Nigel Slater visits Turkey, home to one of the world's grandest cuisines. Nigel discovers a vast and varied landscape, rich with tradition and local flavour.
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As a cook and writer,
I've long been intrigued by the flavours and fragrances
of Middle Eastern cooking -
one of the oldest and most influential cuisines in the world.
Now I want to find out more.
You know, there really is only one true way
to get to know a region's food, and that's to go there.
To eat the food amongst the people who cook it and eat it every day.
That way, it's seasoned with a sense of place -
the landscape, the culture and traditions.
That's incredible. So join me on my journey...
Can I have a look in your cupboard?
..to discover ingredients and recipes that defined three countries
with truly exciting food stories.
Cheese and roses, it shouldn't work!
Places considered to be the key pillars of Middle Eastern cuisine.
My adventure takes me across northern Iran
to taste Persian dishes with a rich heritage,
to Lebanon with its Arab-influenced flavours of the Levant,
and to Turkey, where the recipes born of a diverse landscape
have travelled the world.
I did a date pattern - I should have done a walnut pattern.
My appetite for new flavours
takes me through ancient and beguiling lands -
but, more importantly, into people's homes.
I absolutely loved it, and I can't thank you enough.
This is my chance to learn new techniques and recipes
that aren't in books
but have been handed down through generations...
-How long does it take you?
Well, I'd better get a move on, then.
..and I'll share the secrets I'll discover
by cooking recipes inspired by my journey.
This time, I visit a rapidly changing nation.
From the dishes of Ottoman palaces
to the rustic home cooking
at the heart of Turkey.
I start in Istanbul, home to 15 million people -
today, a rapidly-changing, thriving city
that straddles both Europe and Asia.
Formerly Constantinople, the heart of the Ottoman Empire.
From here, rich sultans ruled over swathes of Europe,
Asia and North Africa,
bringing far-away flavours back to their palace kitchens
to create the world's most flamboyant food of its time.
One of Istanbul's most prestigious hotels was once a sultan's palace.
The grandeur and opulence is clear to see,
echoed not just in its chandeliers and marble,
but also in the classic Ottoman dishes it creates.
At the height of the Empire,
the finest chefs were summoned from far and wide
to experiment with ingredients and techniques,
to engineer dishes fit for the sultan's table.
A whole fish baked in salt would have been a true spectacle.
At the time, salt was a highly prized commodity all over the world.
This is the sultan showing off.
It's the idea of a silver salver being presented to your guests
with a huge, whole fish baked in glistening salt.
It's as much show as it is flavour.
It's delicious. It's delicious...
..but the point of this dish is about the location.
It's about how glamorous and how beautiful the room is.
It's about the exquisite china.
It's about the way the food is presented.
This is fashionable food.
It's fun and it IS about theatre.
Baklava - the sticky, sweet pastry dessert loved the world over -
was another dish perfected for the sultan's pleasure.
40 paper-thin layers of filo pastry sandwiched with finely chopped nuts
and trickled with syrup made each mouthful a work of culinary art.
Even today, the apprentice bakers must work in the kitchen
for at least five years before touching the pastry...
..and there's also an art to eating it.
You check that it's golden.
You put your fork in and then cut right through with a knife.
If you tip it upside down,
there should not be a drip of syrup that falls off it.
You then dip into your thick clotted yoghurt -
that's the crust on the top of the yoghurt -
and then into the ground pistachios...
..and then you put it into your mouth upside down,
so that the bottom layer of pastry, which is the most buttery...
..just touches the roof of your mouth.
You need a bit of practice to eat it elegantly...
..but it is very, very good.
It's not sickly and sweet -
it's nutty and it's flaky and it's light.
This is lovely.
While the sultans were eating fine foods from around the world,
most of the country was enjoying simple home-cooked dishes
inspired by the produce of its diverse landscape.
I'm going to a lokanta -
it's a canteen-style cafe popular all over Turkey
that serves homely lunches to the urban workforce.
It's also where I'll meet my guide and translator for my journey,
I'm liking this place.
Historically, Turkey didn't have much of a restaurant culture...
..but just over a century ago the lokanta,
with its domestic recipes and warm-welcome atmosphere,
emerged as an exception...
..and are now one of its most enduring food institutions.
So, tell me, what's going on?
