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
Robert May was the son of a distinguished chef in a large English country house, sent off to Paris at the age of ten to train for five years as a chef by the mistress of the house. In 1660, aged 72, he published The Accomplisht Cook or the Art and Mystery of Cooking , the first important cookery book in England. It is still in print, its English recipes laced with cosmopolitan dishes, French, Italian, Spanish, some extravagant, others “for the general good”, so everyone may give “a handsome and relishing entertainment in all seasons of the year”.
“A Turkish Dish of Meat”, one of May’s first recipes in the chapter on beef, is a classic tirit dish – tirit, which translates as “sop” or “sippet”, being slices or pieces of bread intended to absorb the juices of a soup or stew usually made with meat. “Take an interlarded piece of beef, cut it into thin slices,” May instructs, “and put it into a pot that hath a close cover, or stewing-pan… a quantity of whole pepper, two or three whole onions, and let this boil very well, then take out the onions, and dish it on sippets, the thicker it is the better.”
Who knows how this elementary dish found its way into May’s book? But it is correctly described and to this day it can be found on the tables of most families in Turkey, where it is commonly known as ekmek aşı (“dish of bread”), papara or, more widely, just tirit (borrowed from the Arabic tharid). Bread is the main ingredient, and it is the best way of turning stale or leftover bread into a filling dish. Its origins are probably very ancient and it was popular among the Arab conquerors of the Middle Ages. Tirit has preserved its popularity, along with its Arabic name, and become part of a collective culinary heritage stretching from the shores of the Atlantic to the Pacific…
The recipes this issue: İncik Kebabı (Lamb Shank Kebab); Ramazan Kebabı (Pitta Bread Kebab); Paça Tiridi (Trotters on Toast); Ekmek Tatlısı (Eggy Bread Pudding), and Vişne Tiridi (Bread and Sour Cherry Pudding)
Bread and Sour Cherry Pudding
*500g sour cherries (fresh or frozen)
1 glass (200g) granulated sugar
2 glasses water
Half a loaf of bread (white)
‘Kaymak’ or crème fraîche*
The excellent book Bursa Mutfağı (Bursa Kitchen, 2009, in Turkish only), by M Ömür Akkor, lists this speciality from imperial Bursa as vişne ekmeklisi, and offers a perfectly practical recipe of stale bread slices laid in an oven dish, covered with a compote of sour cherries and baked. It can be served either hot or chilled. The hot version would be delicious with ice cream.Mehmet Kâmil, writing in the first half of the 19th century, fries slices of white bread in butter before pouring the cherry compote over them and simmering over a gentle heat.
This family version, which we have always called vişne tiridi, I inherited from my mother and grandmother. A serving dish is lined with toast, the hot cherry compote is poured over and it is eaten chilled with kaymak. For texture and flavour, a good-quality sourdough bread is best.
1 If using fresh cherries, remove the stalks, rinse and leave in a colander to drain. I don’t bother to stone them (frozen sour cherries have no stones).
2 Bring the sugar and water to a boil in a deep pan, then add the cherries. Turn down the heat, poach until the fruit begins to crack, and remove from the heat before the cherries lose their shape.
3 Slice the bread finger-thick, remove the crust if it is thick, and toast.
4 Line an elegant serving dish snugly with the toast. Gradually spoon hot compote over, allowing the toast to absorb the juice, and arranging the cherries evenly on top. While it is cooling, keep adding compote as the bread absorbs the juice, until it is fluffy and oozing.
5 When cool, cover and store in the fridge until needed. Serve cut into wedges with kaymak or crème fraîche.
Kulinarische Studien, by Peter Heine (Otto Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden, 1988)
Medieval Arab Cookery Essays and translations by Maxime Rodinson, AJ Arberry and Charles Perry (Prospect Books, 2001)
A Soup For The Qan, by Paul D Buell, Eugene N. Anderson and Charles Perry (Kegan Paul International, London and New York, 2000)
15.Yüzyıl Osmanlı Mutfağı: Muhammed bin Mahmûd Şirvanî, eds Mustafa Argunşah and Müjgan Çakır (Gökkubbe, Istanbul 2005)
Ahçıbaşı, by Mahmud Nedim bin Tosun, ed Priscilla Mary Işın (YKY, Istanbul 1998)
Melceü’t –Tabbâhîn (Ahçıların Sığınağı), by Mehmet Kâmil, first published in 1844, ed Cüneyt Kut (Unipro, Istanbul 2000)
Ali Eşref Dede’nin Yemek Risalesi, ed Feyzi Halıcı (Atatürk Kültür Merkezi Yay, sayı 62, Ankara 1992)
Bursa Mutfağı, by Muhammed Ömür Akkor (Türkiye İş Bankası Kültür Yayınları, Istanbul 2009)
Soyer’s Culinary Campaign, by Alexis Soyer (London 1857)
Alice Greenway went to Istanbul to study Turkish and learnt to love swimming in the Bosphorus while she was at it
Two weighty tomes on the glories of Iznik pottery. Tim Stanley reviews the magnificent new Iznik book cataloguing the stupendous Ömer Koç Collection and a new study of Iznik’s Damascus offshoot.
Last Christmas, the art historian Francis Russell escaped the festivities for a hectic week revisiting the Aegean’s most fascinating historic sites, in readiness for a new, enlarged edition of his guide ‘Places in Turkey: A Pocket Grand Tour’. Here is his diary of an action-packed week
The fine art photographer Brian McKee left Istanbul last July to explore the fabled sights of eastern Turkey. Renting a flat in the city of Van, he pored over a weighty survey by the scholar TA Sinclair and followed in his footsteps for 3,000 magnificent kilometres, around Lake Van, and north as far as the old Iron Curtain
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
Istanbul, straddling two continents and sandwiched between two seas, has a thrillingly varied flora which includes many plants seen nowhere else on the planet. Sadly, it is also critically endangered. Text and photographs by Andrew Byfield