INGREDIENTS FOR TURKISH COOKING

There are few, if any, ingredients used in Turkish cooking which are difficult to obtain. Cosmopolitan influences have been felt in most Western countries and such foods are commonplace. One vegetable, the eggplant (aubergine), which is so much a part of Turkish cooking, is now widely known; however, recipes using this vegetable detail the Turkish methods for its preparation. The preferred variety of eggplant is the long purple fruit, but as this is only available during the summer you will have to choose the smallest possible oval eggplants at other times to produce dishes such as Swooning Imam (Imam Bayildi). The following text and the glossary give further details on foods for Turkish cooking.

BELL PEPPERS (CAPSICUM)

Bot: Capsicum annuum
Turkish: Tatlı biber

Also know as sweet peppers, capsicum and pimento, these peppers are green, ripening to a deep red with a change in flavor when ripe. The spice paprika is made from the ripe pepper.

BULGUR (BURGHUL)

Turkish: Bulgur

Hulled wheat, steamed until partly cooked, dried then ground. Available in fine and coarse grades. It has a nut-like flavor.

CHICKPEAS (GARBANZO BEANS)

Bot: Cicer arietinum
Turkish: Nohut

Used as a food since ancient times. They must be soaked before cooking and some recipes require the removal of the skins. Ready-skinned chickpeas are also available. Also roasted as a snack food.

CHILI

Bot: Capsicum frutescens
Turkish: Acı biber

When handling chilies, keep fingers away from mouth and eyes. Dried chilies or ground chili pepper may be substituted. Before using dried chili, remove seeds and soak chili in hot water for 5 minutes. Use ground chili pepper cautiously, adding a small amount at a time
and tasting until the desired heat is obtained.

CILANTRO (CORIANDER)

Bot: Coriandrum sativum
Turkish: Kişniş

A member of the parsley family. Both the fresh leaves (cilantro) and seeds (coriander) are used. The flavor of the leaves is an acquired taste; the name derives from the Greek "koris", meaning bug, indicative of its aroma. It is also similar to the aroma of dried orange zest.

CINNAMON

Bot: Cinnamomum zeylanicum
Turkish: Tarçın

A popular spice for both savory and sweet dishes; either the ground form or pieces of bark are used. Cinnamon sticks or quills are made of fine sheets of the inner layer of the cinnamon bark, dried and interleaved to form layered tubes. In recipes, a small
piece of bark refers to a stick about 11/2 in (4 cm) long, and a large piece is about 3 in (8 cm) long; however, there is no need to be exact in measuring.

CLOVES

Bot: Syzygium aromaticum
Turkish: Karanfil

The dried flower bud of an evergreen tree native to tropical Asia. Used in both savory and sweet dishes. A clove is sometimes added to simmering chicken to remove unwanted flavors, perhaps necessary for free-range chickens or boiling fowls, but not for specially-raised birds. It is claimed that cloves sweeten the breath after eating garlic.

CORNSTARCH (CORNFLOUR)

Turkish: Mısır unu

A white starch used for thickening milk puddings and essential for making Turkish Delight (Lokum). Not to be confused with yellow corn flour.

CUMIN

Bot: Cuminum cyminum
Turkish: Kimyon

Cumin seeds, from a plant native to Egypt, have been widely used as a spice in Eastern Mediterranean cooking since ancient times.

DILL

Bot: Anethum graveolens
Turkish: Dereotu

Native to the Mediterranean region, dill was much favored as a medicinal herb in ancient times. The feathery leaves are blue-green and give a distinctive, slightly aniseed flavor to meat, vegetable and rice dishes, and pickles. An excellent herb with globe artichokes. Fennel may be substituted.

EGGPLANT (AUBERGINE)

Bot: Solanum melongena
Turkish: Patlıcan

Recipes give details of preparation in most instances. Stem is left on if baking or grilling as it provides a convenient handle. Slice, cube or slit as directed in recipe, and either sprinkle generously with salt, or place in well-salted, cold water. Let stand for 30 minutes so that bitter juices are removed. Drain and pat dry with a clean kitchen towel or paper towels. The long (Japanese) eggplants do not need salting.

FAVA (BROAD) BEANS

Bot: Vicia faba
Turkish: Fava

Used fresh in Turkish cooking. When very young, the whole bean is used, topped, tailed and strings removed. Mature beans are shelled; if large, the skins are removed. Frozen fava beans are a good year-round standby and are easily skinned.

FLOUR

The plain flour used in these recipes is known in North America as all-purpose flour; whole meal flour is known as whole-wheat flour. Unbleached all-purpose (plain) flour can be used in recipes if preferred, especially for bread.

GARLIC

Bot: Allium sativum
Turkish: Sarmısak

Used from ancient times for the medicinal properties attributed to it, garlic is essential and should not be omitted from recipes using it. Remember that the flavor of garlic becomes more pronounced if browned, so avoid browning if a strong flavor is not desired. Raw garlic, finely chopped, is often mixed through boiled greens. Any recipe using raw garlic will leave you with an unpleasant breath. Chewing on a clove or drinking milk are favorite antidotes.

MINT

Bot: Mentha spicata
Turkish: Nane

The mint most favored is spearmint in fresh or dried form. Used in meat and vegetable dishes, fragrant when fried in butter or ghee for a final touch to yogurt soups and salads, mint gives a distinct and appealing flavor. Fresh and dried mint is readily available.