OK, so this is a classic weekday lunch
for anyone who works and lives in Istanbul.
And do I choose one thing or a couple of things?
-How does it work?
-Well, Turks usually don't consider a meal a meal
if it doesn't have meat in it.
I mean, there's a lot of veg, for sure -
green beans, you'll have a lot of potato and meat mixed.
Chickpeas, courgettes, beans.
But then you also have lamb, beef.
This is what I call comfort food.
You know, lots of juices, lots of flavours and juices.
This is slow-cooked food,
served quickly and without fuss to hungry regulars
at simple communal tables.
It is very basic, but it's a massive luxury to be able to walk in,
eat fresh, warm food within 30 minutes
and go back to work.
And reasonably priced, I'm thinking.
-Shall we sit down?
The culture of going out at lunchtime for a sandwich -
-is that here?
I think everyone would be outraged if anyone ever suggested
that they had to have sandwiches for lunch!
80, 90% of the workforce will break for lunch
and come to a restaurant like this.
You find variations of it in the poshest neighbourhood
and the poorest neighbourhood. They're all...
Cos they'll all cook the same foods.
It's kind of an extension of home, in a way.
This is utterly delicious.
And no sandwiches!
Food like this every day.
Absolutely, it's utterly delicious.
This food is right up my street -
quality ingredients that don't need to shout or show off,
but just sit well together.
Simple home cooking with subtle, warm flavours.
The kind of dish I like to make at home.
Roughly chop an onion
along with an assortment of red and yellow peppers.
Add to a large roasting tin.
Choose a selection of tomatoes
and add a few sprigs of thyme.
Trickle the mixture with olive oil and then bake.
After 50 minutes, add butter beans, a good pinch of allspice,
and return to the oven for ten minutes.
Briefly boil green beans in salted water and then plunge into cold -
this keeps their vibrancy.
Fold in the beans at the last minute, so they just warm through,
and then serve.
Simple stews like this are, for me, the true taste of Turkey...
..born from the fertile soil of its agricultural heartland
in central Anatolia.
This vast area lies east of Istanbul - Asian Turkey...
..and it's where my journey continues.
Some believe this is where crop cultivation first began.
Many foods, not just Turkish, can be traced back to Anatolia,
and the country is one of the few nations in the world
with the diversity and volume of produce to be self-sufficient.
Many of its people still live close to the land,
as they have done for centuries.
It is dawn in the central Anatolian district of Develi,
and the timeless morning routine begins once again.
Songul has left the village just once in her whole life.
THEY SPEAK LOCAL LANGUAGE
She says there's more in the back room, as well.
They finish this in the summer and then make it again.
This and next door will last for about six months.
This is the store-cupboard version of a thin, unleavened flatbread,
yufka, popular throughout Turkey.
Once baked, it contains very little water...
..which means that it can be stored for months
and then rehydrated when needed.
Wheat was first cultivated in Turkey around 10,000 years ago,
and the first breads probably looked a lot like this.
It's like a work of art!
It's just, it's beautiful.
Songul has offered to show me how they make one of their staple meals,
Manti starts with a simple dough
made from flour, water, salt and eggs.
While Songul kneads and rolls the dough, her daughter-in-law
makes the filling from minced beef, onions, herbs and ground cumin.
It's clear to see that this dish has been made many times.
These ladies are a dab hand.
Ah, OK, into strips.
So, she's saying, basically,
her older sister lives in Ankara, the capital,
and she's saying that her older sister says that there is a machine
that does the cutting now, so they should buy that,
and she's saying we're not city slackers,
we're villagers, and we're used to doing it.
And then a little pinch of meat.
How much? In the centre.
The influence of manti on more modern foods like ravioli
is plain to see.
And then like that?
Can you imagine how long you'd have to wait for dinner
if it was up to me?
It's not long before the topic of conversation veers away
from the cooking.
So she says she was in love with Songul's son,
but because they thought her father wouldn't allow her to get married
to him, they ran away to Ankara, to the aunt's house,
and then they stayed there for three days
until the families agreed on the marriage.
It's pretty common in this village,
because if they're in love, but the family have other plans,
then the girls just run away.
Preparing the food with Songul is a joy.
Manti is boiled and its sauce is prepared by grating garlic
into home-made yoghurt...
