There are few things that make me more proud of my Turkish heritage than when well-travelled food professionals who’ve eaten their way around a fair bit of the world, with no ancestral ties to the country themselves, declare loud and proud that Turkish cuisine is one of their favourites.
Firstly, there’s Allegra McEvedy – a British chef, broadcaster, co-founder of Blackfoot restaurant and the healthy fast-food chain Leon. In 2012, she presented a whole series on Turkish food as she travelled around the country. I recall tuning into every episode, finding it a struggle to do so before dinner.
There’s also Rebecca Seal; a British journalist and Channel 4’s Sunday Brunch resident food and drinks expert. She’s also the author of a gorgeous cookbook about recipes from Istanbul.
To that list, we can now add John-Gregory Smith – chef, food writer, intrepid explorer of Turkey, all round lovely guy, and one of Turkish food’s biggest fans.
It’s easy to see why they fall so hard for this cuisine. Start with a quick leaf through John’s Turkish Delights cookbook, showcasing regional recipes from the Bosphorus to the Black Sea, and all will become clear.
No soul with a genuine love for eating can fail to be captivated by its stunning pages full of things you want to feast on, and more importantly, believe you can easily cook. Combining sparkling photography by Martin Poole with 100 recipes you want to dive head first into, John has managed to evoke the wanderlust for a country that quite simply, wants to feed you.
How can anyone fail to be roused by the promise of golden nuggets of minced lamb with smoky aubergine yogurt; meaty stews spiked with cumin, oregano, thyme and black pepper; charred pomegranate beef kebabs; black olive-encrusted pulled lamb (be still, my beating heart); pides with artichokes, chicken and olives; seabass koftes with smoky red pepper sauce; filo swirls with walnuts and cinnamon. You can’t, is the answer.
Pore over the pages and soak up the enthusiasm, knowledge and hunger for great Turkish food John is so good at igniting in others. Then get in the kitchen and rustle one of them up for dinner.
See here for John’s delicious Ali Nazik recipe from Turkish Delights.