Mutabbal, an aubergine dip

QUARANTINE DIARIES, COMFORT FOOD & ALL THE SMALL THINGS THAT KEEP US GOING

Say hi to Arda! He has made a delicious aubergine dip, muttabal and he is sharing his own experience of lockdown in Turkey.

Head straight to the recipe.

A few words about you and where did the quarantine find you?

Well, the first thing to say is that I am a Mediterranean lover, as the name of my Youtube Channel hints: Akdenizi Yiyen Çocuk (The Guy Who Eats the Mediterranean). I was born in the most southern city of Turkey in a beautiful coastal town, in Iskenderun, famous for its diversity, Christian and Syrian influences and mezes! With this background in my blood, I developed a great passion for Mediterranean countries, and especially for their lesser-known and local dishes!

When this virus crisis appeared, I was actually in Italy, Pisa for my wine marketing master! I was discovering wines from Italy’s different regions, exploring Tuscany’s local food, and quite interestingly, learning Greek dances thanks to a beautiful Greek community I discovered there! (imagine the perfect combo of a bottle of Chianti Classico, and zeibekiko)

What did it change for you ?

All travel plans cancelled, especially the one to my beloved Athens! The Athens, where I used to send facebook messages to café owners for them to prepare halvas for me, when I really desired to eat it… I was also planning to choose a random, non-touristy island and spend the entire April there…

Then, when I came back to my family’s house in Iskenderun, I decided to give a go a to project that I am very excited about: teaching Greek to Turks on Youtube, with a very concentrated and speaking-based approach. I can’t tell you how many positive comments that I have received so far, both from Turks and Greeks!:) I want to underline that we need more initiatives of this type from both parts in order to show how much we enjoy each other’s company, and how much we are willing to learn about each other’s culture!

How many loo-rolls can you count in your cupboards?

Being with the family during this period, I am very relieved not to think about anything house-related! (ask me only about the kitchen!)

Comfort food: muttabal, an aubergine dip

I have talked too much about mezes, so I feel like I should give a local meze recipe from my region! Apart from what you need to do to roast the aubergines, you could consider it as a comfort food, and pairing it with raki will really boost up your mood during these quarantine times!

This meze is called mutabbal! It should originally be either from Lebanon or Syria, but here in Iskenderun, it is also one of the most-loved and signature meze plates on the table! Also, this is not something that you can simply enjoy in a taverna in Istanbul!

Muttabal, aubergine mezze

Ingredients

  • 2-3 aubergines
  • strained Greek yogurt
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 lemon
  • olive oil
  • tahini
  • walnuts

Directions

  1. Roast the aubergines, however you can! You can put them in the oven around 220 degrees for 40 minutes, but you obtain the best taste when you roast them on grill once you want to barbecue at home!
  2. You need good quality strained yoghurt! As I always I use my eyes and tongue to decide on quantities.
  3. Mix with some salt, pepper, half lemon, garlic, olive oil, and the signature ingredient of the recipe, tahini! That is what makes this meze distinct from a simple eggplant salad with yoghurt.
  4. The last touch is walnuts! It makes a huge difference and gives a great satisfaction.

How do you cope?

When the quarantine started, I started reading crazily! Everyday started with an early-time Turkish coffee and a novel for me, however after few weeks, I needed alternatives! To add to that, I have never been a Netflix person!

The alternative has been so far the Greek-teaching initiative on Youtube, and my hunger for new recipes. Also, I am exploring more and more rembetiko songs!

Where will you go eat once this madness is over?

I love this question, and I have two clear answers straightaway.

Firstly, what I have missed the most during this quarantine, is randomly choosing a café, getting a book, magazine, pencil, and passing hours there! Sometimes with a friend to chatter all afternoon, sometimes alone to write an unfinished poem. But rolling through the streets to find my corner in a cozy café is what I will be doing all day long once this period ends. Also, in Italy, they don’t have the café concept that is so popular in Turkey or Greece – a 2-second espresso shot doesn’t simply do it for me.

The second things is simply the restaurants, tavernas, but the ones where you can eat mezes! In fact, here in Iskenderun, we can still order few mezes and kebabs at home to enjoy a nice Sunday-dinner, but it is is simply not the same as going out and enjoy the process of sharing the food, thoughts and experiences!

Share a wish, just so we can finish on a happy note.

Not a wish, but an advice: Always Follow the Smell of Olive Oil!

from Iskederum with love,

Arda

PS: I hope you enjoy this post! You can be part of my quarantine cuisine diaries too. If you want to share your experience on Eat Yourself Greek (EYG), please drop me a line here. Thanks, Eugenia

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