..and a moment for me to find out how Songul feels
about life here on the Anatolian plateau.
This seems quite a hard way of life.
I'm just wondering, would you prefer to work...
..an easier job in the city?
Yeah, it's home.
So, do you think that your children, and particularly your grandson,
do you think that they will take on this way of life afterwards?
The sad thing about that is that maybe this farm wouldn't be here
if it's not passed on to another generation.
It's all very well for me
to talk about preserving a traditional way of life -
making your own yoghurt and your own cheese
and having a cow in the yard...
..but this is hard!
This is survival.
This is absolutely essential, it's crucial to their lives.
The hot dumplings are topped with a dollop of the garlicky yoghurt
and finished with smoked, sweet, crushed red chillies
warmed in olive oil.
This is amazing.
You know, there is nothing that means more to me...
..than sharing food -
and the fact that somebody shares their food with me...
..but also, to share their craft,
their expertise, their knowledge -
they've also shared their way of life.
It just makes me...
..just so, so grateful.
My exploration of Anatolian cuisine continues
50 miles west of Develi in the evocative landscape of Cappadocia...
..peppered with rock-carved homes,
fascinating rock formations and ancient vineyards.
Once a secret natural wonder,
this is now a World Heritage site
and one of Turkey's most popular tourist attractions.
I'm here to find out more about the classic storeroom staple pekmez,
a grape-based molasses used widely in both sweet and savoury dishes.
So I've come to meet Faruk on his family vineyard.
So, how long have grapes grown on this land?
Thousands of years, these type of grapes are here -
but this garden, from my grandfather.
This is the most...
These have all been growing...
..without giving any water.
Times are changing, and these days Faruk is one of the few locals
still making his own pekmez.
So, you must have seen quite a lot of change around here.
Yes, for sure.
When I was a kid, we had more trees and more greens.
Just like this. Everywhere was like this.
Nobody is looking after.
Why is nobody looking after it?
They're running hotels or different kind of tourisms.
More easier for them to make the life like that.
And the tourism damaging all the land -
by the ballooning, by the quad bikes, by the hiking.
What do you see as the future,
if you look forward 20 years, 50 years?
I feel very, very sad.
I hitch a lift with Faruk to his home in the village to watch
the harvested grapes be transformed into pekmez.
This is a special soil we use.
This feels... This feels like flour.
Yes, it is like a flour.
Very, very fine.
This volcanic soil, known as marl, is sprinkled on the grapes.
HE SPEAKS OWN LANGUAGE
Now, they're ready to press.
No other ingredients are added.
Marl is purely a natural agent used to remove acidity
and clarify the juice.
You have a lot of fun doing this, don't you?
He's the mayor of the town.
-He's the mayor of this village, can you believe?
I wouldn't get my mayor to do this!
Over the centuries,
the methods for its domestic production have barely changed.
So this liquid, it looks milky at the moment because of the stones...
Because of the stones, yes.
-..but that will sink to the bottom...
-Yes, in a few hours.
..and then we'll get the clear juice.
Pekmez has a honey-like consistency
and is made by boiling the juice and reducing it to a thick syrup...
..a process that takes around seven hours.
You know, it's the sounds that make this place as much as anything.
Sounds that probably haven't changed for hundreds of years.
The pot of molasses bubbling...
..the crackling of the fire...
..the cow, chickens.
Today, the pekmez will be the crowning glory
of an age-old Anatolian lunch.
We are having gozleme,
a savoury filling encased in the yufka...
..the simple flatbread made from just flour and water.
There will be two varieties of gozleme...
..one filled with spinach and white cheese,
the other with potato and dill.
The yufka wraps are wafer-thin, so only need a short blast of heat.
Pekmez has been called the healing syrup of Anatolia,
widely believed to cure everything from colds to anaemia,
because of its high iron and vitamin content.
-Did you ever have something this flavour?
-This is the way...
The way of living in Anatolia.
It kind of bothers me that it may not continue.
It will continue in the factories, massive,
which is not the same thing.
Faruk's Anatolia is changing fast.
The regional capital Kayseri is home to thriving industries
set up to feed Turkey's booming economy.
130 factories opened here in a single day,
and since the '90s, its population has doubled to almost a million...
..many of them leaving their rural homes in favour of urban life.
It's just one of many examples of the growth of new cities
right the way across Anatolia...
