Half of Ramadan is officially over and I am personally feeling a bit down due to all the social distancing and no classically crowded iftars with friends and family. As much as it saddens me, this time of year is giving us a chance to reflect on ourselves and also gives us time to give some old classic dishes a try.
This week's special iftar menu starts with a simple yet delicious potato soup, followed by a meatball stew with lots of vegetables and a true classic of Turkish cuisine: bulgur pilaf. To top it all off, we have got another Turkish favorite, the traditional tulumba dessert – though you might have some sticky fingers after enjoying that!
Potatoes are a popular ingredient for many dishes in Turkish cuisine, be it börek or a stew, but this soup has potatoes as the main ingredient and originates from Thracia, in the northwestern provinces of Turkey. As it is easy to make and quite filling, this soup is the perfect contender for a light iftar.
Chop the onions and fry them with the oil in a pot of your choice. When the onions start to soften, add the flour in as well and cook them together for several minutes. Add the chopped potatoes, milk and water to the soup and let them cook until the potatoes are soft. This should take around 15-20 minutes depending on the size of the chopped potatoes. Take the pot off the heat and run it through a blender to blend all the ingredients of the soup until you get a silky, smooth mixture. Before serving, melt butter in a separate pan and let it darken a bit with the red pepper flakes. Drizzle this over the bowl of soup and serve!
Depending on the type of potatoes you are using, you'll have to change the amount of water you use. Potatoes have a thickening property so you might want to add more after you have run it through the blender. If that is the case, make sure that you bring the whole soup to a boil again. Otherwise, the consistency and taste will be off.
Parsley or dill is an interesting addition to this recipe. Toss the chopped herbs into the soup once you take it off the heat for some added flavor.
You might not like the butter on top, so just skip it! You can add a sprinkle of dried mint as well for a refreshing twist on this filling soup.
Meatball stew with peas
Turks love their stews and call them “sulu yemek” literally meaning “a dish with juice," when the meal is served with its own cooking water. One of these is this one but with a little twist – instead of making larger meatballs, I opted to make them tiny, the perfect size to be picked out with a fork.
For the meatballs
First off, form the meatballs by putting all the ingredients into a bowl. The onion and garlic should be chopped thinly or grated in this case. Knead for at least 10 minutes so that the meatballs don’t fall apart later on. Prepare a wide dish or plate and spread about a handful of flour onto it. Grease your hands with a bit of oil and roll the meatballs in the size you desire – but the smaller the better! Once rolled, put the meatballs onto the flour which will prevent them from sticking to each other. Once all the meatballs are done, put the plate into the fridge.
Peel the potatoes and carrots and chop them into small, equally sized pieces. Chop the onion and fry it in a pot until the onion’s color changes. Next, add the tomato paste and give that a good stir. Add carrots, potatoes and peas and let that sauté for a bit. Add seasoning and water and let it boil until the vegetables soften.
While that is boiling, take out the meatballs and fry them in a bit of oil and let the excess oil drip off on a paper towel.
When the veggies have softened add the meatballs to them, give it a good stir and serve!
Dill goes really well with peas. Chopping some and adding it at the end could be a great addition. If it's too strong for your taste in the dish, you can garnish it with a bit when serving.
The size of the meatballs, aka köfte, really doesn’t matter. Just keep in mind that the frying will take longer if they are bigger. Check if it has fried through though – you wouldn’t want to serve raw meatballs!
After rice pilaf (pilav), the most common side dish would definitely be bulgur in Turkey. It has a distinct flavor and texture when compared to your usual rice, but it also goes really well with this week's main dish.
Melt the butter in a pan of your choice and fry the chopped onions until they start to turn a different color. Add the chopped green peppers and grated tomatoes and cook them together for a few minutes. Add tomato paste and bulgur. Let them sauté together for a few minutes and pour preferably hot water onto it and close the lid. Turn the heat to low and let the bulgur cook for 15-20 minutes, depending on what kind of bulgur you have. Once the bulgur has absorbed all the water, turn off the heat and serve.
To enhance the flavor even further you can substitute the water for vegetable, chicken or meat stock.
Adding other vegetables like red peppers or finely chopped carrots can be an interesting addition as well as a good way to up the veggie content.
Turkish churros? Tulumba dessert
What is crunchy, sticky and sweet? A Turkish street food called tulumba, of course. I call them Turkish churros because the making of them feels quite similar – except the syrup at the end, of course.
For the dough
For the syrup
First, prepare the syrup by adding the ingredients to a pot and boiling the mix for five minutes. Let it cool.
For the dough, you'll need to put the water, salt, oil, lemon juice and vinegar into a pot and boil it. Then start adding flour and continuously stir it for three to five minutes. Take it off the heat and let it cool off for a few minutes. Once it is warm to the touch, add the eggs and mix it with either a mixer or a spatula until you get a smooth dough.
Prepare a piping bag with a star tip and put the dough into the piping bag. In a pan, heat up the oil and pipe short pieces (about 3 centimeters, a little bigger than an inch) of the dough into it. Let them fry, stirring from time to time, until they turn golden brown. Take them out of the oil and place them directly into the syrup. Let them soak in the sugary syrup for a bit then remove. Enjoy!
Serving this dish with crushed nuts on top is a favorite of mine. Combining them with different things, such as vanilla ice cream, is delicious as well.
Be very careful while frying the dough. Be sure to pipe it into the pot near the hot oil's surface to avoid splashes as the pieces fall in. I have had a few burns from that and wouldn’t want anyone else to experience the same.
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