Afsona-Bonu Mansurova gives
I am from Uzbekistan, and my country shares history, culture and—to a certain extent—language with Turkey. As a result, I am spoiled in terms of knowing about and eating good, authentic Turkish food. Despite my extensive experience with Turkish cuisine, I had great fun in a class which, despite it’s naturally struggling to reproduce authentic Turkish food, made some delicious and accomplished dishes.
The way the class was organized was close to perfect, especially in comparison to the Gourmet Fast Food class I went to during Week 3 (see Emily Grant’s review of a chaotic, but ultimately enjoyable experience here.) The instructors were much more organized and confident than before; they obviously knew exactly what they were doing, so they were more communicative with each other and with their students. The dishes were really well chosen: simple and yet traditional, an excellent introduction to Turkish cuisine.
I particularly liked that they gave us some cultural context of the Turkish food, talked about recipes, taught us different variations, and told us where to find ingredients unusual to Western European cooking. However, I wish we had the opportunity to be more involved in the actual cooking process. It felt like the instructors were hesitant about whether or not they should ask us to help with preparing the food. But we were there to cook! It might have been better if they had just given everyone a task so that we could actually cook dishes altogether as a class. Since we weren’t directly involved in making the food, it was easy to start talking to each other and stop paying attention to how the food was being made. I find that it is easier to remember how to prepare a dish—and also become more familiar with a new cuisine—after you have already cooked it with your own hands.
The issues I had with the lack of class participation didn’t get in the way of the most mouthwatering part of the night: the FOOD itself! The gözleme tasted like heaven, just as it always does. It is a very simple snack-type dish, easy to prepare: you wrap feta cheese and salad leaves (whichever you like, though we used spinach in the class) in filo pastry or lavash (the class used filo pastry) and pan fry with a little oil..et Voila ! The baklava we made was also delicious; it wasn’t too sweet, which was a pleasant surprise.
The rest of the dishes were definitely not bad, but some lacked the right amount of spices to make them taste truly authentic. To be honest, we were warned that would be the case so that even students who are nervous about spice could enjoy everything that was made. Tahini, ground sesame paste, is an important ingredient for baba ganoush (a dish similar to hummus but made with eggplant instead of chickpeas). But I felt like the baba ganoush we made in class didn’t use enough tahini to get the right nutty flavor and creamy texture I associate with the dish. Alas, I suppose we can’t have it all when it comes to Turkish food; we do live in Scotland, after all! Please don’t get me wrong: the girls did a really good job. It is not their fault that some of the necessary ingredients for traditional Turkish food are really hard to find around here!
All in all, I would like to thank the wonderful instructors, who really brought the cooking class to life and helped us discover a whole new world of taste! They are obviously wonderful cooks and teachers, and I can tell that both their cooking and their teaching will just continue to get better with time!
The Fine Food & Dining Society hosts cooking classes on a variety of themes most every Wednesday in the St Andrews Episcopal Church. They also host a myriad of other food-related events. See what they’ve got going on via Facebook or their website.
‘Turkish’ cover, Maria Sisci
All other photos: Afsona-Bonu Mansurova