..and this is the dilemma that Turkey faces -
..without losing their traditions,
without losing the flavour of the land.
Turkey is an enormously diverse country.
There are seven distinct regions,
with every climate imaginable,
from the torrid conditions of the Anatolian plateau
to the misty green mountains of the eastern Black Sea.
The benefit of such a diverse climate
is the wealth of regional variation in the food.
I've come to the Trabzon region of the Black Sea,
to the town of the same name,
to taste a bread-based dish that is eaten all over Turkey,
but here is made with a very special local flourish.
SHE SPEAKS OWN LANGUAGE
Pide is normally made as a boat-shaped leavened bread
with a variety of toppings...
..from dried beef or minced lamb to spinach -
but in this case...
..it's cheese. There's no olives grown around here - or not many.
This is a dairy culture.
While sheep and goat's cheese is very popular in Turkey,
in the Black Sea region, only their local cows' kolof will do.
Just in case that's not enough dairy...
It's going to be good.
..a generous scoop
of the region's iconic, deep yellow highland butter is also added.
The locals say that without butter, there is no taste -
and they are certainly not taking any chances here.
I've never seen anything like this in my life.
It's almost like a fondue.
It's like cheese soup held within a crust...
..and it squeaks.
There's a special local way to cut this -
carefully remove the top of the crust.
Break it into pieces
and then dip it into the molten cheese.
Mm! It's kind of like the pizza you always want but never quite get.
This is the food that the word "gorgeous" was invented for.
It's the only way to describe it...
..and I will gorge.
Pide fillings can be as varied as you like,
and the dough is really simple to make.
Mix 450g of flour with seven grams of dried yeast.
A pinch of salt, and 350ml of water.
Knead, and leave to rise for an hour.
Roll out and shape the dough.
For my filling, I'm grating a handful of Turkish cheese,
thinly slicing tomatoes,
and sujuk, a Turkish sausage.
Trickle with olive oil...
..then bake for 20 minutes.
The final dish is truly comforting.
The landscape around Trabzon is well suited to dairy farming,
and much of it is carried out in the traditional way of moving the herds
between the highlands and lowlands with the seasons.
With winter fast approaching,
I'm keen to see the mountain pastures
before the roads become impassable.
The view is fast disappearing.
One minute it's snow-capped mountains,
and the next minute it is thick and very eerie mist.
This is one of the many summer villages
which serve as seasonal dwellings for the local herders.
So, we are over 2,000 metres high,
and the village is deserted.
The winter crocuses are starting to come out,
which is a sign for the herdsmen to take their cattle down
from the lush mountain pasture down into the valley.
The snows are well and truly on their way.
Whilst dairy is what this area is traditionally associated with,
the last 100 years has seen a new industry flourish
in the rainy fertile foothills of the mountains.
Tea in Turkey is big business,
and locally, in the Rize province an hour's drive east of Trabzon,
it's so important even the local football team is named after it.
The misty foothills of the Black Sea mountains
are home to over 200,000 independent tea gardens,
who supplied Turkey's insatiable thirst for a good brew.
The further I head into the mountains,
the more I can see how absolutely crucial tea growing is to this area.
You can almost smell it.
Any tiny little space on the slopes of the hillside,
there's a row of tea bushes.
I've been invited to take part in a tea harvest.
It's an early start,
so bed and breakfast are part of the deal.
Sibel introduces me to brother and sister Lale and Gokhan.
They are Hemshin, a minority group of Armenian descent.
They still live in their family home,
which I'm told has a bit of a story all of its own.
How long have you lived here?
Do you know how old the house is?
And that's their mother.
So, it was their grandfather that made this house from scratch -
but he never got to live in it
because he died very young in Poland.
He was shot during the First World War.
The hand prints are from when they sacrificed an animal
to bless the house when the last foundations were put in place.
Gosh, sacrificing an animal.
All I did was open a bottle of wine when I moved in.
After a sound night's sleep, it's time to pick some tea.
The morning drizzle is not enough to stop my lesson in tea harvesting.
-So, sides first and then on top.
-Yeah? Is that OK?
I'm doing this very slowly but how long does it take you to pick a row?
Well, I'd better get a move on, then!
It's just the top young leaves,
when the leaves are small and they are very pale green.
