How to Barbeque like a Turk

I know how to barbeque.  I am a good Aussie girl and was taught the art of barbeque by the Zen Master of Barbeques – my Dad.  His barbeque boot camps were the stuff legends were made of and anything he put on his barbeque would be cooked to perfection every single time without a drop of beer ever being spilt.  Yep I was taught by the Master and have crazy barbequing skills but here, in Turkiye, all my rad skills taught to me by my Dad are thrown out the window.  The reason?  In Turkiye a barbeque just isn’t a barbeque – its Mangal!

Mangal means to barbeque but it also is the name of the itsy, bitsy, teeny, weeny apparatus that the Turks use to cook their barbeque on and let me tell you a mangal is, in fact, an event.  To mangal takes time.  Preparation of the food and preparation of the barbeque itself – it is a commitment but the end results are always a party for your tastebuds.

Adana mangal

Like households all over the world a caveman-like primeval instinct will take over a Turkish male and it is for him to prepare fire while the females slice and dice in the kitchen preparing the meats and salads.

Watching Turkish men prepare the mangal is an experience in itself.  First they disappear into the nearest forest hunting firewood returning with, in their expert opinion, what is the best firewood ever collected.  If there is more than one Turkish man then they will need to be fierce debate over the quality of their firewood because, of course, it’s all about the size of the wood isn’t it ladies?  Once half a forest has been accumulated by our men it is time to stack the mangal.

Stacking an art form and has been known to cause WWIII on more than one occasion (in our family at least).  Like that age old question of “what came first the chicken or the egg” with mangal it is all about how you prepare the fire to get the ultimate heat.  The correct mix of charcoal briquettes and firewood set in the correct manner should ensure the perfect mangal which should, in theory, ignite with ease and, after its initial blazing inferno, should burn down to a grey ash – the perfect heat for cooking.

BBQ 1

While all this is going on I can usually be found in the kitchen helping (or hindering) my sister in law who is frantically prepare enough food for an army.  Tavuk (chicken) is usually coated with salcha (biber paste), kimyon (cumin) and kırmızı biber (paprika) while the balik (fish) will be marinated in a little zeytin yağı (olive oil) and limon (lemon).  My favourite, and usually my job when and if I ever put down my glass of wine, is to prepare the mincemeat kebabs.  These are so simple that my sister in law knows I won’t stuff them up.  Ready?  It’s as easy as mixing the kıyma (mincemeat), karabiber (black pepper), toz biber (red chilli powder), kimyon (cumin), onion (soğan) and kırmızı biber (red capsicum/pepper).  I use as much or as little as I like as there is no exact recipe so basically I can’t fail.

BBQ 3

Returning with the meats to the mangal which should by now be the hot coals and ash (remember grey ash is the best ash) the men come into play again where they stand over the food and discuss everything from politika to futbol.  One of us ladies have to appear and warn them that the meat is going to be overdone to which we will receive a hearty tamam or tessekuler and a request for another bira.  I usually laugh about now because it doesn’t matter where you are beer is always a pre-requisite for a barbeque.  A final argument about too much tuz (salt) or perhaps how many times the meat has been turned ensues before finally a mountain of meat is hauled off the mangal and to your table which is now full with numerous salads and ekmek (bread).

BBQ 2 (2)

Don’t forget you also need plates of meze to finish off your barbeque.  A quick and easy one and a favourite of mine is Biber Ezmesi.  Cook your biber (no not Justin but probably justifiable) on the mangal as soon as the initial inferno has died down.  Once cool quickly peel them and cut them finely as well as a couple of domates (tomatoes).  You can cheat and use a blender on low but my sister in law swears that cutting by hand makes all the difference.  Mix them with zeytin yağı, nar şurubu (pomegranate juice), two cloves of sarımsak (garlic) and maydanoz (flat leaf parsley) and you have a wonderful meze or relish to add to your table.

biber-ezmasi

If you are travelling to Turkiye this summer make sure you find a restaurant that serves mangal or, even better, buy your own mangal (they are incredibly cheap) and go to your closest piknik spot and prepare your own.  Most butchers sell the mincemeat already prepared with spices for kebabs and even the chicken coated in salcha.  Grab some lamb ribs and marinate them in olive oil and lemon – amazing – or maybe head to the fish market and haggle with the fish mongers for the best fish the Adriatic has to offer.

BBQ 5

If you are unsure what to buy ask your closest Turk and he will give you his expert mangal advice.

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Double Barrel Post

I woke quite early on Saturday morning – my nemesis has been cock-a-doo-a-doo-ing really, really early (yes my nemesis is my neighbour’s rooster).  I hate him.

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You might recall this post when My Hurley Dog took out one of his women, well I am quite sure that he holds me personally responsible for her assassination and he is now waking up even earlier to cock-a-doo-a-doo outside my window.  I hate him.

The only thing he is good for is a roast, or maybe fry up some pieces a-la KFC.  I hate him and I hate his women (of which there are many).

