Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Unlike many of my expat friends here, I do not have a Turkish mother-in-law to teach me how to cook.

So far, I’ve relied on the few Turkish cookbooks I’ve purchased or borrowed and the advice of long-time residents to prepare “traditional” Turkish recipes.

But last week, I took a special opportunity to take a Turkish cooking class offered through the International Women of Istanbul. Selin Rozanes, an Istanbul native, teaches Turkish cooking classes in her beautiful Nişantaşı apartment through her business called Turkish Flavours. She also offers several Istanbul market tours, street food tours, culinary tours in Turkey and more. I hope to take one of her market tours next month.

Donning a black handmade apron, provided by Selin as part of the class, I was ready to start chopping and slicing. Hand those vegetables over!

The 1940s apartment has been remodeled with a prep area just off the salon. The room is fitted with a large island in the middle and is well organized with wooden cutting boards, knives, spices and other necessary tools. Along one wall is the gas range oven that we would be using to bake and cook our dishes. In the second kitchen in the back, Selin had a helper washing the many dishes and utensils we used.

We had an extensive menu to prepare that included the following 9 recipes:
- Sigara böreği - crispy pastry rolls with feta cheese and herbs
- Zeytinyağlı enginar - Artichokes in olive oil
- Karnıyarık - Split-belly eggplant
- Spicy bulgur pilaf
- Cacık - a garlicky yogurt mezze with cucumber and dill
- Yoğurtlu Havuç Salatası - Carrot-yogurt salad with tahini and walnuts
- Yeşil zeytin salatası - Green olive salad with pomegranate molasses
- Kaymaklı kuru kayısı - Apricots stuffed with clotted cream and garnished with pistachio
- Kaymaklı cevizli incir - Stuffed dried figs infused with honey and bay leaves

The class went by in a blur.
Selin showed us how to stuff and dip the apricots in ground pistachios.
Selin explained each dish as we went. I became the designated chopper once she learned of my culinary experience. “Chef, chop this,” she said.

I also liked that Selin varied from the more “traditional” Turkish recipes and added her own flair and pinch of spices to them. For example, the artichokes generally are cooked with peas and carrots. However, her recipe included handfuls of whole, peeled shallots, fresh fava beans and scallions. The dish was flavorful but tasted very light and spring-like.
This is exactly how I like to cook in the kitchen too. Very rarely do I ever follow a recipe verbatim. I tend to add more spices than stated, and I’m quite generous with the garlic and freshly ground black pepper.

My favorite dishes ended up being the stuffed apricots, the artichokes and the carrot salad. I also enjoyed learning how to make, stuff and roll the sigara böreği using the yufka, which is one of my favorite hot mezze dishes. I can’t wait to experiment with these recipes in my own kitchen soon!
Stuffed figs with walnuts

Cacik, sigara böreği and artichokes

Split-belly eggplant garnished with tomatoes and dill ready to be served
What I’ve learned, overall, is that Turkish cooking is fairly simple. It’s not complex and doesn’t require 20 ingredients to make one dish.

This class was a great experience to learn more about the new country I’m living in and how to make its cuisine, which is something I can enjoy years down the road no matter where our travels take us.

If you are visiting Istanbul or even live here and want to learn how to cook from an expert like I did, I highly recommend Selin’s Turkish cooking class.

Afiyet olsun!

Selin, me, and my classmates just before we sat down to enjoy our afternoon meal.

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Sippy Cup Central said...

That looked like a load of fun! KB

Mavi göz said...

Sigara boregi is so delicious *_* the best one i ate in Goreme :)