Blessings Of The Deep

While abundant in variety, fish are not the only fruit of the sea. ‘Marine invertebrates and bivalve mollusks’ are not terms common to our everyday vocabulary. But whatever you call them, the fruit of the sea have been consumed for centuries and occupy a traditional place in the cuisines of all communities that inhabit coastal areas. Owing to traditional and cultural prejudices, some coastal communities have not consumed certain species of fish, instead leaving shellfish and molluscs entirely out of their diets. Other coastal peoples in contrast have exploited the fruit of the sea at every opportunity with the attitude, ‘I’d eat my father if he came out of the sea!’

SHELLFISH IN ISTANBUL
Thanks to their location, the people of Istanbul have been on intimate terms with seafood since time immemorial. For the fish of the Black Sea, a natural fish farm inhabited by the world’s tastiest species, reach the city via the Bosphorus. Everything pertaining to the sea was very important to the people of Istanbul, who consumed seafood of every stripe.
The Orthodox Christians in particular developed a nutritional culture based on shellfish and molluscs (mussels, octopus, shrimp) since the consumption of fish, chicken and red meat was proscribed during the 40-day Lenten fast. While fond of fish, Istanbul Muslims on the other hand kept their distance from shellfish and molluscs. The imperial records do show however that shrimps were sold to the palace, the favorite among them being lobster. The sources report that lobster was plentiful in the Marmara and caught in the Bosphorus, even in the Black Sea, until thirty or forty years ago.  Indeed, fishermen who went out in search of turbot often caught lobster in their nets, dubbing it ‘turbot lobster’. Some thirty thousand lobster were brought to Istanbul’s wholesale fish market in 1915. Locally caught lobster is extremely limited in quantity today when close to all the need is supplied by imports.
Published in 1882, a book titled ‘Ev Kadını’ (The Housewife) contains a recipe for stuffed lobster, a dish for very special occasions. Shellfish such as crawfish, crayfish, shrimps and crabs were sold and consumed in quantity in the Istanbul of 30 years ago.

OYSTER PİLAKİ
Ingredients:
100 gr oysters, 30 gr carrots (a la Parisienne), 30 gr potatoes (a la Parisienne), 10 gr chopped fennel, 6 pearl onions, juice of half a lemon, 1 tsp salt, 1 clove of garlic, 2 tbsp olive oil, 1/2 cup water, 1/4 tsp ground white pepper, yolk of one egg, 1/4 bunch fresh dill.

Preparation:
Heat the olive oil in a pot and saute the onion, garlic and fennel until they begin to color. Add the carrots and continue sauteing for 2-3 minutes more. Add the oysters, potatoes, salt, white pepper and water and let simmer over low heat. When cooked, beat the egg yolk with the lemon juice and add slowly to the simmering mixture. Bring back to the boil, remove from the heat and let cool.
When serving, arrange the pilaki in the oyster shells and sprinkle with fresh chopped dill.

MUSSEL PİLAKİ
Ingredients:
20 mussels, 30 gr carrots
(a la Parisienne), 30 gr potatoes
(a la Parisienne), 1 tbsp finely chopped onion, 1 clove of garlic, 1 finely chopped tomato, 2 tbsp olive oil, juice of half a lemon, 1/2 cup water, yolk of one egg,
1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp tomato paste,
1/4 bunch flat-leaf parsley.

Preparation:
Heat the olive oil in a pot and saute the onion and garlic until they begin to color. Add the carrots and saute 2-3 minutes longer. Add the chopped tomato and the tomato paste and the shelled and cleaned mussels. Saute 4-5 minutes and add the water. Add salt and pepper and let simmer. When the mixture is boiling, add the potatoes. When the carrots and mussels are done, beat the egg yolk with the lemon juice and add slowly to the simmering mixture. Bring back to the boil briefly, remove from the heat and let cool.
Sprinkle with chopped parsley before serving. with a little olive oil and serve.

VONGOLE WITH HERBS EN PAPILLOTE
Ingredients:
2 vongole (clams), 1 shrimp, 1 crayfish, 2 mussels for stuffing, 2 cockles, 1 oyster, 1 tbsp butter,
1/4 bunch radicchio, 1 head of Swiss chard,
1/4 bunch flat-leaf parsley, 1/4 bunch fresh mint, 2 green onions, 1 clove of garlic, 1 tsp salt, 2 tbsp cream, juice of one lemon, 1 cup fish stock, 1 tbsp flour, 1 sheet of waxed paper.

Preparation:
Clean all the shellfish, rinse well and drain.
Melt the butter in a pot and saute the onion and garlic.Add all the shellfish and chopped herbs and cook for 3-4 minutes stirring constantly. Add one cup of fish stock and bring to the boil briefly. Beat the flour with the cream and lemon juice in a bowl and add slowly to the simmering mixture. Add salt, boil a minute or so longer and remove from the heat.Cut a 40 cm x 40 cm sheet of waxed paper and moisten it slightly. Arrange the boiled mixture on top, drizzle with the juices, then fold up the sides of the waxed paper and fasten firmly. Place in a 180° C. oven for 15 minutes. Serve piping hot.