It's been a Turkish-themed couple of weeks for the Pickle and me, as one happenstance encounter with a Turkish ice cream shop sent me spiraling down a path of tunnel vision in the pursuit of the perfect homemade Turkish coffee. Hakiki was the little Turkish dessert shop that started it all. We found it in Newtown and were intrigued by the "Turkish" in Turkish ice cream (as it turns out, salep is the unique ingredient...more on that later). Pickle had some burnt caramel ice cream, but I opted instead for a Turkish coffee (served with a piece of Turkish delight) and it made. my. whole. week. I've had Turkish coffee before - good Turkish coffee from Turkish friends and colleagues in grad school. I've even had it in Istanbul....but THIS Turkish coffee was hands down the best I've ever tasted. Like so good I almost don't want to go back just in case it was a fluke and it might tarnish the beautiful memory of this perfect cup...
...but I forgot that before the beautiful cup of perfect Turkish coffee, Pickle and I had my favorite brunch in Sydney at Efendy. We'd been there before for brunch and loved it, but had never been back because I distinctly remember feeling like it was quite the splurge to pay all of that money for a meal that wasn't dinner (I get really hung up about it being too costly if it isn't dinner for some reason, like if we just ate the same meal later in the day for the same price it would be better justified...I recognize the illogicality of this, but I don't really try to fight it). Anyway, I had to laugh because when I looked up the price to consider going again recently and noted it was ONLY $30 a person, I couldn't believe how much I'd inflated it in my head...there was a time when a $60 brunch seemed ridiculous to me. It's not that I haven't paid far more than that for worthwhile dining experiences in my life (eating is one of my favorite things...did you know this isn't even supposed to be a food blog?!), but $60 for brunch with no occasion seemed exorbitant for just another weekend meal (albeit a tremendous one). Now that we've grown accustomed to Sydney prices, we've found that it's true what the Sydneysiders told us - you just get used to it. (This was everyone's "advice" when we arrived and asked how anyone afforded things like driving, eating, and paying rent all at once with the prices here and they just said "you get used to it"...not much of a concrete financial strategy, but it is true, and it does work out.) Anyway, I digress - in discovering that the Efendy brunch experience was only $60, it was a given that we'd be going back - and we did. It was the same delectable spread (although this time with less halva, which made me a little sad, but I've more than made up for that since)...
By the way, here are some pics on the way just because I can't resist snapping shots of Hyde Park or the Anzac Bridge when I see them (even if it is from a moving vehicle...that Pickle was driving).
OK, back to the coffee hunt...so in my obsession over the ability to make my own Turkish coffee at home (because we never seem to want to make the trip to Newtown solely for 2oz of coffee at a time), I discovered Auburn, the suburb with the largest Turkish population in the city and all the shops and restaurants to bring a taste of the Middle East down under. On the way to Auburn, we came across a particularly cool Russian church, and a retro hotel I took a shot of as well...
Our first stop was for lunch at Mado Café, where we had a feast of homous, yoghurt (with garlic, mint, paprika and olive oil), and jajic (cucumber and yoghurt) with fresh baked Turkish bread, lamb chops with amazing Turkish rice and salep. Salep, as I discovered this past weekend, is the tubers of wild orchids ground into flour. Well, originally anyway...now, in an effort to preserve the wild orchid population, it can no longer be exported from Turkey, so a substitute is used. It's subtly infused with rose water (very subtly. I am NOT a fan of rosewater - it conjures the thought of sipping my grandmother's perfume, but the Turks have a deft hand with the potent ingredient, because I'll gladly eat rosewater Turkish delight - not the mass-produced kind from Australia...that stuff is like munching on chocolate covered potpourri - but the authentic powdered sugar-coated sweets from Turkey are, well, a delight!). Anyway...the salep is topped with cinnamon and ground pistachios. The result is a warm, gelatinous cup of slightly floral sweetness that is the consistency of very overcooked and cooled grits, without the texture. I really liked it, though Pickle wasn't a fan. While it tasted sweet and floral to me, he couldn't perceive any flavor beyond the cinnamon. (I hypothesized that because Pickle eats a lot of candy, his sweetness receptors have been severely desensitized. Pickle hypothesized that "if I put sandy water in a cup and told you it was some unique beverage from a foreign culture, you would try to like it." Touché.) We finished our meal with a Turkish tea for Pickle and coffee for me.
After Mado, we headed across the street to Al Jazeera Mart, where a large amount of shiny gold objects had caught my eye...I scored a Turkish coffee grinder and an ibrik (Turkish coffee pot) for $20! They had some more authentic looking copper ibriks, but I was concerned about lead, as they were so cheap, so I went with the stainless steel option.
After Al-Jazeera Mart, we headed to our final Turkish tour destination, Gima, a local Turkish supermarket. They had an endless array of olives, nuts, meats, fresh baklava - even a case with freshly made Turkish delight in addition to several boxed varieties. I found an unidentified set of legs/hoofs in the freezer too. Since we weren't going straight home after the grocery, I had to stick with non-refrigerated/frozen items. We picked up some lychee basil seed drink (not Turkish), iron bark honey, pistachio halva (yesssss) and Kurukahveci Mehmet Efendi Turkish coffee (THE Turkish coffee).
