a review of anatoli, the cookbook
Established way back in 1984, Anatoli is a culinary institution in Cape Town – the place where generations of customers have sampled Turkish food for the first time. And, of course, definitely not the last.
From its richly decorated interior to the huge wooden trays on which waiters bear the restaurant’s 22 delectable mezze with which every meal there begins, Anatoli has for many years been a very special experience for Capetonians, and one that replete food lovers return to again and again.
The restaurant’s current owner – and the author of this delightful and informative book – is Tayfun Aras, who hails from the ancient region of Anatolia in Turkey, but has lived in Cape Town on and off for many years, as well as having been the chef-proprietor of Anatoli since 2003. Anatoli: Authentic Turkish Cuisine details both Aras’s personal story (there’s the most adorable photograph in the book of him aged about two, munching on an obviously irresistible loaf of Turkish bread) and the restaurant’s history. It also provides an excellent introduction to Turkish cuisine and its key ingredients, such as bulgur, okra, sumac and tahini.
The first section of recipes is all about those unctuously delectable mezze, which range from creamy borani (spinach with yoghurt and sultanas) to sarma (stuffed vine leaves), çerkez tavugu (chicken pâté) and zeytinyagli pirasa (leeks cooked slowly in olive oil and tomato). And of course, plenty of better-known Mediterranean classics – such as grilled halloumi, köfte (meatballs) and cacik (aka tzatziki) – make an appearance here too. In an act of great generosity, Aras even shares the recipe for Anatoli’s legendary and seriously moreish Turkish bread.
As everyone learns after one or two trips to Anatoli the restaurant, it’s key to pace yourself with those mezze, though – because otherwise, you won’t have any room for the excellent main courses. Anatoli: Authentic Turkish Cuisine includes recipes for a wide variety of these too, including a simple but delicious take on imam bayildi (aka the imam swooned, and possibly the best use to which aubergines have ever been put) as well as a wide variety of excellent lamb dishes – my favourite favourite is the lamb in yoghurt, so I was delighted to discover how brilliantly simple the recipe is.
Dessert highlights include the creamy rice pudding as well as instructions for making your own Turkish-style coffee at home. And then there’s the cherry-on-top extra section in which Aras shares a selection of dishes that, he explains, are the staples of his cooking at home. Which means that within the pages of the same book, with its general focus on fresh ingredients and excellent Turkish cooking, you can either keep it brilliantly simple – or strike out and aim for restaurant-level cuisine. Throughout Anatoli: Authentic Turkish Cuisine, the ingredients lists are accessible in length and generally quite modest in their pantry requirements, and the recipe methods are clear and to the point.
Anatoli: Authentic Turkish Cuisine (Human & Rousseau) is available to purchase from Takealot as well as bookstores countrywide. For more information about the book, visit the Human & Rousseau website.