With a nose for a good recipe and an ear for an extraordinary story Caroline Eden brings us a cookbook like no other. This is a tale of three great interconnecting culinary cities and cultures – Istanbul, Odessa and Trabzon – and Caroline Eden’s journey through, and around, them. From the Jewish table of Odessa, to meeting the last fisherwoman of Bulgaria and charting the legacies of the White Russian émigrés in Istanbul, Eden gives readers a unique insight into a part of the world that is both shaded by darkness and illuminated by light and brings us some truly mouth-watering recipes!

She helps us explore the region, the people and, most importantly, its incredible food and it is little wonder she won the Travel Food & Drink Book of the Year at the recent Edward Stanford Travel Writing Awards.

We are lucky enough to be able to show you a sneak peak of this award winning book and some of its recipes for these deliciously tempting dishes…

Banker’s Fish Soup

One freezing morning in January, I wandered into a tiny fish café in Karaköy. There, I met cousins Muhareen and Muhsin, a chef and waiter, respectively, from the Black Sea city of Ardahan, near the Georgian border. They left their home city over a decade ago to serve the bankers around Bankalar Caddesi – Istanbul’s answer to Wall Street and the financial centre of the Ottoman Empire – what they know best: fish. Their café is so popular, and the turnover so fast, that no ice is used for the little fish counter in the window. As it white-fleshed fish will do. Monkfish works well. Many of the banks have now relocated from here but this balik corbasi (fish soup) remains the best fish soup I’ve ever eaten. It is very hearty and is somewhere between a stew and a soup. Served with warm white crusty bread it makes for a decent lunch.

SERVES 2

2 tablespoons olive oil
½ medium onion, roughly chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
2 carrots, diced
250g/8¾oz celeriac, peeled and diced
500ml/generous 2 cups fish stock
Grated zest of ½ lemon
Handful of ripe cherry tomatoes, halved
250g/8¾oz monkfish, chopped into bite-sized pieces
Salt

To serve
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
White pepper (optional)
Lemon wedges

Heat the oil in a pan and gently fry the onion and garlic with a pinch of salt for a couple of minutes until softened. Add the carrots and celeriac and continue cooking for a further 8 minutes.

Pour in the fish stock and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down and simmer with the lid on for around 20 minutes, or until the vegetables are firm but nearly cooked through. Then add the lemon zest, cherry tomatoes and chunks of fish and cook until the fish is cooked through.

Stir in the chopped parsley, dust with a little white pepper, if you like, and serve with the lemon wedges.

 

Bébé Cake

Going on the interview with Yunus Tarakçı, I have attempted to recreate the kind of Bébé cake that may have been served at Dilbert in Yalta. A chocolate cake, it is, if anything, in honour of the resourceful men of Çamlihem˛sin who left their village and sailed across the Black Sea to work and send money home to their families.

For the sponge
350g/1½ cups plus 2 teaspoons unsalted butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
350g/1¾ cups golden caster (superfine) sugar
6 medium eggs
200g/1½ cups self-raising flour
100g/1 cup cocoa powder
120g/4¼oz dried cranberries or sour cherries
80g/3oz mixed peel

For the filling
50g/1¾oz dark chocolate
(70% cocoa solids), chopped
120g/½ cup unsalted butter, softened
200g/1½ cups icing (confectioners’) sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon milk

For the ganache
150ml/10 tablespoons double (heavy) cream
250g/8¾oz dark chocolate
(70% cocoa solids), chopped

For the hazelnut topping
50ml/3½ tablespoons water
120g/⅔ cup caster (superfine) sugar
100g/¾ cup blanched hazelnuts

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4. Butter two 23cm/9-in round cake tins. Cream the butter, adding the sugar gradually, until fluffy. Then stir in the eggs, flour and cocoa powder with a metal spoon, and add the dried fruit and peel. Divide the batter between the tins, smooth the tops and bake for around 30 minutes, until risen and springy but firm to the touch.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool before turning out onto a wire rack. Now for the filling. Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl placed over a pan of simmering water, making sure the base of the bowl isn’t touching the water.

Set aside.

Then beat the butter in a bowl until soft, gradually stirring in the icing (confectioners’) sugar before adding the vanilla extract and beating again.

When the chocolate is cool, fold it into the mixture, adding the milk to loosen the mixture ever so slightly, and set aside. Now to make the dark chocolate ganache. Gently heat the cream and then stir into the chopped chocolate, mixing thoroughly until you have a smooth, shiny mixture. Set aside to cool.

Finally, make the candied hazelnuts. Put the water and sugar into a pan and heat until it starts to thicken and is bubbling and sticky; this should take around 5 minutes. Then turn the heat down and swirl the pan but don’t stir, for another 2 minutes, until the mixture is amber. Remove from the heat and quickly roll the hazelnuts in the thick syrup, then tip them onto a china plate to cool.

To assemble the cake, work on a plate or stand. First put down one of the sponges, then thickly and evenly spread over the filling, then put the other sponge on top. Spread the ganache over the top with a spatula and allow to set. Then dot the caramelised hazelnuts over, sticking them gently into the ganache. Chill for 3 or so hours, which will make it easier to slice. Serve from the cake stand.

Extracted from Black Sea by Caroline Eden (Quadrille, £25) Available to buy HERE
Food photography © Ola O. Smit
Location photography © Theodore Kaye

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