They cluck.  All day.  Cluck, cluck, cluck.  Clucking and cock-a-doo-a-doo-ing.  I hate them all.

A list of reasons to hate chickens:

They are dumb.  They eat everything including their own poop.  They are dumb.  They are ugly.  They smell bad.  They cannot even fly.  They are useless.  But they are pretty tasty.

I have suggested to My Hurley Dog that if the rooster gets into the garden he is to go for the jugular.  He doesn’t understand me but I know he will do it regardless.  He is like The Terminator without the accent.

The other part of my morning was taken up my My Kedi Cat’s bestie.  We have called him Evil (although by the end of this story you will know that ‘he’ is actually a ‘she’).  Evil was a wild little kitten when we first arrived 9 months ago.  He wouldn’t let you near him but through perseverance and a lot of luck I converted Evil into ‘my’ stray.  I always kept an eye out for him and he would always come running to me if he saw me in the street (actually all the Village Kedi’s do that. I am the Village Cat Lady) and, of course, he is my cat’s BFF.

Last Tuesday Evil was asleep in My Hurley Dog’s bed.  He seemed really dopey and quite sick.  I called him to the door to give him a little food and when he stood up there was blood running down his hind legs.  Worse still there was mucus (dare I call it a plug) on the bed.  Ewww.  I did not know what had happened but when I tried to examine him he ran off.  At this point I realised that Evil was in fact a ‘she’ and I expect that she was either in labour or had had a miscarriage.

Fast forward to Saturday morning and I poked my head out the window and saw Evil asleep in My Hurley Dog’s bed again with My Kedi Cat watching her intently.  She was a mess, the bed was a mess too but in the corner of the bed was a teeny, tiny little kitten.  Really tiny.  See, Evil did not look pregnant, even before the bloody incident of last Tuesday she did not look pregnant so to find this teeny, tiny kitten in the bed was quite a shock, particularly as this would indicate that she had been labour for 4 days.  This little guy or girl was quite a fighter though to have survived thus far.

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My Hurley Dog was a little put out by Evil dropping her bub in his bed so I transferred her and bub downstairs with a clean towel and box.  She’s turned out to be a good little mother too, very protective.

Finally and just because, here are some more photos of Nanu’s babies.  They are a bundle of crazy.

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Kittens make me happy.

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Animal Farm

It’s been a while since I have given an update on the strays around our home.

As you know Stanley has been in the wars recently and unfortunately it has not improved for him.  He is still an extremely loving little cat but we have had to ban him from the stairwell as he seems to have lost control of his bowel.  The vet suggested cat nappies which is just ridiculous so he now is chased out of the stairwell whenever we see him.

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We had a number of female cats pregnant and I mentioned the birth of some kittens a couple of weeks back.  Unfortunately none of those kittens survived but Nanu (my mother-in-law’s favourite cat) also had kittens around the same time and her 5 little ginger fluff balls are now strong enough to run around the back of my in-law’s garden.  It seems that all the other cats that were pregnant have lost their babies or perhaps they are extremely well hidden however none of the mothers seem to have any engorged breasts (is that the right terminology?).  I am really not sure what’s going on.

kitten 1

The Turk and I are now starting to capture the female cats and take them to the vet for fixing but Nanu will need to wait until her babies are a little older.  We will also take her babies to the vet for a check-up and shots.

I have noticed that a lot of the cats are sneezing and have runny eyes at the moment so I guess a cat flu is rapidly spreading amongst them.  This is a problem as My Kedi Cat has befriended most of the Village Kedi’s and spends his nights out cruising the çiftlikleri (farms) with his akardasla (friends).  His bestie is often found waiting for him on our terrace while he finishes dinner and they swagger off together into the night – classic.  Thankfully he had all his shots before he came to Turkey but I think it may be time for a check-up for him in the coming weeks.  Sorry My Kedi Cat.

Kedi and Evil

Finally My Hurley Dog caught a chicken yesterday.  Bloody thing somehow ended up in our garden and My Hurley Dog had caught it in an instant.  In the blink of an eye.  Daughter was screaming, I was screaming, The Turk was laughing (and screaming at the dog).  Daughter and I ran out of the garden, across the driveway and was halfway down the street before we came to a screeching halt.  The Turk grabbed My Hurley Dog, forcefully took the carcass off him (he was not giving it up without a fight) and carried it around to show us.  Bastard!

It didn’t end that badly for My Hurley Dog though as Akan (The Turk’s youngest brother) brought half a feking sheep home (including the head) so he scored all the cut offs.  He was one happy little dog last night.

In case you are wondering where my two fur-friends are right now I can tell you.  My Hurley Dog has just come back from a walk with my niece Nisa and My Kedi Cat came wandering in about an hour ago, ate some biscuits and crawled into bed.  Literally crawled into my bed and is under the covers – we won’t see him again until after 6 tonight.  The Turk says it’s like living with a petulant teenager because now that we have giving him his freedom he has reverted to his pre-Sydney personality – that bloody cat or TBC for short!