That's the ones you want. That's what I'm trying to get.
Historically, Turkey has always been a coffee-drinking nation.
It's only with the fall of the Ottoman Empire,
the First World War and the closing of their traditional trading roots
that the prices went up and they had to find an alternative...
..and that alternative was tea.
They've been drinking it and growing it ever since,
to the point where they are now
probably the world's greatest consumer per capita.
That's good news for the locals here.
The leaves are left to dry
and will be sold to the government-owned tea company Caykur,
whose fixed rates provide this family with a stable income.
I'm looking forward to a cuppa...
..but, even more, to my breakfast.
Cheese is an essential part of the Turkish breakfast table...
..but here in the Black Sea, it's the centrepiece.
Lale is making muhlama.
This is a fondue-like creation made using local aged Trabzon cheese,
as well as melted highland butter and flour.
This is a Hemshin dish and stems from their ancestral roots
as cattle herders.
In their family, they were the last generation
to have a traditional upbringing high on the mountain pastures...
..but by the looks of it, their taste for dairy remains strong.
Did somebody mention a bit of breakfast?
They didn't mention a feast.
Ah, thank you.
breakfast is considered the most important meal of the day -
but this is something else.
Everything on this table has been home-made
or picked from their garden.
For someone like me, who adores dairy produce...
..this is like all my birthdays have come on one day.
Can I come and live here?
I wasn't expecting
almost all of the cheese I would eat in one year...
..at one meal.
This is splendid.
Just a generation ago, there weren't many roads in these mountains...
..and because they were so isolated,
local communities had to be especially resourceful.
I'm travelling nearly 100 miles further east
to the tiny village of Macahel,
close to the Georgian border.
I've come to meet a Georgian family
and to taste a favourite Turkish dessert, helva,
with a unique local twist.
HE SPEAKS OWN LANGUAGE
This is 70-year-old Nasim,
his son Kenan,
and granddaughters, Irem and Irmak -
three generations of honey-hunters.
For a food, for a product that is so difficult to harvest...
..I guess it's got to be very, very special indeed.
The hives have to be really high up the tree
to protect the honey from the bears.
Wow! Look at this!
What defines the character of a honey...
..are the flowers that... the bees feast on,
where they get their nectar.
It's everything that is in this landscape,
that is on this mountainside.
That is what I want on my toast.
I'm going to cook with Kenan's wife, Reyhan.
Her version of helva has been made here for generations
from locally-sourced ingredients -
and most importantly, honey.
That's why it's got a toasty flavour to it. OK.
So that's really quite coarse and nutty.
This is your own recipe, or is it...? Is it a local one?
It is the most homely smell. It's the most welcoming smell.
SHE SPEAKS OWN LANGUAGE
So, make a little well in the middle.
And then... Oh, no measurements.
Look at that!
So, this is melted butter and water.
Everything here, from the flour
right the way through to the walnuts and the local honey
and the butter from their cows, it is all from this landscape,
every single bit of it.
Historically, the local honey
was used by this small mountain community
at a time when sugar was not readily available.
You couldn't get across the mountains to Georgia,
you couldn't get into Turkey.
You were trapped here, so you had to make the best of what was here.
Maybe with some dishes like this helva, only honey will do.
So, this recipe is made the way it is
because historically there was no sugar here.
And you use honey in all your pastries?
As darkness falls,
I feel moved to have shared the day's events with the family.
Three generations gathering honey
and a dish injected with this delicious locality
makes my stay here all the more memorable.
It's just so soft and so buttery...
..and your secret is this toasting and roasting,
over and over and over again...
..to get this depth of flavour.
When snow comes, these mountain villages
can be cut off for five months.
So before I head back down to sea level, I'm visiting Cevizli,
literally the village of walnuts.
Here, the local women are busy with their winter preparations.
Ayse and her neighbours are batch cooking,
and I'm getting a chance to taste another Turkish favourite.
Borek - a thin, flaky pastry with sweet or savoury fillings.
The local speciality filled with the crop of the valley, walnuts.
So you don't really roll it, you actually stretch it.
This is much easier to do it as a group
because you can each take a corner and pull.
If I was cooking this on my own,
I'd be going round and round the table trying to pull it.
Finely-chopped walnuts are soaked in butter before being expertly rolled.
A mixture of teamwork and experience.
