Visiting Semra, my adorable Turkish friend who studied cookery 60 years ago is always a great experience. She immediately whipped up a delicious meal that brought back some very happy memories for me. This simple Turkish pasta dish is a real winner and I had completely forgotten about it.
When I first came to Turkey, I was given a Turkish Cookbook that seemed to be the only one available no matter where you searched. It was found in every souvenir and gift shop as well as being sold along the waterfronts and quays, outside the coffee shops and placed next to the mosque near to where I lived. Later I learnt that it in fact was the only Turkish Cookbook that at that time had been published and translated into various foreign languages.
As there seemed to be no other foreign material around. This book was hot and every man and his shop had to sell it!
For any ex-pats living here, it was quite a Godsend. The book was extremely basic and in the meat section you were more than safe. As butchers had no ideas back in the 80’s of different cuts of meats, only mince (usually lamb mixed with beef) was ever mentioned.
Apart from the printing errors (of which there were more than a few) you were pretty right and had a 50/50 chance of succeeding. You did have to own a regular water glass, a small sized tea glass, a tiny, tiny little çay spoon and a regular sized ‘yemek kaşığı’ (eating spoon) and then you were set to go.
When making dough, one would often find the side of my face covered in flour as I tried to pinch my earlobe and see if it felt the same as the dough itself. This way of measuring the texture is still very much the accepted method – soft as your earlobe – this works for bread, cakes, buns, halva, lentil burgers and even içli köfte better known as kibbeh.
In this simple book that I have just scoured the internet to find, (with no luck at all – published in the 60’s I believe but the most favoured recipe book around for over 25 years) was the very simplest of recipes that even I could nearly follow. The reason I say ‘nearly’ is because the direct translation often had some unique interpretations.
Here are some examples of recipes printed in the 80’s, which I can guarantee you were vast improvements on previously printed recipe books!
If your iris turns pink and smells delicious, you can take a small spoonful of sprinkles over it to check the colour. (Here we are clearly talking about sauteeing onions!)
This one is scary – 1 tablespoon salt added to 1 pound of dough that will cling to the light hand that took so long. Drop 2 egg whites will hover on the winds when you fluff.
And one more for fun, a cream layered chocolate birthday cake using a chocolate pudding mix.
If you do not serve the poodle immediately, do not puddle on it, because the table does not look good when it is cold in the pudding.
So, moving on….. this simple Turkish pasta dish with the Mantı-like meat sauce can be whipped up in minutes. My children added this Mantı substitute to their Favourites list after the first mouthful.
It has the flavour of the very famous dish Mantı but it is in fact about 4 hours easier!!
Once the sauce is cooked, it is ladled on top of your cooked chosen pasta and then dollops of yogurt can be added if you wish. Personally, we love it with a spoonful of thick yogurt.
Normally, they are smells and music that bring back flooding memories to me but in this case, this extremely basic dish with it’s very simple ingredients does the trick and takes me straight down memory lane to when my children were very young.
After reading the recipe you will surely not believe how tasty this is. It will seem nothing but boring. I beg you to try it. The key is really in its simplicity. It will have you diving back in the kitchen for seconds.
- I pkt pasta (bow ties or spaghetti are the favourites for this dish)
- Olive oil for the pasta
- 2 Tbsp oil
- 1 onion chopped finely
- 250g beef mince
- 3 medium tomatoes chopped finely
- 2 sweet peppers chopped finely (Sivri Biber)
- ¾ tsp salt, more or less as desired
- ½ tsp black pepper
- ½ tsp red pepper (mild or hot)
- ½ tsp cumin
- ½ tsp oregano
- Plain yogurt
- 2 cloves crushed garlic (optional)
- Boil your favourite pasta and drain when al dente
- Add a splash of olive oil and mix through the pasta
- Heat the oil in a frying pan gently and saute the onions until transparent
- Add the mince and cook gently, stirring often
- Fry the meat until all the juices have run out and have dried up
- Add the tomatoes and gently fry for a minute
- Add the peppers and continue frying for another minute
- Add the spices and check the flavour, adding more if necessary
- Cook gently for 15 minutes
- Serve the pasta into bowls and spoon the meat sauce on top
- Add dollops of plain or garlic yogurt if desired