Memories of my younger years came flooding back in a Cape Town bookshop where a newly published cookbook caught my eye: Anatoli Authentic Turkish Cuisine.

We went to Anatoli in Green Point decades ago to celebrate birthdays — most of us with only a little cash to spare from our first jobs. A large group could settle down for the evening at a long table, order beer or the cheapest wine on the list, and tuck into the mezze selection.

Paging through the book, written by Anatoli restaurateur Tayfun Aras, I was relieved to discover that the restaurant is still thriving, and promptly reserved a table.

The book is laid out much like the restaurant’s menu itself. Mezzes, mains and desserts are followed by recipes for dishes Aras eats at home, but which are too difficult or time-consuming to prepare in the restaurant. He writes lovingly about his childhood memories and his first exposure to the responsibilities of preparing food for his family.

At Anatoli’s a meal begins with the arrival of a vast tray filled with 22 small plates of mezzes. The waiter whips through the names and descriptions in a well-oiled patter.

Back in the day, our crowd was large enough to choose one of each. Returning in middle age with more disposable income but only four people in the party, it is a difficult choice.

Aras writes that his regulars know the mezzes so well that they pick up their favourite dishes by sight. My favourite was the çerkez tavugu — Circassian-style chicken paté.

In the book the recipe for this dish reads like a recipe for chicken soup — a broth is made with a whole chicken, carrots, onions and peppercorns. The cooked chicken meat is stripped and mixed in a food processor with walnuts, garlic and paprika and broth-soaked bread. Nothing goes to waste — the boiled onions and carrots are added.


Mucver, baby-marrow fritters, are served all over Turkey but are not always sufficiently light. Anatoli’s Borani is one for my next mezze party — an enticing mix of caramelised onions, turmeric and raisins added to blanched spinach and yoghurt.

The bread served at Anatoli is heavenly. It arrives on a long board and can be ordered plain or with garlic. Aras has obliged and published his "legendary" bread recipe in his book.

We chose a lamb-rib dish that was exquisitely tender, with a well-spiced tomato-based sauce. I assume this was Papaz Yahnisi (priest’s lamb stew), cooked in red-grape vinegar, tomato paste, allspice, peppercorns, chillies, bay, garlic and pickling onions. The recipe says the ribs must be cooked over very low heat until tender.

Two of my favourites in the cookbook were proffered on the dessert tray. Kayisi Dolma (stuffed apricots) are quite delicious and, it turns out, super easy to prepare. As with all recipes that have a few ingredients, quality really counts.

I also had Ayva Tatlisi, a poached quince that turns a most luscious pink when cooked. I had no need for the big hitters — baklava, crème caramel and rice pudding — but their recipes are in the book.

In the chapter headed From My Own Kitchen, Aras shares his family favourites. Perfect for a vegetarian feast, Karisik Kizartma is a dish Aras recalls his father making. Aubergine, peppers, baby marrows and potatoes are deep-fried, served with a spicy tomato sauce and topped with garlicky yoghurt.

Turkish cuisine gets a tasty SA makeover in Pekmezde Hellim, where halloumi is baked with moskonfyt.

Anatoli is beautifully photographed by Myburgh du Plessis. If cooking from it feels a step too far, enjoy the photos and make a reservation.

A visit to Anatoli is like a slice of Turkish life. Aras has written his cookbook with the hope that Turkish food in SA might be celebrated at home. Anatoli provides an enticing roadmap for turning out Turkish delight in your own kitchen.