What’s cooking in Turkey?
Belma is my neighbour and friend. She is born in Switzerland but her parents came from the Black Sea region in Turkey. Her parents started working at a tailor in Geneva that made the uniforms of the Geneva police men. At that time the costumes where all braided and decorated. Later, her parents had their own little clothes shop in Geneva, first selling leather products and later high-quality ladies clothes. When Belma was little they would go to Turkey by car every summer from Geneva. The Black Sea region is about 3 days (!) of driving and Belma still remembers these holidays very well. She would then play with all her cousins and meet up with the entire family. She has taught her children to speak Turkish and they go on holiday to Turkey when they can. When in Turkey, her children now play with her cousin’s children… and so beautiful family history repeats…
Cooking time: Turkish cuisine always takes a long time to prepare. Traditionally, the women sit together and talk while cooking, so that’s what we did as well, together with Belma’s lovely mother Mukaddes.
Ingredients for the Sarma mezze (rolled up wine leaves):
- 300 gr of wine leaves (bought in most specialized shops)
- 1 lemon
- 18 table spoons of olive oil, 120 ml approximately
- 2 glasses glass of warm water
- 2 onions
- 2 small glasses of rice
- 2 table spoons of pine nuts
- 1 teaspoon of pepper
- 2 table spoons of raisins (Belma uses the Turkish dried currants which are smaller but if you cannot find them, I would put the more common raisins)
- 5-6 sprigs of parsley
- 2 teaspoons of fresh chopped mint
- ½ teaspoon of chili flakes
- 1 lump of sugar
- A pinch of cinnamon
How to prepare:
- Cut the mint and the parsley (with kitchen scissors is the easiest) and scrape the onions with a scraper (easier to roll later on).
- Prepare the 2 small glasses of rice cook (in Turkey they wash the rice be they start cooking)
- Fill up a small glass with olive oil, approximately 18 table spoons which makes approx 120 ml
- When all the ingredients are ready, put half of the olive oil in a frying pan and cook the onions a bit, after, put the pan on medium heat
- Add the rice and cook for a few minutes until the rice doesn’t stick anymore
- You then add the pine nuts, the raisins, the mint and the parsley
- Add salt and pepper according to your own taste, and a bit of chili flakes
- Add the lump of sugar and the 2 pinches of cinnamon and stir a bit
- When it has cooked for about 10 minutes, take all of it of the heat and let it cool off
- Wash the wine leaves
- In the meanwhile, put a pan with water on, to boil. You then cut the lemon in 4 and add it to the water when it boils
- When you wash the wine leaves you separate them a bit but not completely necessary. You then cook them for 2-3 minutes. This will take the salty taste off, and it will make them softer to make the rolling easier later on.
- You can turn the wine leaves upside down half way with a big spoon to cook the other side as well, not one by one, but like flipping a big pancake. After 2-3 minutes you take them out of the water and rinse them off with cold water
- Take the lemons out
- You cut off the stems of the leaves.
- The leaves that are less pretty or not soft enough, you put them on the bottom of the pan.
- You then put the leaf in front of you, with the part where the stem was towards you. You fold the leaves in a way that closes up the holes to make rolling easier
- Delicacy is required with the leaves 😊
- You always put the side of the vein of the leaf up
- You then place a small quantity of the rice mixture, horizontally, on the bottom of the leave and fold both sides towards the middle and start rolling it up, as tight as possible.
- In the pan which has leaves on the bottom, start putting the Sarma rolls in, and keep them tight one to another.
- Once all your rolls are in the pan, you then put another layer of leaves on top, this is all to protect the Sarma, and to prevent them from opening while they cook
- Pour the remaining half glass of olive oil over it.
- Cut the second lemon in slices and put it on top
- Pour water on top, only until the same height as the leaves, so approximately 2 small glasses in our case.
- Put a plate on top of it all to cover and to push down at prevent the Sarma from opening up during the cooking process
- Put it on heigh heat until it cooks and then lower the temperature. Cook covered for 30 minutes.
- After that let it cool off and put it in a nice big plate.
Fortune telling in Turkish coffee
While we are cooking, Belma makes a Turkish coffee for me. Turkish coffee is very strong and at the end you will have some left-over coffee grounds in your cup. These coffee grounds are traditionally used for fortune telling. You have to put a saucer on top of your coffee cup, and turn it upside down towards you, and let it cool off. Once mine was cooled off, Belma turned it around again to read the drawings and patterns that the coffee grounds designed in my cup! I will keep to myself what my coffee predictions were, but as you can see there was a very clear heart shape in my coffee mug, a lot of people, and a sort of tree of life 😊 .
Second Mezze : Mercimek Köftesi (mezze with lentils)
- 1 and a half glass of fine bulgur wheat
- 1 glass of coral lentils
- 1 fresh onion
- 2 table spoons of pepper paste
- 3 glasses of water
- A bunch of parsley
- Chili flakes
- 1 onion
How to prepare
- Wash the lentils with warm water
- Cook them in 3 glasses of water (3 times the quantity of lentils) Almost all the water needs to be absorbed in the end, almost, not all, otherwise it could become too dry.
- When the water is almost absorbed add the bulgur wheat and stir
- Leave it rest for 30 minutes with the lid closed
- In the meanwhile, cut the other ingredients, the fresh onion and the parsley, and scrape the onion.
- Fry the onion in oil in a pan for a bit
- Add the pepper paste and cook for 2 more minutes
- Add this mixture to the lentils and bulgur, and let it cool off a bit, so that you would be able to touch it without burning yourself.
- You will then have to work the mixture with your hands just like you would do with dough
- Add the spices and salt according to taste, and then add the onions and parsley
- Work the mixture again with your hands until all is well mixed
- Once it is well mixed, you take a bit in your hand and squeeze a bit to make it shaped like the mezze
- You eat this mezze cold and pick them up in a bit of salad and put some lemon juice over it.
Mezze make a beautiful presentation at any party or family gathering and I feel very lucky that Belma and her mother showed me how to make them!