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Namlı was famous (namlı) for wafer-thin pastırma sold in supermarkets all over the city – a safe bet when you were not sure how sharp the local deli’s pastırma knife was – pastırma must have just the right amount of marbled fattiness and be cut wafer-thin. A few years ago the morphed into this bright and cheerful, not to say garish and by no means cheap chain. Two branches are at either end of the Galata Bridge. It is a great place to set yourself up for a day of footloose exploring, and very close to the Karaköy ferry station, which serves the Golden Horn, Üsküdar and Kadıköy.
The Karaköy branch is on the ground floor of a multi–storey car park recently swathed in steel mesh in the old European port district. It is next to the equally in-your-face Güllüoğlu, the baklava people, across the road from the Cruiseliner Passengers Lounge. It is undeniably a cornucopia of delectable Turkish and international cheeses, cold cuts, pickles, olives and sweets, and a very useful café-cum-restaurant offers award-winning Turkish breakfasts (egg and pastırma recommended), freshly-made sandwiches and a selection of grilled meats, dips and salads.
While further along the street there are some very good restaurants, none will whisk food on to your table quicker.
The salad selection is substantial and there are some interesting choices on offer – pasta salads, a chicken and pesto concoction, and a broccoli, pepper and apple salad with a delightful dressing are some of the less ‘local’ favourites.
There are also stores in Ataköy, Nişantaşı (City’s) and on the Asian shore at Caddebostan.
I was very young. I have a blurred memory, like a dream, of going with my grandfather into the chicken pen. He picked up an egg which had just been laid, made a hole in the shell with a pin removed from the collar of his jacket, and sucked. Then he took another egg, made a hole with the pin, and offered it to me. The egg was still warm. I cannot remember if I liked it or not. I have even forgotten what it tasted like.
This was my first encounter with a real egg. I imagine this must be how Homo sapiens first came to know eggs – long before he had learnt to domesticate animals, and to milk them, and long before he discovered grain and how to make bread. He simply gathered whatever nature offered. Water and eggs, not being restricted, like roots or fruit, by climate and geography, were two things that everyone shared.
My second, less cloudy, memory is of the red- and green-dyed eggs that we used to receive from our Greek neighbours at Easter time in Istanbul. Cracking a shell and finding inside a slightly tinted hard-boiled egg was like magic. Concealing life within them, eggs are indeed magical things, although we lose sight of the magic when we buy a carton of eggs in a supermarket, stamped only with their sell-by date and size. They are so much a part of our diet that we take them for granted.
A superb source of protein, vitamins and minerals, the makes a nourishing meal in itself. But it is so versatile – binding, thickening, enriching, lifting – that for centuries masters of great dishes have owed their success to it. It both combines and flatters. It heals and beautifies, too. Athletes swear by raw eggs, as thei did in antiquity. Singers and orators swallow raw egg yolks to soothe and protect their throats. And both yolks and whites have been widely used for medicinal purposes and in cosmetics.
Turkish cuisine, like every other cuisine in the world, has innumerable egg-based recipes. In the past Turkish chefs used eggs in enormous quantities, whole, separated, or beaten, for both sweet and savoury dishes. A recipe for Yumurta Lokumu (Egg Delight) in a Turkish pudding cookery book of 1828 reads: ‘First collect 120 egg whites in a basin.’…
Recipes in this issue: Yumurta Dolması (Savoury Eggs) Mercan Yuvası (Stuffed Eggs) Kaygana (Spring Omlette) Ispanaklı Yumurta (Eggs with Spinach) Saray Usulu Yumurta (Oeufs à la Sérail or Moonshine Eggs) Menemen (Scrambled Eggs with Cheese, Tomoto and Pepper) Ekşili Köfte (Tangy Meatballs) Balık Çorbası (Fish Soup)
Rulo Köfte (Meatloaf with Eggs)
Ingredients: 4 egg; 1 or 2 slices stale bread, soaked in water; 500g minced lamb or veal; 1 medium onion (grated); 2 teaspoons cumin powder; 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper; salt; 1 cup parsley (chopped); 1 tablespoon olive oil
The French have a similar dish, roasted in an elegant pastry coating, which is called Paté de Paques.
1 Boil 3 eggs for 10 minutes, stirring gently. Shell and set aside.
2 Squeeze dry the soaked bread and place in a mixing bowl and add all the ingredients except the hard-boiled eggs and olive oil. Knead the mixture with one hand until it holds when shaped into a ball.
3 Transfer the ball to a previously buttered roasting-tray and flatten with your palms to a rectangle. Place the shelled eggs in the centre end to end. Fold the meat mixture over the eggs and press together to seal them in a loaf shape.
4 Brush the surface with olive oil and roast in a hot oven for 20 minutes. Serve sliced like a cake, hot or cold, with plenty of green salad.
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