A Turkish delight: Exploring the many flavours of Istanbul
Time for a pop quiz! What is the only country to straddle two continents, is the birthplace of Santa Claus (it’s true, look it up!), is the largest importer of hazelnuts and has the world’s second oldest underground system? Hint: It starts with a T and is the country behind tulips, the breathtakingly beautiful Blue Mosque and the world-famous Grand Bazar… that’s right friends, we’re talking Turkey this week. More specifically, sinking our teeth into all the delicacies that this great country has to offer, thanks to this week’s guest: Burak.
Although Burak had called Sweden home for the past few years, starting first as a student in Uppsala before taking on big city life in Stockholm, Burak still knew how to whip up a proper Turkish feast from scratch. A feast of such epic proportions warranted an equally fantastic dinner celebration, so we enjoyed our Turkish feast with our previous Kryddhyllan guests Etienne and Fanny, as well as Burak’s lovely girlfriend Ragnhild, who had stolen Burak’s heart back in Uppsala (more on that, as well as Burak’s difficulty in trying to figure out a Swedish meal he actually enjoyed later).
We quickly realized that enjoying a proper Turkish feast does involve a hearty investment in time (don’t forget to skip arm day because you’ll be chopping, stirring, and kneading up a storm) but the first-class ticket to flavour heaven is well worth it. Read on to find out how to impress guests at your next dinner party with a Turkish feast that includes köfte, homemade tsatziki, creamy aubergine dip and much more. Dig in!
"It’s more scavenger food here... you pick it and you eat it. It’s a bit primitive, but nice"
Recipe for an out-of-this-world Turkish Feast:
Listen to: for the classic tunes of Istanbul's bustling environment tune into this playlist and enjoy!
Köfte (Beef patties)
- 2 yellow onions
- 2 handfuls of parsley, finely chopped
- 800 g minced beef
- 2 pinches of salt
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp black pepper
- A few pinches of chili flakes (optional)
- 2 tbsp bread crumbs
- 2 eggs
- 1 large garlic clove, crushed
- 100 g grated cheese (adjust to love for cheese)
- Olive oil
- 2 tbsp butter
- Peel both onions and grate (largest grating section)
- Put the grated onions into a sieve and press to get rid of excess liquid
- In a large bowl, mix meat, onions, parsley, salt, cumin, pepper, bread crumbs, eggs and crushed garlic. Knead this with your hands for at least 10 minutes. The mixture should have an almost rubbery texture and not stick to the bowl. (One of our Kryddhyllan heroes was actually bruised in the process of kneading, all in order to satisfy the Turkish commander of the kitchen)
- Add in cheese and mix together manually (hope you didn’t skip arm day)!
- Take smaller pieces of the mixture and make into oval, palm-sized patties
- Heat olive oil in a skillet on medium heat and fry the köftes (a few minutes on each side until nicely browned)
- After frying all the köftes save the residue in the skillet. Melt the butter and mix together - you get a beautiful, greasy, to-die-for kind of sauce to pour over the köfte for extra flavour. Your arteries might not be thanking you but your tastebuds sure will!
Fellah Köfte (vegetarian, bulgur-based köfte for all the animal lovers out there)
- About 3 dl bulgur (look for the type we show in the photos)
- 2.5-3 dl water (look at the package what the ratio should be)
- 1.5 dl flour
- 4.5 - 5.5 dl crushed tomatoes
- 2 tsp black pepper
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp cumin
- 5 tbsp white balsamic vinegar
- 1 tbsp salt
- Olive oil
- Black pepper
- Chili flakes (optional)
- 1-2 tbsp parsley, finely chopped
- In a bowl mix the bulgur and water and let sit for about 15-20 minutes
- Add bulgur, flour, 1.5 dl of the crushed tomatoes, black pepper, 1 crushed clove of garlic, egg, salt, cumin into a bowl and mix with your hands
- Knead the mixture with your hands until the texture is sticky
- Make small balls out of the mixture and push your thumb in the middle to create a little “crater”
- In a large pot heat up water, vinegar and salt and let it boil
- Add in the fellah köfte balls. When they start to float wait for about another 10 minutes and then take them out.
- In a large skillet heat the olive oil and 2 cloves of roughly chopped garlic.
- After a few minutes add in the 3-4 dl of crushed tomatoes, salt, black pepper, chili flakes and parsley and let it simmer for a few minutes
- Add in the fellah köfte and mix together - now it is ready to devour!
