As a fan of Jason Goodwin’s Yashim series set in 1830s Istanbul, I have been eagerly awaiting Yashim Cooks Istanbul, a cookbook. In the stories featuring Yashim as detective, Yashim always treats his guests and himself to delicious food that he creates in his kitchen. Yashim Cooks Istanbul provides readers with the recipes for those delicious dishes.
For fans of the Yashim series, Goodwin has set the cookbook up by including recipes for dishes mentioned in each book. The Janissary Tree, for example, is the first in the series, so recipes from that book are first. Tempting dishes such as chicken with walnuts and pomegranates, spring pilaf, and kebab of pilgrim Osman are some of the recipes to tempt readers and cooks.
In The Snake Stone chapter, stuffed chard, a bass in salt, and hazelnut and lemon pilaf offer good choices. Each chapter is headed by the book title. They include The Bellini Card, An Evil Eye, and The Baklava Club.
Each chapter provides clear instructions for the dishes along with pictures to complete the recipe. In The Janissary Tree chapter, for example, the dish of fiery eggs and peppers shows the dish on the opposite page to the recipe, making it look quite tempting.
Yashim Cooks Istanbul has received a great deal of praise. Delicious Magazine says, “The genius of Yashim Cooks Istanbul is how it intertwines brilliant recipes with food-centric passages and nuggets of culture.” The New York Times is equally complimentary with this review: “One of the delights of Goodwin’s series of mysteries…was the culinary prowess of his detective. This handsome collection of recipes is accompanied by excerpts from the novels that inspired it.”
Not only does Yashim Cooks Istanbul contain tasty recipes, Goodwin has also included other bits of Turkish culture. He writes of Yashim going into the Egyptian bazaar: “The rich aromas of cinnamon and cloves, of cumin, coriander and pounded ginger made his head whirl. Mountains of vividly coloured powder rose on every stall, pungent spices gathered from all across the world, from the coasts of India and the mountains of China, from Persia and Arabia and the islands of the South Seas, brought here to this great entrepot of the world’s trade by dhow, by carrack, by camel train and mule train, over deserts, through wild seas, crossing the passes of legendary mountain ranges, bartered and bought, fought for and pilfered, growing ever more valuable and rare until, at last, they reached this market on the edge of Europe, and vanished into a soup or a dish of rice.”
The description above also gives readers unfamiliar with the Yashim series a sense of the talent Goodwin pours into the stories. The New York Times Book Review extolls Jason Goodwin’s prowess as a writer by telling readers “when you read a historical mystery by Jason Goodwin, you take a magic carpet ride to the most exotic place on earth.”
Later in Yashim Cooks Istanbul, readers are treated to a description of Yashim’s lovingly preparing a simple dish of lentil soup for the harem.
From Yashim Cooks Istanbul: “Yashim laid the ingredients out on the chopping board: onion, garlic, a long red chili, and a carrot that the man had scraped clean. He set the sultan’s pan on a gentle heat and covered its base with olive oil, adding a small knob of butter before he chopped the onion into very small pieces…. He scraped the seeds out of the chili and chopped it together with the garlic, admiring the balance of the knife and the slight feathered curve toward its tip.”
Jason Goodwin has not only written about the Ottoman Empire, he has studied the Far East and has taken a walking journey of over 2000 miles. He writes about that journey in Lords of the Horizons: A History of the Ottoman Empire.
Explore Jason Goodwin’s Web site and blog: http://jasongoodwin.info/
The lentil soup recipe is the first dish Goodwin learned in Istanbul. Hande Bozdogan, founder of the Istanbul Culinary Institute, taught him.
Butter 75 g/3 oz red lentils 200g/8 oz
Onions 2, finely chopped chicken or meat stock 1.5 litres/3 pints
Garlic 2 clove, finely chopped salt, pepper
Potato 1 peeled and grated olive oil
Cumin ½ tsp, ground mint small bunch fresh or 1 tbsp dried
Hot pepper 1 tsp
Melt the butter in a saucepan, and gently soften the onions to translucency. Stir in the garlic, potato and cumin, then add the lentils, salt, pepper, and stock. Simmer for 25 minutes, covered, until the lentils are soft. You can run the soup through a blender or leave it as it is.
Heat the oil in a frying pan, turn the mint and hot pepper together in the oil, and sprinkle evenly over the soup for serving.