There is a lot of improvising in my cooking, I have to improvise, Turkey doesn’t have the world’s most efficient supply system and not everything is available all the time and whilst the village store will never run out of sheep trusses they may be temporarily out of various other things, so you learn to get by.
If I run out of cream I use yoghurt and icing sugar, if I run out of butter I use olive oil because apart from anything else olive oil is cheaper than butter here, lots cheaper.
Once you sort of get the chemistry right in cooking, particularly baking, and understand that flour stabilises mixtures and eggs bring lightness and any kind of fat basically does what butter does you can pretty much whip some sort of pudding or cake up without too much trouble.
I tend to go more by the consistency and taste of things than the actual weights and measures. With cakes I know what a dropping consistency is and when it is too runny and needs more flour and when it is too stiff and needs to be loosened a bit. Experience tells you that, but worst case scenario is you get a stodgy kind of cake and have to pour cream on it or you get a dry crumby cake and you have to turn it into a pudding. The only thing you can’t really rescue is burnt to a crisp and that’s not really anything to do with what you put in it.
On the plus side I also get to experiment with things that are given to me; recently the neighbours have been making grape molasses syrup, a thinner version of the thick grape molasses that I use a lot as a salad dressing and in heavy fruit cakes. It’s called Üzüm Pekmezi in Turkish and it’s a really useful ingredient to have lurking in your cupboard as I use it for loads of things.No butter Chocolate Hazlenut Loaf
When I run out of butter this is a fast tea time cake that is lovely and light
Take 2 eggs and 4oz sugar
Whisk together until pale and thick and creamy.
Add 6 tablespoons olive oil
Whisk again, don’t worry if you get mayonnaise, be impressed!
Add 2 tablespoons nutella (or any chocolate spread) stirred into 125ml of milk/cream. If you don’t have chocolate spread increase the amount of cocoa or melt a chocolate bar.
Whisk together again.
Add 6oz flour
1 oz cocoa powder (Kakoa here in Turkey and sold in small boxes in supermarkets)
Whisk again until you have a smooth batter
Pour into a greased loaf tin, scatter hazelnuts over the top and press them into mixture.
Cook in medium oven until a knife poked in comes out clean.Grape Topped Cheesecake
This is an easy pudding that uses up grapes a bit past their best and seems more luxurious than it really is as it is cobbled together from stuff I normally have around the place. It is ideal if you have people coming for dinner and can’t think of anything to serve them without sacrificing something you have been hoarding from home!
This has a mild cheese flavour and is very creamy and light, if I wanted it to be more cheesy and dense I would add “lor”, a mild and crumbly curd cheese that you can get from the market.
In a saucepan mix some halved seedless grapes in grape molasses syrup and a scattering of sugar, bring to the boil and cook for a few minutes then leave to cool.
Melt together a couple of ounces of butter and a tablespoon of honey. Crush half a packet of any bog standard tea biscuit along with some nuts (almonds/walnuts/hazlenuts) and stir into the honey and butter mixture. Press into bottom of spring form cake tin. Cool in the fridge.
Whip ½ pint cream to soft peaks – I use a packet of Turkish Kreme Santi for this kind of thing as it is a reasonable price, I’ve normally got a packet lurking in the cupboard and it whips nice and thick. Add 500ml (two small tubs) of cream cheese and a good dollop of suzme yoghurt. Whisk again until you have a stiff mixture. Add three or four tablespoons of icing sugar depending on how sweet you like things, you can also add few drops of vanilla essence.
Pile the cream and cheese mixture onto the biscuit base and leave to firm in the fridge.
After an hour or so in the fridge scatter grapes across the top and drizzle with the grape molasses syrup they were soaking in.
Neither of these recipes are Cordon Bleu but they both make nice food and that’s the point really.