The other day a friend of mine in the UK emailed me for suggestions for a good Turkish cookbook to buy as a Christmas present for her SIL.
So I actually stopped and reviewed my own selection. I have a lot both in English and Turkish, but I also refer to the internet and more often than not, find inspiration in other blogs via Pinterest. (I love Pinterest!).
Often I get seduced by good food photography as with Didem Şenol‘s ‘Aegean Flavours’ or Refika Birgül‘s ‘Cooking New Istanbul’. But there again, one firm faithful remains ‘An American Cook in Turkey’ which has no pictures at all! I guess it’s more of a familiar old friend sitting there on my shelf as it must have been my very first cookbook when I came here all those years ago. I don’t really cook from it any more as other options exist now.
My friend had already purchased ‘Sultan’s Kitchen’ by Özcan Ozan but her husband, who is Turkish, had had a flip through and didn’t think the recipes were particularly authentic and I tend to agree. On the other hand, I really recommend ‘Secrets of the Turkish Kitchen’ by Angie Mitchell and have just about cooked my way through the entire book!
If you’re looking for a nice-looking book with lots of good photographs, how about anything by Ghillie Basan, or there’s a book that I would like myself called ‘Turkey Recipes and Tales from the Road’ by Leanne Kitchen? I have only seen these books but other friends recommend them highly.
Anyway, one of my own books came to light in the search: ‘Antakya – Antioch – City & Cuisine’ by Jale Balcı. Now, this is an attractive cookbook with not only recipes but also lovely pictures and information about that city. The recipes however, like in many Turkish cookbooks written or translated into English, aren’t precise enough eg no cooking times given in this one.
But one recipe caught my eye: this large oven-baked kofte that matched the ingredients I had to hand.
So here it is: Lakmi Le Varka, the Arabic name for what is simply translated as ‘meat in paper’! Which it isn’t: it’s merely cooked ON a sheet of kitchen paper but there you go!
- Pre-heat oven to 180C/350F.
- Put the parsley, mint, red pepper, and garlic into the bowl of a food processor and finely chop. Using your hands, place this in a separate bowl and mix this well with the meat until combined. Add the cumin and seasoning.
- Line an oven try with kitchen paper and spread the meat out evenly into a circular shape in the centre. Add the tomato and green pepper slices to decorate if using.
- Cook until done – approximately 30 minutes or until nicely browned.