Everywhere you turn in Turkey there is something delicious to eat, including streetfood such as bread rings covered in sesame seeds; deep fried mussels with a garlic rich sauce; warm roasted almonds and pistachio nuts; pastries bathed in syrup; divine milky desserts and chewy ice creams.
In the many restaurants and street cafés you can dine in style eggplants stuffed, grilled or fried in endless ways; tangy salads and yoghurt dips strongly flavoured with garlic.
Every town and city has a market where you will find a wealth of fresh seasonal produce, such as plump olives and crunchy pickles, fresh figs, ruby red pomegranates, juicy ripe peaches, pungent spices, and fresh leafy herbs, which are sold like bunches of flowers.
ISTANBUL, THE CULINARY CENTER
To get a taste of Turkey, Istanbul is the place to be. All roads lead to this majestic city and many Turks migrate here from all over the country, taking with them their own culinary traditions and local flavours. As a result the city is unique, never failing to surprise and tantalize, as it brings together ingredients, techniques and dishes from even the most far flung corners of the country.
Day and night, Istanbul is intoxicatingly alive, with the endless street and water traffic, the honking of horns, the resonant call to prayer, and the alluring smell of food cooking in every street. Here it is possible to taste red peppers from Gaziantep, tart green olives from Bodrum, dried apricots from Cappadocia, anchovy pilaf from Trabzon ,spicy kebabs from Adana, the mildly hallucinogenic honey from Kars(from bees that feed on opium poppies), and a tempting array of soothing, creamy milk desserts and succulent, syrupy pastries, which originated in the Ottoman Palace kitchens and remain popular today.
While the food and cooking of Turkey is, inevitably shaped by its diverse geography and climate, it could be said that the country’s turbulent history has also played a key role in shaping the cuisine. Constantly in flux, the culinary traditions embody the many cultures that have had an impact on Turkish life over the centuries. These include ancient Persian and Arab practices that have been handed down from generation to generation; the influences of Islam and the Ottoman Empire and today, the growth of urbanization and tourism.
A CULINARY HISTORY
The early ancestors of modern day Turks originated in the Altay mountains in Central Asia, from where they drifted towards Anatolia, encountering and adopting different culinary traditions along the way. Some of these were based on the use of animal products, such as the milk and meat from horses as well as the many different wild animals that were hunted.
In common with the other nomadic tribes of the period, the early Turks would also have made unleavened bread from wheat flour and would have drunk ayran, a yogurt drink , and kımız a fermented liquor made from the milk of their mares.
When these nomads arrived in Anatolia around the 10th century the region already had its own rich culinary heritage, influenced by the Hittites, the Romans, the Byzantines, the Arabs, the Mongols and the Crusaders who had passed through the region. The legacy of these influences was a cuisine that made use of the ready availability of beans, wheat and lentils, which were cooked with oil extracted from plants.
The early Turks adopted and further developed this cuisine, melding their own characteristics and culinary techniques with those already present in the region. Evidence of this early Turkish cuisine can still be found today among the Kazan and Tartar communities in central Anatolia. Here many early dishes have survived, including mantı, a noodle dough, yufka, the thin sheets of flat bread, and tarhana, fermented dried curds that are used for making a traditional soup.
THE IMPACT OF ISLAM
As the Golden Age of Islam flourished between the 8th and 12th centuries, the Arabs invaded and conquered vast territories in Central Asia, imposing religious restrictions n all aspects of the cultures they encountered, including those of Turkey.
During this era there was a cultural awakening throughout the Middle East, as the seafaring Arabs brought back silk and porcelain from China, ivory and gold from East Africa, and spices from the East Indies. With the arrival of spices came a great deal of culinary creativity and the advent of instructive literature on recipes, etiquette and the health properties of certain foods. All of which had an impact on the cuisine of Turkey. Around the same time, Mahmud al – Kashgari wrote the first important document , a Turkish – Arabic dictionary ,which detailed and recorded aspects of the cuisine and their cooking methods for recipes such as yufka and mantı.
THE SELJUK PERIOD
By the 11th century, the nomadic Turks had formed a warrior aristocracy,which resulted in the establishment of the Seljuk Empire in Konya from where they ruled Greater Syria for most of the 12th century. The culinary culture at this time was influenced by the sophisticated cuisine of Persia. Many important aspects of this food culture were recorded by the poet and mystic, Mevlana Celaleddin Rumi. Among the recipes listed in his works are dishes consisting of meat cooked with a variety of vegetables, such as leeks, spinach and turnip; helva made with grape molasses, pekmez helvası; the jelly like, saffron dessert, zerde, and a number of pilaf and kebab dishes, all of which are still cooked to this day. His writings also reveal the abundance of produce that was available at the time, such as marrows ( large zucchini), celeriac, onions, garlic, chickpeas, lentils, apples, quince, melons and watermelons, dates, walnuts, almonds, yogurt and cheese.
