EAST MEETS WEST

An introduction to my heritage and cuisine.

Hello! My name is Talia - a Turkish-Cypriot chef from London, currently living in Sydney. When contemplating what to write for my first blog post, I realised that so many people in my life, my clients, co-workers, my lovely recipe followers, get only a glimpse into the cultural heritage that has come to define my style of cooking and is what led me to pursue my career in the first place. So let me set the scene for you.

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One of my earliest memories was visiting the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul and being in awe at the Imperial Kitchens, where over hundreds of the leading chefs from around the Ottoman Empire would come for the chance to cook for the Sultan. Some sixty types of food would be prepared for him at one time, of course not all he ate. The diversity of culture and cooking styles which would culminate in these kitchens, is hugely representational of the fusion of foods associated with this region today.

 

While the word ‘fusion’ may be grossly overused, the countries surrounding the Mediterranean, in particular Turkey, which straddles the Euro/Asia continents, truly acts as a cultural bridge, vividly representing the diversity of the cuisine in both continents.

Arab traders brought spices back from East India and Africa, along with cooking revolutionaries collected along the Silk Road. Early influence from China and Persia brought dumplings and noodles, echoed in Turkey’s 'manti' - ravioli and 'dolma' - stuffed vegetables with rice and stretching all the way to the pastas that define Italian cuisine.

 

Similar affinities in bread stretch across the countries, from pizzas to pittas baked in a wood fire oven and filled with various toppings. The Moorish influence in Spain introduced spices and rice based dishes to Iberia, seen in the the use of saffron in paella. They also share the similar foundations of olive oil, lemon, and tomatoes, as a base of most dishes across these countries.

 

The hot climate forced the development of new preservation methods, whilst also adding flavour, such as, cured meats of spicy pastrima and chorizo and soaking sugar syrups and alcohols all over desserts, from baklava to rum baba.

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The resulting tapestry of cuisines, transcends beyond geographical boundaries, taking each individual back through time and through a culmination of history, family interactions, social occasions and nostalgia. My personal connection to these traditions has come so far from those life-altering flavours that defined my childhood, which have since been greatly influenced by travel, people and growing up in the culturally diverse society that is London.

 

Since then, I found an affinity for cooking, which grows from the traditions from of these cultures and modernises it to utilise new cooking techniques and and our access to an unlimited abundance of ingredients. Despite my classical French training, my experience in the industry has spanned kitchens such as, Ottolenghi in London to Nomad in Sydney stemming from my attraction to this type of 'fusion' cuisine.

 

Sustainability has also found its way through to the core of my creativity, causing me to pull away from heavy meat and fish based dishes and discover the unlimited potential of vegetables, raw ingredients and minimising food waste.

Compiling my blog of recipes over the years has been a hugely personal reflection of my journey through the food world - the recipes defining much of the chef I have become today but also delving into the deep roots that led me on this journey in the first place.

ANY FEEDBACK IS WELCOMED

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