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Berrin Torolsan is a writer, photographer, picture editor and the publisher of Cornucopia. She has become particularly well-known for her recipes and photography. Her first book, At Home in Turkey, was published by Thames and Hudson in 2008.
Since the 1940s time has stood still under the pines and palms of this modest Art Deco villa on Istanbul’s Marmara shore. Berrin Torolsan meets Suna Erbil Demirağ, who has fiercely protected it as a tribute to her pioneering father, who carved out a thousand kilometres of Turkey’s railways before building this much-loved haven. Photographs by Monica Fritz
A favourite ingredient in almost every country in the world for thousands of years – where would we be without the ever-versatile onion? Berrin Torolsan traces its eye-watering history and serves up a feast of mouth-watering recipes
Once the staple food of nomads and warriors, pastırma has turned into a gourmet delicacy. Text and photographs by Berrin Torolsan
The gate guarding the Ottoman Ministry of War – today’s Istanbul University – is an eloquent example of the Orientalist style that took both East and West by storm in the 19th century. In the gate’s shadow stands the Princes’ Lodge, once the refuge of high-born officers on parade day, now an exotic refectory where professors of Istanbul University enjoy lunch. By Berrin Torolsan. Photographs by Monica Fritz
Delicious and versatile, the tiny lentil packs a powerful nutritional punch. Possibly man’s first food crop, this legume seed is as popular in modern Turkey as it was in Neolithic times. Berrin Torolsan has her finger on the pulse
For many peoples bulgur came before bread. It may now be ultra-fashionable, but versatile, nutritious bulgur was in fact the world’s first processed food. Berrin Torolsan celebrates the revival of this Anatolian staple and its nutty joys with a collection of intriguing recipes
The artist Lithian Ricci has rescued a dilapidated old house on the Golden Horn – and transformed it into a magical work of art. Berrin Torolsan is dazzled. Photographs: Monica Fritz
For Ottoman interiors at their luminous best, the Balkans are the place to go. In 2004 Berrin Torolsan discovered old Filibe, today’s Bulgarian city of Plovdiv, recently a European Capital of Culture. In this sleepy backwater she stepped into an Ottoman time warp, the enchanting House of Hindliyan. Photographs by Tim Beddow
Fruit poached to perfection, the fragrant ‘hoşaf’, or compote, is a simple, soothing finale to any meal – be it banquet or family dinner. Berrin Torolsan traces its origins to the sultan’s kitchens and serves up some irresistible recipes and photographs
Centuries ago, travellers to Turkey were amazed by a new, uplifting taste sensation: the sherbet, flowery or fruity, and served with ice. Berrin Torolsan traces the history of sherbets and the sorbets made from them, and serves up an irresistible array of cooling summery treats
Once ubiquitous and widely valued for its medicinal powers, the medlar has been neglected for more than a century as it calls for patience and cannot be mass-marketed. So take advantage of this ambrosial amber-coloured fruit wherever you find it – in street markets, in country gardens or in the wild. Text and photographs: Berrin Torolsan
The work of Feyhaman Duran and his contemporaries, once dismissed as unfashionably figurative, is now attracting renewed interest. A recent exhibition at the Sakıp Sabancı Museum in Istanbul celebrated their work. The first T urkish painters to work in the Western manner, this group of artists - known as the ‘1914 generation’ - often learnt their craft at military academies, which prized topographical skills. They all, to a man, went on to study in Paris, and, like the French Impressionists, they painted en plein air, capturing the fleeting moods of Istanbul’s landscapes. Berrin Torolsan selects some of her favourites from the exhibition
The age-old ambrosia of nomadic herdsmen, there is still nothing to beat a really good white cheese made from fresh ewe’s milk. Silky-textured, yet firm and piquant, it is ideal at breakfast with olives or with a glass of raki at the end of the day – and brilliant for cooking
As the Topkapi prepares to open up parts of the palace long kept hidden, we recall the time Cornucopia was granted rare access to what remains the most secret section of all – the quarters of the Black Agas. These powerful African eunuchs guarded the Harem and controlled the finances of the hugely wealthy Queen Mother. Text by Berrin Torolsan. Photographs by Fritz von der Schulenburg
The beet family – beetroot, chard and sugar beet – are celebrated as health foods today. But these tasty, vibrant plants have been enjoyed for centuries, and for good reason: they make gorgeous soups, salads and pickles, and add richness and colour to so many other dishes. Text and photographs by Berrin Torolsan
