I first came across Ezme Salatasi in North London, oh yes the glamorous life for me. I lived in a part of London that has a large Greek, Turkish, Greek-Cypriot, Turkish-Cypriot population, along with just about every other nationality you can name, I loved that about London, it felt like living in the World.
And along with the different nationalities came the bakers and delis, restaurants and take-aways; some smart with tablecloths and napkins, gilded chairs and tinkly music, others more basic with only a few items on the menu, simple tables and wobbly chairs, and invariably someones granddad sitting in the corner looking wistful or grumpy depending on the granddad. Many had an open indoor barbecue pit and a bread oven, they all served great food.
Everyone had their favourite place to eat kebab or lamb stews or borek or meze. Mine, I’ve forgotten the name now, had a BIG watch on the wall, I seem to remember it being pink plastic but that might be my memory…..
What I remember most and now recreate at home is the Ezme Salad.
Ezme Salatasi – a Turkish Tomato Salad
I flick through a few books at home, but I’m trying to find a bit of a back story to the salad. I find a good description from Turkeys For Life (Am I the only one thinking Thanksgiving here……)
“First things first, ‘ezme’ is a Turkish word that means ‘crushed’. You’ll also see the word used to describe any other Turkish food that involves a bit of crushing, smashing up or grinding”.
I read countless recipes, some versions with vinegar, some with lemon, with tomato puree and without. Many have chopped cucumber in and yes you guessed it many versions don’t. If you have a fresh cucumber then go ahead and chop it up finely and sling it in, this is a salad where the more the merrier is the mote-juste.
How To Make an Ezme Salad
Firstly how to describe it? Fresh and Zingy are words that spring to mind, read the ingredients and make it yourself and you will see what I mean.
It is a simple mix of chopped tomatoes (traditionally beefsteak tomatoes but I use what I have to hand), bashed a bit, a dash of olive oil, a squeeze of lemon juice, chopped garlic, a finely chopped de-seeded red chilli, a large handful of fresh flat leaf parsley and a pinch of salt. Then leave it for maybe 15 to 30 minutes to let the flavours soak through. Don’t put it in the fridge, there really is no need to chill the tomatoes to the bone!
It’s that simple my friends. It’s perfect on its own, as part of a meze, scooped up with flatbreads, alongside cheeses like feta and Haloumi or grilled fish and meat.
Back to the tomatoes –
If you want to oggle outrageously gorgeous photos and sumptuous heritage / heirloom tomatoes then pop over to my friend Stacy’s blog Down to Earth Digs. Most of all take a look at The Sample Platter post it will have you ooohhing and aahhhing and yup probably drooling too. Frankly the tomato platter is to die for. I mean figuratively speaking. It’s something to dream of and aim for – not the dying, the tomatoes !
My measly efforts pale into insignificance, but who’s counting or should I say who’s sulking in the British corner?! Blight really struck the tomatoes this year, in fact I’ve just pulled another two plants out of the garden and I’m about to dig up the remaining plants in the greenhouse where I will remove the top few inches of soil/compost and start all over again. The upside is that if I do this now I can sow lots of salads in the space left behind. So winter lettuce here we come!
The only varieties I have been able to save for next years seeds are Green Doctor and Fablonelistnyj, varieties that I picked up in a seed swap. Green Doctor has a beautiful green-red tinged skin, a cherry variety that has a touch of sharpness and has done well in this lack-lustre summer of ours; as has the Fablonelistnyj a bright yellow knobbly cherry, again a little sharpness comes through in the taste-test-offs.
You were wondering where the bucket came into this weren’t you? Yes I have taste-test-offs. I need to decide what to grow next year – my tomato bucket list !