Turkish( kabak mucveri) or Greek (kolokithakia keftedes) zucchini fritters are easy to make and great to eat with fresh sliced tomatoes, cucumbers, a few sprigs of parsley and cold yogurt or yogurt sauce (tzaziki/ cacik). Not a Middle Eastern food you say? Well for me Greece and Turkey, at least in the culinary sense are as much a part of the Middle East as Syria or Iraq. The Turkish Ottoman’s have influenced the food culture of much of the Middle East, Eastern Europe and North Africa and have left vestiges of their cooking style in these areas. This doesn’t mean that Greek food is of Turkish origin but that their proximity and shared history have created a very similar cuisine, even if neither would like to admit it.
The Ottoman royalty placed great importance on food preparation and the royal palace kitchen of Topkapi, in Istanbul was well stocked with many motivated chefs. The kitchen was enormous and was run like a military operation with rigid hierocracy and strict guidelines. Sanctioned by royalty these chefs produced hundreds of recipes and were stepping over themselves trying to please the sultan. If the kitchen was like the military, the military was in the kitchen. Indeed the sacred cauldron and spoon were the emblems for the elite Janissary corps, one of the most prestigious military ethnic castes of the Ottoman times. Members met in the kitchen around the cauldron, and overturning it symbolized disagreement with the sultan, or rebellion in the ranks. The corps hierocracy was designated by culinary terms, such as head cook, soup man and even pastry chef in place of traditional titles. If they still existed today I would like to think that the head of the elite air force might have been called the chocolatier.
I have visited Turkey twice, the first time I stayed in little hostel in Kusadasi and ate home cooked food. The food was delicate, without strong spices and complicated combinations but so fresh, colorful and flavorful that the simple meal I ate there 20 years ago is still a strong memory. I would like to go back, this time perhaps explore the eastern side of the country. The second time I was at an all inclusive resort and the food, although very good, didn’t compare to that of the little hostel.
Tips and Ideas for Preparing Fritters
- Squeeze as much excess moisture as possible from the vegetables before adding it to the batter.
- If the batter does not hold well together, add a bit more flour or bread crumbs
- For variety add spices and herbs such as curry, ginger, cumin, thyme, parsley, oregano, basil and dill.
- If fresh vegetables are not available use leftover foods such as mashed potatoes and corn. Pantry items such as canned tuna fish and corn can be used as a standby.
- Fritters can be frozen and defrosted at your convenience.
500 grams zucchini, (about 3-4 medium sized zucchini), roughly grated with skin
2 tablespoons bread crumbs
100 grams grated feta cheese
1 grated onion
½ cup dill, chopped
Salt (about a teaspoon)
Squeeze all excess moisture from the zucchini and onions with your hands. Combine all the ingredients. Form the zucchini fritters with your hands, I like them about 1cm thick so they are crisp on the outside and steaming on the inside. Fry in oil. Turn over once to brown opposite side. Serve with yogurt.
***Although not traditional, kashkaval, a Romanian yellow cheese goes particularly well in this recipe. I tried making it in the oven but it is much tastier when fried.