Tuesday 12 April 2011

Irmik Helvasi

Irmik Helvasi
from Turkey: Recipes and tales from the road, Leanne Kitchen, Murdoch Books, 2011.

I was attracted to this book by its look. It caught my eye from the photograph of the man sitting at a small table. I was immediately reminded of my recent visit to Turkey and how much I had loved the country and the people we met. Browsing through the book just reinforced my feelings. It is part travel and part cooking, beautifully laid out and presented. And while it is not really a vegetarian cookbook, I had to have it. Anyway, there is a fair percentage of vegetarian meals in it.

The first thing I cooked from the book was sweets, Irmik Kelvasi. I had not eaten it in Turkey but it looked interesting and offered me something different to cook.

Making the sweetened apricots was easy though it took a little time—mainly of waiting as the fruit had to soak for some time.

Apparently it was important that the semolina be cooked slowly and for a while until it changed its colour slightly. This needed constant attention but it was not onerous to do and I enjoyed watching it change. Then there was a quick addition of heated sweetened milk and some roasted pine nuts. A little bit more cooking and then it was left to cool.

When the ingredients were cooled and put together—a few spoonfuls of semolina in a bowl, topped with apricots and some ice cream—it was a pleasing and different sweet. Not too sweet, slightly grainy in texture from the semolina and with juicy bites of plump apricots. I had used ice cream rather than cream that the recipe called for. Perhaps next time I might try it with cream.

Taste: ✔✔✔✔
Ease of cooking: ✔✔✔

Rossini at the Quay

Had a break from cooking one night and went to the opera. This usually necessitates finding somewhere to eat as the opera starts at 7.30 pm.

There is a host of restaurants along the stretch around Circular Quay up to the Opera House so choosing one that suits to have a quick meal before attending a performance is not always easy. Of course, it’s always worth remembering that this is a tourist strip so it’s usually pretty busy and a little overpriced.

We always found that Rossini satisfied our needs well. There was always a selection of vegetarian dishes and the venue had a pleasant ambiance. You looked out over the ferries and the bridge. Often there was a hustler opposite to entertain. If you preferred you could eat inside.

The restaurant worked on an Italian system. The meals were all set out in bain-maries for viewing. You chose a meal and paid at the cashier. Then you returned to the servers who took your receipt and plated up your meal. Often there would be waiters handy to carry your meal back to your table. It was a quick and efficient system and the Italian pattern added to the fun of the place. Meals were Italian.

We had not been for a meal for some time so it was quite a surprise on going back recently on the way to attend Partenope to find that the system had changed. Now there were menus on the table and a waiter to take your orders. The meals still seemed to be in bain-maries and the old favourites were still there. I did feel that the menu had been enlarged somewhat from before. There did not seem to be nearly as many staff. The Italian feeling had gone.

Despite the changes I was still able to have my favourite Caponatina and it still tasted as good. And I think Rossini will still be my choice in future as it is quieter and less bustling than many of the other eating places along that strip. And, of course, it’s named after Rossini, a favourite opera composer.

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