As the weather is getting cold quite quickly by day, people are resorting indoors these days. So I came up with an idea to bring some liveliness and it was a Korean Pop-up event, which has attracted quite a big crowd. I’ll be busy shopping and preparing for the event from tomorrow and this is my post till I’m free again after the event.
Today I wanted to share my trip to Canakkale in the beginning of October. I went there by myself on impulse to give my in-laws a nice surprise. I turned up unannounced and rang the bell. Though my appearance didn’t go as I’d imagined on my way there, – the mixed expressions on their face of being surprised, puzzled and delighted, – when mum rushed home from the pilates class, face flushed and the plastic shoe covers still on, I could sense she was surprised and excited. And she hugged me, saying “What a lovely surprise!”
I stayed for 5 days eating, cooking, drinking with them every day and came back with homemade winter preserves, jam and dried pasta and all.
The biggest reason I love going to Canakkale is that I can have fresh fish from the ‘real sea’. Fishermen sell their daily catch at the harbour and I see all kinds of Sea Bream the real Sea Bream with the black crowns and a pink spot, which is known as Gilthead Bream or Royal Bream or Dorade Royale. You never find this in Istanbul.
According to Greek mythology, Gilthead Bream was considered sacred to Aphrodite – the goddess of love, beauty and sexual rapture – and it’s a real treat to have.
I was really pampered with delicious food from the day 1 and they took me to the newly opened Radika fish restaurant on top of Akol Hotel one day. What a view, huh?! The food was fantastic and it’ll surely be our regular spot.
However, the main topic is this, the farmers market. I spent over an hour at the Tuesday market and it was an absolute joy looking at the vibrant stalls loaded with summer and autumn produce.
I bought 3 kg of my favourite goat cheese to bring back home, the cheese made from goats that are pastured in the lush Kaz Dağı(where Mt.Ida is). Nothing can beat the freshness of this cheese. I love chatting with growers and so they do! I’m a rare Asian woman who wonders around farmers markets asking questions and they often give me things for free and refuse to take money from me, saying that I’m their guest and I even came from 8000 km away 🙂
In every weekly market, my favourite stop is the stalls where village ladies sell foraged wild plants and fruits. This time around, I often see what they call ‘yaban mersini’, which is translated to blueberries but they aren’t really the blueberries we know of. They look more like myrtille but they have pips in them and more sour, making me to conclude that they are bilberries. In Turkey, any blueberry looking wild berries are called ‘yaban mersini’ and it confuses people.
I bought a half kilo, and Mum and I ate a few out of hand but they were too tart and sour even if they’re super good for you! And they have pips in them. So I brought the rest home, thinking of reproducing the tart I enjoyed so much while living in France.
I was going to use this recipe, but because of the pips, I couldn’t just mix it into the filling or spread them onto the tart filling. So I decided to pit them one by one and it was time for my kitchen therapy. I didn’t want to waste the precious gift of nature.
To make the pitting easier, I boiled them with sugar for a few minutes in the same method as making compote. I preserved it in a jar after separating the pips until I was ready to bake. Then upon tasting the compote, it reminded me of the intense blackcurrant fruit flavour in the unfermented grape juice. Very funny and mysterious…what this fruit actually is.
Even the colour is on the red side than blue. Anyway, when I was about to make the tart crust, I realised that my blender was broken and had to come up with an alternative solution such as ginger coconut crust, or oat coconut crust for a gluten free option but I opted for the easiest way, the filo pastry.
The crust is something to hold the fillings after all. What I liked about the filo crust is that you can hold it and eat with a hand, plus it’s a lot lighter. I left some berries in tact for a rustic and natural look so I had to warn people about the pips when serving.
I also added my gelatin substitute, salep(orchid root power) to thicken and for glossiness, but I don’t think it’s necessary as the compote was naturally gelatinous.
This tart happened to be shared by 3 other guests and they all liked it. I’ll definitely make it again if I find them again in Istanbul, though the chance is very low as its season is short.
You can make many variations and the simplest way is to fill the filo tart with custard or mascarpone filling and top it with the berry compote. If you don’t have mascarpone, the cream cheese + cream or the clotted cream(kaymak) + yogurt formula works, too.
Anyhow, if you are up for extra work, you can whip up an almond paste filling by mixing ground almond, cream and egg, and it certainly adds more unique and deep flavours. So whichever method you would choose, here’s the recipe for my version.
Bilberry Almond Cream Tart
(Yaban Mersini Badem Krem Tart)
For the almond filling
160g ground almond
3 Tbsp cream cheese
50g soft butter
3 Tbsp sugar
For the bilberry compote
300-400 g bilberries or other wild berries
120 – 150g sugar (use less than half if using blueberries or other berries)
1 tsp salep (optional)
5-6 filo sheets (if using tart crust, follow shortcrust recipe)
butter for greasing
1. Prepare the berry compote by cooking the fruit with the sugar.
2. Take out all the pips by pressing the berries over a strainer – skip this step if using other berries
3. In a bowl, mix the cream cheese, sugar and butter until creamy, and add the egg and mix well. Add the ground almond and mix well until smooth. Set it aside.
4. Preheat the oven to 350’F (175’C) and prepare the filo pastry. Spread the first filo sheet and grease with butter and repeat with the remaining sheets. Line the tart mould with the filo sheets and shape it by tucking in the edges.
5. Spread the almond cream filling and bake for 10-12 mins and take it out and pour the berry compote on top and bake for 5 more mins. Let it cool and serve sprinkled with powdered sugar.
*Variation: You can mix the almond cream and berry compote together and bake.