Saturday, September 2, 2017

Fare Thee Well

Dear reader,

I started the Old Curiosity Shop after my first daughter, Asya, was born in 2010 and since then I've shared so many posts about my humble adventures here in Sarajevo both as an expat and a "local" along the way. Go see the previous posts please. ­čĹç 

However, I have come to decide not to write any posts and end this wonderful journey here. You can always ask me any questions about the recipes I've shared on the blog, Sarajevo or the life here, though. Please feel free to drop me a line at ozermehtap@gmail.com

I believe this end will be another beautiful beginning and that's why I am not sad at all. You shouldn't be either. 


Well, as you have already guessed, this post is to say "Goodbye" to you all. Hope you've enjoyed or at least benefited from some of the posts I've shared on this blog. 

Well, I'll be still posting photos on Instagram and telling stories there. Check them out sometime at


You won't regret; I promise. 

Thanks a million for stopping by. 

See you around.


Mehtap

Monday, June 26, 2017

DIY Terrariums: Insanely beautiful gifts

Your seven-year-old can surprise you with the simplest but insanely beautiful gifts ever and all they need is a baby food jar that you have no idea to do with and a little bit of imagination. 

Asya excitedly ran to me one afternoon with these two baby food jars in her hands. She had apparently taken the jars from the recycle drawer in the kitchen, that's where she heads whenever she 'has an idea'. 

At first glance I couldn't understand why she had brought them to me and I had no idea what those two small baby food jars were to offer me yet.

"I've made a gift for you, mom." she said.

 The moment I knelt down to see what her gift was the beauty of the amateur terrariums she had assembled on her own simply amazed me. 


She had used grass, snail shells and some flowers to create those 'spring's finally here' gifts. That's how she called her DIY terrariums, by the way. 



Well, Asya has always been a gift maker and gift giver. That's one of her personal trademarks now so I was supposed to be ready for such a gift, in theory. But she managed to surprise me and enchant me one more time with those fabulous little terrariums the arrival of spring had inspired her to make. I am not quite sure what I appreciated more: the finally arrived spring, Asya's creative inspiration and endless power of imagination, her fantastic recycling skills or her outbursts of making and giving gifts.

If you are interested in making easy DIY terrariums which need a little bit more technical details than Asya's, learn more here.



Friday, April 14, 2017

┼×ekerpare (“sheh-ker-pah-reh”)



It all started when one of colleagues at the university , Emir, and his wife, Dijana, came up with their own version of ┼čekerpare (“sheh-ker-pah-reh”) that they once tasted on their summer vacation in Istanbul a couple of years ago. 

For their own ┼čekerpare, they replaced some of the ingredients w─▒th the ones they like better; reduced the sugar for the syrup; added chopped walnuts into the dough and made bigger cookies all of which made their ┼čekerpare look unrecognisable to me. They tasted perfect though, I should admit. 

Well, I immediately realised that I had not shared any ┼čekerpare recipe on my blog and so decided to use my sister's failproof recipe for this highly popular dessert from Turkish cuisine. When you give it a try, you will see yourself that ┼čekerpare isn't tricky at all and it is super delicious. Simplicity is often the king when it comes to food after all, isn't it?

INGREDIENTS

For the dough

  • 250 grams margarine/butter, soft at room temperature 
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 4 tablespoons semolina 
  • 2 tablespoons shredded coconuts
  • 160 grams powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon (1 packet) baking powder 
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla sugar (1 teaspoon vanilla extract)
  • 3 cups of all purpose flour (add the last cup gradually)
  • hazelnuts/walnuts/ almonds for top depending on your choice
  • 1 egg yolk, optional, for brushing on top

For the syrup

  • 800 grams sugar
  • 1 litre water
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon


METHOD

1. Prepare the syrup first.

  • Add in a saucepan the sugar, water and lemon juice.
  • Bring to a boil then gently simmer uncovered for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has dissolved and the syrup has slightly thickened. 
  • Remove the pan from the stove and set aside to cool down to the room temperature. 

2.  Make the cookies.

  • Preheat the oven to 180 C degrees.
  • Grease a baking pan or tray with margarine.   
  • In a large mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients and knead them well until smooth. 
  • Take small pieces of the dough and roll them between your palms to make balls about the size of a walnut. 
  • Place the dough balls onto the pan leaving some space in between.
  • Brush on top with beaten egg yolk. This is totally optional. I do this because it gives a golden-brown color with a highly glossy finish.
  • Press an almond, walnut or a hazelnut into the center of each cookie.
  • Bake for about 20-25 minutes until the cookies get golden brown. 
  • Remove from the oven.


