ANATOLI: Authentic Turkish Cuisine by Tayfun Aras published by Human & Rousseau, 2018
Just the name induces memories of exotic meals enjoyed back in the late 80’s when we had to remember to book a table, as Anatoli was usually fully booked.. Dining there inspired me to investigate this wonderful cuisine further, and when I learned that it's regarded as one of the top five cuisines in the world, I wasn't surprised.
As country-dwellers we have become more reliant on our own cooking skills, and I am often pleased that I have a little store of Turkish recipes in my handwritten recipe books. But what a treat to get this delectable collection from the present owner of Anatoli restaurant, recipes much embellished by his life story. He enjoyed an enviable childhood in a suburb of Ankara, brought up in a house where the garden fruit trees provided dessert and his mother encouraged him, the eldest of three sons, to take an active interest in family cooking.
Although he has a degree in archaeology he spent time selling carpets and souvenirs in Marmaris for several years where he absorbed the seafood and wild greens diet of the locals and, after marrying and starting a family, he and Louise moved to Cape Town in the late 90’s. Here he shared his expertise of Turkish braai-ing with locals . In 2003 he bought Anatoli when it came on the market for the second time and gradually adapted the original menu by introducing a new repertoire of mezzes.
The author ascribes the complexity of Turkish fare to influence from the vast territories of the Ottoman Empire, which spanned areas in Europe, the Caucasus, western Asia, north Africa and the horn of that continent. He brought in Turkish apricots, spicy beef sausages, sumac, Turkish coffee, raki and other ingredients at first, but now that Cape Town is more international it is easier to find most of these in the city.
Tayfun’s recipes open with a description of basic and essential ingredients that home cooks should have. Mezzes follow, ranging from a simple dish of varied olives to baby marrow fritters, from Circassian chicken paté to hummus, stuffed vine leaves to fava, (broad bean puree), red pepper pesto to borani (spinach with yoghurt and sultanas), tarama to tzatziki. You will also find kofte, (meatballs with tarator sauce), shakshuka (an eggless version) and aubergine dishes.
Anatoli’s popular bread recipe precedes main course dishes which are sourced from all regions in Turkey, some adapted to suit local palates. Most are served with fragrant rice but bulgar pilaf makes a good alternative.
There are classics like Imam Bayildi, etli dolma 9mixed vegetables filled with spiced lamb mince), lamb shanks, lamb ribs, sultans delight ( cubed lamb served on smoked aubergine puree). Chicken baked with feta combines enticing flavours, and then we move to a selection of kebabs.
Dessert is important in Turkish cuisine, and fruit compotes, milk puddings and of course baklava and kadayfi are classic examples. I like the look of apricots stuffed with almonds and cream and cream-filled stewed quince halves.
The final chapter, From my Home Kitchen, presents dishes too time-consuming for restaurant inclusion. Readers will find some appetising salads, delicious brunch choices - including halloumi cheese baked in moskonfyt! - a mussel stew, shrimp casserole and instructions for making Turkish tea (coffee is dealt with earlier in the book). Adventurous vegetarians will find plenty to chew on in this treasury to expand their repertoires as well.
A treasury of wise sayings accompanies the recipes in this book which is illustrated with plenty of appetising photographs, with the fare competing with some dishes, beautifully decorated china or metal dishes. Mouthwatering in every sense of the word.