A smell that brings back a long forgotten friend, an image that makes you unconsciously smile, a song that transports you to another time and place. Experiences we have in life embed themselves in our memories, painting our future expectations in broad brushstrokes of those past experiences, grouping them into categories, filing them away under comfortable headings.
RJ and I used to go quite frequently to a Turkish restaurant near our apartment in NYC. It was relatively posh, popular with the locals and always buzzing… yet somehow just a bit dark. Cloaked in heavy fabrics and rich colours it was the uptown cousin of the always-closing-down rug store located in a slightly dingier end of town.
This is what I came to expect from Turkish food. Buzzing and colourful but just a bit dark, just a bit heavy. Turkish Flavours – Recipes from a seaside cafe has changed that. Sevtap Yuce’s first cookbook delivers on the flavours and colours I expected from Turkish food, but injects a lightness and freshness which comes only from proximity to the sea and a garden full of fresh ingredients.
Born in Turkey, Sevtap moved to Australia at the age of 17. She spent a decade in Sydney, which included learning English while working in a patisserie in Sydney’s Inner West and doing a stint at Bill Grangers’s cafe, before moving to Angourie on the New South Wales North Coast and opening her restaurant, Beachwood in 1994. This book not only reflects the dishes cooked at Beachwood but those Sevtap was raised with in Turkey. The ones that bring back memories of childhood and family and a simpler time.
The essence of Turkish Flavours is simplicity. The authentic recipes use ‘fresh produce from your kitchen garden and basic ingredients from your refrigerator and pantry‘. Organised by course it’s easy to create a snack for one – or a banquet for 10 – with items found in most homes and corner veggie shops.
The methods are simple and direct while notes and variations scattered throughout provide tips and spark ideas for alterations. The introduction, while a slightly clunky read, has lovely gems peppered throughout providing a peek into the heart and memories of Sevtap, and the inspiration behind her recipes.
You quickly notice recurring themes – eggs poached in rich tomato based sauces, dips, spreads and toppings for bread, lots of vegetables and pulses, a couple different takes on olive oil and yoghourt cake, and the requisite traditional meat dishes. Maybe it’s growing up with a big, loud, extended, Mediterranean-decedent family and all the food that goes along with that experience – but it just feels comfortable and homey.
- In Brief: Turkish Flavours is a simple, straightforward book – no tricky techniques or crazy ingredients here. It provides a solid foundation of authentic Turkish food, with recipes that are open to adaptation if you are so inclined. A few of the items could have benefited from being rolled together as variations on a core recipe but there is a wide variety of dishes overall. There are as many vegetarian recipes as carnivorous ones and a dessert section that has definitely been bookmarked for later.
- Eye Candy: The photos above say it all. Every image is gorgeous and full of colour – the food nearly leaps off the page. The presentations are simple and match the approach of the recipes, making it feel as if any dish cooked could easily be served up on your table as beautifully as in the book.
- Navigation: Probably best that you know the basics like how to boil water and perhaps saute onion but the methods are simple and straightforward. Organisation into meal categories leaves you flipping back and forth at times but the index is robust, listing recipes by name, ingredient and type in most cases.
- Fancy-schmancyness: Basic pantry staples and common veggies make for an easy shopping list. Well except for the testicles – I told you it was authentic – but that’s a whole other story.
- Boomerang Effect: Overall, it is a book I’ll go back to for quick, fresh, no-fuss meals – or maybe just to drool over the photos. If I ever find myself just south of Byron I’ll make sure to pop into Beachwood for a meal.
Turkish Flavours by Sevtap Yuce
Hardie Grant / SBS
Published: 1 Mar 2012
Now I have a habit of buying cookbooks and food magazines, looking at them for ideas, and rarely cooking directly from them. But you can’t review a book of recipes with sticky noted pages alone. So out came the pots and pans and jars and bowls for a weekend Turkish brunch feast.
Turkish Flavours – Recipes from a seaside cafe
[UPDATE – this giveaway is now closed the winner of best comment about what single dish brings back a good memory every time you eat it? is Catherine. Congratulations and hope you enjoy the book!]
Hardie Grant were kind enough to send me this book to peruse. I liked it enough to ask if they would give one to a lucky reader and they were kind enough to oblige. Giveaway – woohoo!!!