Tag Archive | Turkish

Playing Dull

Here I am living in a beautiful country, surrounded by mountains, turquoise seas, lush wildlife and after 3 years I am still struggling with the language.

I started lessons before I left the UK – we did lots of vocabulary and a heap of grammar.  But not much talking.  I honestly thought that when I got here it would all fall into place.  Friends have told me it takes 4 years to get fluent and I keep hoping I’ll wake up one morning and feel more confident about speaking.

It doesn’t help that in this area the Turkish is very slangy so I find it hard to follow.  I have had about 20 lessons since I moved here but I just reach saturation point after about 10 weeks when I can’t remember anything.

My husband speaks English at home because he is still learning and needs to practice and when his family are here they all speak Kurdish.  My husband complains that my Turkish isn’t getting any better but I know that it is.  I can now visit non English speaking family and have a cay (turkish tea) and a chat without getting into a complete panic.  Sometimes I need to look something up in my dictionary but mostly I manage with the vocabulary I have.  it may come out in the wrong order but people understand.

But it also suits me to play the dull girl sometimes.  People quite happily chat in Turkish in front of me assuming I don’t understand anything when in fact if I haven’t got to think about coming up with a response I can follow quite alot.

I gave myself away last week though…….. my husband and I were chatting to one of his friends when the friends ex wife appeared.  Not a nice lady…very big, Turkish and demanding.  She doesn’t speak English….so this is the translation:

Her – who’s that woman?

Him – she’s his wife

Where’s she from?  – England

Her – oh a foreigner!  Can she cook?

Him – I don’t know

My Husband – Yes – she’s a good cook

Her – Does she understand Turkish?

Me – yes, I undeerstand Turkish

Her….flounced off in a huff

My husband nudged me and said “your Turkish is getting better then”

Me – not really just understood about me understanding Turkish

Would hate him and his friends thinking that I can understand them – they’d stop letting me sit there quietly with my tea.   It really does suit me to play dull in lots of social situations.   Not sure how much longer I will get away with it. Especially if I start answering people when they ask questions!

I’m still not anywhere near as good as I would like to be but I am getting better.

Yaprak Sarma (stuffed vine leaves)

One  of my most favourite Turkish dishes.

You will need vine leaves – either fresh, packed or tinned.  The tinned and packed ones are usually stored in brine so will need a bit of a wash before you use them.

For the filling you will need:

1 medium onion

100g minced beef or lamb

a cup of rice

a handful of pine nuts or some of the pasta we use to cheat in Turkey  (Optional)

black pepper (to taste)

mint (to taste)

fresh parsley (to taste)

sage (to taste)

salt (to taste)

lemon juice

3 cloves of garlic

a teaspoon of tomato puree

some people like to add sultanas but I don’t really like them.

olive oil and a knob of butter

Melt the knob of butter in a deep frying pan.   Add the onions and garlic and fry until slightly transparent.  Add the pine nuts or the pasta and fry until brown.  Add a 3 tablespoons of olive oil.  Add the minced meat and your seasonings.  When the meat looks cooked stir through a teaspoon of tomato puree. Add the rice and enough water to just cover the mix.  Cook on a low heat with a lid on until the water has been absorbed.

Wash  your vine leaves and de-stalk them.  A small v shaped cut wither side of the stalk should do it – be careful not to tear them.  The veined paler green side is the inside and where you will be placing the filling.

Once your stuffing is cooked – lay a leaf matte side up on a clean chopping board (I use a big board and lay out 6 at a time) with the missing stalk piece at the bottom place a thin strip of filling cross ways onto the leaf.  Roll the bottom over one, fold both the sides in and over the roll and then continue rolling.  Place the completed leaf in the bottom of a large pan.  Continue until you have used all your leaves or stuffing.  You should keep placing additional layers of completed leaves in the pan.

Once you have finished put something heavy on top of the leaves.  I use a steel saucepan lid that is slightly smaller than the pan I am cooking them in.  This will stop them floating.  Pour boiling water into the pan until it just covers the leaves – add a lid to the pan and cook on a medium heat for 20 – 30 minutes – you can top up the water if you need to.

Leave to cool for about 10 minutes and then gently lift them out with a slotted spoon,, drain and place on a serving dish.  Everyone says best served at room temperature but I love mine from the fridge.