3. Soak the cookies in the syrup.

  • Once you remove the cookies from the oven, drizzle the syrup all over the cookies slowly using a large spoon and let them soak in.
  • When you've used up all the syrup, cover the pan/tray with foil and let the cookies soak all the syrup and cool completely. 
  • Garnish with shredded coconut or ground pistachio before serving. 

Monday, March 6, 2017

Mira & Safija

It's been almost nine years here. My family, friends and colleagues in Turkey have kept asking for all those years about how I exactly feel about being a foreigner in Sarajevo. 

Some of them expect me to start complaining about possible homesickness, conflicts with the locals, and/or the language barrier and its fatal consequences. Some others expect me to praise the beauty of the landscapes here, to be carried away by the nostalgia for the former Yugoslavia and/or to trace the presence of the Ottoman Empire in this fabulous land. 

Such expectations naturally require a detailed discussion of my experiences in Sarajevo so far. When I started this blog that was actually what I had on my mind: documenting my individual level of exposure to Sarajevo culture. So, this post, in that sense, will serve as just another story to build my own story in Sarajevo intended to meet some of those expectations.

Well, what I love most about living in this city is that I am surrounded by people from culturally diverse backgrounds. This has its practical consequences for me such as having the opportunity to meet different cuisines and several religious, philosophical, political and ideological views encapsulated in one single city. 

Interestingly enough, this diversity has not resulted in chaos as most of the locals complain about. On the contrary, as a foreigner, I feel like just another pinch of spice  added to this amazing mixture of flavours. 'I too am one of those many 'different' components of life in Sarajevo after all and I am no different then.' This is very welcoming and this is the very feeling I have when I think about my place in this city, which has been confirmed by endless examples in the past nine years.

Please take a look at the two photos below. 

I found the basket full of all those greens in it in front of my door one day after a hectic day at work. It did not take me long to guess who left the basket there because it was not the first time that I had received such gifts from the same person: Teta Mira. She is an elderly neighbour who brings you some kale or Swiss chard leaves from her own garden just because she knows that you are still breastfeeding and greens are good for the baby. 


Teta Mira's treats

And I received some fresh raspberries in that tupperware accompanied by some fresh mint leaves and flowers from Safija, a dear friend, when Asya returned from a playdate at her place. Since she is a dietician and knows the best about combining food, she made my day by sending this little gift to us. 

Safija's afternoon treats 

I believe even these two individual examples of kindness and thoughtfulness on their own would be enough to describe the fantastic people I live among in Sarajevo or how grateful they make me feel every now and then. Yes, this is what I like most about living in Sarajevo.


Thursday, February 11, 2016

Eggs and Pacifiers



Ferida is my second daughter but she has introduced me to lots of new and challenging adventures such as breastfeeding for one thing. I'm not going to write a post about how holy you feel after each nursing or the role of oxytocin in socio-emotional functioning in mothers. No. This post is about eggs and pacifiers which have become inseparable from our life for the last six months. 



Eggs
In Bosnia, when it is your baby's first visit to a place such as a friend or relative's house, the baby is given eggs as a gift. The custom, I assume, has some pagan roots dealing with the connotations of an egg: the full cycle of life, the symbol of earth, fertility, beginning of life, rebirth, renewal and hope. There could be other things that have made the egg a preferable gift. Eggs are always easily available and a valuable source of high-quality proteins. Well, Ferida has been visiting friends and relatives with me for some time now and imagine how many eggs we have received during our visits. It's pretty difficult to take the eggs home without breaking them though! 

Pacifiers
As a new-born and even before that we received lots of pacifiers as a gift for Ferida. Although it's not a custom to give pacifiers here, they hit number 1 on the chart of baby gifts we have received. However, Ferida, as a breastfed baby, has kept refusing them. I don't know exactly why but she has shown no interest in them at all and I haven't forced her to take them. This has definitely made life harder for me because I myself have to replace all the functions that a pacifier has. On the other hand, looking at the brighter side, I won't have to go through the pacifier weaning stage and invent tales about the pacifier fairy taking it away! Well, the thing is having so many pacifiers around the house and using none is now simply annoying. I'll definitely get rid of them at the next swap market. 

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Baking Bread in a Closed Clay Pot

      

Waking up to the smell of freshly baked bread is the beginning of another dream. 


