Spanning Europe and Asia it comes as no surprise that Turkey has had a fair amount of culinary traffic passing over it. And while certain of their Epicurean exports lose finesse when eaten out of the back of a van on a Friday night, don't dismay - Turkish food really is something to get excited about.
The staple, kebab, comes in many guises: lamb or chicken, sis or donner, served on flat-bread or rolled like a burrito( durum), with a number of localised specialities including Bursa's Iskender kebab - drenched in a rich tomato puree, with hot butter and a healthy dollop of yoghurt. In the stakes for the nations favourite dish kofte comes a close second. Kofte are spiced-ground meatballs, best cooked on an open barbecue( mangal) and served with a simple white bean salad and a squeeze of lemon.
The Turks also claim meze as their own, something the Greeks volubly disagree with, whatever the genesis - the Turks have mastered it. Similar to Spanish tapas, meze consists of a number of small dishes, typically: deep-fried squid(kalamari), yoghurt mixed with garlic( cacki), aubergine puree, stuffed vine leaves( dolma) and baked vegetables washed down with a bottle of raki(an aniseed based spirit, known locally as aslan sut - the lion's milk) and plenty of animated conversation.
Meals are usually rounded off with fruit(melon and quince are popular) and coffee, which according to the Turkish proverb should be 'black as night, strong as death and sweet as love'. Few people will leave Turkey without a box of Turkish delight( lokum), something the Turks themselves aren't too hot on, preferring to indulge themselves with baklava(filou pastry woven over crushed pistachios soaked in syrup) or a rich rice-pudding( sutlac).