Sunday, 4 January 2009

What Would You Eat On A "Henna Night/Kına Gecesi"?

This foto was taken on a Sunday trip to Sultanahmet in Istabul/Turkey. The lonely standing of one of the traditional "Henna Night/Kına Gecesi" dresses is so similar to the feelings of some "bride-to-be"s... So you may wonder what on earth is a "Henna Night"? Well, it is a night that the women friends and family members of the bride hold a party in the brides' honor and no men are invited.

The bride’s face is covered and she is encouragred to cry bitter tears to express her sadness as she will be leaving her family. (In Turkey when a man gets married it is said that his family gains a daughter and the family of the bride loses theirs. This cultural understanding is the opposite in Spain.) It may seam ridiculous to many other people but you don't have to forget that this ceremony is hundres of years old (though no one knows exactly when it begun) and it is done for many cultural and religious reasons such as the leaving of the bride, tradition, virginity, beauty... etc and even for health. Well, lets move on to how it is done generally.

The henna is places on the palms of the bride’s hands and covered with a cloth. The henna stains her hands and it is a sign of joy for everyone to see. The grooms mother presents the bride a piece of gold(neckless,bracelet... etc.) for prosperity and wealth.

So what do they eat on this night? Actually this depends on the area. While in some there is just knick knacks (such as dried fruits and nuts) and softdrinks, in some others meals are served. As savoury Pilav/pilaf/pilau, meet dishes, pita bread, soups and as dessert different types of helva/halva/halwa, dairy dessert or types of baklava are served depending on the region of course.

Thursday, 1 January 2009

The Colourfull World Of The Carrots

Did you know that there were red, yellow, white,black and even purple carrots apart from our old friend the orange carrot? Or actually is the orange carrot as old as we think it is? And have you ever imagined that there could be a "Carrot Museum" somewhere on earth? Well, if you keep reading and click the link below you can find the answers to these and many other questions about the carrots!

"The noble carrot has long been known as an orange vegetable. Generations of people in the West have grown up believing that carrots are always orange. But as long ago as 2000 BC temple drawings from Egypt show a plant believed to be a purple carrot. It is also identified in the garden of the Egyptian King Merodach-Baladan in the eighth century BC.

In Roman times carrots were purple or white. By the 10th century purple carrots were grown in Afghanistan, Pakistan and northern Iran. Purple, white and yellow carrots were imported to southern Europe in the 14th century. Black, red and white carrots were also grown.

Orange roots, containing the pigment carotene, were not noted until the 16th century in Holland. This only came about thanks to patriotic Dutch growers who bred the vegetable to grow in the colours of the House of Orange. Experts believe Dutch breeders used a yellow mutant seed from North Africa to develop the orange variety and then stuck to it through breeding. Their colour comes from beta carotene with some alpha carotene, a pigment the body converts to Vitamin A, which is essential for healthy skin and vision in dim light. Dutch breeders recently studied the health qualities of purple carrots and believe they give us extra protection against various forms of cancer and heart disease. They contain purple pigments called anthocyanins, and act as anti-oxidants that protect the body."

Important Notice: This information and the photograf is taken from The World Carrot Museum .

Monday, 22 December 2008

Sugar Sweet Details!

Well, you may already know that there are two ways of getting sugar. One is out of the sugar cane, the other is out of the sugar beet. Chemically both sugars are the same, pure saccharose. But you can't extract brown sugar out of the sugar beet. The molases which is separeted of the sugarbeet doesn't taste and smell very good. But actually it is not thrown away, they give it to the animals to consume.

The white sugar is processed 3 times untill it gets cleaned from all the remaining stuff apart from the pure saccharose. The brown sugar tastes different because of the molases it contains naturally. But most of the brown sugars we buy from the supermarkets is not the cut process of the white sugar. It is molases sprayed white sugar!

Another interesting detail about the sugar beet is that in some areas of Turkey it is cooked and consumed as a dessert. This dessert is called Çükündür (Chukundur), Höngül (Hongul), Kocabaş (Kojabash) depending on the zone.

So if you can find raw sugar beet and you want to give it a try here you have the recipe for the Sugar Beet Dessert. ( I have translated it from this Turkish blog, the picture of the dessert also belongs to that blog) Just be aware that it is a very sweet dessert, a sherbety type like baklava. (Sherbet in this case means sugar cooked in water untill it gets like a syrup, so you can imagine how sweet it is)

Sugar Beet Dessert


1 sugar beet
1 or 1+1/2 cups of white sugar (you have to put at least a little bit of sugar because the root can turn out tastless and plain)
Enough water to pour in to the pot

First you have to wash the sugar beet with a brush. As it is a root it can have mud on the skin. After that you put the beet and the sugar on the pressure-cooker and pour water untill it covers half of the sugar beet. Cook it in medium heat for 1 hour and than peel it before it cools otherwise it gets difficult to peel the sugar beet. Slice and serve it .

