Long waited gathering with my favourite dinner members happened just in time before my last week’s getaway. I was so excited about seeing them and sharing food and conversations with them, and Erol added to my excitement by saying “I have two Kiwi guests for you!” Oh~how wonderful! I’d been so looking forward to having another delightful evening since the last one.
As is always the case, I am obliged to give them an experience of exotic flavours, especially the world-hidden Korean cuisine. The first item was “Caramelised Crispy Dried Anchovies”, which some of you who have travelled in Thailand or Aussies and Kiwis might have tasted. In New Zealand, people would eat them with beer as the salty, spicy and sweet little fish crisps are a good match for beer.
When my mum came to visit me, she brought this along with several other Korean side dishes for Mr.O, and he, instead of going all queasy about the little fish eyes looking at him, liked them very much, which surprised me. Normally it’s made with much smaller anchovies and this caramelised anchovies are among the most favourite Korean side dishes, full of calcium. How do you make it?
Well, you simple toast 2 cups of anchovies with a little garlic and nuts of your choice such as almonds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and sesame seeds, though the addition of nuts other than sesame seeds is a modern touch and most heath-conscious households make it with various nuts. Once they are lightly brown, add a mixture of 1 tablespoon of honey and 1 teaspoon of soy sauce and a bit of cayenne pepper for a kick, and then continue stirring while caramelising until brown and crispy. Enjoy with beer or nibble on them as a healthy snack.
Let’s move along to the next dish, Pajeon, which is Korean pancakes or fritters with vegetables, especially spring onions, and sometimes seafood such as squid, shrimps, mussels and oysters is added. The recipe reflects the personality of the people and the nature of the occasion, so my version is a cross between the simplest version by David Lebovitz and the big mama version by Maangchi. Don’t forget to check out various versions on the David Lebovitz’s page.
My recipe is based on zucchini and carrot. It would have been nicer with shrimps but I didn’t have any at that time so poor surimi sticks were used. If you skip that and add feta cheese, it would be Turkish zucchini fritters, Mucver(Original)/ Mucver(Slavic twist). See fritters reflect people’s personality and culture.
I grabbed last but not least important items, Kimchi, and one of the French wines I brought from Bordeaux. When I got there, our host, Mehmet, was hard at work, cooling himself down with beer while cooking.
The two lovely Kiwi girls, Beth and Vivian, contributed with a delicious Roasted vegetable salad and Apple crumbles, which was the biggest hit that evening and was gone in a flash. I hope they’ll come back to Istanbul again after the grape harvesting in France. Oh, I was so jealous when I heard that.
Another hit was definitely the Baked vegetables with Goat cheese by Mehmet and everyone went for a second serving but it was not enough for all. I hope he makes it again and more at the next gathering. He also made Turkich Cacik, pronounced jajeek (cucumber, yogurt dip) but closed to Greek Tzatziki.
We had lots of chats and laughs through the cool summer evening, joining the banging of pots at one point at one point. The composition of dish and nationality was so diverse and the conversations so enlightening that it was well worth the wait of over 3 months. I always feel that we should have more gatherings like this but it seems more difficult than I wish as everyone is very often busy.
Finally, the anticipated post about the brownies by Mr.O! The baking coincided with the foodie evening so we took it along with us there, but somehow it got overshadowed by the irresistible apple crumbles! As you could have guessed, Mr.O isn’t smiling in the photo and it is because the brownies were a bit far from a success. I was upset by the fact that he insisted on tweaking my favourite recipe by adding sour cherry jam, saying that I like tweaking recipes. So the brownie, cooked with a grudge instead of love, didn’t come out so well.
After hearing of the episodes involving the brownies, Erol described me jokingly as “foodie authoritarian“. Most likely that he is right. After travelling, cooking, watching and reading food-related materials, and blogging for years, I’ve fallen into the dictatorship, allowing less space for creativity and freedom.
Why do I often fail to allow such well-intended deviations for others? Is it because I am Taurus? Or am I getting old and grumpy? I wonder… anyway, the flavour of the brownie was good and I’m sure you can make better-looking brownies with this recipe.
Chocolate Brownies with Sour Cherry Jam
2/3 cup (95-100g) all purpose flour, sifted
200g dark chocolate
2/3 cup (200g) brown sugar
3 Tbsp cocoa powder
1/3 tsp baking powder (skip for fudgy brownies)
1 tsp vanilla extract
sour cherry jam(optional)
1. Line the baking pan and preheat the oven to 350′C
2. Melt chocolate,butter and cocoa power in a bowl and set aside to cool
3. Whisk eggs, sugar and vanilla extract in another bowl and mix with the chocolate mixture
4. Fold in the flour and baking powder(if using) and pour the mixture into the pan and gently spread it into corners of the pan with spatula
5. Bake for 20-25 mins until the test comes out a bit wet with batter.
*Variation: I often adapt this recipe to make flourless almond brownies by swapping wheat flour with almond flour, and I love the nutty richness in chocolate.