Wandering around my garden with my Turkish friend Edis and his wife Ayla, we arrived at my crop of speckled pink borlotti beans, still waiting to be picked. Ayla let out a yelp of delight. "Ahh, barbunya, fresh borlotti beans," she exclaimed. "We make barbunya pilaki with these when they are fresh at the market back in Turkey."
For this dish, she explained, you need fresh beans out of their pods. You saute onions and some carrots in copious amounts of olive oil, then add garlic, tomato paste and a few chopped tomatoes. Once this simmers, you add the fresh beans, a little water and let it simmer away until the beans are tender and the tomatoes have almost disappeared into the broth, adding more water as needed. Once the beans are cooked and tender, season them and garnish with lots of fresh dill.
Edis told me that growing up, he had an Armenian grandmother who was an excellent cook. Like all women of that era, she would rise each day at dawn to start cooking, taking hours to prepare all kinds of intricate pastries and doughs. From Turkey's vast geographical landscape there are literally thousands of recipes, handed down from generation to generation, each with its own name and specific method. Now, he explained, sadly all these old recipes are starting to disappear. Today's generation hasn't the interest or the time for any such complex or long-winded cookery.
I asked Edis if he knew the famous restaurant Ciya Sofrasi, in the fish market district of Kadikoy in Istanbul, across the Bosphorus on the Asian side. Of course he did. There owner and chef Musa Dagdeviren has made a lifetime's work of collecting old family recipes from all around Turkey, bringing to life a rich vein of collective food memory. I have been lucky enough to go to this restaurant several times over the years. Depending on the season and the day, you might get to eat roasted silver beetroot with red kidney beans, carrots, garlic, chilli and onion; perhaps a dish of milk thistle heads with lamb, olive oil, lemon and egg; or a beef stew with roasted chestnuts, quince, and dried apricots in a herby broth. There's nothing glamorous about the look of most of this food, it tends to be brown and stew-like, but the flavours are deep and soulful.
Since Ayla and Edis' visit, I've been craving Turkish food. Here then, some of my favourite "at home" Turkish recipes, inspired by Ayla, Edis and my wonderful trips to Turkey.
Turkish eggs, aka menemen
This simple egg scramble is probably Turkey's national dish. In our house it's become a family favourite that we make for breakfast, lunch and even dinner. If you fancy, glam it up with a handful of baby spinach leaves and some crumbled feta.
Ready in 20 mins
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
½ red onion, thinly sliced
½ red pepper, thinly sliced
¼ tsp smoked paprika
¼ tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp salt
2 Tbsp coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley and/or mint leaves, plus extra to serve
1 tomato, chopped
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
½ green chilli, sliced (optional)
Heat oil in a frying pan over a medium-low heat and cook onion, red pepper, paprika and cumin until onion is soft but not brown (about 10 minutes). Add a little water if the mixture starts to dry out and catch.
Whisk eggs in a small bowl with salt and chopped herbs. Add tomato to frying pan and cook until soft (2 minutes). Add egg mixture and cook, gently stirring, until egg is set (2 minutes).
Season to taste with salt and black pepper and garnish with green chilli, if desired, and extra herbs.
When I'm in Turkey, I always look forward to visiting the local imam and his clever cooking wife, Dordu, who live up in the hills on one of the islands off the coast of southern Turkey. Dordu told me that growing up in a family of 12 children, she and her sisters would spend several hours each day making mountains of these manti to feed everyone for dinner. In Turkey everyone makes their own pastry but I find it easiest to use store-bought wonton wrappers. The addition of a starchy vegetable into the filling is not traditional but I find it makes it much lighter and more tender.
300g lamb mince
½ medium onion, peeled and grated
150g kūmara/potato/pumpkin, boiled 10 minutes, then grated
2 cloves garlic, crushed with 1 teaspoon salt
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp smoked paprika
¼ tsp regular chilli flakes
2 Tbsp chopped coriander
Zest of 1 lemon
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp fine black pepper
1 egg, lightly beaten
30-40 small dumpling or wonton wrappers (about 8-10cm)
A little rice flour or cornflour, to dust
YOGHURT SAUCE (to serve)
2 cups natural yoghurt
1 clove crushed garlic
2 Tbsp chopped chives
½ tsp salt
SMOKY CHILLI OIL (to serve)
¼ cup olive oil
1 tsp smoked paprika
A pinch of chilli flakes
Sprigs of mint, to garnish
Combine all filling ingredients in a bowl, working with a heavy spoon to achieve a pasty texture.
To assemble manti, brush a little beaten egg around the rim of each wrapper and drop small spoonfuls of filling in the centre of each (about 6-10g depending on size of wrapper). Pull up sides and press to seal at the centre top then draw in and seal edges on either side to form triangle-shaped ends (see photo).
Place prepared manti on a tray sprinkled with a little rice flour or cornflour to stop them sticking.
Mix all the ingredients for the yoghurt sauce together in a bowl and put to one side.