Piyaz (bean salad)
- 1 can cannellini beans (white beans)
- 3-4 tbsp finely chopped parsley
- 2 tomatoes - roughly chopped
- 1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
- 2 spring onions, thinly sliced
- Olive oil
- White wine vinegar
- Lemon juice
- Salt and pepper
- Mix beans, parsley, tomatoes, onion and spring onion together
- Drizzle olive oil, vinegar and lemon juice over the salad
- Add salt and pepper after your own preference
Beğendi (aubergine puree)
- 2 tbsp butter
- One jar mashed aubergines
- 1 dl flour
- 0,5 dl milk
- About 150 g of grated cheese
- Lemon juice
- Salt and pepper
- In a medium-sized pot, melt the butter
- Add in aubergine, flour and milk and mix together
- Let sit and almost start to simmer, while constantly stirring (about 10-15 min)
- Add in cheese and lemon juice and let the cheese slightly melt
- Add salt and pepper
After finally getting to taste the fruits (or... köftes) of our many hours of hard labor in the kitchen, we poured ourselves (and our guests of course) some nice big glasses of red wine, and got down to talking with Burak about his longtime plans of moving to Sweden, his late nights in Uppsala (not just spent in the library), and the unfaltering love he's since developed for blueberries after moving to Sweden.
Kryddhyllan: Boom! Ok, the first question is… what is your favorite food from home?
Burak: My favorite food from home… Yeah, it’s this dish called Manti, I think in English it would translate to Turkish ravioli- that one I really like. But I also like stuffed vine leaves.
Kryddhyllan: Oh like dolmar? Those are delicious.
Burak: Yeah, you can also make them in like cabbage rolls. That I like a lot.
Kryddhyllan: Yum, yeah I think koldolmar are a dish that we imported here.
Burak: Dolmar is a general term for stuffed things. It means to stuff something.
Kryddhyllan: That’s what she said…
Burak: *laughs uncomfortably
Kryddhyllan: Thanks for that, Alex. Getting back on track, why is it your favourite food?
Burak: Because it tastes good? I just… like it.
Kryddhyllan: Simple as that.
Burak: Yeah, it just tastes really good. The taste and nothing else.
Kryddhyllan: Nope, not the flavour, not the aesthetics.
Burak: Well, with Manti all the kids love it. It’s stuffed with meats.
Kryddhyllan: Nice. So now we’re in Sweden and are super curious about what brought you here?
Burak: Yeah, well I was always curious about Scandinavia. When I was in high school I applied for university here, but I didn’t get in. I think it was a bit tricky to get in as a university student. So I started studying in Turkey, but it was always in the back of my mind, what would happen if I went there. And when I was doing my Bachelor, I went on exchange and came here, to Uppsala for exchange. And I really liked it, but I was barely studying *laughs.
Kryddhyllan: That’s what happens when you go to Uppsala.
Burak: Haha, yeah. It was really fun. So I wanted to come back. Actually I wanted to go abroad. And this was a convenient alternative.
Kryddhyllan: What was it about Sweden that enticed you?
Burak: I mean it’s a really nice environment. Everything is so in order. It’s a bit-
Burak: *laughing, no no, definitely not. But tt’s a bit like, people follow the rules, everything is in order, it’s safer here, there’s more wealth, more healthcare, it’s easier to get around in Sweden. Like in many other countries like is tougher I would say. And that is really nice to have. Especially if you’re coming from abroad, it feels easy in a way. Like a lot of problems a person can have in a different country, you don’t even think about here, and that’s really a privilege.
Kryddhyllan: I don’t think people from here really think about that. They might take it for granted.
Burak: Yeah, like when I first came for Erasmus, the most common conversation amongst my Turkish friends was what are you gonna do after school? And that stuck with me, and in and so when I came here and asked people that- I mean in Turkey when you ask people that they say things like “oh I wanna work in consulting or this or accounting”, and it was all job-related. And you study according to that. And here when I asked people they were just kind of like “I don’t know, I’ll figure it out”, while I’m thinking: “how can you just figure it out?”. For me it sounded so strange, that you could just study philosophy and get around with it. If you study that in Turkey, 99% of the time you’re unemployed. But here you can do that and do good things with it and still feed your interest. Because then you study and can do something around it.
Kryddhyllan: Do you think you’ll stay in Sweden?
Burak: I think so, at least for a while. I mean one of the reasons I came here was, of course I didn’t want to be in Turkey because the longer I stay here the harder it is to leave. It’s harder to get a job in a European country than in Turkey. So I had to study here to get a job. If I go to Turkey I could get a job anytime. So I want to at least secure that I can leave, not because I have to but because I want to. The longer I stay here, the more reasons I have to stay here *smiles and looks at his girlfriend.
Kryddhyllan: Of course. Most people we met through the blog came here for love.
Ragnhild: Not Burak *laughing.
Burak: No, but I found love! I came for the Swedish girls and I found a Swedish girl- well, half Swedish.
Kryddhyllan: Icelandic isn’t half bad either. And what are you favourite dishes since moving to Sweden?
Burak: Blueberry pie.
Kryddhyllan: Blueberry pie? Like smulpaj or?
Burak: Anything with blueberry, I love it. Even Proviva. I love it so much. The best drink ever. Because in Turkey, we have blueberries but we don’t eat that so much. And here there is blueberry everywhere, and once I got to try it I really loved it. Seriously my favourite. Does it count as a dish?
