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Istanbul and Beyond: Exploring the Diverse Cuisines of Turkey Hardcover – October 10, 2017
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Meatballs with Pumpkin & Spice Butter from Istanbul and Beyond
Prep time: 1¼ hours plus 1½ hours for the rice to soak | Serves: 4
For this warming dish from Hakkâri, delicate lamb or beef meatballs studded with ground rice are laid atop a bed of pumpkin chunks and then steam-simmered in a light tomato sauce. Before serving, the dish is drizzled with sizzling tomato butter seasoned with purple basil and red pepper flakes, which play off the richness of the meat and the sweetness of the pumpkin. I ate this dish at the home of Șehmur and Baran Kurt, in Hakkâri.
A good meatball is light and tender, attributes achieved in Turkey by hand-chopping the meat, something even I am unwilling to undertake on a regular basis. But you can achieve a similar texture by spreading ground meat on a cutting board, sprinkling the seasonings over it, and cutting everything together with a knife. (This keeps the meat from turning into a paste, as it would if you mixed the ingredients in a food processor or by squeezing and kneading with your hands.) The process takes only about 5 minutes. Combine this technique with very light handling when you form the meatballs, and they’ll end up tender.
You must soak the rice for 1½ hours before proceeding with the rest of the recipe, during which time you can peel, seed, and slice the pumpkin and complete other prep work. The meatball mixture can be prepared ahead of time and kept in the refrigerator. Serve the dish with a simple cooked vegetable like spinach and plain Strained Yogurt. For a dinner party, give your guests an appetite-rousing preview by placing the pot in the middle of the table before pouring over the sizzling spice butter.
1. For the meatballs: Place the rice in a medium bowl and add water to cover, swish the rice with your fingers, and then drain off the water. Repeat until the water runs clear, then cover the rice with room temperature water and set aside for 1½ hours.
2. Drain the rice briefly, then process, blend, or grind (in a mortar) into pieces the size of coarse sand or kosher salt.
3. Spread the ground lamb or beef over a large cutting board, forming a rectangle about ¼ inch thick. Scatter the ground rice and onion evenly over the meat, then sprinkle over the black pepper, salt, ground chile, and purple basil (or basil and ground anise). With a large chef ’s knife, work your way horizontally across the meat, rocking the knife and cutting into the ingredients. Turn the cutting board 90 degrees and repeat, again cutting across the meat. Slip the blade of your knife underneath one side of the meat and bring about half of the rectangle up and over the center. Repeat from the opposite side of the meat, and then from the top and bottom. You should now have a small squareish lump of ground meat. Pat out the meat and repeat the cutting two or three times, until the ingredients are completely mixed into the meat. Gently transfer the meat to a medium bowl.
4. Put the pumpkin or winter squash in a heavy lidded pot large enough to accommodate it in one or two layers. Sprinkle the salt over the pumpkin.
5. Place a bowl of water within reach. With wet palms and a very light touch, pinch off tablespoon-sized pieces of the meat mixture, roll them into balls, and lay them on top of the pumpkin pieces; make a second layer if necessary. Handle the meat lightly—don’t squeeze or press it when you’re forming the meatballs, which needn’t be perfectly smooth or round. You should end up with about 26 meatballs.
6. Stir together the tomato paste and boiling water and pour over the meatballs and pumpkin. Place the pot over high heat and bring the liquid to a boil, then cover, reduce the heat to a slow simmer, and cook until the pumpkin or squash is soft and the meatballs are cooked through, 25 to 35 minutes, depending on the type of squash. There should be a small amount of sauce at the bottom of the pot; check after 15 minutes, and if there is not sufficient liquid in the bottom of the pot, add ¼ cup water. Remove from the heat and set aside, covered, while you prepare the spice butter.
7. Make the spice butter: Melt the butter in a small skillet over medium-low heat. When the butter begins to bubble, add the red pepper flakes and purple basil (or basil and ground anise). Swirl or stir the mixture as it sizzles for about 2 minutes, until the spices are very fragrant and darkening but not burning. Pull the skillet from the heat, pour the butter over the meatballs and pumpkin, and serve immediately.
- ½ cup medium- or short-grain rice, such as Baldo or CalRose
- 1 pound ground lamb or beef
- 3 tablespoons minced onion
- 1¾ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 teaspoon ground dried chiles, or substitute cayenne pepper or hot paprika
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon dried purple basil (or substitute 1 tablespoon dried basil plus 1 teaspoon ground anise or star anise)
- 2 pounds (seeded) sweet pumpkin or orange winter squash, such as acorn, kabocha, or butternut, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks (about 6 cups)
- ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon tomato paste
- 1½ cups boiling water
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter (for the spice butter)
- 1 heaping teaspoon Turkish or other crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste (for the spice butter)
- 2 teaspoons dried purple basil (or substitute 1¾ teaspoons dried basil plus ½ teaspoon ground anise or star anise) (for the spice butter)
“I was transported, informed, and made very hungry by the recipes, writing, and photographs in this lovely, generous book. Robyn Eckhardt and photographer David Hagerman’s commitment to understanding and documenting the richness of Turkey’s regional culinary cultures is evident on every page.”