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Flowers To Eat

The culinary use of flowers dates back thousands of years with the first recorded mention being in 140 B.C. Many different cultures have incorporated flowers into their traditional foods. Oriental dishes make use of daylily buds and the Romans used mallow, rose and violets. Italian and Hispanic cultures gave us stuffed squash blossoms and Asian Indians use rose petals in many recipes. Turks eat Rose Petal Jam and they also make Rose-scented Turkish Delight. Jasmin Tea is frequently used in China.

Chartreuse, a classic green liqueur developed in France in the seventeeth century, boasts carnation petals as one of its secret ingredients. And, dandelions were one of the bitter herbs referred to in the Old Testament of the Bible.

So, if you want to give it a try with a butter which you could use to add a delicate flower flavor to your cakes, scones, teabreads...etc. you can check this recipe out. For the list of Edible Flowers please check this link.

*Floral Butter:

8 Tablespoons of prepered flower petals** like roses,lavander etc.
250gr. of unsalted butter

Finely chop the flower petals. Put the softened butter into a bowl. Add the petals and mix well. Cover the bowl and let the mixture rest at room temperautre. Than put it into the refrigerator and leave it for a few days to allow the falvor to develop. This butter will keep at the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks or alternatively it can be frozen up to 3 months.

*For more recipes, check out the book of Cooking With Flower By Jekka McVicar
**Please be careful to use just the edible kinds of this flovers. If you are not sure which ones to use, just ask and buy them from a herbal store.

Monday, 17 November 2008

Eating For Victory - Leaflets From th Second World War

Rationing in Britain during the Second World War was seen as a necessary evil, but the government at the time went to graet lengths to ensure that everyone had enough to eat. They were determined, as the official leaflets reproduced in the book of Eating For Victory demonstrates, that the people in Britain should be fit to carry on the fight and for many this meant adopting a far healthier diet than they had ever enjoyed before.

At the end of the first World War, the government took stock of the food problems faced during that period. This led to extensive technical investigations into food preparation, preservation, storage and transport, and to increased research into the sientific aspects of food and nutrition.
Even today we can learn a great deal about health and nutrition from the efforts that were made during the war years. Here are a few examples of the leaflets.

Friday, 10 October 2008

Aphrodisiac Food in Ancient Greece

There were many foods and beverages consumed in ancient Greece that we might not be anxious to try today, like cheese and garlic added to wine, but no more unusual than at least one of the foods that were considered to be aphrodisiacs. When we think of bulbs, the first thing that comes to mind probably isn't "aphrodisiac;" yet, they were highly prized for their reputed positive effect on the libido.

An aphrodisiac is defined as something (like a drug or food) that arouses or intensifies sexual desire. The name is derived from Aphrodite (Venus for the Romans), the Greek goddess of love and beauty.

From ancient times, there have been foods that were believed to increase sexual prowess and desire, and food historians tell us that ancient Greeks were not immune to promises of improved performance and stamina, and heightened pleasure.

Hippocrates is reported to have recommended lentils to keep a man virile well into old age, a practice followed by the Greek philosopher Artistotle, who cooked them with saffron. Plutarch suggested fassolatha (a bean soup, the national dish of Greece) as the way to a strong libido, and others believed that artichokes were not only aphrodisiacs but also ensured the birth of sons.

Among the foods noted as aphrodisiacs of the time are:

Edible bulbs: Ancient Greeks believed that certain bitter edible bulbs stimulated passion. They were cooked in various ways, and eaten with “aphrodisiac salads” containing honey and sesame seeds – two other foods considered libido-boosters.

Garlic: From the most ancient of times, garlic was believed to have magical and therapeutic properties, and was also considered an aphrodisiac. In the times of Homer, Greeks ate garlic daily - with bread, as a condiment, or added to salads.

Leeks: Ancient Greeks considered leeks to be aphrodisiac, probably because of their phallic shape. (They were also used as a diuretic and laxative.)

Mushrooms: Truffles were considered exceptional aphrodisiacs. They grew below the surface on sandy shorelines, and were rare and very expensive (just as they are today).

Onions: Like garlic, the ancients ate onions regularly. In addition to their perceived therapeutic benefits, onions were believed to be an aphrodisiac.

Satirio: Satirio is a type of wild orchid and was referenced as an excellent aphrodisiac by Dioscorides, the 1st century founder of pharmacology.

Stafylinos: This was a plant that grew from seed in the wild that was believed to heighten sexual desire, so much so that it was known as a "sex potion."

Is It or Isn't It?

Mint: Hippocrates believed that frequent eating of mint diluted sperm, hindered erection, and tired the body. There was, however, the diametrically opposed opinion that mint was a very effective aphrodisiac. It is reported that Aristotle advised Alexander the Great not to allow his soldiers to drink mint tea during campaigns because he believed it to be an aphrodisiac.