Thursday, 10 December 2015

Salat Turki (Turkish salad) - souvenir from Israel

After only weeks of travelling my life skills clearly continue their much-needed holiday. Waking up in the pitch-black morning is next to impossible. The sheer amount of keys I must remember to take with me as I leave for work is insane. My brain capacity is stretched to the limit trying to keep up with all the usernames and passwords and codes I need just to get through the day (and back home...). 

But after the shameless eating out-spree of the past weeks the most horrendous culture shock is realizing I have to make my own food. I can sit at the kitchen table, asking to see the wine menu all night long and still nothing happens. Shocking. 

An Israeli specialty is their salad selection. Which has absolutely nothing to do with how we perceive salads. Israeli salad is not just a particular dish, it's an institution. It's a mind-boggling array of pita bread, dips, pickles and fresh veggies paired with fresh herbs. And they keep topping them up as you go along. On its own the fiesta will set you back about 50 NIS ((about €10), but as a starter that's half the price. Good luck finding any room in your stomach for that main course, though...!

One of my absolute all-time faves is salat turki, Turkish salad. It's a piquant red pepper and tomato salad and the bowl containing that is always the first one to run out. It's quick, easy, suitable for all diets and more versatile than a little black dress. Serve it as a dip, use in sandwiches, serve with fish, chicken or meat... It's best the day after after the flavours have married and settled down.

As part of a meze feast this serves 3-4

Salat turki - Turkish salad

4 tbsp oil
1 large onion (or 2 small ones), finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 red pepper, in 1 cm cubes
4 largeish tomatos, blanched, peeled and in 1 cm cubes
2 tsp cumin
1,5 tbsp harissa paste
70 g tin tomato concentrate
1,5 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley
the juice of 1/2 lemon

Sauté onion, garlic and pepper in oil over gentle heat, covered,  until onion is translucent and pepper is soft. Don't let them get any colour.

Stir in tomato cubes, harissa paste, tomato concentrate, cumin, sugar, salt and pepper. Continue cooking for another 15 minutes, stirring every now and then. The mixture will thicken as the liquid evaporates. Leave it slightly runny though as it sets as it cools. 

Remove from the heat and fold in fresh herbs and lemon juice. Leave to cool, check the taste and adjust by adding sugar or salt if needed. Serve.

PS. Looking for a recipe for home-made pita bread? Here you go!

The herbiness, gentle heat and the lemony acidity would all be at home with something on the mellow side, such as Alsatian Riesling or Gewürtztraminer (a warmer climate Riesling would work, too!), but the sunshine of my weeks in Israel got me thinking Andalusian sun and with that, Albariño which I fell in love with while there. 

Alvarinho Vinho Verde is Portugal's equivalent of it and this one is a fine specimen. It's got body that can take on a bit of heat, too. It's dry, mineral and acidic with ripe citrusy notes, so it's a great wine for veggie salads, (white) fish and seafood.





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