It so easy when you've got people on one side and on the other
that you can roll from both edges.
I can see why everybody gets together.
Well, I'm hungry, because I'm in this wonderful position
of being teased every few minutes.
I get this pastry taken out of the oven
and, "Not quite ready, we'll turn it..."
..and on cue, how lovely.
Look at that. Smell those walnuts!
So, this feels like a sort of village Bake Off.
Is this as much a social occasion as it is to cook?
OK. I like that idea.
So, Ayse, tell me, is this a traditional recipe?
And does everybody make it exactly the same?
Are these this year's walnuts?
If there are no walnuts this year,
will you buy walnuts in to make this or will you just simply not make it?
Oh, look, it's still warm.
It's straight out of the oven.
This is absolutely and utterly beautiful.
I don't know why... Why is it so buttery?
You didn't put much on. That's amazing.
While I'm tucking in to the delicious borek,
all around me are foods being prepared for winter...
..for when the weather changes, and isolation descends.
these little pieces of dough,
being rolled out with such dexterity.
It starts out like the traditional flatbread, yufka -
flour, water and salt rolled until paper-thin and baked...
..but here, instead of storing it whole,
it is carefully rolled up and trimmed.
The real magic happens when it comes out of the store cupboard.
It's gently cooked in a little bit of stock
and then it has a little bit of melted butter put with it.
Slowly brought back to life,
and then, on top, yoghurt.
I just think it's such a lovely way to cook -
with your friends, making things for today - a treat -
making things for tomorrow,
and having, you know, a good time, as well.
Out on the veranda, they are preserving fruit.
Little trays of plums drying out in the open air.
It's fruit-leather drying and it will be peeled off...
..and then kept for the winter.
Sometimes apricot, sometimes apples, sometimes plum.
I think this is apple.
For this, fruits are boiled to a thick syrup,
a bit like pekmez,
and are spread thinly on fabric to dry.
Nothing is wasted here.
This is good food born out of necessity...
..and all this is about making a squirrel-store for winter.
It's not just about having a good time,
having your friends round for a chat,
a cup of tea and some cooking.
There is a serious point to this.
It's food that is...
..picked when it's abundant.
It's prepared, it stored and it's kept for those dark, cold days
when there is actually nothing about.
Another of Turkey's essential dried staples is rice...
..and pilaf is a favourite national dish.
First, wash the rice three times to remove any excess starch.
Sizzle butter in a pan.
Add four tablespoons of orzo...
..and 250g of baldo Turkish rice.
Add chicken stock.
Bring to the boil, and then simmer for ten minutes.
My pilaf uses half a kilo of fresh mussels.
Cover the pan and steam for five minutes.
Chop a handful of dill and then add it to the pan.
Fork the rice and serve in a bowl.
The rice base can be home to many fillings,
but my next trip is to try one that is new to me.
So, before I head home, there is one last stop I want to make
on the shores of the Black Sea.
I've come to Hopa, which is a few kilometres from the Georgian border,
because this is the beginning of a very special season.
It's the short season for hamsi,
the tiny little fish that are very, very valued -
and tonight we'll be cooking them and celebrating the season.
The hamsi is a Black Sea anchovy
and is celebrated in Turkey as the prince of fish.
For the Laz community who live here,
a strong culture has grown out of this short but abundant season.
It is said that they never run out of ways to cook hamsi,
even including it in a dessert...
..but, in recent years, commercial fishing trawlers have muscled in,
threatening the livelihoods of these local fishermen.
A fishing boat leaves the harbour in search of its daily catch.
I'm helping Tuna in the kitchen to make hamsi pilaf...
..the centrepiece of their celebrations for centuries.
The fish used in this dish have been brought from the commercial catch
sold at the local market.
A clear indication of just how much
the local fishing economy has changed.
Covering the whole base of the baking tin
with the little filleted anchovies, and...
Which is quite tricky because they're very slippy.
Other people's kitchens, they are a delight to cook in
but they're also ever so slightly scary.
Especially when you're cooking recipes
that they've done all their life, and you're doing for the first time.
The rice is added to the softened onions and coated in oil...
..and now welcomes the other ingredients -
tomato paste, chilli powder,
dried mint and flour from locally-milled corn.
While we prepare the salad to go with it,
Tuna recalls childhood days before the trawlers came.
