In Ancient times, the spice trade was a melting pot of activity with its daily bustle of merchants selling their goods to distant travelers, bringing news from across the far reaches of East Asia all the way to the markets of the Middle East and Northern Africa. To this day, spice markets still exist in some parts of the world where the tradition never wears off. The fragrant smell of spices wafting through the air still excites the senses compelling you like a magnet to follow the scent to the spice merchants stalls.
For the past 350 years, the spice bazaar is still going strong in the high-domed ceiling of the Istanbul Spice Market in Turkey. In fact, this is a country that can boast the heaviest use of spices.
When the Turkish peoples migrated from Asia to the ancient city of Anatolia they brought with them some of the Asian cooking techniques like grilling meats, for example. This influence is best recognized in the famous shish kebab dishes.The word kebab is a general term used for seasoned, grilled meats.
In Turkey, you will find that nearly all the districts have their own kebab specialty. The primary meat for kebabs is lamb that is cubed and skewered and grilled over hot charcoals but poultry or beef can also be used. For a perfect Turkish meze (appetizers), kebabs are accompanied with hot flat bread that is spread with sweet butter and crumbled goat cheese, or roasted eggplant, hot peppers, tomatoes, and garlic with an ample amount of olive oil drizzled on top.
Have you ever heard of köftes? These simple, yet tasty meatballs are traditionally made with minced meat mixed with spices, and herbs. They come in all sizes, shapes and levels of spiciness. are sometimes named according to the way they are cooked. For example, ladies thighs are plump, oval-shape köftes dipped in egg batter and fried. I have heard about cafes that are situated all along the roadsides that sell only koftes fresh and hot right out of the kitchen usually served with chili peppers, raw onions and a side of leafy salad.
And who can forget the famous Turkish sweets like baklava and halva. The nutty halva is made from tahini (sesame paste) or other nut butters, such as sunflower seed butter and sugar. Baklava is made of layers of filo pastry filled with chopped nuts (usually pistachio) and sweetened with syrup or honey.
Some other Turkish delights are the actual spices and herbs that are crucial in adding flavor to a Turkish dish.In most traditional Turkish pantries you will find an assortment of must have seasonings. The most common spices are hot red pepper flakes, paprika, dried sumac and dried mint.
Other notable spices in Turkish recipes are: Allspice which is used in meat dishes, like köftes, and in sausages as well as various dolmas and sweets. Cumin is mostly used in meat dishes like köftes. Coriander/cilantro is mostly used in syrups and liqueurs, as well as certain meat dishes. Candied coriander seeds are sometimes used in pastries. In certain regions, the leaves and shoots of the plant are chopped and added to soups and salads. Saffron is also used in parts of Turkey to impart a golden-yellowish color to foods. It is used in some soup and seafood bisques, and in the renowned rice pilafs,and in desserts made with milk and rice.
In the Aegean region bordering Turkey's western coastline, in what used to be Ancient Greece, many of the same dishes and cooking methods are very similar to Greek cuisine, like kebabs, and dolma. A typical menu will feature fish and other seafood, as well as Turkish lamb and beef. Allspice, dill weed, mint and oregano are the most common spices in this region of Turkey.
Turkish food is a cuisine built on tradition, history, and passion. Each region is defined by its own unique characteristics, and food just happens to be one of the many wonderful aspects of the Turkish culture.
It is my pleasure to share this simple tasty Turkish recipe that I hope you will enjoy!
Turkish Artichoke Hearts - click link