We absolutely love Turkey and it’s diverse, veggie-friendly food. We have so many happy and tasty memories about our trip there a couple of years ago. We will be sharing more Turkish dishes soon as they are firmly on the menu at home and at work; Pide, Imam Bayildi, Shakshouka, Corba, outstanding salads, wicked coffee…….the highly delicious list goes on and on. If you are vegan/veggie/ or just love amazing food, Turkey is calling to you!
Three of my favourite things are travelling, eating and history (the order changes daily). Turkish is a feast on all these fronts. We did not eat Lahmacun in Turkey, its always non-veg friendly, but I vowed to experiment with it when I returned home. Travelling inspires so many of the dishes I cook, influencing recipes, my constantly evolving style of cooking and the way I prepare food. I love wandering the world, soaking up all the flavours and techniques and then giving them a blast next time I’m in the BHK (or just any random kitchen for that matter). It is what inspires and challenges me to be a better cook and take on different influences.
We travelled around the south of Turkey in a clapped out car, mainly camping, taking in some of the outstanding ancient sites and spending as much time bobbing around in the azure Med as possible. We then spent a couple of weeks working on an organic farm where we cooked with the local veggies, normally without electricity, power or water. It was a great challenge! We bought produce from the local market in Burdur (Central Turkey, proper middle of nowhere. Beautiful people and landscape). The farm made its own rosewater and even cared for rare eagles, wild boar and wolves (yes, grey wolves! Normally injured by hunters). We especially loved the weekly trip to the markets and have never seen such a fine display of olives. Many stalls were like works of art, colourful patchwork quilts of olive perfection. Have you tried a pink olive?! One of our most random memories of Turkey was hitching a rid in a ramshackled sewerage wagon. We were stuck in the middle of the mountains and it was a lifesaver. Very fragrant.
The markets of Turkey were always overflowing with beautiful produce. When we travel we generally prepare many of our meals, saves money and ensures we’re keeping this gloriously vegan and tasty. Everything seems to grow well in Turkey and Turkish people have a real passion for produce, they absolutely love their veggies, especially local favourites like aubergines and pomegranates. Here’s what The Guardian wrote about Istanbul’s markets, I always feel very at home in a food market, you generally see people enthused and passionate about food, it’s a revealing window into local culture. I also find many of the very freshest and most authentic restaurants and food vendors around markets. They’re the real deal, where the locals flock for delicacies.
Lahmacun is normally made with minced beef and is served all over Turkey but we’ve packed loads of plant-based gorgeous-ness into our version and the flavour is epic. This is another recipe plucked from our recent cookbook ‘Peace & Parsnips’. You can eat it like a pizza or wrap it around some salad leaves, pickles, onions etc….either way, you’re in for a totally Turkish treat. I use shop bought ‘lazy’ flatbreads here, it would be awesome on your favourite home made flatbread of course. In Turkey, they may even be made in a blistering wood fired oven.
Turkey really captured our hearts, from the vast expanses of emptiness in the heart of Turkey, the mountains of the East and of course, the glittering Mediterranean coastline. It is a truly fascinating place expressed perfectly by the diverse and rich cuisine.
Afiyet olsun! (Enjoy!)
Lazy Lahmacun (Turkish Flatbread Wrap)
The Bits – Makes 4
- 1 large aubergine
- 1 red pepper
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 small onion
- 5 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
- 150g mushrooms, sliced
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- a large pinch of ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- ¹⁄³ teaspoon chilli powder
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 2 tomatoes, grated
- ½ a handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
- 4 wholewheat flatbreads
- juice of ½ a lemon For the topping
- 1 x lemon tofu feta (optional)
- 5 tablespoons cashews, roughly chopped
Preheat the oven to 200°C/gas mark 6
Pierce the aubergine many times with a fork, then put it on a baking tray with the red pepper and rub them both with olive oil. Bake in the oven – check the pepper after 15 minutes, then turn them both over with a spatula and bake for 15 minutes more. Take out the pepper and leave the aubergine in for another 10 minutes. They should both be soft and well coloured. Deseed the pepper, trim the aubergine, and roughly chop them both.
While that is going on, on a medium-high heat, warm 1 tablespoon of oil in a frying pan. Add the onions and fry for 6–8 minutes, then add the garlic, mushrooms, spices, salt and pepper, and continue cooking for 3–4 minutes. Add a splash more oil if needed. Now add the red pepper and aubergine, with the basil and tomatoes, and warm through on a low simmer for 6–7 minutes more. Stir in the parsley, cover and keep warm.
Your oven should still be rocking. Bring it back to 200°C/gas mark 6, lay out your flatbreads on baking trays and brush them with olive oil (especially the edges). Spread the vegetable mixture thinly over the bread – 4 tablespoons per lachmacun is normally cool. Top with cashews and tofu feta (if you’re using it) and pop into the oven for 12–15 minutes.
Drizzled with a little more olive oil and even a little squeeze of lemon juice. Depending on the size of the flatbread, this dish makes a great little or big plate and can be cut into wedges to be served as an appetizer or rolled around some salad. Raw cashew hummus (see page 160) is a perfect accompaniment.
Aubergine (or eggplant, brinjal….) is a nightshade, along with tomatoes, potatoes and peppers. It has not always been appreciated as a delicious vegetable, for centuries in Europe it was a purely ornamental plant and was even said to cause insanity and leprosy if eaten! Aubergine is a good source of fibre and minerals, the skin is high in anti-oxidants and it is low in calories.