Land of Plenty: Agricultural Diversity
The provinces of Antalya, Burdur and Isparta have a very rich agricultural diversity. The region has ideal climatic conditions and fertile soil, but moreover it has been crossroads of trade that enabled new crops introduced to this geography. The warm and humid coastal strip has almost tropical climatic conditions ideal for Meditterranean crops and exotic fruits, while the highland plateaus and inlands show continental characteristics perfectly suitable for staple grains and stone fruits. Seaside plains of Finike and Demre have been transformed to almost a sea of greenhouses, resembling a surreal wrapped up Christo landscape. The tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, courgettes, salad greens and strawberries grown in these man-made plastic orchard heavens constitute the major supply of whole Turkey during winter months.
Tasty Treats: Sesame and Peanut
Once upon a time, the sesame of Phonecia was very much sought after in the markets of Athens. The sesame was first by the Egyptians cultivated along the Nile. Archeological reports from Turkey indicate that sesame was grown and pressed to extract oil at least 2750 years ago in the Urartu Kingdom in eastern Turkey. Sesame seed is considered to be one of the oldest oil seed crops cultivated.
The sesame plant is toilsome to harvest having sticky stem and leaves. The timing of the harvest is also important, the fully ripe capsules may split open and spill the tiny seeds, if the picking is delayed. During the harvest time, sesame stalks gathered in bundles, create a very picturesque scene in fields. When the bundles are dry, they are shaken to splatter the zillions of seeds. The humble bread ring simit, the ultimate street food in Turkey, is drenched in lots of sesame, a crop of immense labour.
The utmost delicate product of sesame seed is tahini. The cookery of the region, especially that of Antalya and Burdur, makes extensive use of tahini, both in savoury and sweet dishes. The double-roasted variety of tahini from Korkuteli and Elmalı, has a deeper and nuttier flavour. The tahini helva, a sweet block with almost a chalky, flaky texture is of prime quality in this region. The famous bean and onion salad of Antalya derives its fame from the special tahini sauce andhibeş, a favourite meze is like a tahini purée. Tahini is always good with sweet tastes, especially delicious swirled with carob or grape molasses, to be spread on bread at breakfast. There is a generous dose of tahini poured over baked the pumpkin dessert; the tahini flavoured roll bağaçais like a landmark as the clock-tower, the spot where it is sold. Tahini, in short, is like a trademark of the region’s cuisine.
Hibeş, is a very popular meze, a good accompaniment to anise drink rakı, with its nutty, spicy, tangy strong taste. The balance of flavours can be adjusted according to taste. You may add about a cup of mashed cooked chickpeas for a thicker consistency. It may also be used as a sauce over boiled pulses like butter beans or chickpeas, or fresh vegetables.
1 cup tahini
½ cup luke-warm water
3-4 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon hot red pepper
1 teaspoon salt
a dash of olive oil
red pepper flakes and parsley leaves to garnish
- Squeeze the juice of lemons. Crush the garlic with a pinch of salt.
- Put the tahini in a bowl and dilute with the water. Add the other ingredients and slightly whisk with a fork thoroughly. If the mixture gets thick, you may add more water, or add some extra virgin olive oil.
- Serve on a flat dish with a swirl of olive oil and a sprinkling of hot pepper flakes with a few sprigs of flat leaf parsley.
The humble bread ring simit, the ultimate street food in Turkey, is drenched in lots of sesame, a crop of immense labour.
The history of peanut is one of the most interesting stories of the culinary world. Its devious voyage between the continents has been quite adventuresome. It originates from Peru and Brazil, and was practically spread by the Portugese to the rest of the world. Peanut first arrived to Africa from South America, and then to Southeast Asian countries, as far as Phillipines, becoming a stable food in a vast geography.
Yer fıstığının kıtalar arası yolculuğu dünya yemek tarihinin en ilginç öykülerinden biridir.
Rich in protein, fat and starch, it soon became an important part of African diet. Peanut became also a very popular ingredient in South Eastern Asian cuisines, sometimes added to give a crunch to dishes, sometimes ground into tasty pastes like in satay sauces. The South American peanut, eventually arrived in North America via Africa through the slave trade. African Americans were instrumental in spreading the peanut in United States.
Peanut is botanically a legume like pea or beans, having a peculiar way of growing. Peanut flowers weep in the ground like ivy and become immersed in earth, where they bear their ripened peanut pods, hence getting names related to earth or soil in many languages. In English it gets its name from its botanical category, the legumes, but it is also referred as groundnut.
In Antalya region, peanut is consumed in an unusual way proving its African past. The habit of boiling peanuts instead of roasting is observed in some villages of African origin, just like in the Southern States of United States.
Semolina cakes in syrup
Şam tatlısı (Damascus pudding) is semolina cakes soaked in syrup. This popular cake is traditionally sold by street vendors, but it is simple to make at home.
For the cake:
6 cups semolina
3 cups milk
3 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup raw peanuts
For the syrup:
5 cups sugar
5 cups water
-Beat the semolina, milk, sugar and baking powder in a bowl and leave to rest for 15 minutes.
-Meanwhile prepare the syrup by mixing the sugar and water and bringing to the boil. Remove from the heat and leave to cool.
-Pour the batter into a baking tray 50-60 cm in diameter. Arrange the peanuts on top. Preheat your oven to 180°C and bake for 40-50 minutes.
-Pour the cold syrup over the hot cake, distributing it evenly.
-Cut the cake into rectangular pieces about 4 cm thick and 10 cm long. Leave to cool. When all the syrup has been absorbed serve the cake cold.