Thursday, 24 September 2009

Sigara Boregi

These cheese pastries are very common on Turkish mezze plates, and although not exactly friendly on the arteries, in small doses they are delcious, smile-inducing and just a little bit exotic. It can't hurt every now and again...

Cheese Pastries
Makes 30

8-10 sheets yufka pastry - or filo pastry would work just as well
4 eggs
450g Turkish cheese such as beyaz peynir - or feta
large bunch of fresh mint, parsley and dill, chopped
sunflower oil for frying

1. Mash the cheese, eggs and herbs into a paste in a large bowl.
2. Lay the pastry on a flat floured surface and cut into long strips, 8cm wide by 20cm long.
3. Take a strip at a time and place a teaspoon of the cheese mix onto the end nearest you. Fold the corners over the mixture to seal it, then roll away from you to create tight, cigar-like rolls. Seal the pastry shut with a dab of water.
4. Heat the oil in a shallow pan - enough for deep-frying. Fry the boregi in batches for approx 3 mins until they are golden brown and crisp. Drain on kitchen paper and serve warm.

50 ways with an aubergine?

This was the first dish we made at the Istanbul cookery class, and I reckon it was the biggest hit. Apparently the Turkish have about 50 ways of cooking aubergine, and if you've ever eaten at a Turkish restaurant - at home or in Turkey - you can see that this is likely!

Aubergines with Onion & Tomato
Serves 2 as a side dish

2 aubergines
1 green pepper, chopped
1 large onion (or 3 shallots), finely sliced
3 large tomatoes, skinned, deseeded and chopped
Squeeze of tomato puree
6 cloves garlic, finelly chopped
bunch parsley, dill and basil, finely chopped
1 tsp salt
150ml olive/sunflower oil
60ml water
Slices of green pepper and tomato

1. Remove bottom inch of each aubergine, but leave stalk intact. Peel skin in strips, leaving some on to allow aubergine to retain shape.
2. Gently fry onion, garlic and peppers until cooked and soft. Add the tomatoes and puree and stir well.
3. In deepish (one inch) hot oil fry the aubergines gently until brown all over (about 5-8 mins). Drain on kitchen paper.
4. Add water and salt to the tomato mix to make a soup-like consistency. Simmer until this has cooked down.
5. Arrange aubergines in a tray or oven dish and pack the veg and tomato mixture all around. Arrange slices of pepper and tomato over the whole tray.
6. Cook in the oven (180C) for about 15-20 minutes and serve with a squeeze of lemon juice and some warm, fresh pide bread.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Istanbul Cooking Class

On a recent trip to Istanbul, the Monkey and I happened on a leaflet advertising a cooking class at a hotel near where we were staying, tucked in behind the Blue Mosque. Well, it would be a shame to leave this wonderful, exciting, vibrant city without learning at least some of the secrets of the delicious food we'd been tasting. Lots of aubergines, pulses, vine leaves, haloumi cheese, all brought together with a vivid array of spices - not to mention the freshest of fish - make Istanbul a foodie's dream and a sheer delgiht to visit. You'd never go hungry, that's for sure!

And so we rocked up at the cooking class on the appointed day, and met our fellow classmates - a group of five friends from Iceland, and two American ladies who were family friends. We made a happy, lively bunch as we donned our aprons and washed our hands ready to get stuck in to a bit of learning.

First up was what, on paper, sounds like a very simple dish: Aubergines with Onion and Tomato. But once the aubergine has been fried and the tomatoes have been bubbling with plenty of herbs and seasoning for a while, it turns into a sumptuous, almost decadent dish that's just crying out to be mopped up with plenty pide bread.

Next was Sigara Boregi, or fried cheese pastries. Not exactly the arteries' best friend but what the heck, we're on holiday.

The final savoury dish were dolmas, vine leaves stuffed with meat instead of the usual rice. Lamb is a very popular meat in Turkey - as throughout the Middle East - and seasoned with mint, parsley, dill and lemon juice, it goes well with the vine leaves' distinctive flavour.

To finish it all we made a simple Turkish rice pudding, using only milk, sugar and rice, to be served cold with a sprinkling of cinnamon at the end of our feast.

Emerging from the hotel's sweaty, cramped kitchen into the dining room, we were greeted with the twin delights of a cold beer and the fruits of our labours, and enjoyed a happy hour sharing travel stories with our new friends.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Eating Naked

There's a new food delivery service round our way that I think deserves a plug - for its attitude to food, for its ingredient sourcing, for its customer service, and, most importantly, for the food it delivers.

The Naked menu is short and to the point, with options along the lines of ribeye steak and chips, curry goat, caesar salad and meatballs - plus they usually have some specials too, if you remember to ask. The food arrives in the cutest little boxes, tied with string and complete with handwritten labels - it sure beats your average Chinese or Indian takeaway service!

I wrote about Naked recently for The List, Edinburgh & Glasgow's fortnightly listings magazine, and you can read that here.

If you're based in Edinburgh and feel in need of some nutritious convenience food of an evening, give Naked a go. Maybe put some clothes on first though ...

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Oh I do like to be beside the seaside...

Ah, Whitby. The fresh sea air, the donkeys on the beach, the clinking and whistling of the beach-front amusement aracades - all are the makings of a fantastic weekend away with friends. And let's not forget a monstrous plate of fish 'n' chips at the world-famous Magpie Cafe. It's usually necessary to queue for a good half hour before getting a table, but the smell of vinegar and fry, not to mention the sense of anticipation, only add to the experience. And yes, the food is as good as they say . . .

Another treat my friend Kay and I discovered during our Whitby weekend was the now-legendary (in our world) curd tart. Traditionally made from bisling milk (the first milk produced by a cow having given birth to a calf), the same result can be achieved by using good whole milk. I've not yet tried my hand at the recipe yet, but I certainly intend to. They're so good!

So hats off to Whitby for its good old-fashioned seaside fun, complete with sticks of rock, fish 'n' chips, arcade games ... and a whole lotta goths.