Ezo the Bride’s Soup

20 October 2016

Knidos Cookery Club is off to a wedding soon so we did a quick google to see what Turkey has in the way of wedding-related foodstuffs and chanced upon this soup with a great backstory.

One wedding day tradition in Turkey is to the feed up the bride-to-be with a hearty soup, Ezogelin Çorbası, to help her prepare for the rigours of her wedding day and the subsequent move into the groom’s household.

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The name translates as ‘Ezo the Bride’s Soup’ and the recipe comes from the tale of a woman, Ezo, short for Zöhre, who was born in 1909 in a village near Gaziantep, now in south-eastern Turkey on the border with Syria.

She became famed in the region for her her looks and was highly sought after as a bride. Eventually, she married a man from a neighbouring village but unfortunately the marriage didn’t work out. One version of the tale, that has inspired short stories, folk songs, a film and a TV series in Turkey, as well as the soup, has it that her husband loved another so Ezo left him.

In 1936, Ezo married again and moved with her husband over the border to the town of Jarabulus in Syria. She pined for her homeland and to quell her homesickness she would cook a soup that reminded her of Turkey – a filling combination of red lentils, bulgur wheat, rice, tomato paste, herbs and spices. She also used the soup to win over her mother-in-law, a move crucial to finding happiness in her new home.

Ezo had nine children with her second husband, but she only lived to her mid-40s, dying in 1956 in Jarabulus. Her last wish was to be buried on a hillside overlooking her beloved homeland. Her memory lives on in this soup and in the legends that have grown up around her life story.

Ingredients (Makes four servings)

150 g red lentils

50 g coarse bulgur wheat

25 g rice

one medium-sized onion

one or two cloves of garlic

one lemon

25 ml olive oil

1.2 l warm water

3-4 tablespoons of tomato paste (a more liquid form of tomato purée – if using purée then two tablespoons should suffice)

two teaspoons of dried mint

black pepper

two teaspoons of chili flakes

sprig of fresh mint

Method

Wash the red lentils, bulgur wheat and rice and soak for two hours in cold water.

Finely chop the onion and garlic and fry for five minutes in the olive oil in a heavy-based pan. Add the red lentils, bulgur wheat and rice, pour in one litre of water and simmer over a low to medium heat for 30 minutes or until everything is cooked.

Add the tomato paste, the dried mint, chili flakes and some black pepper and 200 ml of water and the juice of one lemon and stir well. Simmer for ten or fifteen minutes until the soup is taking on a creamy texture.

Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with a sprig of fresh mint and sprinkle more chili flakes over the top. Serve with a slice of lemon and some crusty bread.

Dolma Dreaming

21 April 2016

This week, Knidos Cookery Club is turning its attention to stuffed vegetables – dolma in Turkish, from the verb dolmak which means to fill or stuff.

Any vegetable that can be hollowed out can be used to make dolma – aubergines, courgettes, peppers or tomatoes are great for this. The filling can consist of rice mixed with herbs and spices and sometimes dried fruit such as raisins or currants and pine nuts.

Knidos Cookery Club particularly likes the way tomatoes go all soft and mushy when baked and some perfect specimens were sourced from the market. Courgettes are beginning to re-appear after their winter break and a kilo were added to the shopping basket for subsequent stuffing. With spinach also in abundance, we picked up a few bunches to add to the rice for the dolma mix.

Here’s what the finished dish should look like …

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Ingredients (serves 3-4)

Two medium-sized courgettes

Four medium-sized tomatoes

250 g fresh spinach

One cup (approx. 100g) of short or long grain rice (We recommend brown rice for its nuttier flavour)

250 ml vegetable stock

One medium-sized onion

Mixed herbs and spices (thyme, parsley, mint, oregano, black pepper, chili pepper, salt)

A handful of dried fruit (currants and/or raisins) and a few pine nuts

Olive oil for cooking

Juice of two medium-sized lemons

A knob of garlic

For the cucumber sauce: one small cucumber, fresh chopped mint, 100ml thick natural yogurt

Method

Pour a generous glug of olive oil into a heavy-based pan and add the chopped onion and garlic. Cook over a medium heat until the onion becomes translucent. Add mixed herbs, seasoning, dried fruit and pine nuts.

Add the washed and soaked rice to the onion mix and stir to cover the grains with oil. Next add the stock and cook over a low heat until the liquid is absorbed.

While the rice is cooking, pre-heat the oven to 200 °C (gas mark 6) and soften the washed spinach in a frying pan with a little splash of olive oil until it starts to wilt.

Slice the tops off the tomatoes and scoop out the liquid from the middle. Top and tail the courgettes and scoop out the contents with a teaspoon in a drilling motion. (Keep the tomato liquid and courgette middles to cook with later).

When the rice has absorbed all the liquid, add the wilted spinach to the mixture, stirring it thoroughly into the cooked rice.

Stuff the tomatoes and courgettes with the rice mixture and arrange in a baking dish. Pour the lemon juice and a healthy dash of olive oil over the vegetables. Put the tops back on the tomatoes.

Place in the pre-heated oven and bake at 200 °C (gas mark 6) for 30 minutes or so or until the skin of the vegetables starts to go brown and bubbly. Add a small amount of water if the lemon juice is all absorbed.

While they’re cooking, make the cucumber sauce. Combine the grated cucumber with the yogurt and fresh mint. Add garlic to taste.

Serve immediately or allow to cool – it’s up to you. Don’t forget to pour the cucumber sauce over the dolma before eating.