Turkish Food and Tulips

Every year the town of Morges holds a tulip festival for which over 120,000 tulip bulbs are planted in the Parc de L’Independence. The festival runs from April when the tulips start flowering through to the middle of May when the bulbs are dug up and sold off. During the festival there are various weekends with different themes such as a sports weekend and a music weekend.

However the weekend that caught my eye was Istanbul weekend. For the past 5 years Istanbul has donated 10,000 bulbs to Morges for the festival and in return Morges dedicates one weekend of the festival to Turkish food and music. I have no idea how this partnership came about, but it sounded interesting so I popped along to see the tulips and sample the food.

Turkish Flags and Tulips

Turkish Flags and Tulips

The first thing that I tried was a minced beef Gözleme. These were being prepared to order by two women. One would roll out the dough to a thin circle, rolling it onto and off of a rolling pin to stretch it out. When it was the desired thinness and size she would then fill it and fold it in half. The other lady would then cook it in a large flat pan, brushing the outside with oil to prevent it sticking and turning the Gözleme frequently until the dough was cooked and had puffed up.

Rolling the dough for Gözleme

Rolling the dough for Gözleme

Cooking the Gözleme

Cooking the Gözleme

The result was a moist, fried, half-moon shaped, filled flat bread which was then cut in half to serve. It was a little greasy with both the oil on the outside and the fat from the beef inside, but the bread was wonderfully soft and the filling tasty. I really enjoyed this, if there hadn’t been other dishes I wanted to try I would have given the spinach and the cheese options a go as well!

Beef mince Gözleme

Beef mince Gözleme

The next dish I sampled was a small köfte wrap. This consisted of two large patties made of beef, onions and a lot of parsley accompanied by some salad, more parsley and a generous sprinkling of sumac and dried chilli and all enclosed by some flat bread.

Beef kötfe and salad

Beef kötfe and salad

The patties of beef had been cooked on a BBQ and were tender and ever so slightly pink in the middle which I loved – I’m a big fan of burgers etc which are still pink in the middle. The parsley salad was fresh and the sumac gave everything a zing. This was a really tasty kebab and despite having no sauce added it wasn’t at all dry.

My final destination was the sweets stall. Here are large array of different Turkish desserts were available. I decided to try a selection of different desserts and opted for several different baklava pieces, some Tulumba (a small straight donut in syrup), a rose shaped Şekerpare (pastry in syrup) and another rose shaped pastry dessert which was filled with cooked apple whose name I have forgotten.

Bakalva and tulumba

Bakalva and tulumba

I’d not tried Turkish bakalva before and so I have no idea if these examples were indicative of the general style or not, but I found the pieces all to be a little soft. They had been soaked in so much syrup that there was no crispness left in the filo and even the nuts seemed to provide very little crunch. They weren’t particularly unpleasant, just a little soggy and a bit overly sweet to me. The same goes for the tulumba which was very soft and exceedingly sugary!

Rose shaped Şekerpare and another Turkish dessert

Rose shaped Şekerpare and another Turkish dessert

For me, the two rose shaped desserts were the best. For all its soaking in lemon sugar syrup the Şekerpare was actually not too sweet at all. Towards the center where the syrup hadn’t quite penetrated it was a little dry, but other than that I really enjoyed it. But the dessert whose name I have forgotten was easily the best, the pastry filled with a delicious sticky apple mixture which was both sweet and tart. I wish I knew what it was so I could look it up!

Overall I really enjoyed the food I ate, particularly the two savoury dishes. It was great to not only try some authentic Turkish cuisine but to also be able to watch it being prepared. As for the tulips, they were stunning. There were so many beautiful varieties on display and it was lovely to stroll around the park enjoying them.

St David’s Day Fare: Attempting some classic Welsh dishes

On March 1st, the Welsh celebrate St David’s Day (Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Sant) – St David being the Patron Saint of Wales.  Daffodils or leeks are worn (or if you’re going the whole hog, traditional Welsh costume), songs are sung and welsh fare is consumed.

