Monday, January 30, 2012

Often while dining out, I get inspired to make my own version of a particular dish. Or I dissect said dish and figure out the ingredients and spices so I can replicate the food at home.

Recently, I enjoyed a light lunch with a friend at Kantin in Nişantaşı. This cute cafe is always bumping at lunchtime and serves an ever-changing menu focused on seasonal ingredients. For our first course, we both ordered the daily soup which was balkabağı çorbası (pumpkin soup).
Kantin's Turkish pumpkin soup was garnished with a dollop of yogurt, fresh oregano and ground black pepper.
For the last two months or so in Istanbul, I've often walked by small wooden stands set up in the streets or on sidewalks where a Turkish guy is cutting up fresh balkabağı (literally translates to "honey squash".) Usually, he must use a long, hand saw to cut through the tough, greenish-blue exterior.
Just off Valikonağı Caddesi in Nişantaşı, the pumpkin guy sets up his stall near the artichoke-peeling guy while across the street a second pumpkin guy holds his corner by the fresh juice guy. (I never understand the Turkish concept of setting up like-minded stalls literally right next to each other.)

Anyway, I bought a kilo of balkabağı at the Saturday pazar in Beşiktaş. I love the fact that the guys will cut AND peel the pumpkin for you! At home, I made a delicious, spicy, cumin-scented pumpkin soup, which only lasted 2 days, followed by a curry-based cauliflower soup. 'Tis the season for soup!

With the snow blowing outside here in Istanbul, it's a perfect time to make this wintery balkabağı çorbası. And, trust me, the fried garlic chips are worth the extra effort!

Afiyet olsun!
My version of  balkabağı çorbası at home in Istanbul.
Balkabağı Çorbası/Turkish Pumpkin Soup with Cumin Yogurt

2          T.                                 vegetable or olive oil
1          med.                            onion, diced small
4-6       cloves                          garlic, roughly chopped
1          T.                                 cumin
1          kilo      (2.2 lbs.)          balkabağı (pumpkin), cut into 1-inch cubes
2          med.                            yellow potatoes, cut into small cubes
1          L.         (33. 8 oz.)        chicken stock or water
To taste                                   pul biber (red chili flakes), salt and freshly ground black pepper
120      ml.       (1/2 c.)             low-fat milk (Substitute whole milk or heavy cream for a richer taste.)

For garnish:                 Cumin yogurt - To make, stir in a good pinch of cumin powder and salt to (low-fat) yogurt and season to taste.
                                    Fried garlic chips (Note: mine only took about 30 seconds to fry. Strain immediately and place on paper towel to absorb extra grease.)

1.         In a large stockpot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and saute about five minutes, until softened.
2.         Add the garlic and cumin powder. Cook for just a few minutes. Then add the pumpkin and potato chunks, stirring with a large spoon and cook for a few more minutes.
3.         Then, add the stock or water. Add a dash of pul biber, salt and black pepper. Cover the pot with a lid and let simmer for about 20-30 minutes, until the pumpkin is soft.
4.         When finished cooking, add the milk. Using a hand immersion blender, puree the soup until smooth. Taste and adjust the seasonings as necessary.
5.         To serve, ladle the hot soup into warmed bowls. Garnish with a dollop of the cumin yogurt and a sprinkling of the fried garlic chips. (Watch your husband eat said soup in amazement!)

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Lola Lobato said...

I love pumpkin soup, Joy your balkabağı çorbası recipe looks fantastic especially the yogurt with the fried garlic chips on the top.
I enjoy reading your trips to the Greek island, I am planing to go during spring. All the best.

Joy said...

@Lola, thanks for stopping by! I've really enjoyed catching up on your have a some great things on your blog too! Def. will look forward to reading about your Greek island trips. Cheers!

Natalie said...

I too, could never understand why shops selling the same wares are always together but then someone told me apparently it dates back to the Ottoman empire. It was an attempt to keep prices down or something along those lines.

Terry said...

This looks absolutely delicious!

Joy said...

@Natalie, I think I've heard something like that too, but it still doesn't make sense to me. =) Friendly competition...

@Terry, what's cooking in Ankara?

Turkish Cuisine said...

I have tried pumpkin muffin, pumpkin roll up cake before and I would definitely love to try pumpkin maple cheesecake but never think about the soup, I should give it a try...

Joy said...

@Turkish Cuisine, it's hard for me not to think about making soup during this cold weather. If you do, let me know what you think. Afiyet olsun!

Ozlem's Turkish Table said...

Delicious, Joy! I loved your addition of cumin to the yoghurt and the garlic chips, yummy and so seasonal!:) Eline saglik!

Julia said...

Looks like I missed this post, then, so thanks for putting it on the community. :) This is one of my favourite soups and we always make it at this time of year - love the idea of the yoghurt topping.