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SHELLFISH FLAVOURS FROM THE SEA
2001 / JULY

As a child, without telling my parents, I used to go with my friends to Süreyya Beach in Maltepe and spend the day swimming and playing in the sun. When we got hungry we would busy ourselves with preparations for a meal. While some of us lit a fire at a concealed spot on the beach, the others would swim out and collect huge mussels. We would bury these in the embers until they were cooked. This was my introduction to shellfish and their wonderful flavour. Turkish cuisine, which is regarded by many as one of the world's greatest cuisines, made the acquaintance of this delicious food many centuries ago. During their long journey of migration from Central Asia, the Turkish people incorporated the new flavours they encountered into their own cooking. When they arrived in Anatolia, a peninsula surrounded on three sides by sea, they first made the acquaintance of salt water fish and seafood. However, their cuisine already included freshwater fish, as we can deduce from the fact that the names for all the latter, such as trout and carp, are of Turkish origin.

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SHELLFISH FLAVOURS FROM THE SEA
2001 / JULY

Seafood dishes cooked for example in casseroles over a low heat with butter and herbs quickly took the place they deserved in Turkish cuisine. Consumption of shellfish became so widespread, that we find references to oysters, lobsters and shrimps in 15th century palace kitchen registers dating from the reign of Mehmed II. For actual recipes, however, we must move on into the early 19th century, when Mehmed Kamil's cookery book Melceü't-Tabbahin (Refuge of Cooks) gives several recipes for shellfish, which the Ottomans called 'insects of the sea'.

It is essential that shellfish be perfectly fresh. Those sold in Istanbul come from the Bosphorus and neighbouring coastal provinces on a daily basis. Shellfish are so popular in Istanbul, that today there are many fast food snack bars specialising in stuffed mussels and mussels fried in batter.

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SHELLFISH FLAVOURS FROM THE SEA
2001 / JULY

Finding specialities like oysters külbasti style, on the other hand, is much harder, because oysters and scallops must be ordered from Çanakkale four days in advance. It is well worth the wait though, I assure you. l

* Hakan Bingöl is a photographer.


Casseroled Shrimps
Serves 4

Ingredients:
1 kg shrimps
500 g chopped tomatoes
6-7 green chilli peppers
400 g mushrooms
4 bay leaves
2 tablespoons tomato ketchup

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SHELLFISH FLAVOURS FROM THE SEA
2001 / JULY

2 tablespoons vinegar
4-5 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
100 g Kasar cheese
1/2 teaspoon red pepper

Method:
Add the vinegar to half a large saucepan of water, bring to the boil and toss in the shrimps. Cook for five minutes, then drain and shell. Melt the butter in a broad shallow pan, add the tomatoes and cook for five minutes. Remove the seeds and stalks from the peppers, chop finely and add to the tomatoes. Continue to cook for 2-3 minutes, then add the finely chopped mushrooms, ketchup, bay leaves, salt and black pepper. Cook until the juice from the mushrooms has evaporated, then add the shrimps and cook for a further 2-3 minutes.

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SHELLFISH FLAVOURS FROM THE SEA
2001 / JULY

Pour into a casserole and sprinkle grated Kasar cheese and then the red pepper over the top. Place in a pre-heated oven and bake until the cheese has melted. Serve hot.

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Istanbul Style Stuffed Mussels
Serves 4

Ingredients:
16 mussels
1 cup rice
9 medium onions
1 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon currants
1 tablespoon of pine nuts
1 tablespoon sugar
salt, black pepper, allspice

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SHELLFISH FLAVOURS FROM THE SEA
2001 / JULY

Method:
Place the mussels in water and scrape the shells well all over with a knife. Then prise them open along the broad edge with the knife, and cut off the bristle without tearing the mussels away from the shell. Rinse the opened mussels well with water. Soak the rice in water for ten minutes, rinse and drain. Place the olive oil and pine nuts in a saucepan and stir over heat until the nuts are lightly coloured. Add the rice, one pinch each of salt and spices, and one and a half cups of boiling water. Cover and cook over a medium heat for 20 minutes, then set aside for 10 minutes. Stuff the mussel shells with the rice and tie with sewing thread so that they do not come open during the cooking. Place in a saucepan with half a cup of water and lay a plate over the top to weigh them down. Cook over a low heat for 10-15 minutes. When cold serve with lemon wedges.

Text and photos HAKAN BINGÖL*
PRINT PHOTOBANK TURKEY

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