Beloved of birds and bees, prized by Ottoman sultans and Bourbon kings, pears are a particular joy eaten ripe from the tree. But cooking coaxes the flavour out of even those mass-market varieties grown for a long shelf life and ripened in cold storage
In a chilly spring the apricot trees of Cappadocia were frothing with white blossom. By early summer the boughs would be heavy with fruit, to be eaten fresh from the branch, dried in the sun – or made into conserves like bottled sunshine for the cold winter months. Text and photographs by Berrin Torolsan
The dusty rooms of a crumbling Istanbul palazzo are a living museum of the plaster-caster’s art. Berrin Torolsan visits the heir to a fine tradition. Photographs by Fritz von der Schulnburg
And the award for most versatile, most nourishing and best-loved ingredient goes to… the humble chickpea. Berrin Torolsan explores its history and its limitless talent to entertain us in a multitude of different roles
It was for centuries the preserve of sultans, extolled by the ancients, sought after in the harem, a staple of palace kitchen and pharmacy. More precious than gold, mastic brought fortune and tears to the island of Chios, today the world’s sole source of this ‘Arabic gum’. Now, thanks to a pioneering initiative, the Turkish shores across the water will be green with mastic groves. Text and photographs by Berrin Torolsan
Visitors arriving by water at the sultans’ pavilion of Küçüksu Kasrı could scarcely believe their eyes. As the gates on the Bosphorus swung open, they entered a world of head-turning theatricality, beauty and embellishment – a Dolmabahçe Palace in miniature that charmed a prince. By Berrin Torolsan. Interior photographs by Fritz von der Schulenburg
Oozing delicious juices, irresistibly moreish, the ‘tirit’ covers a range of traditional Turkish soups and stews, both savoury and sweet, with slices of bread at their heart. Berrin Torolsan serves up the ultimate in comfort food
The beautiful broad bean is far more than the sum of its seemingly simple parts. It has almost magical restorative powers. It’s delicious too. Berrin Torolsan shows how to make the most of these bundles of joy
Abdülhamid II amazed his subjects by retreating behind high walls on a hilltop above Beşiktaş, taking his court and government with him. Here he created a city within a palace – in part with his own hands. In a two-part feature, Berrin Torolsan tells the story of the palace, its park and its guesthouse. Photographs by Fritz von der Schulenburg
The potato was a latecomer to Turkish cookery, but today it is hard to imagine life without it. The humble spud, the ultimate in comfort food, is endlessly versatile,and also comes packed with goodness. Berrin Torolsan serves up some favourite dishes
Most fast food is heavy, greasy and bad for your health. Güllaç pancakes, by contrast, are beautiful organza-thin leaves, light as a feather and made from the simplest ingredients. What’s more, they keep for an age. Berrin Torolsan sees the best gullaç in the making
Whether or not it originated with Alexander the Great, pasta, in all its shapes and sizes, is a food that has known no boundaries of class, country or time, nourishing babies, delighting emperors and keeping armies on the move. Berrin Torolsan celebrates the Turkic take on a practical staple
From a trusty staple to the stuff of feasts, beans are at the very heart of Turkish cuisine. How did we ever live without them? Text and photographs by Berrin Torolsan
Mulberries come in an array of hues: black, white, pink, purple; some enticingly sweet, others astringent and healing. As Berrin Torolsan can testify, having grown up with them in her Istanbul garden, all are adored – by man, mallard and pine marten alike. Here she traces the history of this lucious fruit
From violet sorbets, cinnamon drops and the sugar cones offered as sweeteners for sultans, to helva, sugared almonds and ‘lumps of delight’…You don’t need to have a sweet tooth to enjoy a history of Turkish puddings and sweets, but it’s all the more delicious if you do. Berrin Torolsan savours a feast of fascinating facts
Grapes may be Anatolia’s most ancient crop but the birthplace of Dionysus still produces an abundance of tempting varieties – from succulent bunches of fresh fruit to the sweetest of sultanas, and even world-class wines. Grapes also play a vital role in Classic Turkish Cuisine. Text and photograph by Berrin Torolsan
Set amid pines with a glimpse of the Bosphorus is a romantic house built in the 19th century by a Hungarian-born refugee for himself and his young wife. Many such wooden houses nestle in the hills and valleys on the Asian shore. But, as Berrin Torolsan reveals, its restoration by the designer Serdar Gülgün has been a rare labour of love. Photographs by Jürgen Frank
Not far from the World Heritage city of Safranbolu lies the quiet village of Yörük Köyü, once famed for its valiant cavalry. As part of her continuing series on Anatolia’s country houses, Berrin Torolsan visits the Sipahioğlu Konak, a beautifully built mansion of satisfying simplicity and unassuming flair.
