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A Gourmet Treat From The Southwest Aegean: Carian Cuisine
CUISINES IN TURKEY ARE USUALLY NAMED FOR THE CITIES ASSOCIATED WITH THEM. BASED ON NATURAL CONDITIONS HOWEVER IT MAKES MORE SENSE TO CONSIDER CUISINES ON A REGIONAL BASIS.
Taking this as our point of departure, Anatolia’s Caria region can be defined briefly as ‘today’s province of Muğla’ or the Menteş Principality that followed the Anatolian Seljuks before becoming the Ottoman province of Menteşe. To put it even more precisely: Caria is the region of Anatolia that is bounded by the Aegean on the west and south, the Menderes River (the ancient Meander) on the north, and the Indos/Dalaman River (the Kocaçay) on the southeast. Here we will tell you about the cuisine of Southwestern Anatolia, aka Caria.
While olive oil dishes predominate, a wide array of meat dishes is also available. As well as olive oil dishes, vegetables and wild herbs occupy an important place in the local nutrition. Meat and milk are staples among the nomadic peoples who make up the majority of the population. A tradition of home cooking based on dried vegetables, grape molasses, jams, tarhana and keşkek parallels the process of social change.
LAND OF HERODOTUS
Herotodus, the Father of History, is said to have been a Carian. In our view, there are two fundamental reasons why Carian cuisine is one of the richest in Anatolia. First, the incomparable climate, which, together with the land itself, has been a symbol of change and development since pre-history because it nurtured life. And the other reason is the olive oil, actually a fruit juice, that is an inseparable part of Carian cuisine. But Carian olive oil is not like that of Ayvalık. It has a different aroma, a different flavor, a different kind of acidity. While other oils are produced by crushing oil seeds, olive oil is obtained by pressing the fruit of the olive tree. The resulting oil is a source of beauty and health as well as of sound nutrition. Wild herbs meanwhile, some of them local, others brought here from afar, are this cuisine’s distinguishing characteristics. Literally hundreds of them, from nettles, garden fennel and radicchio to wild asparagus and mountain germander (hulwort). But all of them have to be treated before they are eaten, in other words, drenched in the finest virgin olive oil! And the baked beureks made with these herbs and lor (Turkish cottage cheese) are the icing on the cake.
We are grateful to Mr. Nedim Atilla, who has done extensive research into the cuisine of Caria.
DAMAT TATLISI (an Ottoman palace dessert)
1 k flour, 500 g sugar, 1 tsp salt, 200 g water, juice of half a lemon, 2 tbsp olive oil, 4 eggs, 1 cup milk, 1 cup water, 1 k ground walnuts,
1 k melted butter.
Knead together all the ingredients except the walnuts and butter to make a dough and let rest for 30 minutes, then separate into lumps. Roll out each lump into a thin ‘yufka’-like round, sprinkle with ground walnuts, then drizzle with melted butter. Roll up the rounds of dough with a rolling pin, arrange on a baking sheet and drizzle with the remaining butter. Bake in a 170 C. oven for 35 minutes. Remove from the oven and drench with sugar syrup (previously prepared).
The caper sprouts are picked in advance and pickled in brine. Boil them until tender, add olive oil, lemon juice and garlic and serve.
BRAISED GARDEN FENNEL
2 fennel roots with leaves, 1 onion, 2 tbsp olive oil, 1/4 tsp salt.
Cut the fennel roots down the middle and slice thinly. Separate the leaves. Chop the onion finely. Saute the onion and fennel in the olive oil. When they are barely tender, add the fennel leaves and continue braising. Add the salt and cook over medium heat for 20 minutes. Serve cold.
TURKISH-STYLE RAVIOLI WITH JOHN DORY
1 John Dory, 2 tbsp flour, 1 egg, 1/2 cup soda, 1 cup yoghurt, 2 cloves of garlic (pureed), 2 tbsp butter, 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes, 1/4 cup olive oil (for the frying), a pinch of salt.
Clean the fish and cut into long, narrow slices. In a bowl whisk the flour and egg in half a cup of water to the consistency of thick cream. Heat the olive oil in a skillet. Lightly flour the fish slices and fry in the hot oil. In another bowl mix the yoghurt and pureed garlic. Remove the fried fish slices to a serving platter and top with the garlic yoghurt. Brown the pepper flakes in the butter and drizzle over the yoghurt before serving.
1 k blessed thistle,
juice of 1 lemon, 1/4 tsp
Clean and wash the blessed thistle. Fill a pan with water, bring to a boil and boil the thistle until tender. Cool and drain well. Drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice and serve.
Clean and wash 1 k radicchio. Fill a pan with water and bring to a boil. Add the radicchio to the boiling water and cook until tender, then cool. Squeeze well to remove the water and mix with olive oil until well-coated. Top with terator sauce and serve.
Preparation of the terator sauce:
Soak a slice of toast bread in 1/4 cup of milk. Add one clove pressed garlic, 1 tbsp ground walnuts, 1 tbsp tahina, 2 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley and a pinch of salt and mix well.