No garlic? No butter, or oil? No spices? I first came across this recipe in a little book of Turkish cookery written by the gloriously named Venice Lamb, put out by my English publisher, Faber, in the late 1960s. It’s a weird, even primitive, recipe but it tastes very good, and is a speciality of Konya, the seat of the Seljuks, a pre-Ottoman Turkish dynasty who ruled over much of Anatolia in the declining years of the Byzantine Empire. Konya is also the birthplace of the Mevlevi sect of Whirling Dervishes. Yashim, who travelled widely in the Ottoman Empire and beyond, would have cooked this in Istanbul, where it is known as kuzu kapama and traditionally heralds the coming of spring
- lamb steaks 1kg/2lb
- plain flour 2 tbsp
- large tomatoes 3
- spring onions 250g/8oz, trimmed and split lengthways
- cos lettuce 1, split in two
- mint and parsley sprigs
- salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to a moderate heat, 170C. Lay the steaks whole in an earthenware pot with a lid. Make up a paste with the flour and some water, and use it to cement the lid so that no steam escapes. Bake the lamb just as it is for two hours.
To skin the tomatoes, cut a shallow cross on the bottom of each one and drop them into boiling water for a minute. The skin will slide away. Cut out the stalk root.
Lift the lid of the pot, breaking the seal, and lay the spring onions, the lettuce and the tomatoes on top of the meat, with the herbs and a generous pinch of salt and sprinkling of black pepper.
Replace the lid, without re-sealing, and bake for half an hour.
From Yashim Cooks Istanbul: Culinary Adventures in the Ottoman Kitchen by Jason Goodwin (Argonaut Books £25/$35)