My experience with Turkish food is based on a bedrock of simplicity. Most meals I eat are shaped around the use of salt, pepper and paprika, and very little else for seasoning, except the pure freshness of product. The humming weekly market, the import-free, locally grown, scenes.
It’s like all the best fruit and vegetable markets of the world, you pick through piles of produce to find the finest.
There’s millions of different types of dairy products. We have a yogurt especially for dipping, a yogurt for topping, a soft breakfast cheese for scooping, a hard breakfast cheese for eating in nodules. A thick, slightly sour yogurt drink to accompany a kebab or salep to go side by side with my dessert, made from orchids and milk.
Salep, a consistency that is reminiscent of childhood; of drinking warm, comforting custard. The layer of cinnamon served on top of the cup reminds me of Christmas. Christmas custard.
Olive oil is used to coat things thoroughly, especially our breakfast eggs. Swimming in olive oil, that would horrify most British dieters, but brings only pleasure to pure Mediterranean’s, as we dip our freshly baked bread in the sea of deliciousness.
Breakfast is my favourite. Breakfast is an banquet. If we are really indulgent we not only have our sea of olive oil eggs accompanied by flavoursome beef Turkish sausage, but boiled eggs to boot. Sprinkled with paprika and salt.
When in season, we eat tiny green olives with olive stones smaller than my pinkie nail. Minuscule and delightful. I find them infinitely more pleasurable to eat than large olives, partly because of the flavour and partly because of their daintiness.
Our holy grail for everything good in the world is rocket. I’m obsessed by rocket anyway, but the rocket here comes in great bouquets of lush green, pepperiness. Roots in tact, hopeful, bright, and perky.
Often our local supermarket has subpar rocket, and I must walk by, forlorn but unable to accept the wilting, sad, looking leaves when I’ve already eaten my way through what should’ve been a weeks worth of rocket quota.
But when it’s good (usually from the market), it’s brilliant. Half a lemon squeezed over a bunch, and a sprinkle of salt (of course). It’s the best bunch of anything I ever received.
Salt, salt, salt. We have oodles of salt, on everything. But there’s one things I’ve learned about simple, fresh food. It needs salt. It enhances the flavour. I grew up thinking salt just made things salty. I was wrong, it brings out its taste and makes it even tastier. So, on salt goes. On the salad, on the meat. On the eggs. Almost everything, except my coffee.
Maybe my worst dietary discovery happened after I’d lived in Turkey for over 5 months, it had managed to escape me for all that time then suddenly April 2016, I found Kaymak. Kaymak is basically a Turkish version of clotted cream. Whilst it isn’t Rodda’s Cornish Clotted Cream, it is delicious.
Unfortunately, the Turkish marry kaymak with honey. On bread. Yes, you smother a slice of bread with cream and douse it with honey. It is to die for, and my new favourite way to end a Turkish breakfast. I eat everything else first, and then finish with a slice (or two, or three..) of my favourite loaf with kaymak and bol.