“The eyebrows raise, smiles widen and the faces beam with excitement as Sevim Hanim cuts a block of butter and slides it into the pan. The room fills with aroma as the women listen to Sevim’s instructions. It is a session of Turkish cuisine by Feliz, Sevim Hanim and Seda Gul as part of the monthly meetings by Twin Cities Expatriate Association (TEA).
While the lunching ladies are from Britain, America, Brazil, France, Turkey and India, Indialogue Foundation, the Turkish centre in Banjara Hills is the venue for the TEA group to savour Turkish flavours. As the ladies click photos and share some jokes, the trio of Feliz, Sevim and Seda whip up cacik (yogurt-cucumber dip), beyti kebab, telshehriyeli pilav (rice pulav with chick peas), green peppers and tomatoes and a custard with chocolate sauce. Every month, one TEA member organises a cookery session for the other members where they cook and teach dishes from their country. From Tunisian and Lebanese to Indian… the culinary meets are popular for its blend of food and conversation.
At a time when there is no dearth of recipe books, TV shows or internet to learn global cuisine, these informal sessions have their own charm say food enthusiasts. Sevim says unlike Indian food which is spicy, Turkish cuisine uses less spices. Seda says she was waiting for a month preparing for the session.
“It is fun when we meet and prepare the dish. We introduce our culture to others,” she says. Talking to Feliz is like eating a warm cookie. Passionate about food and bubbling with enthusiasm, she says food is the binding factor. “When a person from the country teaches a dish, the recipe is pure and authentic,” she says as her mother watches the proceedings.
Tasting Iranian cuisine
A few months back Hoda Khalighi, an Iranian student was in a fix. “When I tasted the Iranian cuisine and Irani chai in Hyderabad, it was way different from the Iranian version cooked back home. I wanted to change their perception,” she says. With a passion for cooking, when she organised a ‘Taste and Learn Iranian cuisine’ which included dishes like zereshk palow ba morgh and gheime at Lamakaan, she didn’t anticipate the response. “When I began to cook, the gathering stepped forward to hear me and that’s when I felt more confident. They asked questions about the food and my country,” she says with a smile.
Hoda says when one learns an international dish from the person hailing from the country; it is not just sharing of the recipe. Agrees Anuradha Reddy, a participant from the TEA group.
“Home-cooked food is no match to the recipe on the net. These are family recipes passed on to generations and these tried and tested recipes have warmth unlike a recipe found on the internet,” she points out. While Clotilde, a French national likes trying out dishes from other countries, Alexandra Hoffmeyer says when there is personal interaction, one discovers cuisine and a country. “This is like a home away from home.
One learns so much about each other’s country, language and culture as we learn about the food,” she says.
The food exchange programmes continue as Hoda plans to have another session of introducing Iranian food to Hyderabadis and TEA plans a Senegal cuisine next month.”