Let’s have a break from the Sicilian story and talk about what I’ve been cooking. I’ve been cooking more Asian foods lately and experimenting a combination of Korean and Turkish flavours. I have affinity to everything wrapped or rolled, which is ‘sarma’ in Turkish. It sounds even similar to the Korean word for wrapping, ‘ssam’!
You’ll see this stuffed leaves or stuffed vegetables everywhere in Turkey, and they are usually made with rice and meat. Of all, the most common type is stuffed vine leaves and I have a very funny story to tell.
We had a big row over the vines in our garden over the summer. Some friends of an upstairs granny came around to pick vine leaves from time to time but I ignored them, finding it rather cute that people even in the city go around foraging. Also, the vines needed pruning anyway. But then one day I came home to find the ladies in the garden and the vines stripped naked of leaves so I told them not to pick the leaves from inside. One day while our helper lady was collecting some leaves to take home, the granny shouted at her angrily from upstairs, “Don’t pick the leaves. It’s mine!” Hearing the shouts, I ran out to the garden and confronted the angry granny. I had no idea why she was acting as if she owned the vines. So frustrated, I explained to hubby on the phone and when he came home, he cut all the vines off to end the row. No vines, no rows. Haha…
I often cook with kale but mostly sauteed or thrown bits into cooking soup or stirfry. When I saw fresh black cabbage (karalahana) in season at the weekly market, I bought some thinking of making some rolls.
This time around going to farmers markets is a joy and especially fish markets are bustling with liveliness -finally!- thanks to the arrival of palamut(Atlantic bonito). Selves are loaded with palamut, red gills turned out to confirm freshness. If you’re in Turkey during winter, you shouldn’t think twice about what to order in fish restaurants.It’s normally grilled and served with some rocket leaves and raw onion, but when I cook it at home, I eat it with garlic herb sauce or make a stew, which is excellent on a cold winter night.
Whether it’s kimbap or sarma, wrapping is labour intensive but they look kind of neat and appetising, and at the same time very practical especially if they are left over and reheated the next day.
When I cook, it’s got to be different, right? So I made this with a combination of freekeh and buckwheat instead of rice. I’ve been cooking with freekeh for quite a while, adding a bit here and there for an extra depth of flavour. I remember the first time when I went to a shop here to buy it and the shop keeper repeatedly said to me, “It’s smelly, do you know?” haha…
I cooked the freekeh and mixed with buckwheat soaked overnight, though you can cook both together, and sauteed with vegetables and herbs. Also, you need to blanch the kale to make it easy to roll.
While they’re steaming in the pot, I made the soy tahini sauce. Tahini is the new sesame oil as pomegranate is the balsamic? I love tahin or tahini and the problem is it’s so addicting! Soy, garlic, ginger, tahini and pomegranate create a wonderful flavour combo, similar to teriyaki sauce but with slight tanginess and I love it!
You can eat them warm or cold, and they are great as an appetiser as well as a main. Freekeh giving smokiness and buckwheat nuttiness, they are simply hard to stop eating.
Additionally, it’s a delectable and disguising way to eat the healthy green leaves whether it be kale, chard leaves or black cabbage. Double benefits! So if you fancy something different with palamut, mackerel, sardine or any kind of fish, why don’t you try this?
Palamut Freekeh Sarma(Stuffed Kale with Fish)
1 palamut or mackerel, grilled
18-20 black cabbage or kale leaves, blanched
1 cup freekeh, rinsed
1 cup buckwheat groats (optional – can be replaced with rice)
1 carrot, chopped
2 medium onions, chopped
1 stick of celery (optional)
1 garlic, minced
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp sea salt and cracked black pepper
lemon juice, herbs such as dill, parsley
For tahini soy sauce
2 tsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp tahini
2 tsp pomegranate molasses
1 tsp minced ginger
1 Tbsp water
1. Debone and flake the cooked fish and put aside.
2. In a pan, sauté onion, carrot and garlic till soft, and add the freekeh and buckwheat.
3. Pour 2 cups of water and salt and simmer till the water is almost absorbed. Close the lid and wait for 20mins.
4. Mix the fish with the cooked freekeh and season with soy sauce and herbs.
5. Spread out the blanched kale leaves on the board and take out the stem. Put a tablespoon of the mixture and roll it and put it in a pot. Repeat with the rest.
6. Pour a half cup of water into the pot and steam for 30mins. Drizzle the sauce over the rolls or serve separately. Enjoy!