SHE SPEAKS OWN LANGUAGE
When we were kids...
..we used to be able to come down to the shore and collect them
in our T-shirts, you know...
-Really? That many?
-Yeah, catching them in my hand, there were so many,
-but not any more.
-So, where have they gone?
Basically it's because these big ships are now using radar systems
to find where the fish are, so they collect all of them in one go.
It's not that there aren't any fish,
but for us little boats, there's not much left,
so then we get very little left over, you know.
The dish is assembled and ready for the oven.
That smells good. It smells fantastic.
Just smell that dried mint and that little bit of chilli
that is in the rice.
And now, just some all-important finishing touches.
No, thank you.
It's evening, and the boat arrives back...
..but this small detail isn't going to stop the party.
We need two people downstairs.
There's more than a little chaos here.
We decided we need an extra table, so it couldn't go down the stairs,
so it came through the window -
but then, for some reason, everything else -
glasses, plates, tablecloth, chairs,
and most of the food - has come out of the window
with us all stretching up and grabbing it best we can.
I'm not quite sure why we didn't just use the stairs.
The feast is laid out,
with its magnificent centrepiece, the hamsi pilaf.
The party has started.
-This is the dish.
-I would love some, thank you.
So, this is how the Laz party.
What I really love is the way that as someone else comes to the table,
you just all shove along and shove along -
and you started with six,
and at some point you're going to be sat on each other's laps.
-You never say no to a guest.
The hamsi were always key to survival in winter months,
and the fishermen try to hasten their arrival
through a special dance called the horon,
said to be inspired by the wriggling fish in the nets.
These traditions, this dance, this language,
is specific to this tiny community -
and I was asking Sibel, who has accompanied me throughout this trip,
why she didn't know the words, and she said,
because this is a language that even she didn't speak.
It's of a tiny little community.
A community that is staying together
and singing together and eating together.
They fish, that's what they do, their lives are about fish.
They are about the coast. This is where they've been for years
and this is where they belong...
..and they are going to preserve this
for as long as they possibly can.
The apparent depletion of the hamsi stock
lends a bittersweet edge to these celebrations...
..but the spirit of the people
and the pride in their culture is contagious.
Turkey is immense.
I thought I knew it.
I thought I knew the country and its food.
I couldn't have been more wrong.
This is a mosaic of unique territories,
each with their own heritage.
I started this journey tasting the food of the sultans
with its opulence and its extravagance.
That was a little bit of a red herring,
because the real soul of the food here
is to be found in rural areas.
It's different communities living quite closely
but very, very different.
It's about preserving their traditions, their way of life.
Even their languages.
It's also about preserving your food,
whether it's fish, whether it's dairy produce,
whether it's fruit and vegetables -
but enjoying them when they are here,
and, then, clever ways of keeping them for the winter,
for the dark days when there's very little else.
This is a truly different Turkey from the one I thought I'd see
when I got off that plane.
Nigel Slater continues his Middle Eastern culinary adventure by visiting Turkey, home to one of the world's grandest cuisines. Travelling from the bustling megacity of Istanbul to the rural heartlands of central Anatolia, and through the mountains of the Black Sea, Nigel discovers a vast and varied landscape, rich with tradition and local flavour.
Nigel starts in Istanbul, previously Constantinople, the capital which at its height was the epicentre of some of the most exciting food in the world. Here Nigel gets a taste of the exuberant dishes of the sultans, but Istanbul also ignites his curiosity to find out about the home-cooked dishes of rural Turkey.
Turkey is one of only a handful of nations that has the ability to be self-sufficient. Its hugely diverse landscape produces a spectacular range and quantity of produce that defines its local cuisine. Nigel travels to central Anatolia where he meets families who are working hard to preserve their traditional food culture in the face of mounting modernity. Nigel also explores the eastern Black Sea region of Turkey, where he discovers the truly mosaic-like quality of Turkish culture and cuisine. Nigel arrives in Trabzon to find misty mountains covered in tea plantations, before he begins a journey through the Kackar mountains, discovering the transient life of the pastoral nomads whose culture still dominates these parts. Turkey is set to yet again become one of the most influential nations on earth and by cooking and eating with a diverse range of people, Nigel gets a fascinating insight not only into the food but also life in modern Turkey.