The true beauty of Turkish Meze is that a simple garnish or spice can take the main ingredients, which are already stars in their own right, to a whole new level of enjoyment. Keeping your Turkish Meze recipes simple and satisfying requires a few unique ingredients that are packed with flavour, texture and colour. Here’s what you’ll find in our Turkish pantry.
Best described as the cranberry of the Middle East, but with a deep earthiness and vibrant colouring effect, the barberry is a tart dried fruit that is used extensively as a garnish, flavour and colour in Turkish cuisine. Because the fruit is not very fleshy even when fresh, the dried version adds a little light crunch owing to the seeds inside the fruit. Whether you blend your barberries into your hummus, garnish your yoghurt or incorporate them into your salads and cereals, the tart flavour adds a pleasant contrast to both sweet and savoury flavours.
This versatile Middle Eastern pepper can be used as a dry rub for roasted meats, an ingredient in salads and salad dressings, a flavoursome addition to stews and casseroles or simply as an everday seasoning. Aleppo pepper has a mild smoky flavour with just a hint of heat and an aromatic zing. Try slow roasting or barbecuing meats with a sprinkling of allepo, combine allepo with a little date syrup, red wine vinegar and olive oil for a simple salad dressing or toss through steamed or roasted vegetables.
While not considered particularly special in gourmet terms, the chickpea is nonetheless a staple of Turkish cuisine. This simple pulse can be used as a rice substitute, the perfect supporting act in salads, blended to make hummus, roasted with spices to make a healthy snack and ground into a fine powder for a gluten free flour alternative. On the health side chickpeas are packed with protein and phytoestrogens making them a meat free addition to a healthy protein salad.
Cumin is that tangy and earthy flavour that is present in so many Turkish dishes. Cumin’s gentle pepperiness and light acidity make it a very versatile spice for use in savoury dishes. It is an excellent flavour to combine with red meats and is delicious sprinkled over roast pumpkin, carrot and zucchini. You can garnish your Meze condiments like yoghurt and nettle dip or baba ganoush with a little cumin for some added tang.
Brick pastry is the filo pastry of the Middle East. Unlike its European counterpart though it is single layered and is crisp right the way through. Where you may have experienced this pastry before is in Turkish recipes like Baklava. Beyond this traditional sweet are many other ways that you can use brick pastry. It can be used as a pastry parcel for meats and vegetables, shredded to create pastry nests, cut into shards and baked for dramatic garnish, filled, rolled and cut to make little bite size canapé or as a pastry topping for pies.
Lokum (Turkish Delight)
Less an ingredient and more an after dinner treat, lokum is more commonly known as Turkish Delight. However there are several innovative ways that we have seen it used in sweet recipes. Our favourite has to be a Rose and Goat’s milk Sorbet with diced Rose Lokum folded through it. Mint Lokum is traditionally served with tea after a meal as a palate cleanser and digestive. If the idea of rose or mint sweets puts you off then the Orange Blossom Lokum is a perfect compromise with its familiar texture and pleasant zesty perfume.