Marbled rind and coral flesh… the watermelon, essence of summer.
Text and photograph by Berrin Torolsan
With its gnarled head and earthy aroma, celeriac is a food for grown-ups, eaten all over Turkey at tables high and low. Berrin Torolsan’s traditional recipes make it a taste that’s easy to acquire
Adored through the ages by farmers and sultans alike, peas lend a subtle sweetness to everything from Turkish stews to Russian salad.
Strawberries growing in the wild are gems of mouth-watering delight that bear little relation to the showy, insipid-tasting fruit on supermarket shelves. But there are still good garden strawberries to be found. Berrin Torolsan encourages us to seek out locally grown, seasonal fruit bursting with fragrance. Her simple recipes celebrate the best of berries
Plums grow in all colours of the rainbow, and bring a delicious magic to sweet and savoury dishes alike.
Pungent and piquant, mustardy or mellow, radishes and turnips deserve more respect. Underrated in most of the West, they are still a valued staple in Turkey, where in winter they appear raw, cooked or pickled on every table.
What would summer be without fragrant melons and their honeyed, juicy, cooling flesh? Hundreds of varieties ensure that this most luscious of fruits – a favourite for a thousand years or more – is there just when you need it most. Text and photographs by Berrin Torolsan
Plaits and rings, coils and crescents – freshly baked çörek are the treats of high days and holy days.
The Mongols were the masters of one-pot cooking. Berrin Torolsan hails one of their most lasting legacies, the yahni – a steaming, succulent, slow-cooked stew.
Kurabiye have been a part of family life for generations and are best home-made. Every child has sweet memories of coming home to the heavenly aroma of freshly baked kurabiye. Every mother, every aunt, every grandmother, every neighbour has her own speciality.
More cookery features
Some like their asparagus translucently white, others prefer crunchy and green. Whatever your choice, it takes lightness of touch to reveal the delicate flavour.
Okra was so well established as a food in Turkey by the fifteenth century that Mehmet the Conqueror’s formidable horsemen adopted it as an emblem for their jousting tournaments.
It can be the star at family feasts or the perfect fast food. Berrin Torolsan serves up ten irresistible recipes. Photographs by Berrin Torolsan
Surrounded by four seas and generously endowed with rivers and lakes, Turkey has a huge abundance of fish. But for the Istanbullu, nothing can compare with the fish of the Bosphorus.
All truffles conceal heady charms beneath a rough exterior. But Turkey’s truffles are a democratic luxury – far less costly than France’s precious and more pungent tubers.
There’s nothing grand about the Jerusalem artichoke. The plant thrives on benign neglect, and its gnarled tubers look humble enough. Do not be deceived: its flavour is a revelation – subtle, sweet and quite irresistible.
Red peppers, chillies, maize and sunflowers set the Mediterranean ablaze with their pungent flavours and fiery colours. But of all the Aztecs’ gifts, it is the tomato, above all, that tastes of the sun
Carrots have a colourful past and the gift of making us see in the dark, but there’s more to them than meets the eye.
DNA tests prove that Alma-Ata in Central Asia – literally ‘Apple Ancestor’ – is indeed the birthplace of the apple
Simple, smooth and soothing, they satisfy the child in everyone. But milk puddings can also be gorgeously sophisticated.
