Write: Nilgün Tatlı, Photo: Emel Ernalbant
Erzincan, situated above the Euphrates, has been home to many civilizations. Together with this, its location on the historic route of the silk trade route contributed to Erzincan’s status as one of the oldest centers of culture in Anatolia.
The gastronomic culture in chilly Erzincan is ornamented with agricultural and animal products. Its cellaring tradition in preparation of winter continues today, with foods still gracing cellars including cheeses in pots and sacks and strained yogurts in pots, made when animals produce milk in abundance; various roasts; melon and watermelon buried in hay; bunches of late-summer fruits hanging from the ceilings; dried apricot bars; fruit leather; roasted and sweetened “kavut” flour; dried mulberry bars; dried apples, pears, and plums; mulberry yogurt; figs; “tarhana” gruel; cotton seed; white beans, chickpeas, and borlotti beans; various pickles; molasses and jams; and various grains.
Erzincan’s pan-roasted chickpeas and its famous tulum sack cheese occupy an important place in Erzincan’s economy. Erzincan tulum cheese and the Cimin grape are Turkish Patent Institute registered trademarks. Should you happen to stop by, I strongly suggest you try the “lavash” flatbread, tulum cheese, and Cimin grape.
Dried Fruit Stew (With Dried Apple)
1½ cups dried apples (soaked overnight), 2 finely chopped yellow onions, 1 small lamb shoulder arm chop cut into 4 cm chunks, 3 tablespoons vegetable oil, 3 cups hot water, 1½ cups boiled white beans.
Sautée the onions on a pan in two tablespoons of vegetable oil. Meanwhile, on a wide nonstick pan, brown the meat on both sides in a tablespoon of vegetable oil. Add the onions on top and two cups of boiling water. Lower heat and continue to simmer. Add some water oto the apples, bring to boil once, and drain. When the meat starts to soften, add the rest of the boiling water and the beans, and add salt and pepper to taste. Simmer the meat well on low heat, adding the dried apples when it is nearly done, then serve hot garnished with chopped herbs or hot butter with red pepper flakes if desired.
1 medium bowl finely chopped green beans, 1 tablespoon butter, 1 bunch ground meat (made into little meatballs with salt and pepper), 1½ tablespoons tomato paste, 2 tablespoons chopped parsley, 7 cups chicken and beef stock, 2 tablespoons chopped dill, 2 cloves crushed garlic, 1 ladle dried noodles, ½ cup whipped yogurt, salt and pepper to taste.
Garnish: 1 dessertspoon dried mint, 1 dessertspoon red pepper flakes, 1 tablespoon butter.
Melt butter with tomato paste in a broad pot. Add boiling stock, chopped green beans, and garlic, bringing to boil once more. Add the noodles and stir well, and then add the meatballs. Cook until the green beans are tender. Add salt and pepper if needed and remove from heat. Finally, add dill and parsley and stir. Pour in yogurt diluted slightly with water and mix well. Pour in bowls, and drizzle with a sauce of mint and some red pepper flakes sautéed in butter.
1 bunch finely chopped dill, 250 g chunked and braised beef or lamb, 2 ½ cups coarse bulgur, 5 cups ayran (sub. buttermilk or mix 6 parts plain yogurt with 1 part water and add salt); 1 tablespoon butter or vegetable oil, salt and pepper to taste.
Garnish: 2 tablespoons butter, 1 tablespoon tomato or red pepper paste.
Fry meat and bulgur in oil. Later, add the ayran, stir, and bring to a boil. Lower heat and add salt and pepper. Simmer until bulgur absorbs the ayran. Add dill and stir when nearly done. Drizzle with a sauce of tomate paste and some red pepper flakes sautéed in butter when serving.
600 g dried pitted apricots, 1 tablespoon granulated sugar (optional), 1 cup crushed walnuts, 3 tablespoons melted butter, 4 cups water.
Wash apricots and boil with a tablespoon of sugar until tender. Drain when lukewarm and plate. Sprinkle walnut and pour melted butter distributed equally all over. Serve warm or cold as desired.