Thursday, 29 September 2016

cookbook review: turquoise - a chef's travels in turkey

Turquoise cookbook by Greg and Lucy Malouf.

My third cookbook review for this year is of Turquoise: A Chef's Travels in Turkey. Written by husband-and-wife team Greg and Lucy Malouf, this beautifully presented hardcover cookbook offers captivating insight into the world of Turkish cuisine, complete with intimately descriptive tales of food adventures that spark feelings of wanderlust.

As per usual, I made a beeline for the simpler recipes. The first one that caught my eye was the recipe for smoky eggplant puree (the Turkish name is not provided in the cookbook, but the internet tells me it's called patlican ezmesi), which had an approachable list of ingredients - eggplant, yoghurt, lemon, olive oil, garlic, mint, and salt. I love, love, love the taste of smoky eggplant, and it is something I have not ever attempted at home - until now.

There were some fiddly aspects to this, but it actually wasn't as difficult or time-consuming as I thought it might be, and as I enjoyed it with some crackers, I daydreamed about how I could wow family and friends with this Turkish smoky eggplant dip in the future by serving it at a dinner party at home, or bringing it to a potluck. My only criticism is that there wasn't quite enough of a smoky flavour, even though I cooked the eggplant the proper way, directly over a naked flame, instead of the cheat's version of baking it in the oven. The recipe says to remove every bit of the skin to avoid bitterness, but I'm flirting with the idea of cautiously including some of the charred bits next time, to see if that helps elevate the smoky taste I so adore.

Smoky eggplant puree (patlican ezmesi) - a delicious dip.

A few days later, I turned my attentions to another easy recipe: the shepherd's spinach (kiymali ispanak in Turkish, according to my online research) attracted me with its friendly simplicity - this is a one-pot meal that doesn't put on any airs.

The recipe from the cookbook serves 4 to 6, and calls for a whopping 1 kilogram of spinach. I scaled it down to make just enough for a single meal. For some reason, the authors appear to have forgotten to include the addition of salt to this dish, but fortunately this was easily remedied, and trust me, a bit of salt makes a huge difference! The use of salt instantly turned this dish from bland to scrumptious, and I was happy with the results. Dotted with lamb, rice, and onions, and seasoned with a touch of tomato paste, paprika, and mint, this shepherd's spinach was rustic, hearty, and satisfying.

Shepherd's spinach (kiymali ispanak) - wholesome comfort food.

There are other recipes from Turquoise I'd love to try someday. Flipping through the pages, the Fish Doctor's stew with black pepper, lemon peel and mint - the authors' interpretation of a dish they ate at a seafood restaurant in Istanbul - looked right up my alley, as does the Beyran soup - an alluring breakfast soup with slow-cooked lamb, garlic and green chillies. And for dessert? I think it's got to be the sticky apricots stuffed with clotted cream. Yep, I think I've definitely convinced myself that I should come back to this cookbook again - and let's face it, when it's one as gorgeous as Turquoise, that's not a bad idea at all.

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Tuesday, 20 September 2016

ginger-honey poached tamarillo compote

Ginger-honey poached tamarillo slices, served with yoghurt.

All through winter I quietly passed by the box of seductive ruby-red tamarillos every time I shopped at my local grocery store, flirting with thoughts of random tamarillo recipe creations as I did so, but then I would continue to walk on, and that was that. As spring beckoned, however, my adventurous side took charge, and I finally took the leap.

This is my first experience with tamarillos, and I was actually - um - a bit nervous? Off I went to do some online research, and it was probably a good thing I did, as I found warnings about the intense bitterness of the tamarillo skin, and helpful instructions on removing it.

Tamarillo, also known as tree tomato.

So I immersed my tamarillos in a bowl of freshly boiled hot water, and after a couple of minutes, I retrieved them, made a cut at the top with a knife, and managed to peel off the skin without too much of a struggle. As I did so, the luscious scent of passion fruit hit me - oh, divine! Then I sliced up my naked tamarillos, and they looked ever so pretty.

Peeled and sliced tamarillo.

At this point I was still debating whether to have the tamarillos raw or cooked, so I sampled a piece. It tasted kind of like a passion fruit, tomato, and kiwi fruit rolled into one - there is definitely potential for deliciousness here, but for some reason, my tamarillos were more on the tart and bitter side, with not much going on in terms of sweetness.

I decided then and there to poach my tamarillo slices in a ginger-honey syrup, and this did the trick! I ended up with a nice tamarillo compote that paired well with yoghurt for a healthy breakfast - as shown in the pictures - but I have to say, I tried it with vanilla ice cream, too, and I loved that even more. If I am to make just one recommendation, I say go the vanilla ice cream option, you won't be sorry.

ginger-honey poached tamarillo compote

2 tamarillos
2 cm ginger
2 tablespoons honey

Place the tamarillos in a bowl. Boil some water, and pour enough over the tamarillos so that they are fully submerged in hot liquid.
After two minutes, drain off the hot water. Make a cut on the top of the tamarillos, and peel off the skin.
Slice the peeled tamarillos into rounds of about 1cm/0.5" thick.
Peel and thinly slice the ginger, and plonk it into a small pot or saucepan. Add 1/3 cup water, and bring to boil. Turn the heat down and let it all simmer for about 5 minutes.
Stir in the honey, and add the tamarillo slices. Simmer for another 5 minutes, and remove from heat. Discard the ginger.
Allow the compote to cool down slightly before serving it warm with vanilla ice cream, or you can also let it cool down completely before covering it and storing it in the refrigerator for later use.

Ginger-honey tamarillo compote with yoghurt.

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