THE MEVLEVI ORDER
Following the death of Mevlana in 1273 the Mevlevi Order (of whirling dervish fame) was founded. They established strict rules of kitchen conduct and table manners, most of which are still adhered to in modern Turkish society. In their teachings, the kitchen was regarded as a sacred hearth and it was there that new apprentices matured and learned under the Master Cook, the Sheikh Cook, and the Sheikh Stoker. Mevlana’s personal cook Ateş Baz-ı Veli was buried in an impressive Mausoleum, a privilege usually reserved for royalty. Now a shrine for gastronomic pilgrims, it is said that if you remove a pinch of the salt from around the mausoleum, your cooking will be blessed.
THE OTTOMAN PERIOD
The most significant change in Turkish Cuisine came about during the Ottoman Empire. Once Constantinople (now Istanbul) was conquered by Mehmet II in 1453, the Topkapı Palace became the center of the Empire and all culinary activity. By this time the Turks had developed a sophisticated cuisine, which merged traditional nomadic traditions with new techniques and ingredients from Persia. Mehmet II was a gourmet of the highest order with a penchant for indulging in lavish feasts, prepared in the palace kitchens by carefully selected chefs from Bolu. These kitchens were divided into four main areas. The most important of these was the Kuşhane – the bird cage kitchen – named after the small cooking pots in which food for the Sultan was prepared in small quantities. The second most important kitchen was the Has Mutfak , where food was prepared for the Sultan’s mother, the prince’s, and privileged members of the Harem. The remaining two kitchens produced the food for the lesser members of the harem, the chief eunuch, and the other members of the Palace household. During the reign of Mehmet II, the palace kitchens boasted a huge staff of specialist chefs. The tradition of specialization reached its height during this period, as each chef strove to produce the most exquisite and tasty dish imaginable, resulting in sophisticated and creative dishes that became known as the Palace Cuisine.
As the Ottoman Empire expanded its territories during its sixth century rule, it also increased its culinary repertoire by adopting and adapting the recipes it encountered in the Balkans, the Mediterranean region, North Africa and much of the Arab world. While the culinary creativity of the palace was at its peak, a similar level of ingenuity was taking place in every Ottoman grand house inhabited by the distinguished members of the Ottoman society. This was a time when cooking was regarded as an art form and eating was a pleasure, a legacy that is at the root of Turkish cooking today.
In the 16th and 17th centuries the Ottomans persuaded the Spaniards to rturn from the New World via the North African coast so that new ingredients such as chilli peppers, tomatoes and maize could be brought back to Constantinople. When the Ottomans ruled, the very best ingredients were brought to Istanbul ensuring high standards of food at every level. When the Ottoman empire collapsed, its culinary influence remained evident to the West of Constantinople but ,as the empire had never penetrated eastwards in to the heart of Anatolia, the local dishes managed to survive there unaffected by the Ottoman influence.
OTTOMAN CUISINE from Rachel Laudan’s Cuisine & Empire
In 1453,the Ottoman Sultan Mehmet II took Constantinople from the Byzantine Christians. Mehmet encouraged wealthy Greek Orthodox, Armenian and Jewish merchants the latter expelled from Spain, to settle in the city ,which later became known as Istanbul. By the following century, Istanbul had a million people,more than any European city ,40 percent of them non -Muslims. The Ottoman Empire stretched across North Africa,Egypt,Syria,Mesopotamia,Greece and the Balkans.
Ottoman Cuisine, refined in the kitchens of the Topkapı Palace ,almost certainly incorporated certain elements of Byzantine cuisine, such as confections and stuffed vegetables though this is yet to be investigated. The enormous kitchens were divided in to those that prepared food for the sultan,for his mother and high ranking ladies in the Harem, for the rest of the Harem, and for the rest of the palace household. The kitchen staff,which grew from 150 in 1480 to around 1500 by 1670, included specialists in baking, desserts, halvah, pickles and yogurt.