While I’ve eaten plenty of welsh food over the years, apart from welsh cakes, I’ve never really tried to cook any at home (unless you count spreading premade welsh rarebit on bread and grilling it!).  I decided that it was time to change this and for me to tackle two (cheese based!) classic: Glamorgan sausages and Welsh rarebit.

Glamorgan Sausages – Selsig Morgannwg

These are vegetarian “sausages” made from cheese, leeks and breadcrumbs.  Traditionally Glamorgan cheese would have been used, but these days it doesn’t exist anymore.  Most modern recipes opt for Caerphilly cheese instead (although occasionally cheddar seems to be used instead).   Caerphilly cheese is not very common round my way, so my parents kindly brought some over for me!

Caerphilly Cheese!

Caerphilly Cheese!

After reading various websites for inspiration, it seems that a lot of people like to add “extra”s to their Glamorgan sausages, with chillis and spices being particularly popular.  While most of these sounded great, I fancied a recipe which seemed both fairly straightforward and traditional for my first attempt so I stuck with the plain old cheese and leek option.   I also decided to put a little more cheese in my mix because, well, I really like cheese!

Assembling the sausages was a very easy task, which makes it all the more surprising that I managed to leave out the mustard poweder!  I don’t think it affected the end result too much, but I know from making cheese sauces that then mustard helps to “bring out” the cheesiness so it’s probably worth including if you can remember it!  I personally like a chunky sausage, so where many website recommended make 8 smaller sausages, I opted to make 4 giant ones instead!

Glamorgan Sausages - Ready to cook

Glamorgan Sausages – Ready to cook

In the recipes I found there was also a split between frying or baking the sausages.  I thought I’d split the difference and fry them at first to give some colour and crispness, then bake them to cook them through (I figured this might take a while given the size of my sausages).  Being largely made of breadcrumbs the sausages ate up the oil in the frying pan, so I can see how baking would be the healthier option.  It was also hard to colour them evenly.

Glamorgan Sausages - Frying

Frying the sausages

With hindsight, I recon the only way to get these nice and golden all over would be to go the whole hog and just deep fry them!  Maybe I’ll give that a go next time.  While not the golden hue I was hoping for, my sausages still turned out pretty well.  The oven had crisped the outer breadcrumbs well, the insides were cooked through and the cheese lovely and gooey.  They weren’t as green as I hoped (I guess with the breadcrumbs and the cheese both being white that’s to be expected), although the leek flavour came through well.

Glamorgan Sausages - View inside

The view inside

Because I’m a greedy so and so I had two monster sausages with some salad and plum chutney, but for a lunch (or starter) I think that one would probably be enough.

Welsh Rarebit – Caws Pobi

Welsh rarebit is basically posh cheese on toast!  However instead of cutting slices of cheese, putting them on bread and grilling everything, you make a sort of cheese “paste” first and this is what goes on the bread.  Of course, making the cheese paste means you can add extra flavours (like the ale), but it also means that a bit more time and effort is required.

As with the Glamorgan sausages, I had a good look round the internet before having a go at making this and the traditional ingredients are (Welsh!) cheddar cheese, ale, mustard and eggs.  I also fancied adding some leek to up the “welshness” so decided to add a soft leek layer under the cheese on one piece of bread.

The instructions for the making rarebit seemed fairly straight forward: melt the cheese in the ale, allow to cool a bit, add the eggs, cool some more, spread and grill.  However I found that even after adding the eggs, the ale (and melted butter I guess) and the cheese wished to remain separated.  No amount of heating, stirring or cooling seemed to fix this (I did try for quite a while)

Welsh Rarebit - Not quite combining

Not quite combining

In the end I decided to opt for the trick used in making fondues – adding cornflour!  1 tsp stirred through was enough to bind the whole mix once a little heat was added.  It was also still holding together once it had cooled once (again!) so I could crack on with the spreading and grilling stage.

After adding cornflour and cooling

After adding cornflour and cooling

This bit luckily went really well with no more hiccups.  Something I was very grateful for as by this time I was starving!  The plain version was really nice, but for me, the leek one was even better!  With the cheese mix being so rich the leeks helped to stop this getting all a bit much.

Welsh Rarebit

Welsh Rarebit

While not perfect, I really enjoyed making these dishes.  I think I probably just need a bit more practice!