I am lucky enough to live in South East London, one of the most diverse parts of this great city. I have easy access to restaurants from so many different cultures I am spoilt for choice. I am very fond of the food of the Eastern Mediterranean and we have a good sized Turkish Cypriot community close to home. It means a good variety of restaurants, but also excellent grocers. I have previously waxed lyrical about the Chinese supermarket See Woo, and could say a lot about the lovely Vietnamese shops of Deptford High Street. But this last week we visited the Turkish Food Centre (TFC) in Catford.
This place has a fruit and vegetable section which beats the supermarkets hands down on price. I can save literally pounds by getting tomatoes, ginger, onions, herbs, peppers and aubergines here. But that's not all. Because much of the produce is sourced from Turkey or Cyprus, they are not quite the pumped-with-water standard size produce you get in the big supermarkets. They have a good deal more colour and flavour.
Also there are the wonderful freshly cooked Turkish breads. These are delicious, and eat well with mezzes and dips. And so cheap! 69 to 89 pence! I'm a girl who loves a bargain. Especially a tasty one!
Fabulous breads, freshly baked daily
On this particular visit, I found some Turkish celery, which you will see is greener and slimmer than supermarket forced celery. It also has leaves!
In addition I found some Ladies' fingers. This got me thinking about trying to recreate the kind of stew I have often had as a lunchtime special at Levante restaurant in Lewisham. Here is the resulting recipe!
Turkish Cypriot style lamb stew
The light vegetable stock:
2 stalks Cyprus celery
1 red/white onion
2 cloves garlic
2 bay leaves
2 spring onions
half a head of broccoli
Woody broccoli stalks
My stock ingredients
The stew ingredients:
500g okra, topped, but not tailed
300g lamb leg cubes
1 (400g wet, 240g drained) can chick peas (you may want to use a half to two thirds)
2 stalks Cyprus celery, very finely sliced
1 white onion, very finely diced
5 cloves garlic, peeled
2 tbsp tomato puree
Freshly ground black pepper
Salt to taste (omit if you use ready made stock)
140g Lux baldo Turkish rice
30-40g Orzo pasta/cut vermicelli
1. Make the light vegetable stock by putting all the stock ingredients in a pan with 1.2 litres of water. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 30 mins.
2. Drain and reserve the stock. You can make the stock the day before if you wish. This is probably a good idea since the rest of the stew will take over an hour to make.
3. Using a lidded saucepan or flameproof casserole dish, add some olive oil (around 2 tbsp) and heat. When nice and hot, add the lamb and brown all over.
4. When brown, add the onion and celery. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring as you go.
5. Now add the garlic and tomato puree. Season. Mix thoroughly and cook for 1-2 minutes.
6. Now add 200ml water, and mix thoroughly.
7. Bring to the boil. Then cover and lower the heat to a gentle simmer for 30 minutes. (And whilst this is happening you are going to soften the okra).
8. In another pan, add the reserved stock and bring to the boil. Add the okra, slightly lower the heat and cook for 5 minutes.
9. Again, drain, reserving the fluid.
10. Run cold water over the okra to arrest the cooking process.
11. When the first 30 minutes simmering time has passed, add the okra, chickpeas and lemon juice to taste. Now allow to simmer uncovered for another 30 minutes.
12. Whilst this second simmer is happening, you will need to cook the pilaf. Take 1tbsp olive oil and heat in a small pan. Then add the orzo and quickly fry until just turning golden. Watch out; it takes seconds to overcook! This will take 1-2 minutes.
13. Now add the rice, mixing thoroughly and allowing the rice to toast for 1 minute.
14. Now add about 220ml water to the pan. Bring to a gentle boil, then lower the heat to the lowest simmer possible. Cook for 17-20 minutes stirring occasionally so that the rice does not catch.
15. Serve the rice with the stew and enjoy. Yamas!