The best way to learn authentic style of cooking any cuisine is to learn it in the country where it originates from. This is not always practical, and thus I tend to grab any such opportunity while traveling. On our trip to Turkey, I booked a class for cooking 5 course Turkish dinner at Cooking Alaturka in Istanbul. The school is run by Chef Eveline with the help of Chef Feyzi. Chef Eveline opened the school in 2002, after a long and successful career in food industry, and also runs a small restaurant which serves a fixed four/five course menu.
Istanbul is as much about food, as it is about history and culture. I cannot remember any other city outside India where I enjoyed every meal and kept looking forward to the next one. Taking a class to learn Turkish cuisine in the beautiful city magnified that experience manifold. The school offers both vegetarian and non-vegetarian menus for learning and one can opt for either of the morning and evening class. We went for the latter, which was scheduled from around 4 in the evening. We quickly went through the recipes handed over to us before the class started, while enjoying the Turkish coffee offered to us.
One of the dishes in our short curriculum was the famous red lentil and bulgur soup with zucchini fritters. Lentils is a quintessential part of Indian cuisine, and I was delighted to learn a new way of preparing another healthy dish from them. In this class we also made stuffed eggplant, vine leaves with stuffed mushrooms and the traditional Turkish dessert “Sekerpare” (Semolina sponge cake with hazelnuts). I won’t share the recipes in this post, and would leave that for later!
A lot of basic preparation is pre-done so that the classes can focus on main cooking techniques and recipes. Some other basic steps like chopping and churning were divided among the students, while the important steps were done by everyone. This ensured that we can learn a lot of things in less time and don’t spend a lot of time on what we already know.
The main takeaway from this class were the local tricks and methods and use of spices, which make subtle but an important difference between the authentic and non-authentic preparation. Chef Feyzi demonstrated loads of these while keeping the group entertained with his antics. He is an exceptionally talented cook and teacher. Chef Eveline is very professional in teaching, but offers a lot of flexibility in how much one wants to learn. The classes caters to everyone from fun activity seekers to serious amateurs and she makes sure everyone gets what they came for. The best part is you get to eat the food you made. After completing the cooking, we had a group dinner and were served the very dishes we made, which turned out to be delicious!
I would highly recommend Cooking Alaturka when in Istanbul, whether you want to learn cooking a perfect Turkish dinner, or just looking to have a good time with some friends!