Ingredients

250 grams all-purpose flour
250 grams whole-wheat flour
300-350 ml mineral water
20 grams fresh yeast
9-10 grams salt 
 5 grams caster sugar






Method

1. Add the yeast to the mineral water and stir until the yeast is dissolved completely.
2. Add salt and sugar to the yeast-mineral water mixture. 
3. Add the flour slowly. Knead for some 10 minutes until you shape it into a ball. 
4. Put the dough into the bowl and a damp cloth over the bowl. Leave the bowl somewhere warm for one to two hours until the dough doubles in volume. 
5. Punch the dough down and shape it using a bit more flour to prevent sticking, if necessary. 
6. Put the dough into the bowl again and cover it with a damp cloth again. Leave the bowl in a warm place for another 30 minutes. The dough should rise some more.
7. Meanwhile, apply a light coating of vegetable oil to the inside of clay pot/baker or Dutch oven and heat it to 250°C. 
8. Get the clay pot/baker or Dutch oven out, place the loaf inside of  the clay pot/baker or Dutch oven. Put it back in the oven.
9. Bake for about 30 minutes. Reduce the heat to 200°C and continue baking for another 10-15 minutes or until the crust is golden brown.*
10. Let it cool down completely before slicing. 


*You can double the amounts of ingredients here. In that case, remember to bake the dough longer.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Eid al-Adha in Sarajevo, Vol II

Remember the post about how the meat is shared with others on Eid al-Adha in Sarajevo? Well, consider this post as volume II then.


The meat is divided into small portions and sent to relatives, neighbours, and those in need around you as the practice goes in most muslim countries. What makes me write this post is the interesting Bosnian custom to sprinkle nigella seeds over the meat before putting it into those printed plastic bags. 


I believe this custom originates from the Prophet Mohammad's advice to use nigella seeds: 

'Use the black seed because it has a relief of all diseases, but death.'

However, I haven't heard or read anything else to explain how the custom started and evolved and among Bosniaks. If you know anything about this, please drop me a line or leave a comment under the post. 

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Carrot & Garlic Soup


I haven't got much to say. This soup is good food indeed.


Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, chopped
450 grams carrots, peeled and grated
1,2 - 1,5 litres boiling water or vegetable stock
salt and black pepper 
(Optional) ground dried mint

Method

1. Heat the oil in a large pan, add the garlic, then fry for a couple minutes until softened. 
2. Add the carrots and cook until the colour changes. Add salt and pepper. 
3. Add water/stock, bring to the boil, then reduce the heat. Cover and cook for 15-20 mins until the carrots are tender.
4. Using a hand blender or food processor blitz until smooth. Return to pan, taste, add more salt if necessary.
5. (Optional) Season with ground dried mint before serving.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Eid al-Adha in Sarajevo

I've always enjoyed spotting differences between things. Since I moved to Sarajevo, I've been doing it so much between Turkish customs and traditions and the Bosnian ones. This has actually revealed a lot about Bosnian identity in different ways. Well, I'd rather write another post about this and go back to a detail about Eid al-Adha in Sarajevo that I've wanted to share with you for a long time. 



On this religious festival, muslim people share the meat of the sacrificed animal (usually a cow, but can also be a camel, goat, sheep or ram depending on the region) with relatives, friends, neighbours and the poor and needy while remaining some meat for themselves. OK, there is nothing different about this practice in Bosnia and Herzegovina, muslim Bosnians share the meat too. However, there is something different about how they do it: printed plastic bags are used to put the meat in and share. These small bags are white usually with the picture of a ram and the bajram greeting on them. 


I find this tradition quite interesting. It shows, first of all, how meticulous Bosnian people are when hygiene and customs are concerned. Almost everybody uses these bags which you can buy at any grocery shop or supermarket. I think this is the extension of the Western mind that's been shaping Bosnia since the Ottoman rule left the region. 

Secondly, the bajram greeting printed in green on these bags tell you a great deal about the Turkish heritage in these lands. It reads 'Bajram ┼íerif mubarek olsun'* on the bag (take a look at the picture above) and the same greeting is written in Arabic letters which is the Ottoman Turkish itself. The cultural tradition of greeting each other with this phrase is still in use as it was introduced in the Turkish language during the Ottoman rule. The greeting has been preserved in the way it was adopted long long years ago. Amazing! 



* 'Have a blessed celebration/festival'

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Britain vs. America: Vegetable Names

I've come across this video on Anglophenia in which Kate Arnell teaches seven vegetables with different names in America and Britain. Quite useful whichever side of the pond you live.




Saturday, September 26, 2015

September Drinks



When I first saw the pears my father-in-law offered me the other day, to be honest, I wasn't thrilled at all. They were pretty small and had very dark skin. They seemed tasteless or even rotten. 

Appearances can be deceiving. They were super sweet and soft inside which inspired me to make a September drink to offer to my guests on bajram* visits. After adding some dried figs and cloves, it turned into a perfect seasonal drink with a sweet and pleasant taste.

All you need to get this zingy drink is place pears, figs and cloves into a pan, fill it up with water and bring to a boil. Then simmer until all the ingredients get soft and release their flavours into the mixture. Then add caster sugar, stir until sugar is dissolved and remember that the amount of all these ingredients depends on your personal taste. Play with them. 




* Both Eid and Eid al-Adha in Bosnian.