—Naomi Duguid, author of Taste of Persia: A Cook’s Travels Through Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran, and Kurdistan
“Robyn Eckhardt whets your appetite with engaging images and descriptions, pushing you to explore the uncommon, and all along the way, she equips you with practical recipes for replicating newfound flavors in your home kitchen. Istanbul and Beyond takes readers and cooks on an enriching journey loaded with culinary gems.”
—Andrea Nguyen, author of Into the Vietnamese Kitchen and The Pho Cookbook
“Istanbul & Beyond is nothing short of revelatory in its exploration of the secret flavors of Turkish food. Robyn Eckhardt deftly guides us through the country’s most distant corners, along the way offering up rich culinary lore and dazzling recipes, while David Hagerman’s beautiful photographs let us eat with our eyes even before we move into the kitchen. It’s a perfect union of passion and artistry.”
—Darra Goldstein, Founding Editor, Gastronomica
“Istanbul & Beyond is a book I’ve been waiting for, for a very long time! I’ve long relished the cuisines of Turkey and grabbed every chance to visit that fascinating country. Now I have an excellent and irreproachable guide in this wonderful book. If you think Turkish food is all kebabs and grape leaves, this book will change your mind and awaken your palate.”
—Nancy Harmon Jenkins, Mediterranean food authority, coauthor of The Four Seasons of Pasta
"Eckhardt, creator of the blog Eating Asia, takes readers under her wing and introduces them to the wonders of Turkish cooking in this fascinating and tasty, if not especially adventurous, collection. As with Italy and China, Turkey has a varied landscape that greatly impacts food production. Each region has a deep-rooted history that results in a national cuisine with a wide array of dishes with vastly different ingredients. Despite this, Eckhardt provides a surprisingly familiar list of Turkish pantry staples including red pepper flakes, corn, and herbs such as dill, mint, and thyme. This familiarity carries over to her recipes, such as eggs poached in chunky tomato and pepper sauce, red lentil soup with chile and mint, and tomato and white bean stew. Dishes are grouped by region, highlighting the best authentic cuisine each has to offer. Yeast bread stuffed with Swiss chard and herbs from the Black Sea region, handkerchief noodles with blue cheese and butter from the northeast, and meatballs in tomato sauce with pumpkin and spice butter from Hakkâri are just a few of the mouth-watering delicacies on offer. This collection will delight and inspire home cooks who are unfamiliar with the region’s food but are looking to broaden their culinary horizons."
"During regular travels to Turkey, journalist Eckhardt and her photographer husband, Hagerman, encountered a wealth of regional cuisines that left a lasting impression. Their exquisite cookbook richly captures the more than 15,000 miles they journeyed, bringing together unexpected and flavorful dishes for breakfasts, appetizers, salads, mains, pickles, beverages and much more. Ordered by region, beginning with Istanbul and ending with North Central Anatolia, this book includes recipes by category to help readers quickly locate specific dishes. All of the recipes are easily reproduced at home, often with conventional ingredients, and include suggestions for sources and substitutions for spices and pantry items that are harder to find.
VERDICT Get ready to savor this evocative collection, which will seduce fans of food/travel titles such as Naomi Duguid’s Taste of Persia or Caroline Eden and Eleanor Ford’s Samarkand."
"A “good” cookbook for me is one that has a couple of dozen great recipes I want to try. A “great” book is one where I can’t make up my mind where to start. Istanbul & Beyond is a great book."
—Brian O’Rourke, The Huffington Post
"Istanbul & Beyond: Exploring the Diverse Cuisines of Turkey is more than a cookbook. It delves into the culture of Turkey with stunning photographs that feature the people, landscapes, and life as well as food; anecdotes that explain traditional dishes and bring them to life; and a glossary of Turkish ingredients as well as phrases to help readers build their own Anatolian pantry as authentically as possible."
—Daisy Nichols, The Daily Meal
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Robyn Eckhardt & David Hagerman’s book, Istanbul & Beyond makes you cry, scream in joy and cry some more. Then you dive into it with hunger, with hunger for the culture and with hunger for the pictures. The respect for the land and the ingredients salute you. You feel the love, and the growing curiosity they both had as they explored Anatolia and delighted in what they discovered.
This book is an Art Piece, not only are there real recipes in it that actually work, anthropology students could learn a lot from it. David Hagerman’s photography for the true and the real Turkey rise from the pages and welcome you to a land that is full of many cultures. You can imagine Ari’s family sitting in the kitchen as his grandmother taught his mother how to stuff mussels as the aroma rose into a delicious cloud, you feel like you heard the conversations of the village women as they kneaded the dough for the pasta before they hung it outside as the air carried the aroma of the herbs from the fields. You feel hungry with the smell of freshly baked bread as you turn the pages and you just want to hug these two wonderful human beings for being so loyal to a land that offers so much and wish it’s habitants could also be that respectful to it.
I learned as with other countries with multiple borders and climates Turkish dishes shift from region to region based on agriculture and local cultural influences. Robyn Eckhardt through her recipes and well written introductions and her husband photographer David Hagerman's photos have broaden my understanding of the cuisine. The detailed recipes enable me to successfully make dishes that are unfamiliar, as well as ones that I have previously enjoyed. Needless to say, my results have been on the mark, so far, for every dish I have cooked from the book.
The cookbook is well organized and a delightful read. Bonus points for the extra table of contents that lists recipes by categories.
Whether you are a novice or more experienced cook, this book is the perfect gift for yourself or for a friend, I assure you, it does not disappoint the belly or the eyes.