Wonderful garlic… You either love it or hate it. We love it and today we want to celebrate it in our top 5 garlicky Turkish dishes.
An aromatic blast from the past
Originally from central Asia, the history of eating garlic goes back thousands of years. It’s an important part of the cuisine in every Mediterranean country and is also an important ingredient in African, Asian and European cooking. It’s fair to say that (nearly) the whole world loves garlic!
Although China is currently the world’s biggest producer, followed by India, South Korea, Egypt and Russia, Fethiye has plenty of local garlic (sarımsak) – at this time of year especially, the town’s markets are full of plump, juicy bulbs.
In times gone by, garlic has been considered as a force for both good and evil. Even these days it has a reputation for keeping vampires at bay. The Egyptians ate it to boost their stamina. In medieval times, Europeans munched on masses of garlic, as they believed it warded off the plague, known as the Black Death.
In Islam there is textual evidence prohibiting those who have eaten garlic, onions, and leeks from attending the mosque. This is on account of the discomfort that their breath will cause for the angels and for their fellow worshippers. As a result some Muslims choose not to eat garlicky food.
A magic bulb
These days, many still think that garlic is nature’s wonder drug. It is acknowledged as having a wide range of medicinal properties. In various forms it is used in the treatment and prevention of disease.
Some people think that eating garlic will prolong life, help prevent cancer, lower cholesterol levels and reduce high blood pressure. On a more mundane level eating it is thought to help deter the common cold and fatigue.
Garlic: herb or vegetable?
There appears to be some debate on whether garlic is an herb or a vegetable but whatever the case it is rich in protein, vitamins A, B-1 and C and contains essential minerals such as calcium, magnesium and iron. It also contains 17 different amino acids.
Top 5 Turkish garlicky recipes
Here are our favourite garlicky recipes, in no particular order as we think they are all equally delicious…
Cacık – yogurt, herb and garlic “soup”
A bowl of cacık is often served as part of a meal. It can be “drunk” using a spoon or you can dip chunks of bread in it. Recipes sometime make it so thick it is more like a dip but we like it the traditional soupy way.
Broccoli salatası – Broccoli salad
This recipe is a really delicious way to serve broccoli (brokoli)- and it also works well with cauliflower (karnabahar), spinach (ıspanak) and chard (pazı). We invariably use more garlic than suggested in this recipe.
Carrot salad with yogurt and garlic
One of our favourites, the colour of the dish varies according to the carrots (havuç), from a pinky colour to a bright orange. We add toasted hazelnuts (and more garlic) to ours.
Semiz otu – purslane salad
Aubergines with chillies and garlicky yogurt
A beautiful dish and a great way to use some of our favourite ingredients. There are different kinds of aubergine (patlıcan) but we use the kebab variety – long thin ones (as opposed to the round “top” ones).
Now comes our fifth and final garlicky delight…
That famous garlic sauce that is so often served with fish or köfte, as a dip, or as a spread for crusty toasted bread…
No one we asked would tell us how to make it but we have come up with a recipe that we thinks fits the bill nicely.
1 large juicy bulb of garlic – divided into cloves and peeled
The juice of 1 lemon
1 litre of olive oil or a mix of olive and vegetable oil
A few small hot red chillies – finely chopped
Salt and fresh ground black pepper
Pulverise the garlic in a blender until it is finely chopped, but not quite pureed. Scrape the sides of the blender bowl with a spatula. With the blender motor running, start to add the oil – but drizzle it, don’t pour it. Continue, very very slowly until about half the oil is used up.
Keeping the blender running while adding a little of the lemon juice. Continue to add the oil like before. When nearly all the oil is used, add the rest of the lemon juice, followed by the rest of the oil. Add the chopped chillies and season to taste with salt.
Admittedly, this is more like aioli (without eggs) or toum – a Lebanese garlic sauce – than the Fethiye sauce but we like it anyway.
After the event…
Garlic can add a unique flavour and aroma to food but unfortunately, the sulphuric compounds that gives it health benefits and taste also makes for the after effects – which some find rather unpleasant. Eating parsley can help and some websites write about the subject in detail.
Ultimately, the only way not to smell of garlic is either to make sure everyone around you eats it too – or to stop eating it altogether.
Here in Fethiye we will never do that…
For more information about National Garlic day 2017 click here.