Sunday, 28 July 2013

Arzu Salad

Continuing with the Turkish theme, this is a salad that reminds me so much of my childhood. My sister and I had a succession of Au Pairs when we were small - Spanish, French, Hungarian and Turkish. We invariably spent a lot of time with them, us helping them with their English, and they in turn looked after us, keeping us out of trouble, and cooking for us. We adored most of them, and they all left their mark on us in some way or another.

A Hungarian Au Pair taught us how to make wonderful paprika and sausage stews and some very rude Hungarian swearwords. And one of the Turkish Au Pairs taught my sister and I how to make this delicious summer salad. We used to come home from school and instead of pigging out on pizza and pasta, would frequently make and devour this salad, mopping up the juices with lots of fresh bread. It became known as Arzu Salad, after the Au Pair who made it.

It is this kind of recipe that I love - food that someone else adores, and makes for you in the hope that you will fall for it too. 

Ingredients (serves 4):
1 red onion
1 small cucumber
2 vine tomatoes
2 Turkish green peppers
1 tbsp roughly chopped parsley
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper

Chop the onion and then leave it to soak in lightly salted, lukewarm water for 15 minutes (this draws out some of the bitterness from the onion). Try to chop the other vegetables around the same size as the onion. While it is soaking, peel and chop the cucumber, chop the tomato making sure you retain as much juice as possible, then de-seed and chop the peppers. Add the lemon juice and olive oil, then season to taste with salt and pepper.

Drain, rinse and then add the onion, roughly chop the parsley and then toss all the ingredients together. Serve as part of a selection of salads with plenty of fresh, crusty bread to mop up the juices.

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Menemen - Turkish scrambled eggs

I've been having obsessions with certain foods recently. I suspect, a sign that I'm less run down and have some semblance of an interest in cooking again - something that has been distinctly dormant in recent months. This is one of my obsessions, and is a gorgeous Turkish breakfast. It is simple, but quite slow to make so definitely not a breakfast when you're in a hurry!

I've had this many times on holiday in Turkey over the years, but never thought to try and recreate it at home. One of those dishes that don't always translate to another country, I guess. This is partly down to the UK having distinctly rubbish tomatoes! I cheated a little and boosted the tomato flavour with some tomato purée, but it's a small compromise for a delicious dish. And with the beautiful summer sunshine that we are currently experiencing, my opinion changed - it is definitely the perfect weather for menemen.

A tip on tomatoes - buy them on the vine and never put them in the fridge. They won't be quite as good as Mediterranean ones, but leave them out for a few days and they will have a lot more flavour.

Ingredients (serves 4):
1 red onion
3 Turkish long green peppers
3 large vine tomatoes
1 tsp tomato purée (optional)
6 eggs
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp chilli flakes
1 tbsp roughly chopped fresh parsley
20g butter

Slice the tomatoes in half, grate them into a bowl and then set aside for the time being. Finely chop the onion then deseed and chop the green pepper. Melt the butter in a large saucepan then gently cook the onions until softened. Add the green peppers and cook for about a further 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, and if they're a bit anaemic, a teaspoon of tomato purée to give them a flavour boost then turn the heat right down and cook until almost all the liquid has evaporated. Season to taste with a little salt and pepper - I found my tomatoes were quite sharp so needed tempering slightly.

While the liquid is reducing, crack the eggs into a large bowl, add the thyme and chilli flakes and season with salt and pepper. Gently whisk until all the ingredients are combined. Once there is very little liquid remaining in the tomato mixture, pour in the egg and gently stir as you would scrambled eggs. Don't overcook them - part of the joy of this dish is a smooth, very slightly liquid egg mixture. Just before it is ready, stir in about 3/4 of the parsley, reserving the rest for garnish.

Spoon the mixture over slices of lightly toasted bread, garnish with the remaining parsley and enjoy! Perfect for a weekend brunch.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Spinach and Feta Fritatta

Oh dear, it's been a while. Four months in fact. I can only blame work, which has been so ridiculously busy that I have lived off a diet of takeaways, oven pizza and whichever quick and easy pasta dishes I had to hand.

And then there was the heatwave, and I didn't feel like cooking at all, so ate nothing but salad and gazpacho. Anything to avoid turning on the oven. But, doing a big shop recently, I suddenly felt like cooking again. I've bought ingredients for all of my favourite summer recipes, more salad, more avocados and of course, more gazpacho.

Arriving home at a sensible time for the first night in ages, I rolled up my proverbial sleeves and found myself in the mood to cook. Nothing fancy - it's still too warm for that - but a lovely, summery frittata which is as good cold as it is warm, and is a fantastically quick evening meal. I can't think of anything I'd rather eat at the moment.

Ingredients (serves 8 as part of a salad):
6 eggs
250g spinach
1 medium red onion
100g Greek feta
1 tsp olive oil 

Preheat your grill and gently heat the frying pan over a medium heat.  Add the onion and cook until just starting to turn golden, then add the spinach and toss for a minute or two until wilted, then remove from the heat and allow the vegetables to cool slightly.

Beat the eggs in a bowl and season with a little salt and pepper. Crumble the feta over the spinach and red onion, and then gently pour in the egg. Stir a little to distribute the egg, spinach and feta evenly, then turn the heat back on and cook over a low heat for 3-4 minutes.

Next, carefully place your frying pan under the grill for a further 2 to 3 minutes, or until the frittata is golden and cooked through (check the centre with a fork - it should be firm and without runny bits). Put a plate over the pan and turn over quickly but carefully – the frittata should come right out. Serve hot or cold - I love it with a green salad with lots of avocado and a basil dressing.