Roux

Finding the perfect burger in Mersin can be a little tricky.  I mean unless you yourself have ever had the perfect burger replicating it can be a little tricky and, let’s be honest, a lot of the chefs here in Mersin are chefs … here in Mersin … so may not have had the good fortune of having enjoyed the perfect burger elsewhere.

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And we all know that joy of the perfect burger.  It’s a thing of beauty.  A satisfying mess of all things delicious.  Beef (good).  Cheese (good).  Grilled onion (good).  For an Aussie nothing says a good burger like beetroot (not so easy to get here in Mersin unless you grow it yourself) and delicious, fresh avocado smeared onto that bun (goooodddd).  Honestly there are few things culinary that can be relied upon to do their job as effectively as the perfect burger.

Of course I can try and replicate the perfect burger here at home.  In the Village the local butcher makes a pretty mean patty with a delicious mix of herbs and a pretty decent ratio of meat to fat but as close as I can come it just doesn’t cross the line as a winner.

I recently visited the newly rebranded Roux Restaurant in Mezitli.  I originally went there last year, in fact the expats had their Christmas party there, but with the change of ownership it was time to re-visit and check out their new menu.  It always has been a burger restaurant but with the addition of chef Gamze Sener who had previously worked at Movenpick Hotel in Istanbul the menu is a punchy, modern version to drool over.

So you are wondering ‘how was the burger’?

Pretty damn good.  I had the Hot Tamale burger which was a definite two-hander consisting of thick beef patty cooked to perfection with gooey cheddar cheese oozing over the meat, a mountain of fresh avocado and oodles of chilli and pickles to top it off.  It came with home-made chips (crisps) and a little side salad.  It was totally more-ish.  Don’t fret if you are not a fan of the burger (I know right??) the menu also has vegetarian choices, pasta dishes, fish and chicken to tempt your taste buds.

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My only complaint was that my glass of wine was not full enough but after discussion with the waiter he saw the error of his ways and the glass of wine was filled to a more ‘Janey appropriate’ level.

I know that many of you will visit family in Mersin over the next few months so do yourself a flavour favour and visit Roux.  You will not be disappointed and you might just find me sitting there in a corner, cheese dripping down my fingers as I make my way through the menu (I will definitely need to purchase some larger pants).  Next time I’m having the Jack Burger.  I’ll let you know how it is.

Roux

All photos courtesy of Roux Restaurant, Adnan Menderes Bulvari, Fatih Mahallesi, 30012, Mezitli, Mersin

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The Silence of the Lambs

I don’t eat an awful lot of meat here in Turkiye.  It just doesn’t have the same taste and consistency and, frankly, my hips are thankful that I give meat a miss more often than not but the one thing I cannot avoid here in the village is my neighbours preparing a Feast of Thanks to Allah.

I always know when a neighbour is preparing a feast.  The huge pots are delivered early in the day to enable a thorough cleaning prior to cooking.  Then sheep, goats and even cows are delivered for inspection before a choice is made.  It is usually at that time I disappear and don’t come back out until morning although yesterday I walked straight past a sacrifice just as it started – devastation.  I understand why an animal is sacrificed.  I understand why it is important to the worshipper but I find the whole practice of an animal being put to death cruel and I choose to not take part in the preparation.  Before you cry “but you still eat meat” yes I do.  I am a hypocrite – I get it.

Bayram feast

The Turk’s family prepared a feast recently in memory of his mother’s passing.  This is called Yas Bayram (mourning bayram).  I know that two sheep lost their life in our driveway and I know that everyone in my family stayed up the whole night to prepare a meal of meat, rice (cous cous) and chickpeas that are then given to neighbours and the less fortunate in Refika’s memory.  I did not eat the meal that was prepared by the family and I apparently offended my sister in law in the process.  I do not regret this decision.  I miss The Turk’s mum a lot, she has a wonderful woman and think her fondly each and every day.  I do not need to take the life of an animal to remember her.

The Turk argues with me that I ate a butt load of meat back in Australia (which is why my butt is now a wide load) but more importantly I need to immerse myself in all aspects of the Turkish culture and take part in these village rituals.  I took part – I helped pay for the feast.  That is more than enough for me.

Growing up in the Sydney suburbs I was not privy to the inner workings of a farm or an abattoir.  Yes I am part of the meat and two veg lifestyle but the meat that I ate was purchased in packages and its blood isn’t staining my driveway.  An animal still died to feed me but not by my hand or by my husband’s hand or a neighbour and certainly not where I can see it die.  I guess you can ignore a lot when it is not in your face.

