Istanbul & Beyond: Exploring the Diverse Cuisines of Turkey, written by Robyn Eckhardt, features a variety of regional and often lesser known recipes from provinces across Turkey. Highlights include Ay Çöreği (Chocolate-Filled Crescent Pastries), Muhlama (Cheese Fondue with Corn Flour), Doleme (Meatballs with Pumpkin and Spice Butter), Dere Salatasi (Peppery Greens & Tomato Spoon Salad), and Cevizli Burma Kadayıf (Syrup-Soaked Crispy Walnut Rolls). I will also be sharing her recipe for Eski Peynirli Hangel (Turkish Handkerchief Noodles with Blue Cheese and Butter) following the review.
Disclosure: I received this book from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in exchange for my honest review. All comments and opinions are my own. This post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase something through the link, I may receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.
Robyn Eckhardt is a food and travel journalist currently based in Italy. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Food & Wine. She has also written food guides for Lonely Planet’s Malaysia, Singapore, and Vietnam. In addition to writing, Robyn provides culinary and photography excursions in Turkey along with food writing and photography workshops with David Hagerman. This is her first cookbook.
Istanbul & Beyond
The chapters are divided according to region: Workers’ Canteens, Street Fare & a Multiethnic Past (Istanbul); Fish, Corn & Greens (The Black Sea); Beef & Dairy (The Northeast); High Pasture, Wild Herbs & Sheep (Van & Hakkâri); Urfa Peppers & Silk Road Spices (The Southeast); Olives, Pomegranates & Chiles (Hatay Province); Wheat, Legumes & Lamb (North-Central Anatolia); and Basics & Daily Dishes. The recipes have also been listed at the beginning of the book by category (breakfast, appetizers, etc) with page numbers for easy reference.
Among all the incredible recipes, Robyn has included stories from her travels to the different provinces and details on what makes each region’s cuisine special. The map at the beginning of the book is particularly helpful for those not familiar with the area. She has also written a guide for common Turkish pantry staples and a glossary of useful words and phrases (plus pronunciation).
The beautiful photography is provided by husband David Hagerman with food/prop styling by Catrine Kelly. Many of the recipes are accompanied by a quarter to full page photo of the finished dish. You will also find step-by-step photos on how to make the Tirnak Pidesi (Fingerprint Flatbread), Ekşili Lahana Sarması (Cabbage Rolls in Tomato & Sumac Sauce), and Içli Köfte (Spicy Meat-Filled Bulgur Dumplings with Tomato & Mint Sauce). I especially love the images scattered throughout of Turkey’s countryside and people.
The names of the recipes are written in English and Turkish. Measurements are provided in US Customary. Each dish includes a headnote with background information, personal stories, tips, menu suggestions, preparation time, and serving size.
This book is a great pick for those interested in regional Turkish cuisine. There is such a wonderful variety of recipes, including so many that I had never heard of before. The dishes range from incredibly simple salads and appetizers to more intricate pastries and weekend-style dinners. Having a Turkish or Middle Eastern market nearby will be helpful for locating items such as purple basil, Turkish pepper paste, fine/medium bulgur, pomegranate molasses, Urfa pepper, sumac, kadayıf, nigella seeds, za’atar, Le Puy lentils, wheat berries, Turkish grape vinegar, chickpea flour, tahini, Asian eggplants, fenugreek, golden raisins, Turkish pepper flakes, and ground mahlep. Substitutions have been provided when available.
Eski Peynirli Hangel (Turkish Handkerchief Noodles with Blue Cheese and Butter)
Robyn came across these Eski Peynirli Hangel (Hankerchief Noodles with Blue Cheese and Butter) in Toptaş, a village about fifty miles north of Kars city in northeastern Turkey. Sheets of fresh pasta are cut into squares, boiled until just tender, and topped with melted butter, blue cheese, parsley, and crushed red pepper flakes.
The pasta is made with a combination of bread flour, eggs, salt, and water. It is allowed to rest 30 minutes to overnight to make the dough easier to handle with a silky texture. A pasta machine can be used to form the dough into thin sheets, but I had no difficulty rolling the pasta out by hand. Each sheet is cut into 1 1/2-2 inch squares and boiled until just tender, al dente.
A housewife named Ayşe topped these noodles with melted butter and homemade blue string cheese. Crumbled blue cheese has been substituted here. Others possible toppings include browned onions or yogurt, butter, and red pepper flakes.
