The mother of all breakfasts
I’ve wanted to write about the magnificent glory of Turkish Breakfast ever since M made me my first full on breakfast in a little apartment in Hebden Bridge one rainy cold January, only a few weeks after we met. To me, that carefully assembled arrangement of so many different dishes spoke of a foreign land, where it didn’t rainy all the time and where people took the time in the mornings to do more than pour cornflakes into a bowl and eat.
Of course, this romanticism has worn off now, nearly four years later. Turkish Breakfast has become a staple of our life together, but my wonderment at the million different varieties of breakfast has not subsided. After many months of research and countless thousands of breakfasts devoured, I am here to present to you the magic of a Turkish Breakfast.
A couple of disclaimers before I get completely carried away and start drooling on my keyboard:
- Turkish Breakfast is not suitable for busy mornings. This approach to breakfasting was clearly made for a world in which at least one person in the household had time in the mornings to set out 48 tiny dishes, and then clear them all away again – which is sadly never the case in our house. As much as I might disdain a dull bowl of cornflakes and a cup of tea from an electric kettle, it sure is practical for the morning rush.
- While Turkish Breakfast is a worthy challenger, nothing will ever replace the special place in my heart held by a steaming bowl of porridge and golden syrup on a winter’s morning, or a bowl of Special K with ice cold milk in the summer.
- I’m sure I’m going to cop some abuse for this but, I’m sorry Turkish tea, the same thing applies to you too. Nothing can beat English breakfast tea, in a mug, with just the right amount of milk for the magic “strong-but-milky” formula.
- You don’t have to serve everything in lots of small dishes but, for me, that’s part of the charm.
Now that’s all out of the way, allow me to present to you what I see as the basic components of any good Turkish Breakfast.
– Good fresh bread (if you don’t have this, don’t even bother. Get the cornflakes out. Breakfast is not a time for eating up stale bread).
– Plenty of steaming hot tea
– Honey (M likes to eat this with a bit of butter chucked in to the pot. I highly recommend it)
– At least one kind of jam, likewise with butter
– A simple salad of sliced tomato, cucumber and maybe some pepper if you’re feeling completely wild
– At least three kinds of cheese (I’ve been at breakfasts where in excess of ten kinds of cheese have been on the table).
– Olives (although I don’t like them, they’re omnipresent)
After this, you are free to embroider on the theme in seemingly any way you want. My favourite additional components are:
– Kaymaklı bal – a blob of clotted cream served with honey, ideally with some honeycomb and walnuts for textural electrification
– Sucuk yumurta – fried Turkish sausage cooked with eggs to make a deliciously greasy, insanely tasty omelette
– Börek – this could be what I call “normal” börek (layers of yufka pastry with white cheese and parsley, served either wet or dry), or the fabulous sigara böreği (deliciously moreish roles of yukfa cooked with cheese or minced meat or spinach inside). I also recently discovered Kürt böreği, which is oddly bland when you first try it but suddenly you reach a point where you can’t stop cramming it in your mouth. Or perhaps that’s just me.
But you don’t have to stop there. To date, these are just a few of the oddest things I’ve had for breakfast here in Turkey:
– Chips (yep. For breakfast).
– Other kinds of fried vegetables
– Yorkshire puddings (well, sort of. I don’t know what they’re called in Turkish but they resemble Yorkshires in appearance and texture, and they’re bloody good to I don’t care).
– Cheese melted with a sh*t ton of butter and mixed with corn flour, then eaten like a big, tasty, artery-clogging fondue
– Fried heart (again, yes, for breakfast).
Now I’ve been very careful here not to try to be definitive about what is and isn’t Turkish Breakfast, not least because I’m wary of incurring the wrath of other fellow Turkish Breakfast-lovers. So now it’s over to you: what are your favourite takes on Turkish Breakfast? What have I forgotten here? And what’s the downright weirdest thing you’ve ever seen included in a Turkish Breakfast?