I tried my first cup the next morning, and I have to say it was surprisingly good. I had very low expectations for my first try, as I assumed it would take awhile to get the ratios and process right. While my first cup wasn't nearly as good as Hakiki, I'd say it was actually better than the cup I had at Mado (which was, unfortunately, not the best, though I'd assumed far better than I could initially produce myself). I had an acceptable amount of foam, but could be improved upon. I watched several YouTube videos and read up on the process before attempting it myself. I decided not to skim the foam off the top and put it into my cup because I was worried that an unskilled attempt at pouring the coffee over the foam might wreck it, so instead I let the foam build once and then poured the whole cup. I think next time I'll try foaming and skimming a couple of times (being careful not to allow the coffee to boil). I used the Kurukahveci Mehmet Efendi coffee, which is pre-ground, so I might get more foam when buying whole beans and using my grinder, but I have to say it was seriously good coffee. Opening the can released the most magnificently rich aroma!
Turkish coffee isn't really about the bean - it's all about the grind and the preparation method, so really any good bag of medium roasted coffee (Turks frequently use Brazilian, I believe) will do. The key is that the coffee must be ground powder-fine (much finer than even espresso). You need a special grinder if you're going to grind whole beans, as most manual and electric grinders don't have burrs that will grind the coffee finely enough. There were no whole beans at Gima though, and I figured if pre-ground is good enough for the Turks, it's good enough for me. You put your coffee and sugar to taste in the ibrik with just enough water for the number of cups you'd like (Turkish coffee cups are very small, as this produces a seriously intense cup of coffee) and stir. You must commit to the sugar content of your Turkish coffee at this stage, as you can't add sugar once it's poured - stirring your cup will destroy the foam and mix up the grounds that have delicately settled like silt to the bottom of the cup. There is no milk or cream with Turkish coffee...this isn't chocolate milk, kids.
On low-medium heat, wait to bring it to a foam and either skim carefully, depositing the foam in your cup and foaming the remaining coffee again, or pour. Some protocols call for boiling, but this obliterates the aromatic oils of the coffee and yields a foamless, one-note and stringent cup. For a frothier, fuller bodied cup, lower heat and a longer steep time is the way to go. Once the coffee has built up a good foam, the entire contents of the ibrik are poured into the cup, and you must patiently give the sediment a minute or two to settle before drinking.
Turkish coffee is usually served with a small glass of water, used to cleanse the palate prior to drinking the coffee, and a small sweet like Turkish delight (...or if you're in my apartment, at least three pieces of tahini halva with pistachios - this is an excessive amount of halva, but I have a problem). While Turkish coffee comes in an adorable little cup, it's no espresso - you don't consume this as a shot on the go; rather, it is intended to be savored and sipped slowly (and you definitely don't want to drink the grounds at the bottom of your cup - not only because they can be used to tell your fortune, but because, well...they're icky.)
And so concludes our little Turkish adventure down under! One of the highlights of Sydney for me is the diversity of our city - there are so many ethnic hubs and fusions. I love that you're all but guaranteed to hear a minimum of three languages on any given train trip and that so many cultures are accessible and celebrated here. I'm grateful for opportunities to learn about traditions and perspectives that are different from my own, even when they come in the form of a simple cup of coffee.
Time seems to be slipping away from me lately. I haven't posted in awhile, but we've been livin' life. While much of it has been spent living out the familiar routines of "teaching season", there have been intermittent, small-scale adventures as well. These are the highlights upon which I like to reflect. A couple weeks ago, we headed back out to Newtown, one of our favorite little recently discovered neighborhoods, just to see what else we might stumble across. We'd intended to go to the new markets at The Grounds of Alexandria, but when we pulled up, the place was packed, parking was nowhere to be found, and we decided we were too hungry and impatient for the wait, so we Yelped a local cafe that turned out to be a big win. The place was called the 5th Earl. It had a nice atmosphere and the food was inventive and fresh. We started with tea - I believe I had some sort of orange blossom white tea and Pickle opted for his go-to Earl Grey. We split the zucchini and corn fritters with asparagus, shaved Spanish ham, roasted tomatoes, poached eggs and pomegranate molasses and a lick-the-bowl-clean-delicious black rice salad with warm black rice, butternut pumpkin, labneh, parsley, red onion, pepitas, cranberries, olive oil and pomegranate molasses. It was amazing, but we both wished we'd had our own bowl (or two).
It was a sunny day in Newtown, and we spent it strolling through the local shops and checking out the street art that gives the neighborhood its fun and funky character...
The week before last (maybe - or maybe the week before?), we took a day off from work to catch our breath, unplug, and explore the city on a Thursday. It was just the little escape we needed! We tried Yachiyo for lunch, which was Pickle's new favorite place for sashimi. We didn't realize how large the portions would be and both ended up eating a boatload of sushi (literally)...
We finally had a chance to check out White Rabbit Gallery, a privately owned collection of Chinese contemporary art. Apparently, it's one of the most significant collections of 21st Century Chinese art in the world, as it includes around 2000 pieces from over 500 artists. The gallery closes twice a year to do a complete rehanging between exhibits. In fact, I'd wanted to visit twice before and each time it was during a rehanging. This week, we managed to make it one week prior to the gallery close. It was a really fascinating exhibit. The gallery had just three floors, but I couldn't help staring for long periods in awe of several of the pieces/installations, and we stayed so long gawking that the tea room closed before we had a chance to visit. We'll definitely back.
We followed up with a getaway that weekend...well, 30 minutes away, but it felt like a whole world! Pickle and I decided for a change of pace, we'd pack up a picnic and head to Royal National Park for lunch with a view.
It was another sunshiny day, and we took full advantage. We even saw some whales from our private spot at the edge of the sea (I'd just spotted them as I turned the camera on my mobile)...
While work life's been a bit full on lately, we've had some pretty fantastic little moments as well. :)