Book Review: Aegean Flavours
Updated 21 May: You can now buy Aegean Flavours here via the Any Given Food Shop.
Aegean Flavours is the brand new book from Didem Senol Tiryakioglu, published by Jacqui Small. Officially released today for the UK, US and Australia (the book was previously available in Turkey in 2010), I’ve been enjoying going through the book over the past few weeks as it’s pure crammed recipes and photos from Turkey’s Aegean region, mashed with contemporary favourites.
The author, Didem Senol Tiryakioglu is a graduate of the French Culinary Institute in Manhattan. In 2010, she opened Lokanta Maya in Karakoy, Istanbul, a small restaurant with an eye on local, seasonal dishes and ingredients. That opening and her dishes saw Time Out Istanbul name her Best Chef for 2010 and in the time since, Didem has opened a bakery and eatery, Gram, in 2012.
The first thing that hit me when picking up the book is that it’s quite coffee table in nature, with it’s landscape print format. It also means that you’re treated to great full page sized photos from Orhan Cem Cetin to go with every recipe.
The strapline for the book is ‘a culinary celebration of Turkish Cuisine from Hot Smoked Lamb to Baked Figs’ and that’s exactly what you get. The book itself is split across almost 300 pages that detail recipes from the various provinces within the Aegean region including Havran, Urla, Alacati Odemis, Tire, Milas, Yalikavak, Mugla, Ula, Marmaris, Bozburun and Datca.
In her introduction in the book, Didem proclaims a love for exploring the markets, getting up at the crack of dawn to soak up the early flavours and smells of the day and each section is preceded by a description of the region and its main market before unfolding a list of dishes that capture the flavours of each market.
In the Mugla region, for example, you’ll find recipes for Raw sea bass with fresh tomatoes and extra-virgin olive oil; White grouper on sautéed artichokes; Hot-smoked lamb loins with mustard sauce and caramelized onion; Grilled fruit with kaymak and walnuts and more.
Ingredients for each recipe are straight-forward and shouldn’t really leave you struggling to find elements (localised substitutes are suggested) and the steps within the recipes are written in the first person and provide good reasoning along with the methods of cooking.
For example, on pureed potatoes, Didem writes
I just cover the potatoes (whole) with cold water in a large saucepan, add a pinch of salt and bring them to the boil on a medium heat. It takes 30-40 minutes for the potatoes to cook, with fresh potatoes cooking fastest. I check with a knife to know when they are done. Once cooked, I drain the potatoes and let them cool. I do not let the potatoes sit in hot water because they will absorb the water…
While I might not have the wood-fired oven to get going on the baked bread rolls towards the end of the book, and I’d say my local fish shop might not have any 5kg octopus in stock, I know I’ll have no issues in making any of the lamb, fish, vegetable dishes or trying my hand at turning out dill and lemon butter or going all the way out to dessert with a mouthwatering looking hazelnut cake with warm chocolate sauce.
It’s the first Turkish-focused cookbook I’ve now got sitting on the shelf at Chez McGuire and overall, Aegean Flavours makes for a great read, with cracking high quality photographs, very easy to follow recipes and a lovely personal touch in the use of language by the author.