I spent a lovely hour in a Turkish shop today. I’d been there many times before, but hadn’t visited for quite a long time and as I was passing it, I thought I’d drop in. I’m really pleased that I did.
The shop is in the centre of Birmingham and the first glimpse of the stalls outside give you a taste of what’s inside – a vast array of fresh chillies. I’ve taken these home before – the larger the chilli, the less heat there is. But the white ones in particular (yellow cap) are perfect for stuffing. They taste like normal bell peppers, but they have a little kick. The larger green ones are great to add to curries or wherever you’d normally add a green pepper. They have a lovely grassy, green pepper taste with a little heat.
Upstairs, the Turkish flat bread had just come out of the oven. There’s a stack of white paper next to the piles of warm bread, so that you can pick up a flat bread, wrap it and to take it to the till. If I’d been a little later, they would have had Lahmacun ready for lunch. These are Turkish bread bases with a fiery lamb mince on the top, like a spicy pizza without the cheese. Again, the sheets of paper are there for you to fold the Lahmacun in half and take them to the till. I missed out today…
As I got to the till to pay, my eye as normal was drawn to the lovely things they had on the counter to tempt you at the last minute – just like they do at the supermarket, but with gorgeous hand crafted goodies – Turkish Delight drenched in icing sugar, baklava that was still in the tray it had been baked in upstairs, grapes and some things in green net bags. I was so happy to see that half of the bags contained green almonds. I’d read about them so often – they are as eagerly anticipated in the Middle East as our first strawberries or asparagus. Their season is as short too: April – July so I was so lucky to find them!
Almonds are, in fact a member of the peach family rather than being a tree nut and you can really tell with these green almonds as their skins are fuzzy, like peaches. When you cut them in half, there is the almond that we all know and love – except it’s not. When you lift it clear of its casing and bite into it, beneath the skin there is water/jelly instead of nut! The nut hasn’t yet developed and neither has the hard shell that surrounds it. That means you can eat the whole of the green almond, fuzzy skin and all. The taste is ‘pure green’ – it’s like everything that Spring should be! Vaguely nutty, with a firm taste of peas that turns to a bitter, chicory-like note with a crispy bite. The taste isn’t something that is immediately familiar, but I think that if you put them out as a snack with drinks, they wouldn’t last long. I’ve found a couple of dishes that they can be cooked in – mostly Persian Khoreshes (stews), so I’ll be experimenting with a Tastesmith’s kit tomorrow!
Right next to the green almonds was another bag of green things – I didn’t know what these were. The shop keeper told me that they were green plums “a real delicacy”, he said, “you eat them with salt”.
These were crunchy and sour – like a Granny Smiths apple, but tiny and juicy! They had the same effect on my mouth as rhubarb, but were really pleasing. They are good to add to tagines and stews as a sweet/sour addition. I couldn’t see why salt should be added, but after biting into one I added a tiny sprinkle. I immediately saw why the salt works – the fruit became much sweeter and took the acid edge off. I can imagine having a bowl of these and a pinch pot of salt at a dinner party to serve with cocktails, along with olives. They have the same moreish quality.
I seem to have discovered a whole new set of bar snacks!