In 1897 a woman called Maria Iordanidou was born in Constantinople, a city so grand the Greeks referred to as The City which is how it later got its name Istanbul which means ‘to the City’. She wrote a book called Loxandra a book about life, customs, the human spirit and food in Asia Minor. The book became a TV series which I watched religiously as a child. I am reading it again and as an adult I have new appreciation for the way in which she wrote about the politics of the time, the struggle the Greeks , Turks and Kurds faced in reconciling the political tensions with everyday life. The central character, Loxandra (a Greek), is unclear as to how she feels about the Turks, she claims that they “are a force majeure in the same way you would describe cholera, earthquake or lightening. But what does that have to do with Ali the man who brought her eggs or Mustafa who when he hurt himself he came to her for some holy water”. Nothing tells her story better about how intertwined lives were than the descriptions of food. Every page has a reference to food, the eating of, the preparation of or the contemplation of food. It’s used to describe love, a remedy for a pained soul or as a way to remember the past; lokum (Turkish delights), sardines wrapped in vine leaves, halva, Hünkar Beğendi, dolma and the pages go on.
The same still stands today, the East Med’s history, its people and the food are variations of the same ingredient which is also the inspiration behind this blog. This dish would have been made with veal but I chose kid because I prefer it and because I believe that we should be eating more kid goat. The dish would have been made for royalty and eaten at special occasions. I chose to make it for my family as we celebrate the start of a new chapter in our lives. The taste, the smell and the appearance of this dish evokes images of the past, silky smooth, aromatics and grandeur of Asia Minor and time honoured combinations. The aubergine mash is truly a delight, rich and creamy complimenting the refined flavour of the kid. I added the walnuts for texture and it worked well.
600g of loin of kid goat
8 juniper berries
1 droplet of gum mastic
½ teaspoon of sweet paprika
½ teaspoon of chilli
600g of aubergines (or 3 medium sized ones)
120g of green peppers, diced
120g of onion, finely diced
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 cinnamon stick
150ml of white wine
700g of beefsteak tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon of tomato paste
100ml of water
120g of Kashkaval cheese, grated (or use Gouda or mild cheddar)
250ml of milk
70g of butter
30g of plain flour
¼ teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg
100ml of olive oil
Half a lemon
Salt and pepper
10 walnut pieces
1 tablespoon of parsley
- In a pestle and mortar pound the juniper berries, cloves and gum mastic and empty into a big bowl along with the chilli and paprika.
- Cut the meat into chunks about 3 cm. Place in the bowl with the spices. Pour 100ml of olive oil, stir, cover and place in the fridge overnight or for 8 hours.
- Preheat oven to 220◦C / 425F / Gas 7
- Wash the aubergines and pierce skin all over. Place on a foil covered oven tray and cook in the oven for 45 minutes or until very soft.
- Take the meat out of the fridge and bring to room temperature.
- In a heavy bottom pan heat 20g of butter and a couple of tablespoons of the olive oil from the marinade. Fry and seal the meat in batches, allow to rest on some kitchen towel.
- Remove most of the fat from the pan
- Fry the onions, peppers, garlic with the cinnamon on a low flame until they are soft but not coloured.
- Pour the wine into the onion mixture and reduce the liquid volume by a third. Stir in the tomato paste, water and tomatoes. Cook for 20 minutes with the lid on stirring occasionally.
- Place the meat in with the tomato mixture, season with salt and pepper, cook with the lid on for 50 minutes and then the lid off for 10 minutes.
- While the meat is cooking make a béchamel sauce by cooking the flour in 50g of butter. Pour the milk in while stirring continuously until it thickens. Stir in the cheese and nutmeg.
- Spoon the flesh of the cooked aubergines on to a board and roughly chop. Place into the béchamel and stir well. Squeeze some lemon juice in and adjust seasoning to taste.
- Serve warm with the kid, a sprinkling of parsley and some walnuts.