NIGELLA

Bot: Nigella sativa
Turkish: Nigella

Often called black cumin, though not related to cumin, nigella seeds are aromatic with a peppery flavor. Used to flavor sweet yeast breads and as a topping for pide.

NUTMEG

Bot: Myristica fragrans
Turkish: Küçük

The hard inner kernel of the fruit of a tropical tree grown in the West Indies, Sri Lanka and South-East Asia.

OKRA ( LADIE'S FINGERS)

Bot: Abelmoschus esculentus
Turkish: Bamya

Also called gumbo. Native to Africa, okra is an angular pod tapering to a point. Young okra are preferred. The vegetable has viscous properties. The preparation of the vegetable is so devised that these properties are lessened. If you like the glutinous texture, then do not use the vinegar treatment given, though a brief blanching will firm the vegetable. Okra is also available dried, canned and frozen.

PREPARING OKRA

Wash well, handling okra gently. Trim stem end without cutting pod. If desired trim around conical stem attached to pod, removing a thin layer. This is the correct way to prepare okra, but it is time-consuming and only serves to remove the fine brown ring just above the pod and the outer layer of the stem. Dry okra well in a kitchen towel, or spread out and leave until dry. Place in bowl and add 1/2 cup (4 fl oz/125 ml) distilled vinegar to each 1 Ib (500 g) okra. Toss gently so that vinegar coats okra. Let stand for 30 minutes, drain and rinse well. Dry and use as directed in recipes. The vinegar treatment prevents okra from becoming slimy during cooking.

OLIVES

Bot: Olea europaea
Turkish: Zeytin

The fresh fruit is bitter and must be treated to make it edible. Though recommended methods use a lye solution initially, home-cured olives are prepared in other ways. Ripe olives are dry-salted in wicker baskets and left for several days until the bitter juices have run out, then placed in wooden casks to mature, giving olives a wrinkled appearance. Another method for both ripe and green olives requires soaking in water for 3-7 days (the longer period for green olives) with water changed daily; they are then left in brine to mature. Slitting or cracking green fruit hastens curing. Oil is extracted by pressing, the first pressing yielding the finest oil which is greenish in color. The pulp is treated and subsequent pressings give oil of gradually lessening quality. Better quality oils keep longest.

ORANGE FLOWER WATER

Turkish: Portakal çiçeği suyu

A fragrant liquid distilled from orange blossoms and used to flavor sweets and pastries. If a concentrated essence is all you can obtain, use in drops rather than the spoon measures given.

PARSLEY, FLAT - LEAF (ITALIAN)

Bot: Petroselinum crispum var, neapolitanum
Turkish: Maydanoz

In all recipes fresh flat-leaf (Italian) parley is used. Curly parsley may be used for garnish.

PASTOURMA

Turkish: Pastırma

Pastourma is the most widely used term for this dried, highly-spiced beef popular in Turkey. Fenugreek, garlic, paprika, black pepper and chili are the main ingredients used in the thick, spicy coating. Slice very thinly and eat with bread, or fry in butter and serve with fried eggs. It is available at Greek food stores.

ROSE WATER

Turkish: Gül suyu

Distilled from fragrant rose petals, rose water is used for both savory and sweet dishes. As the strength varies according to the quality, when using a new brand, add cautiously and taste to judge how much is required. Price is usually indicative of quality, with the more expensive brands being stronger. Rose water essence is a concentrate; it should be used in drops rather than the spoon measures given.

SAFFRON

Bot: Crocus sativus
Turkish: Safran

It takes the stamens of almost a quarter million blooms to produce 1 lb (500 g) of saffron, which makes saffron expensive. Buy a reliable brand as there are cheaper versions sold which are not true saffron. Pound threads in a mortar and soak in liquid specified in recipe to bring out the fragrance and color.

SAHLEP

Turkish: sahlep

A fawn-colored powder from the dried tubers of various species of orchids (Orchis). It has a gelatinous quality similar to corn flour (cornstarch) or arrowroot. In Turkey it is made into a hot beverage with milk and sugar: 1 teaspoon sahlep to 1 cup (8 fl oz/250 ml) cold milk, stir then heat until boiling; serve with a dusting of ground cinnamon. Street vendors sell it in winter. It is also available at Middle Eastern markets.

SCALLIONS (SHALLOTS / SPRING ONIONS)

Bot: Allium cepa
Turkish: Yeşil soğan

Also known as shallots, spring onions and green onions, these are the long green shoots of an immature onion. Unless otherwise specified in recipe, use some of the tender green tops as well as the white section.

SESAME SEEDS

Bot: Sesamum indicum
Turkish: Susam

Pale cream seeds of a plant grown in tropical regions. Sesame seeds are oily and highly nutritious. The seeds are used on breads and cookies, for halva and for tahini.

SPINACH AND SWISS CHARD (SILVERBEET)

Turkish: Ispanak

Spinach (Spinacia oleracea) should not be confused with Swiss chard (Beta vulgaris)—two vegetables are not even related botanically. Spinach, also known as English spinach, is widely used in the Middle East. As spinach has a short season, from midwinter to late spring, frozen leaf spinach may be substituted at other times. Swiss chard can be used instead of spinach, but in some recipes the result is not quite the same. It is preferable to cook spinach or Swiss chard in a stainless steel or enamel pan, as aluminium can cause discoloration.

SUMAK

Turkish: Sumak

Dried, crushed red berries with a pleasant, lemony flavor. These come from particular species of sumak tree and it is important to purchase sumak from Middle Eastern markets as related species of tree can be poisonous.