|acuka – a spicy red pepper spread|
This really pushes all my buttons. Give me this and leave me to die.
In Western Turkey it is known as acuka (pron: a-joo-ka) but the further south you go, especially to the southeast, it becomes muhammara. I love the sound of that. It originates from Aleppo in Syria.
Forget sweet jams or weetabix or cheerios for this is a typical Turkish breakfast spread that you put on bread. It is delicious beyond belief. But interestingly enough, TT doesn’t know it and today I was with my English friends all of whom have been here a long time, and they didn’t know about it either. I really can’t explain why we don’t know.
|acuka: serve with bread, crackers or indeed as a dip|
I have been on the track of acuka for a few weeks now, ever since discovering a little pot of it at a local supermarket, albeit an upmarket one, Nezih Gürme Market, here in Selami Çeşme in Istanbul. It was called Ev Acukası/home acuka. I bought it unhesitatingly and it was devoured within days. It is fabulous but the thought crossed my mind that I could probably make it myself as I read what the ingredients were. So I sat down at the computer and discovered that yes, there are lots of recipes out there. I carefully deliberated, compared, and finally chose to try this one from the blog New York’s Delight as it sounded very authentic. I wasn’t disappointed. Try it and I think you will agree.
I am thrilled with the result! It is one of the best tastes that I have enjoyed for a very long time!
Fills 2-3 jars
½ cup pepper paste (tatlı or acı – sweet or hot)
½ cup tomato paste
1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
¼ cup bread crumbs OR ¼ cup fine bulgur soaked in ¼ cup boiling water till soft
|this is what we use in Turkey|
3-4 garlic cloves, crushed
Juice of ½ lemon
¼ cup olive oil
1 tbsp pomegranate molasses /nar ekşisi
1 tsp salt
Spices as follows:
1 tsp paprika/tatlı kırmızı biber
2 tsp hot Maraş pepper/crushed red hot pepper (optional)
1 tsp oregano/kekik
½ tsp black pepper
½ tsp dried mint/nane
½ tsp allspice/yenibahar
½ tsp cumin/kimyon
- · Put pepper and tomato pastes, bread crumbs or bulgur, crushed garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, and salt into a mixing bowl.
- · Heat frying pan and gently toast chopped walnuts for a few minutes. This releases their natural oils and gives the dish additional flavour. Add to mixture.
|toasting the walnuts|
- · In the same frying pan, heat and toast the spices for a few minutes. Add to to the mixture. Mix well.
|all those spices added with the bulgur|
- · If you need a little more salt, add a bit more. If you want the dish to be a bit more garlicky, add another clove of garlic. The garlic is what really adds to the taste of this dish.
- · Mix everything well together and serve either with bread as a spread or with crackers as a dip. I must say, in Turkey it would be with bread as the idea of dips is not common.
|mixing it all together|
Consistency is up to you. TT and I prefer chunky but you may like it smoother. In that case, blitz those walnuts till they are finer.
1. I don’t know how easy it is to find pepper paste outside Turkey. If you can’t, I would suggest making up the amount with the very best tomato paste that you can find.
2. All the spices are also arbitrary. I made my acuka today using exactly the measurements specified above and we found the result absolutely scrumptious!