We find cooking classes to be one of the most enjoyable and interactive ways to learn about a new country, city or cuisine. Where else can we get insider information on local dishes, ingredients, customs, family life, manners and setting a traditional table?
In Istanbul we were eager to expand our understanding of Turkish food and signed up for Turkish Flavors, Sephardic cooking class which delves into founder, Selin Rozanes’ family recipes. After an introduction to Turkish seasonings at the spice market, we were ferried across the Bosphorus where a car shuttled us to her handsome home with its well designed teaching kitchen.
We went right to work with Selin’s expert guidance on techniques, spice mixes, variances in Turkish red pepper pastes and advice on how to procure the freshest local ingredients.
There was plenty of chopping, rolling, forming, mixing, sautéing, baking and boiling. But with the work spread between our team of participants, and Selin’s lovely housekeeper taking care of all the washing up, it felt effortless, playful and productive. A little white wine soothed any discomfort we may have felt during the rainy, cold and exceptionally windy day, which turned out to be perfect weather for a cooking class.
We progressed at breakneck speed and at the end of an hour and a half, had an expansive feast laid before us.
Turkish dedication to hospitality, beautiful presentation, as well as delicious food was evident and we spent the afternoon leisurely savoring and discussing Turkish food and culture.
Our main dish, Split Belly Eggplant (Karniyarik), combined ground beef, onions, herbs and spices, which are stuffed into eggplant halves before being drenched in tomato sauce and decorated for aesthetic and flavor optimization.
Selin is more than happy to adjust the menu to accommodate dietary restrictions and the vegetarians in the group were easily taken care of without depriving the omnivores.
Carrots in garlicky yogurt and tahini dressing, one of the stars of the class, is an inspired melange of freshly grated carrot sweetness playing off tangy dairy and smooth, rich, sesame paste.
After savoring a tableful of family recipes, we were rewarded with dried apricots boiled in wine and cloves, stuffed with clotted cream and rolled in pistachios. A most civilized end to a day delving into the Turkish culinary arts. We left with full bellies, open hearts and a recipe book filled with Selin’s top secret recipes.
Turkish Flavors offers walking tours of Istanbul, cultural and culinary tours in a variety of locations and her famous cooking classes, all designed to make you feel like a native. Bon Appetite.