Thursday, October 20, 2011

Cappadocian Cave Houses - Turkish Chickpea Stew with Squash, Potatoes and Baharat

From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...My father's prediction haunts me, and, despite his admonishments, I must admit I've become a troglodyte. As a young man, the Silver Fox was a spelunker and had heated discussions with my father regarding his predilection for sometimes daring adventures. My daddy was a practical man and couldn't understand why anyone would venture into a cave that it had taken his ancestors millions of years to escape. They never resolved the issue, but had my father been with us in Cappadocia I think he might have cut Bob some slack. Volcanic eruptions here have created an almost lunar landscape that is stark, spare and stunning. The area is also a study in the adaptability of man and his ability to harness the environment that surrounds him. In Cappadocia, the lack of standard building materials caused inhabitants to dig and tunnel into the soft rock and make their homes in the caverns they hollowed out. The homes and underground cities they built still stand and welcome visitors to the area. Most of these homes have been turned into hotels and residents also serve set meals to adventurous tourists who find there way here. We had a lovely meal in one of the caves. Our hosts were a Muslim family and they prepared a typical vegetarian meal for us.

I wanted to share a recipe for a stew that's similar to the one they made for us. It uses an intensely flavored spice mix, called baharat. The mixture is used with regional variations throughout the Middle-East. The Turkish version is unique because it includes dried mint in the spice mixture. It can be found or ordered from any spice emporium, but I included a recipe for those of you who prefer to make your own. The stew itself is an eye-opener and is definitely not for those who prefer more mildly seasoned food. It is easy and inexpensive to make and not much can go wrong with it. You will, however, want to make sure the vegetables are cooked to your liking before serving the dish. View the cook time in the recipe as a suggestion rather than fiat. I like to serve the stew over rice with a cooling dish of raita on the side. Here's the recipe.

Turkish Baharat - A Spice Mix


1 tablespoon fresh ground black pepper
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1-1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
1-1/2 teaspoons ground mint
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Combine all ingredients and mix well. Store in an air-tight container for up to 6 months.

Turkish Chickpea Stew with Squash, Potatoes and Baharat...from the kitchen of One Perfect Bite inspired by Michael Natkin at Herbivoracious

2 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 cup chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 tablespoons Turkish baharat
Optional: 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 (15-oz.) can crushed tomatoes
3/4 pound Yukon gold potatoes, cut into bite-sized chunks
3/4 pound winter squash or pumpkin, cut into bite-sized chunks
1 teaspoon Kosher salt + salt to taste, divided use
1 cup water or vegetable stock
2 (15-oz.) cans chickpeas drained and rinsed
Minced fresh mint or cilantro for garnish

1) Heat oil in a large pot or Dutch oven. Add onion, sliced garlic and a pinch of salt. Saute over medium-high heat until they begin to soften, about 1 minute. Stir in tomato paste and cook for 2 minutes more.
2) Add Turkish baharat and, if using, cayenne pepper. Cook, stirring, for about 1 minute, or until spice mixture is fragrant. Add crushed tomatoes, potatoes, squash and 1 teaspoon of salt. Add water or stock and stir to mix in. Cover pot and bring mixture to a simmer. Reduce heat and cook until potatoes and squash are nearly tender, about 10 to 15 minutes.
3) Mix in chickpeas and simmer until vegetables are fork tender but still retain their shape, about 10 minutes longer. Taste and adjust seasonings. Garnish with fresh mint or cilantro and serve hot over rice. Yield: 5 servings.

One Year Ago Today: Blue Cheese Dip

Two Years Ago Today: Crock-Pot Yellow Pea Soup


janet @ the taste space said...

I love Cappadaocia! Such a magical place. I have mainly eaten mild foods from Turkey so this baharat looks interesting. Thanks for sharing!

Diane said...

Glad I found time to pop in today, this looks fantastic. I love all the cave homes here in France as well, they fascinate me. Take care Diane

Pondside said...

My mum makes a stew that is quite similar to this one.
Those cave homes - I remember reading about them way back in my school days - fascinating!

