I wanted to share with you a few bits and pieces of what I consider to be condiments even though Turkish people may not, as well as my favourite Turkish grain. I say condiments because these things don't make a meal on their own, they are added to make the meal complete and Turkish ready. As a result, they are sure to be found in every Turkish home and restaurant. Keep on reading to find out more. From left to right: A tray of Konserve, Yeşil Zeytin, Salça; Tulum, Menemen, Ekmek, Bulgur, Bulgur and sarımsak; Konserve with Patlıcan and Bulgur.
I can say with authority that konserve is a must have in every Turkish kitchen. It is made of tomatoes, onions and green peppers. While the onions and green peppers are diced in medium sized chunks, the tomatoes are whole and stewed along with the aforementioned ingredients. When cooled, the mixture is bottled for later use.
It is one of the most important Turkish kitchen must haves because it is used as the main ingredient in a traditional Turkish breakfast dish called mememen.
However, it can be added to pretty much anything- meat, pasta or other vegetables as a side dish.
In the Caribbean, I don't believe that we have anything comparable- well I should say Barbados. Yes, we do stew tomatoes, but it does not feature as part of every day Barbadian cuisine in the same way that konserve does in Turkey.
Furthermore, the diverse way in which konserve is used is what makes it so intriguing to me. I must reference mememen again when I speak of intriguing, as you will find out why in the next section.
"What happens when two men cook breakfast? You get menemen!"
This is a Turkish joke about this very interesting Turkish breakfast meal. There are only two main ingredients: konserve and eggs!
I had heard of menemen for quite some time but had never tasted it despite its popularity in Turkey. However, I recently had the chance to eat menemen not knowing much about how it was made or of what is was made.
"Mmmm," I said to the person with whom I was eating breakfast.
"This is really good," I said again, surprised at its simplicity and balanced medley of flavours.
"So, it is just konserve?" I enquired.
"Yes, konserve and eggs," replied my friend.
"It is there," they insisted.
I couldn't believe it. The mixture maintained the consistency of konserve all the way through and because eggs always have a fresh taste to it, I was completely bowled over that I could not smell or taste any of it.
In fact, I never would have noticed by just looking at it.
However, on closer inspection, I with my pieces of bread in my fingers, I mopped up some of the menemen and could see little bits of scrambled egg in the mixture. I love my scrambled eggs wet as I detest the 'fried over done' version. However many times it is easy to end up with my hated version. Menemen is smooth and fluid; the perfect scrambled egg and the flavour of the konserve requires no copious amount of salt or other 'normal' scrambled egg spices like black pepper or thyme.
I still don't believe it.
To eat menemen only one utensil is used, bread. The traditional long loaf of Turkish bread is cut up or torn apart with your hands according to your preference and used to mop up or pinch the menemen on to the bread before being devoured.
As I have said before, fresh Turkish bread is simply the best. No butter is needed, it is that good.
But like all the other listed items in this post, Ekmek is definitely part of Turkish life- every day, all day. It is used morning, noon and night with everything.
Many times on afternoons you can see people coming from bakeries with fresh loaves of breads numbering in the tens. I swear, I have seem some people with as many as 80 loaves of bread, for every person in the family is guaranteed their own loaf during a meal.
Olives are used pretty much all the time across the Middle East, Turkey being no different. Green or black olives feature prominently in breakfast especially, but can also be found in lunch and dinner too. They are served as a side dish.
These green olives were pickled.
This cheese is to die for. I am not exaggerating. Crumbly and almost reminiscent of Parmesan cheese, its flavour is not overwhelming and its texture makes it a cheese that can be seamlessly incorporated into any meal, particularly casseroles.
I tend to use it with fresh ground beef, or on top of pasta or even baked potatoes.
When the heat hits it, it doesn't get tough and opaque, neither does it magically dissolve. It simply just gets better.
My preferred grain- Bulgur
Now, Turkish cuisine is really a protein rich. With the exception of their breads, at any one point in a Turkish meal, you are not going to find that much starch on the table.
While, Bulgur is not quite a starch, because it isn't really rice, (wheat grain) I still treat it as a starch.
In the Middle East, pure white rice is a custom and it is ok.
However, Bulgur has a depth of flavour that is irresistible. The flavour is quite nutty and that is why I prefer it. Served with beef or lamb, it is to die for.
What we have here is the perfect amalgamation of Bulgur and konserve to make a typical Turkish dinner meal. Here the konserve is given some more depth with Patlıcan/eggplant.
It is deceptively simple but incredibly good.
All photos taken by Petra. All rights reserved.