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Turkish Food & Culture

By James Drakeford

Posted: 22nd February 2013 14:29

Although Turkish cuisine takes many influences from the Ottoman Empire, it consists of a lighter use of spices, a preference for rice over bulgur, and a wider inclusion of seafood.  Many of the recipes are very rich on olive oil and cooked dishes that are often served cold while vegetables and herbs are used abundantly. 

Salep

This Turkish specialty was also served during the reign of the Ottoman Empire.  Made from a powder that is extracted from the bulb of an orchid flower, there is no better way to warm yourself up on a cold winter day than sampling a glass of this thick, foamy, white drink.  The roots are rich in starch and the mixture thickens naturally.  Usually served with cinnamon powder, Salep also makes an ideal companion with vanilla ice cream.  Everything about this concoction is refreshing – from the rich aromatic scent to the peerless palate. 

Seafood

Because four seas surround the country – the Black Sea, Marmara Sea, Aegean and the Mediterranean – Turkey is in a prime location for mouthwateringly fresh seafood.  Quite a number of very delicious fish are easy to find and as a result seafood has become something of a staple diet for the Turks.  Fish is cooked in many different ways; it is grilled, fried or even cooked in stew.  A wide selection of seafood is available including octopus and calamari which frequently feature in a Turkish meze.

Carpaccio

When we mention Carpaccio we are talking about the delicious cuisine and not the famous Renaissance man from Venice.  However, much like the works of the 15th century painter, this colourful dish is very much a work of art.  Generally served as an appetiser, this recipe consists of thinly sliced raw meat, fish or vegetables and is perfected by a lemon, vinegar or olive oil seasoning.  Although it is Italian by nature, Carpaccio is very much a common feature on food menus across Turkey.  Istanbul Culinary Institute will teach you the methods for preparing their trademark Beetroot Carpaccio with purslane and walnuts (pictured) as well as another favourite from their tasting menu, their original take on octopus carpaccio.

Kebaps

Kebaps are perhaps the most popular international Turkish dish and the country contains more variations than you would think humanly possible.  In Turkey, the term kebap simply means “roasted,” and encompasses not only grilled or skewered meats, but stews and casseroles as well.  A kebap is cooked in different ways incorporating different local ingredients and unique cooking methods.  Many of these specialties are named after the regions where they are made.

Other Favourites

Learn about the origins of Turkish cuisine and its historical evolution along with techniques specific to Turkish cooking.  Other favourites include the vast range of offal dishes which are present in Turkish cuisine along with numerous celeriac and yoghurt based dishes.

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