Why buy it?
An alternate title for this cookbook may well have been “How to transform your home into a taverna”. Turkish food has a vegetarian skew and a humble simplicity that makes it one you can approach regardless of kitchen ability. The food is colourful, inviting and designed for many mouths – the idea that your tongue is graced with as many flavours and textures as possible. Flip through its pages, earmark four or five dishes you like, and you’ll have the beginnings of a good time.
Author Sevtap Yüce was born in Ankara, Turkey, and began cooking at the age of 17. She learnt English while working in a patisserie in Sydney and also worked for Bill Granger before a sea change lured her to the Northern Rivers of New South Wales. “My meze has always been in my blood. It is the way I love to entertain, the way I love to share my food.” These days, she happily busies herself at her Beachwood Café in Yamba, on the far north coast of NSW, making food she loves to eat: “When I clear the plates, they are empty, with finger swipes on them, and that makes me smile.” Turkish Meze is Sevtap's second cookbook, following from her debut, Turkish Flavours.
This food has a marvellous simplicity and you could easily make any of the dishes tonight. The ingredients used are all readily available, focusing on fresh seasonal produce. At most, you’ll need to visit a specialised grocer for pomegranate molasses (a bottle goes a long way).
Lamb pide (lahmacun) is not your average pizza. Use your hands to spread raw mince over the dough base, along with parsley, chilli and tomato. It’s ever-so easy and no doubt a surprise to anyone who’s averse to cheese-less pizza. Top with parsley and red onion salad to serve.
Most surprising dish
Sultan’s delight – lamb served on a bed of smoked eggplant cream – is famous for a reason. Turkish people are big softies for eggplant and it’s rumoured they have more than 200 ways to serve it.
Salad for breakfast? It’s not unheard of. Of a morning, Turks might have a chopped boiled egg tossed with flat-leaf parsley, spring onion and salt and pepper. Basically, whatever’s fresh and in season goes.
Vegetarians, newbies to Middle Eastern food, dinner party junkies, seasonal produce lovers, and people with kitchen gardens or thriving herb pots on their window sill.
Turkish Meze by Sevtap Yüce, with photographs by Alicia Taylor (Hardie Grant Books, $39.95, hbk)