Make the smoky chilli oil by gently heating olive oil with smoked paprika and chilli flakes. Don't let it burn. Reserve to one side.
Bring a very large pot of well-salted water to the boil and gently simmer about 12-18 manti at a time, so as not to overcrowd the pot. Once they rise to the top of the pot, cook a further 2 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer cooked manti to a serving bowl.
To serve, spoon yoghurt mixture over cooked manti and drizzle with smoky chilli oil. Garnish with mint leaves. Makes 30-40 depending on size. Serves 6-8.
NOTE: Prepared manti dumplings can be frozen then cooked straight from the freezer, in which case they will take an extra 2-3 minutes of cooking time.
Walnut and pistachio baklava
This layered filo treat is very rich, so cut it into small pieces.
Ready in 1½ hours + cooling
Makes up to 60 pieces
4 cups mixed shelled walnuts and pistachios
½ cup caster sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground cloves
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
500g filo pastry
1½ cups caster sugar
1 cup water
½ cup clear honey
½ cinnamon quill
Zest of 1 lemon, finely grated
2 Tbsp lemon juice
5 drops rose water (optional)
Pulse or chop nuts to a coarse, sandy crumb. Don't process to a fine flour consistency, you want a little texture. Mix together prepared nuts, sugar, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg in a bowl and set aside.
Gently melt butter in a small pot over a low heat. Remove from heat and allow to cool a little. Carefully pour clear melted butter into a jug, leaving any milky sediment behind.
Brush a 32cm x 24cm x 5cm oven dish with some of the butter and cut filo pastry so it will fit neatly inside. Cover filo stack with a damp tea towel to stop it drying out. Line base of the dish with a quarter of the filo sheets, brushing each sheet lightly with melted butter as you go.
Sprinkle one-third of the nut mixture over filo, shaking dish gently to spread out. Repeat the layering, each time using a quarter of the filo and butter, and a third of the nut mixture.
Finish with a filo layer and a final brushing of butter on top of the last sheet. Chill to firm up the baklava so it's easier to cut (about 20 minutes).
Preheat oven to 170C fan bake. When baklava is firm use a sharp knife to score it, right through to the base layer, into diamonds about 4cm x 3cm or 5cm x 3cm. Bake until the top is deep golden brown (about 1 hour). Cover loosely with tin foil if it's browning too quickly.
While the baklava is baking, make the honey syrup. Combine sugar, water, honey and cinnamon quill in a pot over high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat to very low and simmer syrup, uncovered, for 20 minutes, skimming off any white foam that floats on the surface. Remove syrup from heat, discard cinnamon quill and stir in lemon zest, juice and rose water, if using.
Remove baklava from oven, cool for 2-3 minutes, then slowly drizzle warm syrup over the top. Cool completely in the tin (but don't chill) and stand for at least 12 hours before serving. To serve, cut down through score marks. Keeps for several weeks in an airtight container.
Match these with ...
by Yvonne Lorkin
Hunter's MiruMiru Methode Traditionnelle Rosé NV ($34)
Some people grizzle that eggs are really tricky to pair with drinks because eggs are mostly a breakfast thing. It's the weekend, we're all grown-ups, so — in my house at least — that makes bubbles a breakfast thing also. The name MiruMiru translates to "bubbles" in te reo Maori, so make sure it's this rich, creamy, cherry and apple-edged blend of pinot noir, chardonnay and pinot meunier that you turn to. Quietly, aged for 50 sleepy months before release, it's generous, lush, and boasts rising dough, seductive stonefruit and soft citrus notes that wash across the palate. It's fresh, stylish and so soothing to sip, it'll leave your tongue feeling like it's been at the spa.
Carrick Pot de Fleur Central Otago Pinot Noir 2019 ($28-$36)
Spicy, sheepy morsels like these just sing out for a succulently funky, "natural" pinot noir, and this southern example has all that in un-fined, unfiltered spades. Winemaker Rosie Menzies has whole-bunch fermented organic pinot noir in four large, flowerpot-shaped vessels (hence the name) without any preservatives or additives. It's earthy, tamarillo-and-thyme-laced on the nose and savoury to taste, while the tannins have delicate chew and grip around the gum line. The textured label is taken from a sketch called Vaquero Flor, by Auckland artist Margarita Vovna (@margaritavovna) using charcoal and ink on home-made paper she's made from upcycled Guadalupe County ranchers flannel.
blackmarket.co.nz or carrick.co.nz
Riverby Noble Marlborough Riesling 2018 375ml ($29)
I once emailed photos of my teenage son's attempts at loading our dishwasher to the physics teacher at his eye-wateringly expensive school and was shocked to learn he got "excellence" in hydrodynamics. Thankfully this stunningly sweet yet energising wine gave me the ability to scream on the inside. Irresponsibly indulgent, this toffee-scented zing-fest will have your gums tingling and lips smacking with every sip. With candied mandarin, pineapple and passionfruit curd characters, its swoon-inducingly beautiful to drink with baklava.