The book opens up with a baklava spread page, different cuts, golden crust, I could almost hear their crispiness in my ear, sweetness in my mouth. As we say in Turkey, tatlı yiyelim, tatlı konuşalım, let’s eat sweet, talk sweet. I missed Gaziantep…
Somer Sivrioğlu, besides being a dear friend, is the chef and owner of Efendy Restaurant in Balmain, Australia, the co-author of this book telling all about his heritage and roots of Turkish cooking. He confessed that it was not an easy job, on one hand there are the Turkish people who do criticise everything about their cooking and end up not liking one thing or the other, because, of course, they know better. On the other hand there was the rest of the world, his other target audience, whom he was aiming to tell about our fabulous cuisine. I think, the result is a success.
In Essentials chapter, he tells a little about history, cooking and preparation techniques and the major ingredients like bulgur, peppers, yufka, onions, herbs etc., about baking, making dolma, winter preparations, pickling, on and on. Then we move to the five courses, the phenomenal Turkish breakfast, followed by lunch, afternoon tea, meze, dinner. In each chapter, he tells the stories around the dishes and giving the recipes.
We have a way of doing things in Turkey, way of talking, cooking, living. 7 regions mean, 7 different eating habits, cooking styles, ingredients, techniques… As I move along the pages, I was at Edremit, Edirne, Çanakkale, Bodrum, Mardin, Antep, Ayvalık, İzmir, Malatya, Adana, Urfa and İstanbul. Delicious food wrapped around the stories, covered by beautiful photography of Bree Hutchinson.
On the chapters Breakfast, Lunch and Meze, the recipes kept as close as it can be to the original versions. Where, in Dinner chapter, the dishes are the ones he cooks in his restaurant, both traditional and innovative, including his touches and based on the ingredients that are available to him on far away lands. In the recipe of rams testicles, he mentions that what comes natural to us, may come as bizarre to non-Turkish eaters, felt like, he may be trying to create a sensation in his restaurant. When I saw that he also included kelle paça çorbası– sheep’s head and trotter soup-, kuyruk mantı -oxtail dumplings-, koç yumurtası -rams testicles-, it made me smile, the offal-coming-back-movement has spread across the ocean.
Anatolia, Adventures in Turkish Cooking is a marvellous book for anyone who likes food. It is one of a kind, written by a Turkish chef in English. On the contrary to many books being sold about our cuisine, Anatolia had a great depth, underlining our cuisines well-earned reputation was not a coincidence, but coming from centuries of great cooking, fertile lands, traditions, mothers, grandmothers, wars, palaces, centuries… The recipes cover a great deal of the well known dishes of our cuisine, also they are easy to follow.
I am proud to say, Anatolia, adventures in Turkish Cooking, for me it is the best Turkish cookbook in English language ever written by a Turkish chef, and I feel so relieved that I have a book to recommend, without thinking twice.
Photography courtesy of Bree Hutchinson.