspoon of salt

1 teaspoon of baking powder

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Sucuklu Yumurta – Eggs With Sujuk

Sujuk or soudjouk is Turkish sausages, somewhat like Hungarian sausages, sujuk smells and tastes very much like those. Here is a Sunday brunch classic: Eggs With Sujuk. If there is nice and fresh bread accompanying this dish, nothing can compare to it, especially in winter mornings. Sujuk is available in Turkish grocery shops in most Western countries, particularly in suburbs  populated mostly by Turks. It keeps quite long in the fridge too.

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Firinda Cipura – Oven Baked Gilthead Seabream

I’ve been craving fish for months, bluefish is my favorite, turbot comes next. There are rumors flying around about the soon-to-go-extinct bluefish, advising against consumption of it if smaller than 24cms, so I had to convince myself not to buy bluefish until the larger ones are abundant and the prices go down correspondingly.

If you’re asking what does all this have to do with the gilthead seabream recipe, it arrived just in time when my cravings ran in full force. They sell farm-bred seabream all around and it tastes like grass, so I would never recommend it. Farmed seabass is a bit more acceptable in terms of taste, but no farmed seabream for me, thanks. The one I baked was from Western Black Sea and so fresh and full of flavor. By the way, hubs is not a fish-fan at all, but once I had the time to check out on him while nibbling on my yummy fish, he was sucking the gelatinous bits over the bones. Here is how I baked it and let the flavors come out:

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Humus – Chickpea Spread With Tahini

Humus, originally a Middle Eastern meze, “is high in iron and vitamin C, and also has significant amounts of folate and vitamin B6. Garbanzo beans make it a good source of protein and dietary fiber; the tahini consists mostly of sesame seeds, an excellent source of amino acid, complementing the proteins in chickpeas”, says Wikipedia. Humus is a very convenient food for those who prefer a vegetarian or vegan diet and like other combinations of grains and pulses, when eaten with bread it serves as a complete protein. It’s great for your digestive system as well.

Its creamy texture and earthy, yet rich, flavor balances great with the mild and acidic flavors of olive oil and lemon juice. I am always up for regional staple food recipes as they are usually amazingly well balanced both in terms of health and taste. I am not a drinker at all, but some say, humus when eaten with alcoholic beverages helps avoid a nasty hangover.

Here goes the recipe for humus:

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