Got a funny tummy? Have some yogurt!
Trouble sleeping? Drink some yogurt!
Burnt your hand? Slap some yogurt on it!
source: Green Prophet
These are genuine responses I've received from my husband. They reveal the vast extent of the Turkish obsession with yogurt, a substance which is usually sold in huge tubs, much like the emulsion paint sold at B&Q! My husband even puts it on tortellini, essentially committing an act of culinary treason in Italy!
Having observed that Turks add yogurt to practically everything, I took this to heart and on one occasion I spooned a huge dollop of yogurt over some fried fish. As I watched my husband wince, I realized this was one experiment too far and a definite no-no. Well, at least if there's a Turk in the room!
Yogurt has a pivotal role in my household during Ramadan. Heavy dishes are pushed aside in favour of lighter meals and so yogurt replaces heavy cream or cheese sauces. I also use it as the basis of a healthy dip for vegetables and bread. Then, a few hours later, yogurt comes out of the fridge for suhoor and is paired with muesli and fruit.
Often the most beloved Turkish recipes are incredibly simple and nutritious. Whether it’s morning or evening, Summer or Winter, there’s a Turkish yogurt recipe which will rise to the occasion.
Source: Almost Turkish
For breakfast or when you fancy a light meal, there’s Çılbır (for English speakers this is pronounced as Jill-beer), a dish of poached eggs in yoghurt served with a pinch of pepper. This dish goes all the way back to an ottoman Sultan’s dinner table back in the 15th century. In fact many of the typical dishes attributed to the Ottoman sultans are typified by their simplicity, such as the similarly egg based menemen. Cilbir and menemen are also perfect for a healthy suhoor as they are full of protein and the yogurt helps to settle the stomach.
(Source: Ozlem's Turkish Table)
A popular and refreshing recipe for the Summer is Cacik – a cold appetizer which acts as a dipping sauce for virtually all Turkish dishes. Cacık (above) is made of yogurt, olive oil, crushed garlic, grated cucumber, salt, dill, and dried mint (because it has a more potent flavour). I should mention at this point that when it comes to Turkish recipes, you’ll need to make peace with garlic. Not only cooked garlic, but raw garlic! I do worry sometimes that people who hug me must have the sensation of hugging a human-sized garlic bulb!
Speaking of garlic issues, I remember an episode in Elif Shafak’s The Bastard of Istanbul, where one of the characters bemoans the fact that she’s been given a dish of garlic-laden Manti before going to meet a prospective husband. Manti is essentially the Turkish equivalent of ravioli and so perhaps this is where my husband’s habit of smothering pasta with yogurt comes from.
source: Almost Turkish
Another popular Turkish dish is yogurt soup, Yayla Corbasi. In the UK it’s unusual to find yoghurt taking centre stage in a meal, and even less common in a soup, so you many of you might find this a bit odd. The yogurt in Yayla Corbasi is watered down and so it also contains rice which fills you up while a pinch of red chilli flakes livens up the flavour.
I’d call Yayla Corbasi an acquired taste. Mainly because it takes time for an English brain to figure out what's going on, perhaps because we're so used to sweet yogurt. I attempted to prepare some for my family back in the UK but I managed to curdle it before it arrived to the table! Being completely unaware of what I'd done, I served it to my parents anyway. I don't think my father has forgiven me yet for the abomination I served him!
Source: Ozlem's Turkish Table
And now, what do you drink with all of these yogurt based dishes? More yogurt!
Ayran, is a watered down yogurt drink which accompanies meals and often has an attractive frothy head on top. In many regions, this drink is offered to guests as soon as they set foot in the door. Even international fast-food companies, such as McDonald's and Burger King, include ayran on their Turkish menus.
Although Ayran is intended as a refreshing way of neutralizing the spiciness of food, I couldn't get over the saltiness. If you've ever had a savoury lassi though, you’ll have an idea of what it tastes like and it might be something you'd like. For me though, my heart belongs to sweet mango lassi!
One thing you may have noticed by scrolling down this article is that Turkish recipes tend to be rather sloppy. Thankfully, these mushy dishes are a perfect match for the other Turkish obsession: Bread! Sometimes I wonder whether Turkish dishes, delicious as they may be, were created solely for the purpose of being vehicles to showcase bread's ability to mop it all up!
So, over to you!
What are the food obsessions in your culture/household?
How has your diet changed during Ramadan?
How has your diet changed during Ramadan?
If you have any delicious recipes or food related blogs which you've been using this Ramadan or during the Summer heatwave, feel free to leave them in the comments below.
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