Soups were prepared in great variety from lamb, noodles, yogurt, grains and pulses thickened with flour or with an emulsion of lemon and egg yolk (terbiye). Meat dishes included kebabs;balls of finely ground and pounded meat (kofte) steamed and stuffed dumplings ( manti) salted,spiced meat,or pastrami( pastırma); fricassees or ragouts( yahni).Pilaf was held in high regard. Vegetable dishes,fried, braised and layered,stuffed, or combined with onions and chopped meat were one of the glories of the cuisine.Compared to Perso-Islamic cuisine, Ottoman cuisine tended to separate salt and sour tastes from sweet ones, used fewer fruits and less sugar and vinegar in savory dishes, and reduced the spices, even though Istanbul remained a key node in the spice trade.
Wheat- flour preparations continued to evolve.Deep- fried doughs of flour and water ,some yeast raised,some with eggs beaten into dough ( a kind of choux fritter),often soaked in syrup were popular. Phyllo was used in both savory and sweet dishes,rolled or folded,stuffed with ground meat,fresh cheese,or vegetables in little pies ( borek) or stuffed with chopped nuts,baked and soaked in syrup ( baklava and related pastries). A novelty was a sponge cake ( revani) made from semolina( coarse ground wheat), eggs and sugar and soaked in syrup.
Many other sweet dishes had a long history ,including rice puddings,sweetened puddings of starch and milk, and halvahs. A sweetened dish of mixed grains of great antiquity,asure, was eaten in remembrance of the martyrdom of the grandson of Muhammed. Drinks included sherbets of pomegranate,cherry, tamarind,violet and countless other flavors as well as buttermilk or yogurt and water ( ayran).
Ottoman high cuisine spread beyond the palace kitchens to the households of high ranking nobles,officials and merchants, Jewish and Christian as well as Muslim, in Cities such as Cairo, Alexandria, Damascus, Aleppo, Athens, Sofia, Baghdad, and Budapest. In Istanbul, so fine was the cuisine in the thousand mansions that entertained regularly that even the sultan accepted invitations to dine.Guilds of butchers,pastırma makers,sherbet makers,snow and ice merchants and fishermen served the households.
In the sixthteen century,coffee drinking created a new social venue- the coffeehouse- marking a transition from the spiritual to the secular realm, as had happened earlier with tea in China.In these establishments the literati discussed their work, payed chess,danced ,sang and talked politics.
Ottoman Cuisine depended on and stimulated commerce and agrilture. In the midth seventeenth century two thousand ships a year docked in Istanbul laden with wheat , rice , sugar , and spices from Egypt;livestock , grain , fats,honey, and fish from North of the Black Sea;and wine from the Aegean Islands. In conquered territories, the Ottomans set up market gardens to provide fresh vegetables for Turkish garrisons.
The gardeners sold green beans,onions,chile peppers,cucumbers, and cabbage to the towns people on the side. In the Balkans, the Ottomans introduced improved grape varieties for eating and for drying as currants and sultanas, as well as okra, filbertsi spearmint,flat leaved parsley, eggplants, durum wheat, improved forms of chickpeas, and the aromatic Damask rose for petals for jam and rose water.
American plants entered the Ottoman Empire as fast as or faster than they did Spain ,perhaps because networks of Sephardic Jews expelled from Iberia streched from the Ottoman Empire to the Americas.Beans, squashes and chiles came in to use. Maize became an alternative food for the humble.
Ottoman cuisine continued to evolve until the break up of the empire in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.The cuisines of Turkey, the Levant, Egypt, the Balkans, and North Africa still show its influence. Its borders with the Christian cuisines were permeable;traces of Ottoman cuisine can be found along the Northern Mediterranean and in Central Europe.
TURKISH CUISINE by courtesy of Filiz Hösükoğlu
The two thousand years between about 4500 and 2500 B.C witnessed the birth of civilization in three centers in the same general area, namely West Asia –North Africa; the next two thousand years witnessed the further spread of civilization in these areas and its development in Europe and East Asia, 1500 B.C
According to the historians, Turks had been in the North Eastern of Asia. They started migrating from the Syberian forests to the southern plains. People lived for tens of thousands of years in food- gathering societies and hunting and then farming societies.Turks did not practice agriculture but lived off great herds and cattle and horses, they constantly roamed with their herds from territory to territory in search of pasture, the men travelled on horseback.The merchants carried chiefly luxurious goods, such as articles of clothing and food, which could not be procured everywhere with equal ease. Salt, fish (dried undoubtedly), furs, and silk are named as articles of trade.Nomadic Turks always moving from one place to the other, and meeting with new people/ information; contributed to their culinary world all across Eurasia.
