I’ve been almost three years…already. 2014 has been the strangest year for me because I’ve been in and out of Turkey and travelled three continents in a short period of time. So what is it like celebrating Christmas in Turkey?
As far as Christmas decorations are concerned, the festive seems to be in the air, and especially the shopping malls are crowded with people hunting for sales. A little Christmas tree is standing in the corner of my living room and the fridge is filled with dinner preparations such as duck confit and mincemeat, though it’ll be a low key affair compared to the previous lavish feasts. Still, I can’t help myself planning menus and drawing mental pictures of a Christmas feast laden with scrumptious dishes as all foodies would be doing around this time.
Around this time, you will see many guys like this cutting pumpkins in streets. As a pumpkin lover, I bought a big bag and made a pumpkin bread and ate with clotted cream(kaymak) and honey, nibbled with cheese, and made sandwiches.
Then, when Mr.O got sick with a flu, leading up to Christmas, which isn’t much fun, but I’ve been getting myself into a festive mood by secretly indulging in good Kars Gravyer, which tastes like shiitake mushrooms and walnut liquor and my favourite blue-moulded sheep milk cheese, Divle Obruk, which was divine and addictive with quince paste.
His flue was so bad that his temperature went up to 38.7’C. So I made the usual lentil soup as well as pumpkin soup, which I spiced with healthy turmeric and ginger. I also added some leftover kohlrabi and carrots, but the biggest change would be the persimmon. I’d never thought of adding persimmon in pumpkin soup but I saw beautifully ripe persimmons left over from making kimchi and now sitting on a tray. They seem to be a good match and it turned out so.
I fried some stale sourdough bread with chopped chorizo to make croutons for a good measure. Also, I roasted pumpkins and while they are in the oven, I boiled the kohlrabi and carrot after frying some onion and celery, and then in it goes, the secret gastro weapon of frozen chicken stock.
Can you imagine the taste? You can’t? Then, why don’t you add this pumpkin soup to your Christmas menu, if it’s not too late?
If you’re a wine lover, picking wine is a serious mission as well. Have you been making frequent visits to your cellar to make a final decision on the wines for Christmas and NYE like me? I’m struggling with my tiny and make-shift nomad style wine cellar (I’ve got to make a wine rack ASAP – nomads always make things) but I can imagine and I’ve witnessed how serious some people are when choosing wines for this period; you want to treat yourself and impress others but at the same time you’re worried that good wines might get wasted on guests who don’t appreciate wine and just drink it all.
I don’t know yet what I’ll be drinking out of all these, perhaps, the Aussie one I brought all the way, or the 1999 Saint-Romain, or the new organic wine, Salur….or the Hungarian wine…. decision, decision….You’ll find out later. Here, for average locals, Christmas isn’t a holiday but some expats get a day off as a courtesy from the company, but freelancers don’t. Some Turkish people don’t even know which date Christmas Day is, however, NYE is a bigger thing here and that’s when a big feast has been organised for us. How exciting!
Anyway, this post is my excuse and apology for not having been so active in my kitchen lately as I’m going through a lot of changes at the moment, but I promise I’ll come back afresh in 2015! So having a quiet one with my dear love, Mr.O, and a few close and new friends won’t be the end of the world, but rather, the start of the new life, because I’ve had so many lavish Christmas feasts.
I wish you all and your loved ones a Happy Christmas with the best dishes! I’ll share my NYE meals with you for sure!
Don’t forget to eat some delicious, perhaps the best cheeses you can find. I’ve got my share of the real Camembert, Reblochon, aged soft goat cheese, and Tomme the Savoie to stink the whole house and to stink the whole neighbourhood by baking some of them. 🙂
Pumpkin Persimmon Soup w/Chorizo Croutons
1 kg pumpkins, chopped and roasted with fresh rosemary
1 persimmon, sieved pulp
1-2 carrrots and kolrabi (optional)
1 onion, finely chopped
1 celery stick, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic
1-2 tsp freshly ground turmeric
1 tsp freshly ground ginger
1 litre chicken or veggie stock
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp butter
sea salt and black pepper
bacon or chorizo, croutons (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 170C and roast pumpkins with rosemary and olive oil for 20-30 mins(you can roast carrots and other veggies as well)
2. In a large pot, add 1 Tbsp olive oil, onion and garlic and cook until slightly browned and translucent.
3. Add the veggies and stock, and simmer. When the pumpkins are cooked, add them to the pot and simmer further.
4. Puree the soup, using a blender, taking care to avoid the hot soup splashing on your face, ouch!
5. After adding the spices, continue simmering over low heat for 5-10 minutes.
6. Add butter and taste and adjust seasonings as needed, and serve as is or with chorizo toppings and croutons.