from one generation to the next
We enjoyed many memorable meals in Turkey.
It’s been eight years since that incredible month, but the wonderful flavours of Turkish food stay with me. Whenever I think of preparing eggplant, my thoughts turn to yoghurt, I add sumac to any lamb cooked on the BBQ, fresh mint, parsley and coriander evoke fresh curd and herb filled gozleme, sesame seeds remind me of the street vendor’s dense and chewy simit, the scent of roses, lokum from the Spice Bazaar.
One dish I repeatedly replicate is a rich lamb braise we first tasted at a garden restaurant outside Istanbul. We had stood in awe watching an elderly woman deftly make gozleme. At lightning speed, she rolled the dough until it was transparently thin then intricately folded it over a smear of savoury filling before cooking it on flat pan heated by glowing coals beneath. They were lightest and tastiest gozleme you could imagine.
We’d eaten more than our fill of pastries, but still managed somehow to wolf down the rich lamb stew topped with grilled eggplant slices, wedges of warm ripe red tomato and strips of roasted red capsicum from the little terracotta dishes placed silently before us. We spoke no Turkish, they spoke no English so the contents of that braise stayed a mystery until I returned home and turned to my trusted friend on all food from the Middle East, Claudia Roden.
Roden’s Lamb Stew with Aubergines from the new Book of Middle Eastern Food is almost an exact replica of that memorable dish, a simple lamb braise in a sauce of subtley spiced tomato. It makes a perfect marriage with the separately cooked vegetables that are added at the last moment. Roden adds only fried aubergines slices to her braise, but I add potato, wedges of roasted pumpkin, tomato and roasted red capsicum as well
I have varied the original recipe only slightly
1 large red capsicum, charred, peeled and cut into strips
1 large eggplant, sliced and grilled
6 small sweet tomatoes, quartered
3 medium small waxy potatoes, steamed and quartered
6 wedges of Jap pumpkin, baked
1 kg diced lamb shoulder
3 lge tomatoes, skinned and chopped
2 tablespoons tomato concentrate
1 heaped teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground allspice
2 cups approx stock
4 cloves garlic, squashed and peeled, but left whole.
Pre heat the oven to 160C.
Season the diced lamb with sea salt and pepper. Brown the lamb well then transfer it to a lidded casserole dish. Deglaze the pan you browned the meat in with the chopped tomatoes and a little of the stock. Pour it over the meat, then add the tomato concentrate, spices, garlic cloves and enough stock or water to cover the meat. Bring the casserole to the boil, cover the meat closely with a circle of baking paper then put the lid on the pan. Braise the meat in the oven for 1 1/2 hours. Taste and season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Chill the dish overnight then the next day lift any solidified fat from the surface.
Lay the cooked potato and pumpkin in a large shallow ovenproof dish, or divide the steamed potato and baked pumpkin between six individual dishes. Spoon the lamb, then arrange the cooked eggplant slices, capsicum strips and tomato wedges on top.
Reheat in the oven 180C for 45 minutes before serving with a crisp green salad, herb pilau and an Efes beer.