The fertile lands of the lower Euphrates and Tigris were united to give the kingdom of many civilizations, the people continued, and the great estates continued- although sometimes under new management. In fact the people inhabiting West Asia today presumably the descendents of the Babylonians, Assyrians, Hittites, Persians and so on.When Turks came to Anatolia with their nomadic culinary culture there was already a settled culinary culture belonging to the inhabitants there. Mutual influences of different culture continued. After Turks accepting Islam, they were in concentrated relationship with Arab culture.And inevitably culinary influences flowed in every direction.That is why Turkish Cuisine is based on Central Asia, Iranian, Anatolian and Mediterranean influences.
Turkish Cuisine is divided into two groups; first Palace/ Classical Turkish Cuisine based in Istanbul, imperial capital of the Ottomans. It is refined – sophisticated; and uses the best ingredients wherever they are, sometimes need more working hours in the kitchen. And second; Anatolian / Turkish Folk cuisine spread in all Anatolian provinces and is humble, easy to prepare; uses what ingredient is available. The aim of the folkcuisine is to feed people as in the former to please / entertain them. Anatolian Cusine shows regional differences; depending on the ingredients used which the nature and soil offer, and the cooking techniques applied which all were inherited from the previous inhabitants.
There is also diffrence in restaurant and home cooking. That is why someone visiting Turkey hardly gets the chance of meeting home cooking unless he has some local contact.
The dishes in Turkish Cuisine roughly can be classifed as follows;
- Soups; wheat and derivatives, rice legumes, seasonal vegatables, yoğurt are used.
- Mezes, appetizers; this list is endless; it can be a slice of melon with white cheese; beans cooked with olive oil, garlic and parsley; stewed mussels;black olives; boiled potato salad; tomato salad with roasted egglants; bulgur salad; phyllo cheese rolls etc.
- Fish and Seafood; Turkey is surrounded by the seas on three sides. All kinds of fishes from these three seas are consumed; by either grilling, frying, baking, or steaming depending on its variety.
- Poultry; Nowadays cooks try to substitute chicken with red meat since scientists say white meat is healthier.But in olden times tasty free-range chickens were boiled; the chicken broth was to make deicious pilav/ rice, and the pieces of chicken was served with it. Or boiled chicken garnished with wlnut sauce; or chicken is stuffed with rice, liver, currants and pine nuts.
- Meat; is either consumed in grilled form alone or grilled with some vegetables/ fruits such as eggplants, quinces, onions, garlic, loquats, apples depending on the season and called kebabs; or it can be cooked with vegetables/ fruits in pan called stews/ yahni..
- Vegetables; any seasonal fresh one or two kinds vegetable is cooked with the addition of olive oil.
- Dolma, stuffed vegetables; Zucchinis, eggplants, tomatoes, bell peppers, are stuffed with rice or with bulgur; one may add ground meat to the stuffing if she likes;vine leaves, Swiss chard or cabbage leaves are wrapped up with the same stuffing.
- Pilavs; mostly rice is used, but in folk cuisine bulgur is used due to availability.Either rice or bulgur is used;the pilav is always enriched by the addition of one or two of following ingredients.onions, tomato, currants, pine nuts, chestnuts, zucchini, enggplants, meat, liver etc.
- Noodles and Pasta dishes; Home made vermicelli and noodles are stil prepared in Anatolian provinces.Manti a kind of dumpling or ravioli is prepared by Rolling out dough thin enough, cutting the rolled pastry into 1 inch quares, filling in the center by ground meat / chickpea size, pinching to seal, boiling, then serving with yogurt-garlic sauce with butter –paprika topping.
- Breads, and boreks; Mostly with wheat, in rual areas with other grains.Pita, tandir (clay oven) bread, flat bread (unleavened) baked on sac (griddle) are some kinds.Olives, walnuts, tahini, cheese, meat are often added to bread for flavor and texture. Boreks are prepared by Rolling out the dough with the Rolling pin into desired size circle and filled with either by cheese – parsley mix, or ground meat onion mix, or spinach, and shaped into thin packets of pastry, and fried. Or as in lasagna, rolled out thin dough is layered with different fillings mentioned abıve, and baked in the oven.
- Desserts; can be dough /flour based, milk based, fruit based, rice based. These desserts can be enriched-flavored by the addition of one ofthem; pistachio nuts, walnuts, rose water, saffron , cinnamon, cloves cheese or clotted cream.
