It always surprises me how fast this month of fasting passes. Even though this year it did not feel quite like a traditional Ramadan, it still provided great opportunities to learn and try out new things.
As the title suggests, I want this last one to go out with a good bang, so I have chosen a traditional flour soup, an amazing eggplant kebab, a traditional bean salad and to round it all off, a smooth pudding with a sour cherry sauce. As usual, you can combine items from this week’s menu with other dishes we have previously shared with you and mix and match to your heart's desire.
This is essentially a flour soup – it might sound boring but I need to remind you that simple dishes taste the best. Less is more, trust me on that. The origins of this soup are contested. Many provinces in Turkey claim to have created it, which just goes to show that great minds think alike.
Melt the butter together with the vegetable oil in a deep pot. Add the flour and stir continuously until the smell of the flour changes and the mix starts to turn a light brown. Be careful not to burn it. Then, pour the water into it and whisk until it is smooth. Let it boil on medium heat for a few minutes. Lastly, add the rice and salt and let it cook for about 15 minutes or until the rice has softened. Serve with a sprinkle of melted butter and some black pepper.
This dish can be made vegan if you skip the butter and add an equal amount of oil instead.
To enhance the flavor even further, you can use vegetable stock or bone broth, though completely substituting it for the water may be a bit overbearing; so a maximum of half the amount rounds the soup off perfectly.
There are so many versions of this kebab that you could write a whole book dedicated to all of them. Here I want to share with you a version that looks great in a round baking tin or tray and will wow your guests or the people at home this year.
Grate the onion, garlic and peppers and chop the parsley finely. Put the minced meat, grated vegetables, parsley, seasoning and tomato paste into a bowl and knead for a few minutes until you’re able to give them shape.
Peel eggplants but leave some stripes of skin on them – they should remind you of a zebra. Slice them about the thickness of your finger and let them rest in salty water for a bit to wash away the bitterness. Now take equal bits of the meat mixture and sandwich them between the eggplant pieces and place them around the border of the baking tin. Work your way to the middle row by row. Brush on some oil over the eggplant slices. Close the tin off with some aluminum foil and bake it in the oven at 200 degrees Celcius for about 45 minutes. Remove the foil and let it bake until the water evaporates. The amount of time will vary depending on what kind of oven and tin you are using. So keep an eye on that.
This version is considered light – usually, this is made by lightly frying the eggplant slices beforehand, which makes it a bit heavier but definitely delicious.
If you feel inclined to fire up the barbeque you can put those "eggplant sandwiches" on a skewer and roast them like that. But for that, I'd advise you to slice the eggplants somewhat thicker and do not peel them. Once they are soft from the fire you can remove the paper-thin peel and enjoy your kebab!
Piyaz: Classic Turkish bean salad
This salad is called “piyaz” in Turkish and goes with pretty much everything. You'll see this on the menu of places specializing in köfte, and many even offer it for free as a complimentary side. I figured this would really go well with the eggplant kebab. If that is enough to satiate your hunger, you can always opt to make some rice or bulgur pilaf from the recipes we shared in previous menus.
If you haven’t already, cook the beans and let them cool. Chop the onions thinly in the shape of crescents and sprinkle some salt over them. Knead them a bit to soften them. Chop the parsley, green onion and garlic into small pieces. Put all the ingredients into a bowl and add the lemon juice, olive oil, red pepper flakes and a dash of salt and give it a good mix. Serve.
Adding extras to this is always encouraged! I like to add some thinly chopped red cabbage as well. Tomatoes, olives, red peppers and so many more options are there to add to this Turkish staple.
If you want to add more protein to this dish, do it the classic Antalya way. Add quarters of boiled eggs to the bean mix and drizzle some tahini over it.
Vanilla pudding with cherry sauce
Though not a traditional Turkish dessert, considering that summer is right at our doorstep and fresh fruit is all around us, it would be a shame not to use the opportunity.
For the pudding
For the sauce
Melt the butter and add the flour. Like with the soup, cook the flour until it changes color. Add the milk and whisk it until you get a smooth mixture. If it is lumpy, you can run the pudding through a blender at the very end. Once it starts to boil add the sugar and continue stirring until it starts to thicken. Take off the heat and add the vanilla. Give it a good few stirs and pour the pudding into bowls or cups of your choice. Once cooled off, wrap them in some plastic wrap and let them rest in the fridge for at least three to five hours – overnight is even better.
For the sauce get half of the cherry juice and mix the starch into it until it is completely dissolved. Pour the other half of the juice, the cherries and the sugar into a small pot and bring it to a boil. Mix until the sugar dissolves. Add the starch mixture, stir and when you feel it thicken turn off the heat. Let it cool off a bit and serve with the pudding.
Sour cherries work well with the vanilla pudding but cranberries or other slightly sour or tart fruit would also be a great pairing.
Using some fresh fruit as decoration not only looks great, but it will taste amazing as well.