Sweet chestnuts, autumn’s bounty, spread from the forests of Anatolia to feed the Roman legions and provide daily sustenance to most of Europs. Today they are reserved for festiviites.
Berrin Torolsan brings a taste of the Steppes into the urban kitchen with ten surefire, no-fuss recipes
The sweetmeat of kings, the fuel of warriors, spinach is bursting with colour. The brighter, tangier purslane is a delight still waiting to conquer the West. Berrin Torolsan eats greens with relish
Offal recipes for the stout of heart
The egg is the most flattering of partners. Berrin Torolsan makes light work of Turkish classics, from succulent meatloaf to silky meringues, from tangy sauces to honeyed crêpes.
Radiant orbs of sunshine, oranges bring delight to the senses with the heady scent of their blossom, the spice of their fragrant peel, the mouth-watering tang of their juicy flesh. And vitality comes as an added gift. From salad to sorbet, Berrin Torolsan picks the best of the zest
Capsules of concentrated energy, nuts are healthful as well as delicious
Capture the taste of summer. Berrin Torolsan suggests recipes using rose petals and rose water.
Daffodil yellow, downy texture with a strong musky aroma the quince can scent an entire room.
The leek, friendly and fragrant, is about to enter its fourth millenium as a favourite ingredient of cooks around the globe.
What plant can match the bounty of the vine? For thousands of years man has enjoyed the succelence of the grape, the headiness of its wines, its capacity to heal. But the fruit is not its only gift. Its lush green leaves, which offer dappled shelter from the summer sun, also create the perfect wrapping, bringing their delicate, delectable tang to the simplest foods.
It is hard to improve on the intense fragrance of the fabled fig, oozing with honeyed, nutty succulence.
A glorious thistle, the globe artichoke merits better than the usual simple boiling, especially if it is the giant Turkish globe, with its huge mouth-watering centre. Berrin Torolsan reveals how to do it justice
There is more than a touch of the fairytale about the humble pumpkin. Berrin Torolsan conjures up a feast of gleaming dishes that bring a golden glow to winter.
A hint of mint, a pinch of basil, a sprinkling of thyme, a garnishing of dill - one light touch is all it takes for the common herb to release its ancient magic.
From Alaska to Australia, from Mongolia to Mexico, meatballs come in a thousand guises.
Berrin Torolsan works magic with mincemeat
The İzbeli family have owned a country konak south of Kastamonu since the 17th century. Today the house, with its magnificent barns, is one of the best-preserved Ottoman country houses in Turkey. But there is nothing fusty about the place. It is a lively family home and a working farm – and a splendid place for guests to enjoy a breakfast voted one of the ten best in the land
Summery herbs transform the versatile marrow into light succulent dishes.
Long enjoyed for their succulence and their inner beauty, pomegranates have been credited with uplifting properties. Berrin Torolsan presents a selection of recipes using these fascinating jewelled winter fruits
Shining crimson globes bursting with tongue-tingling juices… Cherries, the trophy brought back to the West by Lucullus, are truly fit for a feast. Berrin Torolsan’s recipes capture the sweet taste of summer
Whether plain or exotic, pilav is deceptively simple to prepare yet the ultimate test of the accomplished cook
Elixir of sovereigns, libation of the gods, secret of longevity, the timeless taste of yoghurt has the right cool, fresh tang for summer.
Nothing from the supermarket shelf can compare to home-made autumn pickles.
Some liked it hot, others liked it sweet. Either way the pepper revolutionised the Old World’s tastebuds like nothing else.
Elegrant, mysterious, like a plant from another planet, the aubergine is the sultan of vegetables
An antiquarian’s deliciously distressed house in the Aegean was the first port of call for Berrin Torolsan when she set out to write the text for an inspiring new book on Turkish interiors. In this extract from At Home in Turkey, with photographs by Solvi dos Santos, she is captivated by a low-key restoration.
For sheer sensual appeal, the peach has no rivals: its velvet skin and fragrant, juicy flesh are irresistable.
Berrin Torolsan reviews ‘A King’s Confectioner in the Orient’ by Friederich Unger, edited with commentary by Priscilla Mary Işin.
The cabbage and the cauliflower are the Old World’s culinary warriors, arming high tables and low with essential vitamins and minerals.
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