- Drinks; ayran diluted yogurt drink, licorice tea, fruit based drinks/ sherbets such as rose, lemon, orange, sour cherry; tea, coffee and herbal teas such as linden tea, mint tea, boza; a fermented (of ground wheat, barley or millet) soup like beverage, salep; a drink prepared by milk, sugar and a starchy powder made by drying and pulverizing the root tubers of certain plants of the orchid family, orchis latifolia.
The products we mostly use which are common to all the Mediterranean countries are;
Olive oil, olives, cheese, fish, tomato, pepper, eggplant, zucchini, pine nuts, walnuts,
basil, parsley, coriander, paste, noddles, sausages, orange, lemon, honey legumes, grains
I will give the recipe of the bread salad locally called ‘Omac’ that mostly reflects the Mediterranean influence, similiar to Italian bread salad ‘ panzanella’.The ingredients are Mediterranean, easy to prepare, filling and nutritious; that is fitting to Mediterranean diet perfectly.
2 cups crushed flat bread, or any other kind of bread broken into ½ inch pieces
3 ripe tomatoes, peeled and diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
½ cup choopped parsley
½ cup mint, optional
2/3 cup feta cheese, crumbled; or mozzarella cheese, gretad
3 tablespouns virgin olive oil
1 scallion, chopped
Salt, and paprika to taste
First rub scallion with salt and the other remaining ingredients.Knead gently till mixed properly.Taste for salt. You can either serve in this form.Or pinch off walmut size pieces of the mixture, and shape each into a small oval.
Serve with ayran-diluted yogurt drink, cucumber sticks, or with pickles.
Afiyet olsun-bon appetite
SPICES , HERBS AND FLAVOURINGS IN THE TURKISH CUISINE
During the Golden Age of Islam, between the 8th and 12th Centuries, with Mecca as the religious centre and Baghdad the capital ,the cooking of the Middle East flourished. Arab ships sailed to China for silk and porcelaine and to the East Indies for spices. The cooking of the region as a whole soon altered as these spices and flavourings arrived at the markets of Egypt, Constantinople and Venice. Empires traded with one another, or imposed their tastes on the lands they conquered.
As the ancient ying and yang theories of China filtered through to the Seljuk Empire, a belief balancing the warming and cooling properties of certain foods developed in the traditional Turkish Kitchen and set the course for many dishes.
Warming spices such as cumin, cinnamon, allspice,cloves,and Turkish red pepper are believed to induce appetite and aid digestion;generous quantities of fresh herbs,particularly mint,dill and flat leave parsley, are often mixed together as a warming triad to balance the cooling properties of some vegetable dishes and salads;pungent garlic, which is used liberally in Eastern and Southern Anatolia but is added in subtle amounts to Ottoman Palace dishes,is believed to be beneficial forthe healthy circulation of the blood.
ALL SPICE(Yeni Bahar)
Dried reddish-brown allspice berries originally came to Constantinople from the New World during the Ottoman – Spanish alliance and are therefore known as Yeni bahar ,”New Spice”.Its principal role is to flavour the aromatic rice that is used to stuff vegetables, fruit, mussels and small poultry.
ANISEED ( Anason) The most important role of aniseed is in the flavouring of Rakı.
CINNAMON( Tarçın) Brought to the region from the Spice Islands by Arab traders, cinnamon quickly became absorbed in to the Turkish culinary culture. The Turks use ground cinnamon in a number of minced ground lamb dishes such as köfte and musakka,and vegetable stews.It is used to flavour rice dishes such as iç pilavı and is also sprinkled over milk puddings and the hot orchid –root drink, salep.
CLOVES ( Karanfil) Crushed or whole,cloves are mainly used in meat casseroles,sweets,breads and pastries. Whole cloves are chewed to freshen the breath.
CUMIN ( Kimyon)
Believed to aid digestion cumin is used in number of dishes that might cause a degree of indegistion or flatulence, such as pulse dishes and some vegetable stews. Cumin is also one of the principal flavourings of sucuk, the cured sausage,and its combined with fenugreek and kırmızı biber in çemen,the paste that coats the cured beef fillet, pastırma.
With long feathery fronds,fresh dill is used both as a garnish and a traditional flavouring in many Turkish dishes. Chopped it is added to a number of meze and vegetable dishes,
Such as the Palace Zeytinyaglı ( olive oil) dishes.Dill is often combined with mint and flat leaf parsley in the cheese filling for savoury pastries.
