In an Istanbul traffic jam, half a fig passes hands. Plump and purple, glistening in the afternoon sun. A smile radiates a man’s face. His pleasure warms my heart.
The fig was a gift from a generous vendor at a wonderful weekly market in Sapanca in Turkey where we’d just finished a week’s workshop on food and photography. The man was a fellow participant at the workshop. I’ve taken a lot from the trip, and not just in the kilos of pepper flakes and helva in my suitcase! More about the helva as well as about what I’ve learnt will come in another post. For I am back to blogging.
It was the 10th of the 10th, a momentous number in the calendar symmetries (to my inner synesthetic). By coincidence though, it is the day I decided the go back to blogging. It’s been a while since I blogged. I stopped I don’t even know how. Life took over. A career spent in front of a computer proved little conducive to blogging. I did not stop cooking and exploring food though. I still eat seasonally, and love learning about different cuisines and food cultures. I still love that exploration, discovery and experimentation, and I want to share this.
I deliberated for a while whether to come back or not:
- No time to write. – I’ll make time. Once or twice a month will be manageable. This was the biggie though. I hope I can make it.
- I’m not happy with my food photos. – I’ve already done something about this, and, knowing I needed it as well as wanted it, attended a great food and photography workshop in Turkey. I got back feeling inspired. Inspired to learn more about Turkish cooking and take more food photos, and to revive this blog.
- When it feels there’s too much to write, falling behind, lagging behind, feels awfully daunting. – I’ll be selective, very selective. Write less, and enjoy the writing, and what I write about.
Wish me luck.
To celebrate my return, I present you with two flavourful vegetable salads that go really well together. One strongly flavoured and purple, the other green and light, they are inspired by the beetroot, zaahtar and yoghurt dip from Ottolenghi and Tamimi’s “Jerusalem”, and by my travels in Turkey this summer. You wouldn’t think that pairing sweet roasted beetroot and date molasses would work, but it definitely does. The molasses intensifies and deepens the sweet beetroot flavours, and making the salad taste intensely savoury. Zaahtar adds herby and nutty flavours, and parsley and sharp feta elevate it all. The lemony light leeks make for a perfect balancing partner to this sweet & savoury fireworks on a plate. Enjoy.
Roasted beetroot and feta salad
1 bunch of beetroot (about 1 kg),
1 tsp zaahtar
2 tsp date molasses
½ tsp hot Turkish pul biber (or chilli flakes)
100 g feta cheese, crumbled into 2 cm chunks
2 tsp chopped parsley (approx.)
Salt + pepper
Preheat the oven to 200 C.
Prepare the beetroot: peel and cut into 6ths, and then cut these half-moons in half. Toss with olive oil and salt, and bake for about 60 min, or until the beetroot is cooked and soft.
Once the beetroot is done, leave it to cool a little. Chop the feta and parsley, leaving a little aside for garnish.
Add the zaahtar, date molasses, pul biber, feta and parsley to the beetroot and stir. Add salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with the remaining feta and parsley before serving.
Simple lemony leeks
3 medium leeks
1 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tbsp light-tasting extra virgin olive oil
Prepare the leeks: trim the rough green edges, and remove the outer layers. Cut into 10 cm segments.
Put the leeks in a pan and add water and a pinch of salt. Bring to boil, then lower the heat to medium low and cook for about 10 min until the leeks are tender. Take care not to overcook the leeks.
When the leeks are done, arrange them on a plate, squeeze a little lemon juice over them, and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with a little sea salt.