Growing up many a fond memory was made in Turkey. It was my mother’s destination of choice for family holidays in the 1990s – thanks to the guaranteed Summer sun (and bargain prices before Turkey started accepting the euro). I was recently reminded of the richness of Turkish culture and the diversity of its natural wonders thanks to ‘Joanna Lumley’s Silk Road Adventure’ – a must-watch four part travel documentary.But, despite spending many weeks in Turkey, I’ve never really got to know the country’s cuisine. And, even though I love anything Middle Eastern and edible, until a few weeks ago I didn’t even have one Turkish recipe up my sleeve. But now I do – thanks to a work colleague and friend, Aleyna, who has a Turkish heritage. Well really it’s thanks to Aleyna’s mum, Helen. Here I’m sharing a recipe for not only red pepper paste (biber salçasi) but also how Helen uses it to make ‘acuka’ – a rich Middle Eastern tasting pepper and walnut based dip or spread.
Part 1: Turkish red pepper paste – biber salçasi
Red pepper paste, called biber salçasi, is a Turkish pantry staple that’s used as a flavouring for other dishes, like stews, sauces and soups. The base ingredients are really simple – red peppers, lemon, salt, olive oil and paprika. (Note that you can also buy biber salçasi in jars).
- 3 large red peppers/capsicum
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 2 tsp paprika
- Char the red peppers either over an open flame (ideal to get a smoky flavour) or by roasting.
- Once the skin is blackened it should be easy to de-skin the peppers. Remove the stem and seeds.
- Puree the flesh that remains with a blender.
- Add to a saucepan with the remaining ingredients.
- Simmer over a low heat for 45 minutes or until a thick, rich paste forms.
- Cool then transfer to a sterilised jar, seal with olive oil and refrigerate. OR cool and then move on to part 2 of this recipe and turn your red pepper paste into acuka….
Part 2: Acuka
- 1/4 cup biber salçasi – red pepper paste
- 1/2 cup walnuts (or hazelnuts)
- 1-2 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 tsp each of dried oregano/thyme, cumin powder and chilli powder
- 1-2 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 1/4 cup olive oil
Method: Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl and puree with a hand blender, gradually adding olive oil until you reach the desired consistency. Transfer to a sterilised jar, seal with olive oil and refrigerate.