FLAT LEAF PARSLEY (Maydanoz)
Coarsely chopped ,it is added to numerous meze dishes and salads,such as the popular shepherd’s salad and it is often served in its own with fish or meat kebabs.Parsley is also married with dill and mint for the cheese filling of savoury pastries. When it is used as a garnish,flat leaf parsley is intented to be eaten to heighten the appetite or temper the flavours, and small bunches of parsley always accompany fiery dishes with the idea that you chew on the leaves to cut the spice.
MASTIC ( Mastika) This is the aromatic gum from a tree that grows wild in the Mediterranean region of Turkey. The blobs of sticky gum are collected from the tree and used for the delicious resinious flavour and chewy tang they impart to dishes.It is mainly used in milk desserts and in the famous snowy white ,chewy ice cream from Istanbul.
MINT( Nane) Both fresh and dried leaves of mint are used in meze dishes.The dried leaves are used in tea, in the traditional soup, yayla çorbası, and in several thick meze dips such as haydari, a popular yogurt,mint and garlic dip.
NIGELLA( Çöreotu) In Turkey, nigella is most commonly associated with çörek a sweet bun. It is sometimes inaccurately referred to as black cumin.The little black seeds give a lift to many breads and buns such as pide.They are occasionally tossed in salads and sprinkled over cheese.
OREGANO (Kekik) AND THYME (Dağ Kekiği) Fresh oregano leaves are sometimes scattered over white cheese or tossed in salads but, generally, the herb is sun dried and crumbled or finely chopped. It is the favourite herb to scatter over roasted or grilled (broiled) lamb. Both dried oregano and thyme are popular herbs for flavoring the marinades prepared for olives as they retain their flavor and texture in the olive oil,and they are scattered over savory breads.
RED PEPPER (Pul Biber) In essence kırmızı biber is a red pepper,a type of horn chilli that came originally from the New World,but has grown in Turkey for several centuries and is regarded with pride.In fact you could say that it is the national spice.Roughly chopped, crushed and flaked,or groundin to a powder,it ranges from vermilion colour to a deep,blood red,and its almost black when roasted. At its hottest it is known as pul biber, which is very finely ground and used sparingly. The best quality form is sold rady oiled,so that impacts its flavour immediately,even in uncooked dishes. Nothing tastes quite like the real thing but in recipes can be replaced by paprika or fresh red chilli.
SAFFRON ( Safran) Cultivated in Turkey and neighbouring Iran, saffron is the dye contained in the dried stigmas of the purple crocus,which flowers for only two weeks in October. It requires a staggering number of flowers ( roughly 10,000) to yield a mere 50 g(2oz) of saffron- hence the high price.
Used mainly in milk desserts and ice cream, saffron is occasionaly used in savoury dishes in Turkey,but its key role is in Zerde, a special jelly like rice dessert that is often prepared for wedding feasts.
TURKISH SAFFRON is an imitation saffron made from wild flowers in te southeast of Turkey. It looks similar but doesn’t have a great deal of flavour.It is mainly used for its color in a few rice dishes and in hot yogurt soup.
SESAME SEEDS ( Susam) Sesame seeds are pounded into a thick oily paste,tahin,which is used in sauces and fillings and is spread on bread when sweetened and lubricated with pekmez(grape molasses). The seeds are also sprinkled on simit–bread rings.
SUMAC( Sumak) A deep red condiment, sumac is made by crushing and grinding the dried berries of a wild bush that grows in Anatolia and parts of the Middle East. The ground spice has a fruity,sour taste and is used sprinkled liberally over grilled meats,fish and salads.
Long before the arrival of lemons in Turkey and the Middle East, sumac was used as one of the principal souring agents ,along with juice of sour pomegranates, to season,flavor and preserve a variety of foods. When eating in Turkey today, particularly in a kebab house or a specialist lokanta(small restaurant) for grilled chicken, fish, pastries and lahmacun( Anatolian pizza),small bowls of ground sumac,are often placed on the table as a principal condiment, with dried oregano and kırmızı biber.
KÖFTE SPICE -(Meat ball spice) Ground sweet red pepper, ground hot red pepper,ground black red pepper, ground cumin,dried oregano, dried mint
In the winter, one of the traditional drinks is Boza a thick mixture made from fermented bulgurwheat and sprinkled cinnamon.
A popular drink in the cold months of the winter is Salep made from ground orchid root. Thick, milky and sweet,dusted with a little cinnamon, it is warming and nourishing.
The favourite alcoholic drink in Turkey is the aniseed- flavoured drink rakı,which turns cloudy when water is added and is often referred to as “lion’s milk”. It is traditionally a man’s drink although many women enjoy it tooand it is the preferred drink to go with meze and fish.