Home food is a whole new dimension in Turkish cuisine, and is probably the most exciting part of it. Well, of course, we don’t mean with that everyday home food, but home food prepared on special occasions. On these special occasions gates of the recipy treasury in the long term memories of moms and grandmothers will be opened and works of arts will be created after quite laborious work. Requiring painstaking amounts of labor is what defines this “special occasions food”. It is as if the more the amount of labour the tastier the food will be. Well, the food will be indeed, extraordinary delicious, it is nothing like you can eat outside. Is it labor, is it the carefully guarded traditional recipes giving the food the ethnic twist resulting from family background, or is it just the quality of ingridients? It is probably a combination of all, creating this wonderfull flavors. And here is the list of our favourites:
Dolma – stuffed vegetables:
Well, we start with the most classic one: dolma. You might be allready familiar with stuffed wine leaves. The term dolma, literally “stuffed” refers , however, to any kind of stuffed vegetables. stuffed zuccinis, cabbage leaves, bell peppers are also quite common recipes in Turkish homes. When the subject is Ottoman cuisine, you have to widen your fantasy further: stuffed melons, for example, can you imagine. It is, however, not the extraordinary fruits or the common vegetables that makes dolma one of the foods of special occasions with painstakingly long preparation times. It is the classic one: stuffed wine leaves. Well, there is a reason , that it is the most famous dolma dish among all the dolma dishes: It is simply the most delicious one, when the right amount of labour is used: Try rolling a wine leave around some filling and you will understand why it is so time consuming. Let us note also that there is a great taste difference between those carefully wrapped with good quality leaves and inattentively wrapped ones with good quality leaves assuming everything else is the same.
Manti – Turkish dumplings:
Here is another painstaking labourious food. Dumplings originate actually from a quite far geography: It’s China where this dish is spread to the half of the world and as can be expected has taken many different forms. Now, I can here you asking, what is the difference then between Italian Ravioli and Turkish manti: Turkish manti consists exclusively of small meat chunks wrapped around a tiny dough. And this is exactly what makes its preparation so painstaking: The smaller the pieces the more it will be praised, and should you be as good as to fit forty of them on a single spoon, then you are the perfect bride candidate!
Size of manti pieces certainly affect the flavour of the dish, but if you ask me it is the sauce used what makes manti such a aftersought home dish. You eat manti with some Turkish yogurt, meltet butter caramelized with tomato sauce and than add garlic , sumac and mint to spice things up.. I could it even shoes with this sauce!
Borek – layered Turkish pastry:
We continue with dough based dishes. Borek , featured also in the list of Turkish fast food is at he same time a star of home dishes. Why? Well, Home borek is a completely different story. Fast food borek is also quite delicious, in the right eateres at least, but home borek prepared with traditional family recipy, great attention to ingridients and again a lot of labor is something else: As a rule the dough or phyllo layers making up borek is home prepared and not from market shelfs, the filling, which follows family tradition, is much richer and unique, the oil quality is much higher etc. , when you prepare borek at home. Obviously the result is also dangerously good. The pastry made of dozens of the thinnest of dough layers, attractive fillings, eggs and lots of oil can help put a few pound in the shortes time. The smart thing to do is to leave home made borek to special occasions.
Here comes another food, which can have quite different forms depending on the family tradition. Unlike other food in the list it doesn’t take a laborious preparation nor is it a hot main dish. We included it, nevertheless , on the list because of its association with home. You can rarely see kisir outside home and when you see it is just a remote tasteless copy of the wonderfull kisir. It is also probably the most common side dish served at homes when you have guests between meal times. The preparation is quite simple. You mix finely grained bulgur with some salad greens, tiny chopped onions, tomato paste, pepper paste, a number of herbs and maybe most importantly the incredible nar ekşisi or pomegranate syrup. Than you can enjoy the treat in lettuce leaves with a squeeze of lemon..
Cig Kofte – raw meatballs or patties:
Should I choose the shortest possible description, cig kofte is the meaty, more spicy and more labourious version of kisir, I just talked about. It is again a mixture of a number of ingridients including finely grained bulgur, but this time the star is meat or raw meat to be exact. Because of the use of raw meat it should be neccessarily more spicy as you can imagine. what is more it needs a tremendous amount of kneading and that is the laborious part. And that laborious part is usually taken over by men, since it is usually men who knead it for hours and try sticking the patties they make out of the mixture on the ceiling to see if the mixture and amount of kneading is right!
The greasy garlic and onion bomb in the disguise of stuffed aubergines is called “imam bayildi”, literally imam fainted. There are different accounts as to why Imam fainted. The obvious guess would be the extraordinary taste of the dish, but according to some it is the extraordinary cost of the expensive ingridients used in the preparation: meat used for the filling and the unbelievable amounts of olive oil that is soaked up by the aubergine. Yet for some it is just the amount and not the cost of the olive oil which is responsible for Imam’s diziness. The amount of garlic and onion used proabbly didn’t help the Imam either. Moral of the story, Imam bayildi is not for every one, but if you like your food greasy and pungent, you are going to love it!