How not to fry the sh*t out of everything

Turkish food has a reputation. Some of it is a good reputation (the glories of the Mediterranean diet, both super-healthy and super-delicious); some of it is bad (doner kebab, anyone?).

The reality is that neither of these pictures are really true. While on the one hand, Turkish cuisine can be delicious and very healthy, it contains a sh*t ton of red meat and dairy, often at every meal. On the other hand, real döner kebab is actually completely delicious and you don’t even have to pretend you’re drunk if you want to eat it.

The apotheosis of good Turkish food is, in my humble, home cooking in general and Medet’s family’s cooking in particular. The first time I had dinner at his brother’s house, I was in culinary heaven. The rice was pillowy and delicious. The salad was fresh and perfectly seasoned. The mussaka was a treat for my tastebuds. So this became my benchmark. The standard I aspired to (albeit in some very distant, slightly out of focus future). When I can cook like this, I said to myself, I’ll know I’ve made it.

But then I realised something: it’s just really not that healthy. There is always and without fail meat. At the one meal where there isn’t *always* meat (breakfast), there are at least 2 kinds of cheese, and that’s only if your fridge is practically bare. There are always at least two kinds of carbs (if there’s no bread it’s not a meal, but you can’t have a meal without rice or bulgar or pasta as well, and, heck, why not chuck some chips into the mix as well?). Those two healthy-diet narratives that are pretty much received wisdom in the UK, albeit in opposing camps – ‘red meat = bad’ and ‘carbs = fatty bum bum’ – just don’t seem to have made a dent here.

Maybe this is specific to Medet’s family’s cooking. My experience of a wider sample size suggests not, but I’ll allow that possibility.

The biggest problem for me is the salt and the oil. I had no idea it was possible to put so much salt and oil on lettuce (we’re talking TABLESPOONS here people). I’ll admit, this is what makes it taste so damn fine, but my arteries don’t care about the taste. And then there’s all the frying. The delicious, delicious frying. I wish with all my heart that my future sister-in-law’s fried chicken and meatballs and fried aubergine/green pepper/potato mix tasted like bin juice. But they really don’t. Instead, they taste like heaven. Just the kind of heaven that’s going to lead to a heart attack in the short-to-medium term.

So, fine people, my dilemma is this: how to cook delicious, home-cooked Turkish food that is low in salt, high in fibre, not going to send us to early graves while still being tasty? In short, how to cook good Turkish food without frying the sh*t out of everything then dousing it salt?  My quest starts here.

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