Monday, 16 December 2013

Slow Soup



Bodrum is just emerging from seven days of freezing temperatures, power cuts and dug-up roads, just the combination to make even the most mild-mannered a bit irritable.  Nothing could be done about the mini ice age that swept through, but for those reliant on electric heating - a better time could have been chosen for "power line maintenance work".  After 30 odd years, I accept (without ever understanding) that the roads have to be dug up each winter, but one year it would be nice for warning signs to be erected a few hundred metres before the massive hole blocking the road. I suspect that this is really a ploy to make Bodrum drivers practice reversing - a manoeuvre most spend their entire driving career avoiding.   
So when the odds are against me keeping both warm and my temper, I opt for soup.  Thick, homemade soup is an instant  cure-all.  I've read that chicken soup actually does reduce the length of a cold or flu, but for good chicken soup you need a roast chicken carcass, which isn't on hand when the electric oven is off, so we usually opt for lentil or leek and potato which can be cooked in 30 minutes on a single gas ring. I was confident that there wasn't a broth I didn't like until I came to Turkey and here I met my soup nemesis - Tarhana.  It's a difficult concept to explain to those not brought up with it as tarhana is basically a home made packet soup - a lot of work goes into it initially but once done it is stored in cloth bags (not the plastic you see in the picture) and used over the winter.  Recipes differ, but the general idea is that yogurt, wheat and flour are mixed together and allowed to ferment for 7 to 10 days producing lactic acid and this mixture is then dried in the sun and the resulting crust is crumbled to be rehydrated at a later stage. 


I came across these three types of tarhana at the Friday market; the first is "children's tarhana" - made with milk, yogurt, flour and onions, the second is "hot tarhana" made with yogurt, flour, onions, hot red peppers and tomato paste, and the third is "normal tarhana" made as before but with sweet peppers rather than hot ones.  To make the soup, a couple of tablespoons of dried tarhana are added to water or stock with a tablespoon of tomato paste and heated and stirred until thick.  My problem with the soup is that the fermentation process is an unstable procedure and the airborne yeasts very variable and I have often had a bowl of bubbling soup put in front of me which looks appetising but smells of something more akin to what the dog regurgitated.  It's an aroma that is difficult to get past if one is to enjoy the taste.  I have a bag of tarhana soup in my kitchen and I do make it for my husband who loves it, but I test each bag before I engage in soup making to weed out the ones with the whiffy bacteria.


I am very much in a minority of tarhana phobics. On Friday, the Bodrum chapter of the Slow Food movement served tarhana soup and dried "peksimet" bread at the weekly market and the soup was all gone in less than an hour. By the time I got there just before 11am, only a few crusts of bread were available for the photo call.

28 comments:

  1. B to B, You know, I was relieved to read this because when I bought some tahana in the market before I knew what it was (the guy selling it told me to make a soup out of it), when I got it home and tasted it, I was surprised to find that I didn't like it at all. Maybe I got one of those batches that had a gamey aroma.

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    1. I think it is a taste you have to grow up with. Our noses tell us that this soup is off.

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  2. . . I'm convinced you need to see a therapist to help you over these phobias ;-)

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    1. and probably for many more issues too.

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  3. I tried it once and that was enough. I hated it, the smell in particular. I still have the bag in the cupboard, which is probably rotten by now, so your post has reminded me to throw it away.

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    1. I dread to think what the biology of the bag is now.

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  4. I made some from a mix given to me by a friend (who made it herself) and it was an all out disaster. I used far too much and the soup was almost solid. Ashley refused to eat it again. Then our neighbour passed us a bowl over the wall - a group of the local ladies had been preparing it in next-doors garden. That, we agreed, was delicious. I guess it's just a non-standard item. Though I have to confess that it looks most unappetising when it's sitting in blobs being dried.

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    1. I've just received a recipe on Facebook so I will try and make it myself - it has to be done in September so I'll have to wait a bit.

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  5. Definitely sounds like an acquired taste to me, Annie. Make mine tomato and basil.

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  6. The hot tarhana sounds interesting. I just had a yummy red lentil soup that was yummy.

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    1. I stick to lentil - not much can go wrong with it.

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  7. I also hate Tarhana Annie but not half as much as sheep's feet soup which my husband loves. I have to leave the house when he's cooking it, I can't even look at it.

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    1. You have just reminded me of the smell of sheep's head and tripe soup - both stomach churning. I've never come across sheep's feet soup - luckily.

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  8. . . also, a small amount added to stews and casseroles is a terrific flavouring.

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    1. I like to add a spoonful of olive paste - that always improves a stew.

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  9. Here's one for you - lived in Turkey for ten years and we've never had tarhana soup! :) We find it amazing. No one really mentions it in Fethiye and it's not available at the lokantas. I'm sure our friends must eat it at home but obviously never when we've been with them. :)

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    1. Not sure how you have avoided it but as you can see from the comments you shouldn't fret over the omission.

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  10. Iv'e never tasted it either!! However, I can't throw an uncooked chicken carcass in the bin - my Grandad would never forgive me :-)

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    1. I can't believe your in-laws aren't avid tartan makers - Maybe they call it something else. I only use cooked chicken carcass for soup - it gives a much richer flavour.

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    2. Oh - blogger spell-check - why do you do this to me? I of course wrote tarhana and blogger decided to turn it into tartan. I now have a vision of all your hubby's family wearing kilts.

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    3. Agggghhhh I have no idea why i wrote "uncooked" as that makes absolutely no sense!! Of course I mean cooked!! In my defence, I am holed up in bed dying of the dreaded lergy...my brain just isn't functioning properly ;-)

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  11. Loved all these comments and you are not alone, it certainly is an acquaired taste. I am with Alan, I don't mind a small amount of it with strews and other veg, and it is quite nice with lentils- I don't look out for it though- no luck anyway in England :) hope the roadwork ends, what a nuisance. And happy happy Christmas & new year!!;)

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  12. I feel much better reading this özlem - Happy festivities to you too.

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  13. DH and I adore soup as a rule, but from your description I'm not sure tarhana would make it onto the favourites list. I do hope the power and road interruptions will be finished soon.

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    1. The road works are still going strong. Jake and I watch the reversing cars every morning

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  14. My husband loves Tarhana soup.......there is no way I can dry or whatever you supposed to do to get that soup mix. When my husband goes to one of the Turkish stores we have here he buys some in packages and then I just cook those for him....at first I wasn't too keen on that soup but after years being with him I now enjoy it.
    Lentil soup I make quite often from scratch and freeze some for future use when we need a lunch and no time to cook.......chicken soup I also cook and freeze, especially for the deep freeze cold winters we get here sometimes....or when we get colds or the flu. It's called the Jewish Penicillin Soup here because it relieves symptoms of the cold and flu.symptoms...

    Take care and I hope that your roads get dug up fast...and be finished.

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    1. I love real chicken soup - it's almost worth getting ill to have an excuse to live on it for a week.

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