Daughter has often gone fought with her conscience about eating meat but here in Turkiye she pretty much has become a vegetarian.  She will not eat chicken (as she hears them clucking on every corner).  She will not eat cows or sheep (as they are often in the garden across the street although she will eat a hamburger – go figure) and she will never eat fish (more about the taste than anything else).  She is happy with her decision and I am quite proud of her for standing by her quasi morals (other than the hamburger that is).

I still love a steak and the next time I find myself at the Newport Arms Hotel (best pub lunch in Sydney) I will order the steak with pepper sauce and salad *drool* but here in Turkiye I will continue to maybe pass on the meat depending on each situation but what I wouldn’t do for a pub lunch.   Mmmmm.

Cig Köfte 1 – Janey 0

I recently found myself sitting across from my sister in law as she made Köfte.  I have watched her make different varieties of the Köfte many times but this variety was unique and I should have known that right from the start.  Why?  The name – ciğ = raw.  Raw Meatball.

cig kofte

According to folk lore the Ciğ Köfte originated in Urfa.  The wife of the great Nimrod went to cook a feast and found there was no firewood (as Nimrod had used it for a funeral pyre) so she mixed the meat with many spices and crushed them until the meal was palatable.  It obviously worked for her and the Ciğ Köfte is served in one form or another in most restoranlar or lokanta from here to the border.

The Ciğ Köfte is similar to the Lebanese dish of Kibbe Nayyeh or perhaps the Chee kufta which is an Armenian dish but if we go with the folk lore the Ciğ Köfte is Turkish all the way.

After watching my sister in law make them I can say that there is not a lot of raw meat in the köfte rather it has couscous, a small amount of raw mince and a heap of spices.  Anyone who saw my Köfte recipe from a couple of months back will see that making the Köfte is really simple and to make it a Ciğ Köfte it is merely a matter of adding a butt load of spice and, of course, the raw meat.  The spices are crazy hot too (including isot, cumin and, of course, my mother in law’s red pepper paste) and The Turk tells me that being crazy hot they “cook” the meat and remove any germ.  I am not really sure about that but as usual I am the first to give it a go.

And if you want to make this a vegetarian dish then simply replace the meat with crushed walnuts.  Simple.

Wrapped in a piece of lettuce, a drizzle of lemon and an ayran (yogurt drink) to combat the spice, they were pretty damn good.  Really tasty but also really spicy.  I suffered afterwards with indigestion and was sweating up a storm lying on the couch clutching my stomach (which is still not quite used to that much spice in a dish) but it was enough for The Turk to declare the Ciğ Köfte the champion!  Finally something that I couldn’t finish!

Post indigestion I finished off the Ciğ Köfte.  Nothing is going to beat me!

If you want to give this recipe a try follow this link.

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Coucous Kofte

My next couple of posts may or may not be about food.  My sister in law has been home the last few days so I’ve been going backwards and forwards between houses drinking copious amounts of çay while watching and attempting to learn how to make a few different Turkish dishes.

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In Mersin most of the meals are simple and grain based so I’ve been cooking a lot of couscous, boreks, pirinç (rice) and the like as well as finishing off the last of the Swedish chard.  Daughter loves my sister in law’s kofte (I call them balls) made from couscous and because they are so simple I thought I would take a crack at it myself and you know what?  It really was that easy.

To start I made the couscous.  I used 3 cay cups of bulgur and 1 cup of warm water and then put it aside.  I would say that was the equivalent to 1 metric cup of coucous.

My sister in law’s recipe calls for a couple of large bunches (2) of maydanoz (parsley) and one large bunch of nane (mint).  I chopped them up quite finely and then put them aside.  I also boiled two potatoes and left them to cool.

I think the important part of the dish is the sauce.  A good serving of vegetable oil along with two soğan (onion) kimyon (cumin) for taste, and my mother in law’s chilli paste which we made last spring.  Once all are in the pot I left them to simmer for a good 15 minutes.  I added sarimsak (garlic) into my recipe (I add garlic into everything).  My sister in law was horrified but I don’t think it took away any of the flavour in fact I think it probably made it richer.

Once that sauce has simmered I add the maydanoz and nane and mix it well while it was still on the stove.  The aroma was sensational (I think it was adding the garlic).  I was feeling pretty good at this point, nothing was going to stop this from being a success.

Now it was down to mixing all the ingredients together.  It was hot and messy work and it took some time to ensure that everything did mix sufficiently well.  Once mixed I rolled them into balls and threw them on a plate. 

I had kept a small amount of the sauce aside and added some chilli powder and put it on top to finish the dish.  With a Turkish salad dinner was served. 

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To finish off this post I just want to say that my father in law (famous or infamous for hating my cooking) ate a huge plate and gave me the two thumbs up.  Progress!

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