For the crushed red pepper flakes (Pul Biber), regular crushed red pepper flakes may be substituted if you can’t find a Turkish variety. With the production of Aleppo pepper compromised, chile flakes labelled as Maraş Pepper are becoming more readily available. The flakes should be a vivid crimson with no seeds.
Looking for more Turkish pasta dishes? Try Cevizli Erişte (Turkish Walnut Pasta), Firinda Kiymali Makarna (Turkish Baked Pasta with Ground Beef), and Manti (Turkish Dumplings).
I also made Murtağa (Brown Butter Scrambled Eggs), Tirnak Pidesi (Fingerprint Flatbread), Güneydoğu Usulü Meyhane Pilavi (Drinking-House Pilaf with Almonds, Walnuts & Urfa Pepper), and Tarçin Çayi (Warming Cinnamon Tea).
I had never heard of adding flour to scrambled eggs before coming across this Murtağa. Butter is melted and mixed with flour until browned and nutty before stirring in the eggs and cooking until scrambled. Robyn mentions that when the eggs are served with a drizzle of pale flower honey (common in Van), they taste similar to an extra-eggy French toast.
The Tirnak Pidesi (Fingerprint Flatbread) was such a fun bread to prepare. After two hours of proofing, the dough is shaped into a flattened circle and decorated using the sides of the hands and fingertips as they are dipped in the prepared wash. The bread can optionally be topped with sesame or nigella seeds and baked until golden.
At first glance, I thought the Güneydoğu Usulü Meyhane Pilavi (Drinking-House Pilaf with Almonds, Walnuts & Urfa Pepper) would be on the complicated side with its longer list of ingredients and being a pilaf, but it actually wasn’t difficult at all. All of the ingredients (including rice lamb, carrots, onion, three types of chilies, walnuts, almonds, and spices) are combined in a baking dish, covered with tomato paste and water, and baked until everything is cooked through and tender. Robyn received this recipe from a patron of a bread bakery in Siverek. She recommends serving the leftovers with sautéed leafy greens or an egg.
Tarçin Çayi also comes from Van (apparently I am very drawn to the cuisine of this region). This tea, considered a preventative for colds and flu, comes together in less than 20 minutes. Fresh ginger, turmeric, black peppercorns, cinnamon sticks, and cloves are simmered in water and the resulting tea is strained into cups to serve. I appreciated the warning Robyn gave about working with fresh turmeric and its ability to stain everything. I always forget and end up with yellowed fingertips/cutting board/etc.
Eski Peynirli Hangel (Turkish Handkerchief Noodles with Blue Cheese and Butter) Recipe
Excerpt from Istanbul & Beyond
Eski Peynirli Hangel (Turkish Handkerchief Noodles with Blue Cheese and Butter)
For the pasta:
- 3 cups (16 ounces) bread flour plus more for tossing the pasta
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 2 large eggs
- 1/3 cup water plus more as needed
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
- 1 1/2 cups (about 6 ounces) crumbled blue cheese
- Handful of coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley optional
- Turkish or other crushed red pepper flakes for serving
Make the noodles:
- Mound the flour in a large wide bowl or on a work surface. Sprinkle over the salt and make a well in the middle. Bread the eggs into the well and mix the yolks and whites with your finger or a fork, then mix the flour with the eggs by drawing it into the center of the well with your hands, a fork, or a dough scraper; the mixture will be crumbly. Sprinkle the water over and rub or cut it in. Continue to add water a tablespoon at a time, mixing after each addition, until the dough holds together but is not sticky; you may need to add up to an additional 1/3 cup water. Turn out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead the dough just until it is smooth, about 5 minutes. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, or overnight.
- Divide the dough into 4 pieces. On a lightly floured work surface, roll each piece as thin as possible with a floured rolling pin (or use a pasta machine). Use a sharp knife to cut the dough into 1 1/2 to 2 inch squares. Put the cut noodles on a baking sheet. Sprinkle about a tablespoon of flour over the noodles and toss lightly.
- Bring a 5-quart pot of water to a boil. Add the noodles and boil until they rise to the surface and are al dente, about 5 minutes.
- While the noodles are cooking, melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat and heat until it sizzles. Remove from the heat and cover to keep warm.
- Drain the noodles and transfer to individual serving bowls. Top with the cheese and pour the hot butter over. Garnish with the parsley, if using, and serve immediately, passing red pepper flakes at the table.