Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Oxford Saturday Afternoon and Evening

The afternoon session began with a film about cassava "The history of Chikwangue" which is a popular part of the diet in the Congo.  Cassava was imported to Africa from Brazil by the Portuguese in around 1630 and is a very important source of nutrition.  Chikwangue is a bitter cassava root which takes a great deal of preparation before it is edible.  The roots are soaked in running water for two to three days to wash away the toxins and then the tubers are pressed through a sieve to enable the fibres to be removed.  The resultant pulp is then drained in a canvas bag for a further two or three days, kneaded and steamed.  At this point the cassava is separated into small lumps and wrapped in either plantain or banana leaves and steamed again.  It is now ready for consumption - it takes ten days from start to finish and does not look particularly appetising when done. 

We then had a really interesting talk about the importance of Sarma (rolled) and Dolma (stuffed) dishes as therapy tools for the Anatolian woman in the kitchen.  Social activity between women in parts of Turkey is severely limited but the preparation of feasts is considered a significant social opportunity for women to get together.  The ability to produce perfectly stuffed dolma and rolled sarma is a "marriageability" test for the young maidens of Anatolia.  The dolma are made from different leaves all over Turkey because the climate means that some species flourish - vine, mulberry, cabbage and hazelnut leaves are all fairly common.  There are special dishes made for weddings, feasts and celebrations and the women communicate whilst collaberating making them.  Chubby women are affectionately referred to as "Dolma" and highly regarded.  Aubergines, peppers and courgettes are hollowed out and dried on strings in the sun, these tubes are hoarded for the winter and reconstituted.  Meat dolma are made the day before consumption and then reheated and served hot, they are a sign of wealth.  Vegetable dolma are generally served cold with a dressing of oil  Rice and maize can be used to stuff them and lots of spices are used to add flavour and interest.

Saturday supper was a Turkish feast sponsored by the Gaziantep Chamber of Commerce and was an authentic and wonderful experience.  We began with nibbles comprising baked and folded borek with cheese and tarragon, mini spicy walnut spread rolls and fried cheese rolls accompanied  by Buzbag Narince, a dry white wine, and Terra Kalecik Karasi, a delicious rose.   The main course consisted of vine leaves stuffed with spicy lamb,  aubergines and peppers stuffed with beef and courgettes stuffed with smoked green wheat all served hot and accompanied by cold vegetable stuffed vine leaves and lentil balls wrapped in vine leaves and lettuce.  The wine here was a Terra Narince dry white.   Pudding was a massive tray of those gorgeous baklava style pistachio pastries - enough presented to eat a couple of dozen each.  I managed three. 

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