I remember myself on my first visit to Istanbul back in my vegan years drooling over luscious uskumru dolması (stuffed mackerel). "Oh, but the poor animals!" I had to remind myself time and again. "Poor lambs need protection!" I kept spinning in my head whilst gawking at aromatic kebab skewers sizzling on open fire. It was truly an agony trip and it delivered the first chink in my animal rights activist armour.
Many years later I find myself recreating the missed pleasures of Turkey here in London. Luckily, it is easy. Most butcher shops in Brixton Market are run by Turkish or Middle Eastern people who know a thing or two about good lamb chops, for it is Turkey's very finest kuzu pirzola (lamb chops) that I set my mind on today.
Lamb chops don't need much frills. The outcome is down to the quality of the ingredients. The only thing I do with them is marinating them lightly in a mix of:
- a dash of aceto balsamico
- a generous amount of coarsely ground black pepper
- some sea salt
- a tablespoonful of honey
- one herb: it's dried oregano this time for the sake of authenticity but rosemary (I just got some from Olga's garden), mint or hyssop are also good.
The side of stir-fried tomatoes and okra is just that: tomatoes and okra quickly stir-fried with olive oil, salt and pepper. This is a champion combination and there is nothing to add to it.
Bulgur is a Turkish cereal. It is available in most ethnic groceries, if you have those in your neck of the woods. The best way to cook it is by frying it first in butter until it is golden brown and then steam it on very low fire in chicken broth with a pinch of salt.
At a birthday party a couple of months ago I saw a Tunisian girl slow-roasting sultanas and pine nuts for couscous. I decided to do the same for my bulgur. I also added some pistachios, dried figs and apricots.
The final touch is chopped coriander. I use handfuls, you can hardly spoil a meal with it.