T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

Fantastic pictures and a beautiful stew. I love the combination of warm spices. I've never visited a cave house - it looks fascinating.

jaz@octoberfarm said...

i loved seeing the cave homes. reminds me of the native americn cliff dwellers. that stew looks great! i think i will make it when i return from my trip!

Kalyn Denny said...

I love seeing the photos from Turkey and this stew sounds great.

Chiara said...

What a great recipe Mary, I love stew!Cappadocia it's a dream place...take care

Alicia said...

Thanks for the geography lesson today. I'd never heard of Cappadocia before. It's amazing just how adapatable people are.

I'm currently reading a book called Tiny Sunbirds, Far Away by Christie Watson. The story takes place in Nigeria, but the photo of the man, woman and child are exactly how I picture Alhaji, Grandmother and Boneboy...characters in the book. When I say the picture it took me aback!

Sue/the view from great island said...

Wow, I've never seen anything like those cave homes. I am so excited to make the spice mix, it sounds like it could be used in lots of ways. I like that the stew recipe uses all familiar ingredients---but in combination with those spices it must be, as you say, 'eye opening'!

Nisha said...

Never heard of this cave houses, looks like a magical place.Bookmarking the stew. Take Care

Susan Lindquist said...

Mary, this is such a fascinating post! The cave homes are so fantastic and dream-like to me! How lucky for you and Bob to visit them! I'm glad you're home safe and sound and back to the blog! You chose such a great dish to share today! The spices in this dish are so pungent! Bet you house smelled wonderful while that claypot stew/tagine cooked up!

sonia said...

What an amazing place! Thanks for the recipe!

chacha said...

What gorgeous photos! I know my hubby would love this stew and I've got everything I need to make it now. Blessings.

Anonymous said...

Such gorgeous photos, Mary. That stew looks so hearty and delicious. It would be perfect for a chilly, winter night. x

mr. pineapple man said...

deliciousness! want to try everything!

Joanne said...

I'm quite a worrywart so I would have probably played it safe in terms spelunking...but I'm always willing to take a chance on food! This sounds so delicious!

Anonymous said...

Sounds like you had a wonderful trip! I just wanted to say I was looking through my recipes to try list in google reader and was surprised how many were your posts! looking forward to giving them a go.

Barbara said...

This looks amazing! I bet it is so much better being there too!

Zupan's Markets said...

Wow, that does sound spicy! Delicious, though, and complete with beautiful pictures & a history lesson. That's our idea of a fascinating meal.

Rhonda said...

How interesting, you've got me yearning to make a trip. The recipe sounds wonderful, it's great when food is tied to good memories.

Ginny Hartzler said...

My goodness, how amazing!!! So people still live and work in these? There are whole underground CITIES?? Like stores and schools? Is it tunnels and rooms? Or is it just for tourists?

Lori @ Dining Delight said...

SO glad you stopped by my blog (thanks for your kind comments on my daughter's tablescape)so I could find yours! Very interesting and delicious looking food as well as scenery! Your blog name is terrific!


The Summer Kitchen Girls said...

Mary, thanks so much for coming over and introducing yourself! We are in cullinary heaven after visiting you :) These spices look heavenly - we must try this looks delicious! We are looking forward to your next recipe and story!
Karla & Karrie

That Girl said...

Gorgeous. There's something fascinating about natural creations, or even manmade creations in nature. Rocks, mountains, oceans, etc.

Catherine said...

Dear Mary, I just love this. I love all the spices used. What a nice post with all of the pictures that you shared. Thank you and blessings, Catherine

Elaine said...

Stunning photos of the caves!

David said...

Mary, I've always been facinated by these Cappadocian Cave Houses! We've seen a couple of travelogues that they were featured in... Lucky you! This is place is a little like the common man's Petra. Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

D said...

Mary, what an amazing experience you and the Silver fox must have had. I need to spend more time reading many of your posts... am way behind because of the garden these days, but plan to catch up. The photos are amazing... thanks for sharing these with us.

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