Turkish delight



I have to admit that around this time of year I start to get a little tired of tomatoes and zucchinis. After summer's bumper crop it’s tempting to leave them to whither on the vine while I search for autumn’s first parsnip or cauliflower. I couldn’t take any more gazpacho, pasta sauce or zucchini soup. I want something different. It is not a moment too soon that I remember the Turks.

Can it really be more than ten years ago, a week before the Sydney Olympics kicked off, a group of friends skipped town and headed for the Turkish coast. We chartered one of these luxurious yachts and spent two idyllic weeks eating, drinking and cruising our way along the rugged Mediterranean coastline.

My memories of ottoman ruins, azure waters and grand mosques are pretty hazy. However the food memories are as vivid and fresh as if I ate them yesterday.  

I smile remembering simple sunny breakfasts of cucumbers, hard-boiled eggs, yoghurt and olives. The long outdoor lunches of smokey grilled kebabs served with piles of fresh greens and wrapped in flat breads, the gozleme :: a huge flat pancake filled with delicious morsels, the most incredible tasting baklava at the famous Pandeli restaurant and the perfectly chewy fragrant lokum (Turkish delight). All washed down with plenty of Efes.

It was in Istanbul where fish, cooked over an open fire aboard a fishing boat moored on the Bosporus, then stuffed into half a loaf bread, created a culinary memory that I’ll never forget. For a kid brought up on fish finger sandwiches, the crispy grilled mackerel served between soft Turkish bread, brought a tasty ottoman twist to a childhood favourite.

But back to tomatoes and zucchinis. If one vegetable could sum up Turkey it would have to be the eggplant, but there was no shortage of zucchinis and tomatoes either. I loved the zucchini and feta fritters, bursting with dill, parsley and mint, a mezze we ate almost daily. And those tomatoes. Oh my. Whether in a fresh shepherd’s salad or sautéed with onion, garlic and eggplant to make a simple Turks version of moussakka, those tomatoes were the finest I have ever tasted. They were so red and so fragrant, you could smell them from across the street. Never had I tasted tomatoes such as those. Sigh.

Fast forward ten years to southern Tasmania. Today, I take my huge Turkish platter off the wall, grateful that I made the effort to lug it home all those years ago, and carefully arrange the day’s harvest of tomatoes. Then I pull out my Turkish cookbooks and flick through the recipes for eggplant, tomatoes, zucchini. Whether simple rustic dishes or elaborate favourites from the sultan’s kitchen, they are all full of flavour, and I have enough inspiration to keep me happily eating tomatoes and zucchinis for a while yet.

Well, until that first cauliflower appears anyway.



10 comments:

  1. Would it be bad for me to admit that our chooks are feasting in the finest zucchinis you could grow..?

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  2. Oooh, such a lovely story and the bowl is gorgeous. But I do hope you get some cauliflower soon to change things up a bit. :)

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  3. and to think I shared those meals with you all those years ago - and still trying to recreate that mousaka at effe's. You just took me back to wonderful Turkish coffee you and I basking in the sun carefree - Have found a darn good middle eastern restaurant around the corner in Lakemba - will take you when you are next up!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  4. Mmmm I could never get sick of tomatoes, but i do feel for you. The cauliflower will be a delicious addition to curries! xo m.

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  5. I have just finished making tomato relish, with the toms from out garden. Cheers Marie

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  6. What precious memories, thanks for sharing them. Don't the best memories include food? Or is it the food that evokes the best memories??
    Lizzie
    XXX

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  7. 人因夢想而偉大,要堅持自己的理想哦!........................................

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  8. How funny - my father loves a Turkish breakfast and was enjoying them when were just in TAS. My brothers wife is Turkish and I think going to Turkey has been one of my Dad's most enjoyable trips abroad.

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  9. Thanks for sharing your travelling memories. It sounds delightful, and so tasty! The platter is beautiful too- hope you've found some new recipes to get you through the tomato/zucchini glut!

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  10. Great little post Michelle. I am a sucker for tomatoes.

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