When you visit the Middle East, you can’t help but be showered with hospitality and spoilt with good food. And this is precisely what Amina and Somer’s Egyptian and Ottoman Feast delivered.
During Crave Sydney, chef Somer Sivrioglu of Efendy in Balmain is offering a series of dinners cooked by guest chefs and friends in collaboration with the Efendy team. Celebrating Middle Eastern culture and cuisine, this season’s MasterChef Amina Elshafei and Somer presented a feasting menu from their Egyptian and Turkish heritage inspired by an Ottoman Palace feast.
Somer Sivrioglu and Amina Elshafei
The menu is termed a feast, and what follows is a sumptuous meal with a series of share plates, each designed to encourage guests to mingle, share, taste and talk. Somer and Amina introduce the dishes, relating a historical anecdote or a culinary experience.
We are offered Turkish wine and learn that Turkey is home to indigenous grapes from which various wines are made. Sevilen Majestik Sauvignon Blanc and Sultaniyet 2011 is a dry style white wine that is easy drinking, nothing like the sweet and floral varietal from New Zealand. From the reds, Sevilen Güney Kalecik Karasi 2011, is similar to a pinot noir and is made from Kalecik Karasi, a popular red grape variety grown in the Central Anatolia region at high altitudes. Sevilen Güney Boğazkere Öküzgözü 2011 is a more robust red which is likened to a cabernet merlot. All three wines are very palatable and go well with a range of food.
Homemade mini pide bread, Zeitoun extra virgin olive oil
The homemade mini pide bread invites you to break a disc and dip it in the fruity Zeitoun extra virgin olive oil which comes from the south of Lebanon.
Hazelnut dukkah rolled labneh balls
Tempted as you are to eat more of the soft, warm bread, you’ll do well to leave some for the delicious labneh balls, rolled in a mixture of hazelnut and dukkah.
Armenian style mussel dolma
Next is the Armenian style mussel dolma, a dish that has it origins in ancient Armenia and was chosen by Somer to celebrate its culture. The mussels are delicious and they come stuffed with onions, rice and spices that are cooked together and served with wedge of lemon.
Circassian chicken rose borek
Moving on to the hot plates and the Circassian chicken rose borek is a Turkish dish that is beautifully presented. Each tasty piece contains chicken in filo pastry topped with a dollop of garlic yoghurt and spices.
Back to Egypt, and the baby okra with taklia and fresh coriander is utterly delectable that seconds are encouraged. The okra is cooked in a fragrant tomato and onion sauce with coriander seeds. Okra tends to turn stringy and a little slimy when cooked for a long period and this vegetarian version has it retaining its shape while being firmer to the bite.
Alexandrian snapper stuffed with burghul and tahini sauce
Amina introduces her next dish as the taste of Alexandria. The Alexandrian snapper is stuffed with burghul, coriander and garlic, and topped with a spicy tahini sauce with lemon juice – a simple Middle-Eastern combination of ingredients which comes together in a well-executed dish. The fish is moist and flavoursome and this is by far the favourite dish of the night.
Spicy spoon salad
The fish is accompanied by a tomato cucumber, walnut, pomegranate spicy spoon salad which originates from the south-east Anatolian side of Turkey. Pomegranate is used to sweeten the spicy salad which is traditionally eaten with a spoon hence the name.
Palace style veal shank ragout on eggplant and kashar puree
Still in Turkey, and the next dish is the palace style veal shank ragout on eggplant and kashar purée. Quintessential an Ottoman palace dish, the veal shank is deboned, cooked for hours with a number of spices and served with a bechamel style sauce for smoothness with a smoky and garlicky eggplant mix with kashar, a sheep milk cheese – a dish fit for a sultan.
From the palace, we go to what is termed as peasant food, a simplified version of Koshari, an Egyptian dish made with rice cooked with vermicelli noodles and topped with green lentils and fried onion strips. The dish is traditionally served with a tomato sauce that has a little bite which is added to the rice.
What follows is a series of desserts and a story. Zerde is known in Turkey as the circumcision dessert as it is served after the ceremony. Unlike most Turkish puddings, it has no milk and is made up of rice and rice flour, flavoured with saffron and topped with almonds flakes, sultanas and pomegranate. Zerde has a watery consistency as gelatin is not used for thickening. A cardamom flavoured biscuit in the shape of a swirling dervish, Efendy’s symbol, decorates the dessert.
Pumpkin with yoghurt mousse
Somer introduces the next course as the original molecular dish which uses a traditional method to preserve different types of food. The pumpkin is put in calcium hydroxide and left to crystallise for 24 hours before it is taken out and put in sugar. Here it is served with a yoghurt mousse and topped with pieces of walnuts. The pumpkin has a subtle flavour and makes a light dessert option.
The feast ends with an Egyptian dessert called Basbousa, made with semolina, dessicated coconut and soaked in rosewater syrup. The sweet, soft and tasty morsels are delicious on their own or with Turkish coffee. Afiyet Olsun!
The Egyptian and Ottoman Feast by Amina and Somer was held at Efendy Restaurant on Thursday 18 October 2012. For upcoming Crave Sydney events at Efendy check the website below.
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