Kryddhyllan: Of course, of course. Blueberries are awesome. Even in Proviva.
Burak: But yes, blueberry pie, I really like it.
Ragnhild: But you also usually say that Swedish food is boring? Don’t put that on the blog.
Kryddhyllan: It’s already on the blog... many people have said worse things on the blog before.
Burak: I guess a lot of the- there aren’t a lot of dishes.
Ragnhild: Well, when you had the deer or moose at my place... that definitely wasn’t boring.
Burak: Yeah, maybe that. And husmanskost.
Kryddhyllan: Did you like it?
Burak: Yeah, I liked it. I eat everything almost. Except for coriander and sundried tomatoes.
Kryddhyllan: Well that isn’t very Swedish anyway. What was it Etienne said about Swedish food? It’s very generic.
Etienne: Yeah, it’s always the same. It’s always potatoes and lingonberries.
Burak: Oh, and smörgåstårta.
Kryddhyllan: Wow, you must be one of the first people to like that.
Burak: With the shrimps, it’s so good.
Kryddhyllan: Where did you have a smörgåstårta is my question? And with how many old people?
Burak: Well as I said I was living in a nation house, Gotland’s nation as I mentioned. And on the weekends they were having sandwiches and smörgåstårta and I was really into this. You should give it a try, it’s really good.
Kryddhyllan: It’s just a lot of mayo.
Burak: It’s like skagenröra. I think shrimp and mayo go really well together.
Kryddhyllan: What did you know about Swedish food before you came here?
Burak: Nothing. Just the Swedish meatballs. That’s the only thing.
Ragnhild: And IKEA.
Kryddhyllan: No pickled herring or?
Burak: No, I didn’t know about that.
Burak: No, I wish I’d known.
Kryddhyllan: Ok, we kind of started touching on this but what do you think is the best and worst thing about Swedish food?
Burak: Hm… this is a hard question. I think the worst thing is-
Kryddhyllan: Everyone starts with the worst!
Burak: There’s so little to choose from. It’s like Etienne said, it’s a big portion-
Kryddhyllan: Etienne probably should be here, he’s influencing you.
Burak: Yeah, there are certain items that make the foundation, and then the selection is quite small.
Kryddhyllan: Like potatoes and meat?
Burak: Yeah, exactly. The best thing? Is…. *long silence.
Ragnhild: Why don’t you say- well, I don’t want to put words in your mouth. But why don’t you say mushrooms? Like chanterelles. You like chanterelle toast.
Burak: Oh yeah… I guess I would say that there’s so much more natural stuff. Like the mushrooms picked from the forest, hunted meat, blueberries. It’s more scavenger food. In my cuisine you add spices, or yeast or you bake it. But here you pick it and you eat it. It’s a bit primitive, but nice.
Kryddhyllan: We are a very primitive people of few words and dishes. But if you had to pick one food to pick for the rest of your life what would it be and why?
Ragnhild: Don’t look at me.
Kryddhyllan: What would you choose Ragnhild?
Ragnhild: I could eat…. Just cheese. Good stinky cheese forever. Or just a big piece of red meat.
Burak: I think I would like…I could eat smörgåstårta for the rest of my life. I really like it.
Kryddhyllan: What if you had to pick just one spice to use for the rest of your life?
Burak: Except salt?
Kryddhyllan: No, all spices are off the table and you’d have to choose one.
Burak: Ok, then salt.
Ragnhild: Yup, salt.
Kryddhyllan: What’s the best meal you’ve ever had in your whole life?
Burak: *long silence….
Ragnhild: I already know. When I was 9, my dad made this marulk in a white wine sauce and just boiled potatoes. I remember it so well it was so good. I wish I could eat it again. It was amazing
Burak: Yeah, once my dad made me a potato omelet, it was so nice. Now that you brought that up it came to my mind. I’m not sure if it was the best meal though.
Kryddhyllan: But sometimes they can be more connected to memories than the actual flavour maybe.
Burak: But once, I had this kebab at a place in Istanbul, it was called pistachio kebab. There are pistachios in the meat.
Kryddhyllan: Nice, with goat meat?
Kryddhyllan: Famously tasty. Have you ever had goat?
Ragnhild: Usually it’s baby lamb.
Kryddhyllan: Sheep and goat are different, right. What’s your favourite restaurant at the moment?
Burak: Hmm… there is a Turkish pizza place that I like. It’s in the south of Turkey.
Kryddhyllan: What’s Turkish pizza?
Burak: It’s like pizza…
Kryddhyllan: But made in Turkey?
Burak: It’s a bit more doughy, less crispy.
Ragnhild: I think my favourite right now is the little fish place by the water in Istanbul. It’s a little mesa place and you sit almost in the water. We’ve been there with Burak’s family a few times.
Burak: It’s called Suna’s Place.
Kryddhyllan: Ok, that was all the questions… you passed! Thanks a lot guys!