Cook like a lo­cal: Istanbul

From chargilled ke­baps to spicy pide bread and köfte, Turkey’s rich culi­nary her­itage makes a visit to the coun­try’s cap­i­tal a treat

Olive - - Contents - Words & recipes SOMER SIVRI­OGLU & DAVID DALE

Veal meat­balls with white bean and tahini salad, chicken ke­baps and thin-crust pide with spicy lamb top­ping

With a big smile, Turk­ish cooks are likely to tell you that theirs is the first great cui­sine of the world: ‘ The French got their creamy sauces from our yo­gurt and the Chi­nese based their dumplings on our manti, which also gave the Ital­ians their ravi­oli’. Push­ing their tongues fur­ther into their cheeks, the Turks might go on to claim that the Amer­i­cans picked up their ob­ses­sion with bar­be­cues from Turkey’s char­grilled ke­baps, the Ital­ians de­vel­oped their pizza from pide, the Greeks stole baklava from the Ot­tomans, Hun­gar­i­ans’ goulash came from the beef stew called kul asi, New York­ers’ pas­trami is a rip- off of the meat- dry­ing process called pa­stirma and the In­di­ans’ tan­doori ovens are a copy of the an­cient Ana­to­lian cus­tom of bak­ing in a hole in the ground, called a tandir. It is true that most Turk­ish dishes have an­cient ori­gins. About 8,000 years ago, the Hit­tites of south- eastern Ana­to­lia were the first hu­mans to cul­ti­vate figs, apri­cots, cher­ries, al­monds, pis­ta­chios, sheep ( for cheese and meat), and grapes for wine. Later the Greeks, Ro­mans, cru­saders, Ot­tomans and 20th- cen­tury mod­ernisers each added their own tastes, tech­niques and mythol­ogy to the re­gional reper­toire. All of th­ese in­flu­ences can be found in Istanbul’s eat­ing places, though each tends to spe­cialise in one or two types of cooking. Go to a ke­bap house if you want char­grilled meat ( with soups and tomato sal­ads), or a köfte house to sam­ple spicy meat­balls ( served with white bean salad), or a börek house to try savoury pastries, then to a baklava house or a rice pud­ding house ( look for the sign ‘ muhallebi’) for dessert. If you’re af­ter a va­ri­ety of meze dishes af­ter 6pm, go to a mey­hane.

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