Get in the holiday spirit this weekend as Easter arrives and celebrate some of the great culinary accolades our adopted country has recently received.
While eating may be the best part of life in voluntary lockdown, why not celebrate Turkish cuisine, which is thankfully one of the healthiest in the world? Or, just give yourself a treat and enjoy comfort food favorites provided by a fellow expat as the beloved holiday of Easter rolls around this Sunday.
Songs of Easter echo all over the world
This Sunday, April 12 is Easter, the Christian celebration of the resurrection of Jesus that happens to be the second biggest holiday in the western world. Usually celebrated with family brunches and Easter egg hunts, this year there will be a different take on the holiday. On Sunday, the devout and otherwise all over the globe will be tuning in to witness Italian opera singer Andrea Bocelli perform a very special live Easter concert alone from Milan’s famous Duomo Cathedral. Entitled “Bocelli: Music for Hope,” this virtual concert will be performed in the empty cathedral, which is currently closed to the public due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the tenor will solely be accompanied by the cathedral organist Emanuele Vianelli. Together, they will be performing beloved pieces such as “Ave Maria” and “Sancta Maria,” which will be streamed live from Bocelli’s YouTube channel on Sunday at 7 p.m. in Italy, which will be 8 p.m. in Turkey.
Le Cuistot Studio brings dinner to your door
There is still hope for a scrumptious celebration of Easter at home with the gourmet delights of Le Cuistot Studio, which can be picked up from the restaurant in Tarabya or delivered to your door. Carlos Le Cuistot is a Belgian expat who has been preparing gourmet pastries and dinners for the expat community for the past four years. While his restaurant may be on hiatus for socializing due to the measures in place to combat the spread of the coronavirus, his venue always operated as a patisserie and “traiteur,” which specializes in preparing take-home meals that you can cook in your own home. Customers can visit the shop to purchase pastries, desserts, quiches, lasagnas and tarts as well as can order full meals, such as chicken tagine and vol au vent or lamb ragu for home delivery, which is being done by Carlos’ team itself.
Le Cuistot Studio has also prepared a very special Easter menu available for this weekend that comes in three or four-course options and includes a seafood vol au vent with asparagus, cauliflower soup with parmesan, lamb curry or chicken Basquaise with aromatic rive and a chocolate brownie with vanilla ice cream for dessert.
Özlem’s Turkish Table wins Gourmand Best in the World
The United Kingdom-based Turkish expat Özlem Warren and her blog Özlem’s Turkish Table has long been the go-to aficionado for expats in Turkey and anyone else interested in learning how to prepare Turkish cuisine with instructions in English. Last year, Warren turned her healthy Turkish recipes into a cookery book with a heavy emphasis on recipes from her homeland of Antakya, which was aptly named "Özlem’s Turkish Table." The stunning book, which includes recipes, beautiful photography, historical references and personal anecdotes, was announced as the winner of the Gourmand Best in the World award for the Food Heritage Category last week. Considered the “Oscars” of the cookbook world and chosen from participants from over 100 different countries, this honor is a great success for Warren and an amazing accolade for Turkish cuisine.
Speaking with Warren upon her win, she said: “This has been such uplifting news and warmed our hearts, at this challenging time. I am especially delighted that my homeland’s amazing Turkish cuisine got this very special and well-deserved recognition.” Özlem, who also teaches Turkish cuisine all over the world, was actually scheduled to arrive in Turkey this month to hold a number of workshops throughout the country, however, unfortunately, the dates are being postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. I asked her how she felt as a Turkish expat unable to return to her homeland. “I greatly miss home, especially during these troubled times," she responded. "Living abroad and not being able to reach out to our loved ones has been tough on all of us. I have longed to come back home in April but it was not meant to be. The current COVID-19 crisis dictates us all stay at home; so we are all at home, doing our best, supporting one another in the best way we can. We may not be able to visit our homeland and see our loved ones physically at the moment, but we can connect with that special land and our memories with the food we make,” she said, emphasizing that “Turkish cuisine has that power for us and with the huge bonus of being healthy, too.”
So, in the hopes of inspiring people to prepare healthy and wholesome Turkish recipes at home, Warren has started up the Özlem’s Turkish Table YouTube channel, and with the help of her 13-year-old daughter, is teaching how to prepare easy Turkish dishes at home. So far she has prepared specialties such as cauliflower mücver and eggplant and lentil mualla with many more to come in the days that follow. “There is something very comforting about cooking and sharing with others, even if it is virtual,” said Warren. Signed copies of her beautiful cookbook “Özlem’s Turkish Table” are available from GB Publishing and delivered worldwide. The cookbook is also available in ebook format online.
A Hittite highlight of Kayseri cuisine
Of honorable mention, Turkish cuisine received another great honor with chef Yunus Emre Akkor winning in the Local Cuisine category for his cookbook, “Geçmişten Geleceğe Kayseri Mutfağı,” which provides a history of the culinary traditions in Kayseri, including the influence imparted by the Hittites in addition to recipes. Published by the Kayseri Municipality last year, the book has now also been made available to peruse online.
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