“For Turks, food is everything,” says Somer Sivrioğlu, the Istanbul-born chef and owner of the popular Balmain restaurant, Efendy “From when we wake up to when we sleep – we eat food and we talk food.”
It is this passion that Sivrioğlu has captured in his first cookbook, Anatolia – a guide to the region’s rich and varied cuisine illustrated with vibrant photographs. “Turkish food can be so complex, I don’t think a lot of people understand it. With Anatolia, I wanted to make our cooking culture more accessible.”
With the help of food scholar and co-author David Dale, Anatolia shares the history of Turkey’s different regions and tells the stories of some of its notable chefs, eateries and dishes. Recipes are categorised according to the traditional Turkish eating day, covering everything from the 41-course breakfast feast (or “Van” – a Sunday specialty at Efendy), to afternoon-tea baklava and boozy meze plates. A pronunciation guide also comes in handy for home cooks talking up their latest batch of sütlaç (soot-latch) or gözleme (gers-lemeh).
But most apparent in Anatolia is Sivrioğlu’s passion for produce. “Give me eggplant, capsicum, yoghurt and lamb and I can make you 20 dishes,” he says, quickly adding: “Oh, and onion and garlic. But that goes without saying in our cooking.”
While these staples certainly get their fair share of attention on the pages of his cookbook, Sivrioğlu is also interested how Australian produce can be embraced in Turkish cooking. “I love cooking with Australian seafood and game. One of my favourite dinner recipes is the lime-marinated scallops with kangaroo pastirma. We use Australian ingredients but give them a Turkish twist.”
Other favourites include the lamb-shoulder pie, a rich and rustic take on the Aussie meat pie, and the Karides prawns. “I love the crunchiness of the angel-hair pastry, the spiciness of the muhammara sauce and the sweetness of the pomegranate. It’s the perfect dish.”
Anatolia is out now in all good bookshops.