I am delighted to welcome Michael Niemann to the blog with his especially delicious post!
Valentin Vermeulen likes to eat. Since his job takes him all over the world, he has many opportunities to sample local cuisines. In No Right Way, he visits southern Turkey to make sure that the United Nations funds allocated for refugee aid are spent properly and for the intended purposes. Despite pressing, deadlines he gets to sample several meals that are uniquely Turkish.
Vermeulen wakes up in his hotel in Kilis after a long drive the night before. He’s hungry. Fortunately, Turks tend to prefer a rich breakfast and Menemen is a splendid example of that. It’s usually cooked in a cast iron pan, but a non-stick pan will do just fine.
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion diced (white or yellow, optional)
1 cup chopped peppers (use Aleppo or Urfa Biber if you can find them, or use red bell peppers)
1 teaspoon spicy chili flakes, Aleppo is preferred, but regular chili flakes are okay
3 cloves garlic minced
1.5 cups diced tomatoes
Salt and pepper to taste
Heat a large pan to medium heat and add the olive oil. Add the onion, peppers and chili flakes and cook them down about 5 minutes, until softened. Add the garlic and cook another minute.
Add the tomatoes with a bit of salt and pepper and stir them up. Cook them down until the tomatoes soften and lose some of their juices. Don’t let the pan dry out. About 10 minutes or so.
Beat the eggs in a bowl very lightly, then pour them into the pan. Tilt the pan a bit to let the egg mixture drip into the many nooks and crannies of your sauce. Do not mix it through. (One alternative is to crack the eggs directly into the pan and let them cook.)
Cook them a couple minutes, or until the eggs are starting to set. Remove from heat and let the eggs finish cooking in the warm sauce, a few minutes more. If you prefer your eggs more set, just cook them longer as desired.
Sprinkle with fresh herbs, crumbly feta cheese and spicy chili flakes. Serve with warmed bread or tortillas.
When Vermeulen realizes that eleven-year-old Tariq is spying on him, he also sees that the boy is hungry. So he takes him to lunch to find out who sent him. Lunch is at a Döner restaurant near his hotel. It requires a vertical spit with twenty pounds of marinated meat rotating in front of gas burners. I venture that most households aren’t set up to do that. But Döner has become favorite street food in Germany and many other places where Turks emigrated for work. So here’s one of the many variations.
2 1/2 to 3 lbs Boneless Skinless Chicken Thighs (around 9)
1 cup Plain Yogurt (you can use Sour Cream)
1 tsp. Lemon Juice
2 tsp Paprika
2 tsp Cumin powder
2 tsp Coriander powder
2 tsp Onion Powder
1 tsp Chili Powder
1 1/2 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Ground Pepper
2-3 garlic cloves minced
2 1/2 TBL Tomato Paste
2 tsp. Olive Oil for drizzling
Wash and trim some of the extra fat off of the Chicken Thighs, pat dry.
In a medium bowl, combine the yogurt and all the seasonings, lemon juice, salt and pepper and garlic. Mix well.
Marinate the chicken in the yoghurt marinade for eight hours in the refrigerator (a freezer bag works well). Then roll each one up into a semi-tight roll, and put it on a skewer. Depending on the size of your skewers, add one or two more. Now it’s decision time: oven or grill?
Preheat oven to 450 F, put the skewers on a pan lined with aluminum foil and roast for 30 minutes, turn and roast 15 more.
Preheat grill. If using charcoal move the coals to one side and put the skewers on the other side. If using a gas grill set to the proper temperature for chicken. Grill for 15 minutes, turn, 15 minutes, turn, 10 minutes
Slice the chicken meat parallel to the skewer. If you roasted it in the oven, add pan drippings. Put on a warmed pita with roasted onions and/or peppers, Tzasiki, shredded cabbage or hummus.
Towards the middle of the novel, Vermeulen has dinner at a restaurant that involved eggplants. Karnıyarık isn’t quite what he ate, but it’s close enough.
6 slender Eggplant
1/2 lb Ground Beef or Lamb
1 Onion, finely chopped
2 Tomato, one diced, the other sliced
2 lg bell Green Pepper, one chopped, the other one sliced in six slices
2 cloves Garlic, crushed
1/2 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Black Pepper
1 tsp Red Pepper Flakes
1/4 tsp Mint (dried flakes)
1/4 tsp Cumin
2 heaping soup spoons Tomato Paste
Peel alternating stripes of the eggplant and split them in half lengthwise. Liberally coat a baking pan with olive oil and place eggplant halves on top & brush with olive oil. Bake at 375°F until tender (about 30 mins or more). You may also fry the eggplant in a frying pan on all sides.
In a frying pan sauté onions & peppers in a bit of olive oil. Add meat and cook until brown. Add diced tomatoes, spices & 1 heaping spoon of Tomato Paste and cook until well mixed and tender.
After removing the Eggplant from the oven, use a fork to gently carve and press the middle so that you can fill it. Gently spoon the Meat filling onto the Eggplant until it is nice & rounded. Put a sliced of green paper on the meat and top it with a tomato slice
In a separate bowl mix remaining tomato paste with Water to thin it into a nice sauce. Pour on top of stuffed Eggplant. Return tray to oven and bake until sauce begins to bubble (about 30 mins). Allow to bubble for 5 mins then it is ready to serve.
The fall of 2015. It s been four years since the civil war in Syria started and over a year since ISIS took over major parts of the country. The refugee stream into Turkey has swelled to unprecedented numbers. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is scrambling to offer services and shelter to the multitudes. The Turkish government is doing what it can. Money from the rest of the world and European governments is flowing in to help alleviate the crisis. Numerous non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are using UN funds to do the on-the-ground work to house and feed refugees.