I recently discovered that I have almost stopped watching Hindi movies, I still watch south Indian ones and some English but somehow the passion does not exist anymore !! Other things have taken its place !!! Why are we talking about this you ask ? A few years back, while watching a Hindi movie, I saw a song shot in Istanbul and it was beautiful. I had never thought much about Turkey and how it would look but it certainly was not was I saw on screen. Around the same time, I saw an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s “No Reservations” shot in …….you guessed it , Turkey !!! The food sounded interesting and many dishes were familiar !!! I also found a couple of cookbooks in the library on Turkish cuisine and figured ……the stars and planets are sending me a message ….my mom will tell you I very rarely take their advice , not my parents….the planets !!! I digress, I figured this once let me listen and I checked the books out and proceeded to immerse myself in the world of Turkish cuisine !!!
I am glad I did, I found out that not only did it appeal to me , it was easy to make since we share many ingredients but also that they have a lot of vegetarian options !! Why that surprised me ,I cannot tell you since I did not have any preconceived notions regarding anything Turkish !!! Turkey , situated the way it is ….sort of a bridge between Europe and Asia, has many elements from both continents fused together. One of the earliest examples of fusion cuisine !!!! Istanbul and its surrounding regions features traditional Ottoman foods, which in turn is an amalgamation on Central Asian, Middle Eastern and Balkan cuisines , just not as heavily spiced !! Southern Turkey which borders the Middle Eastern countries relies heavily on Kebabs, mezes and phyllo based deserts like baklava. The regions near the Black sea serve Seafood based dishes while the regions bordering the Mediterranean are influenced by those flavors !!!! I have noticed that many recipes use Yogurt.
Since then I have added it to my list of countries I want to visit before I die……..everyone has that list !!! V fears that as I find out more about various countries and their food, more countries will make it onto the list !!!! I think his fears are well grounded !!!
During my research, I found out that while the country on the whole has a few dishes that are popular all over, it is pretty much like India where each region has it’s speciality and they are made there only . This post is going to focus on one of the dishes that is popular all over . It is a rice pilaf with countless variations , if you choose to go that route , but the basic recipe is of rice cooked in butter with vermicelli !!! My variation is a little more than basic. Since nuts are very popular there , I have included them in my recipe. During my trip to Dubai, I bought Barberries, the dried fruit os an evergreen shrub found in Europe, North Africa, Middle East and Central Asia. It is also grown in certain parts of South America.It is rich in Vitamin C and has a sharp acidic flavor !! Earlier used extensively in Europe , now it is used only in Iran, Argentina and Chile.
Anyway, I had some but had never used it b’coz….frankly I needed to find an alternate source….I could not fly to Dubai every time I wanted more, could I ??? Anyway, I found a Persian store near my house and they have it so I could move ahead and use it and I did. The rice turned out better than I expected , I used basmati rice which produces a heady aroma that cannot be found in any other, the vermicelli adds another layer of texture while red onions add a touch of sweetness. I added more vermicelli as I like vermicelli.You can also use orzo if you don’t have vermicelli. Pistachios add crunch and barberries provide an acidic note that just cuts thru the rice beautifully. Unlike other dried fruit, the barberries are not sweet !!! Traditionally butter or ghee is used but I use a mixture of canola and olive oil . It is a beautiful dish that is simple and easy to make . It also provides just the exotic touch you food table needs !!!
This is off to Lets Cook Rice Dishes by Simply Sensational Food.
1 ½ cups Basmati Rice
½ cup Vermicelli or Orzo
2 tbsp Oil
¼ finely chopped Red Onions
¼ cup dried Barberries/cranberries/raisins or ½ cup chopped dried Apricots
¼ cup chopped Pistachios
2 ½ cups Vegetable Stock
½ tsp Black Pepper
Salt to taste
Wash the rice in water and if you have time soak in water for 15 minutes. If not just drain and use.
Sauté the onions in oil till translucent.
Now add the vermicelli or orzo and sauté till it is golden brown. If you have access to fried vermicelli like that available in Indian stores , use that.
Now add the basmati rice and sauté for another minute or so.
Add the pepper, salt and barberries/cranberries/apricots/raisins.
Add the stock and cover partially.
Once it comes to a boil, lower heat and cook.
When tender, add the pistachios and cover. Remove from heat and let stand for 15 minutes.
Fluff the rice using a fork and serve with any vegetable curry and yogurt.