“There are a variety of spices,” Somer Sivrioglu tells us. “But contrary to popular belief, [the cuisine is] not that spicy. Turkish food has a lot to do about the balance, so it’s the sweetness and spice.”
So what are his top pantry picks? “Cumin is a very common spice that we use; cinnamon, as well, with the sweets; oregano and thyme are very common with meat dishes.”
“One of my mentors told me, “If you give me onions and garlic, I can cook Turkish anywhere”. We use onions and garlic in any form so, you know, red, white, purple onions, eschallots, shallots, spring onions. Same as garlic, [we use it] fresh, smoked and roasted.”
Garlic and onion aside, Somer says there's one protein that reigns supreme: “I come from a culture [where] when you talk about meat, it is lamb. If it is any other meat you name it by the animal, but if you say ‘meat’, it is lamb.”
And let's not forget everyone's favourite purple veggie: “Eggplant is the Turkish vegetable.”
Tomatoes and capsicums, known in as peppers, are also popular in Turkey, eaten fresh, cooked, smoked, powdered and in almost any other form you can think of.
Somer tells us: “I always suggest to people, if you want to add a bit of Turkish flavour to what you do, replace the tomato paste you're using in your vegetable dishes with half-tomato half-capsicum paste.” Like many flavour bases this pepper paste (biber salçası) is packed with umami.
Find more than 20 recipes from Somer Sivrioglu here.
This filled Turkish pastry has become a staple at markets across Sydney and Australia. Made with soft dough rolled out until thin, it is then filled with any number of things, including the ever-popular spinach and feta. Here, we’ve used lamb, silverbeet and feta for a spin on the classic.
Have we got your attention and your tastebuds? It's all about Turkish cuisine on this week's episode of The Chefs' Line airing weeknights at 6pm. Check out the program page for episode guides, cuisine lowdowns, recipes and more.