I’ve just come back from a short sea break in the Aegean sea. I’ve posted some photos on my FB page during the trip as I was feeling guilty for keeping the readers in suspense, but here I am back to my sweet home and to where I’d left off.
What makes a great cuisine? I’ve put this question to many chefs and each time I get “mixing” for an answer, taking freshness as a base. Many chefs say that they’re always pressured, if not inspired, to travel overseas and come up with new dishes with new tastes. It’s so true when you look at the history of world cuisines. The time of homogenous cuisine has long gone as more and more people travel and experience diverse flavours. Imagine the world where everyone eats the same food and all the restaurants cook the same dishes. B.O.R.I.N.G. Life is too short to eat the same food twice. Inspiration is in the hand of chefs who care about what we eat.
When I walk in the streets of Istanbul, I often feel myself from so many badly influenced and clumsily adapted dishes. Ketchup, mayonnaise and cream is mainly considered as foreign food. When I first came to Istanbul, I was so excited to be in a place where the East meets the West, in a place which sat between spice routes that I thought I’d discover lots of inspirations, reading what is written on many Turkish culinary blogs, but the reality was very different, not for all but for those with a broad palate. Some might disagree with me for sure as we all have a different taste. 2 years have passed while trying to stay inspired to keep this blog going and I’ve come to terms with the reality. My posts from an earlier period might come as not so flattering to the Turkish culinary situations but it was well-intended like the Gezi park protest. During those 2 years, I’ve only found four restaurants I’d like to visit again. The first is Lokanta Maya, which is the first restaurant review I wrote, and I seem to have crossed paths with Lokanta Maya once again.
I got contacted by Culture.pl informing me about a project called Six Cooks One Book, which fanned my culinary sparks that had been dormant into flames again. I love coming across people who think outside the box. As someone who is working on a book, “Ehem…”, I get jumpy at the sound of “book” these days. That’s one of the reasons I’ve been absent quite often lately and will be more so, coming up to the deadline.
Anyway, as said in the article, Polish and Turkish cuisines are “mis and under-represented” and when I was first invited to a Polish restaurant in Sydney, Na Zdrowie, years ago, I had no idea what to expect. What my palate remembers is the beets, dill, apple and prune stuffed pork roll.
I was going to make a stuffed roulade of some sort but ended up roasting the whole turkey leg and espousing with the Polish beetroot salad I made from my memories. It includes grated raw beetroots, though the real Polish beetroot salad is made with cooked beetroots, and a bit of grated apples, which you can skip, and dill. I tossed all in balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, olive oil and some salt and pepper, and kept it in the fridge overnight. It can keep in the fridge up to 5-7 days, which makes it a great condiment for meat dishes, so I usually make it in a big batch and the taste gets better by the day.
I prefer turkey to chicken because it’s more palatable and I’m lucky to have people who provide me with a free range turkey every now and then. I rub it with home-made pesto and roasted with the eggplants, onions, garlic cloves and mushrooms, and some leftover smoked turkey ham for 30 mins. Then, I took the veggies off and roasted the meat for another 15 mins.