It was around 2002-2003. My friend Reyhan and I would go out every Friday, we would go to a bar in Taksim / Istanbul (mostly Akdeniz or Gizli Bahce) to drink and to dance, with some other girl friends. Every Friday was a girls’ night out. Gee, I was young.
And usually we had dinner together too. She was the one that introduced me to the tasty food of this one traditional Anatolian restaurant in Taksim, near Galatasaray, right on Istiklal Street. The name of the restaurant was Otantik Anadolu Yemekleri (Authentic Anatolian Food). Normally this kind of too traditional restaurants, decorated with all the clichés in various parts of Anatolia and in the window of which some “Anatolian” women knead and roll dough constantly as food mannequins did not interest me much. But the Turkish dumplings of this place, and, more importantly, the hearty soup with couscous balls were something that I guess no sane person can refuse.
Just last week, as I was looking at soup recipes to suit these cold and grey November days, I remembered this soup. I checked recipes of several versions of it and finally decided on this one which looked most reliable and which did not include any meat in it (I am not a vegetarian but I would not want to taste meat in this soup) in a blog called “Ege’den Tarifler (Recipes from Aegea)”.
It is quite an easy soup to make, just a bit of work. But I think this much work is worth that taste. I added especially a little more garlic to my version since I am crazy about garlic (you can never put too much garlic in anything!).
Next time you are in Istanbul, go to that restaurant (I hope it is still there..). The address is Istiklal Street, No:80/A, Beyoglu. If I remember correctly, the building was also an old and beautiful one. Order this soup, named “Yuvalama”.
I miss those old days…
(For the balls)
1 onion (medium size)
4 big garlic cloves
1 cup white flour
1 cup couscous
1 tbsp vegetable or olive oil (I used olive oil)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper (or more, if you want to make them spicier)
(For the rest of the soup)
2 tbsp vegetable or olive oil (I used again olive oil)
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 cup pre-cooked chick peas
1 lt hot water (or more, depending on how thick or juicy you want your soup to be, you can arrange it easily by yourself)
3 tbsp dried mint
Yogurt, for topping
1. Crush garlic cloves and finely grate onion.
2. In a big bowl, put onion, crushed garlic, flour, couscous, oil, salt and pepper and start kneading. Continue kneading until you have big ball, medium soft (if it gets too hard, just add a little bit of water in room temperature – max 1 tbsp at a time to be able to control the amount).
3. When the couscous mixture is ready in the right consistency, make little balls from it. How big depends a bit on you, but mine was quite bigger than the chick peas (check the photo below to see the proportion).
4. When you are done and ready with the balls, you can start preparing the rest of the soup. For this, put oil and tomato paste in a deep pan and stir them for a while until you get a well incorporated mixture. Then add 1 lt hot water, stir with a wooden spoon a little and leave it in medium heat for a few minutes.
5. Add chick peas to the pan and stir a little again then leave the soup until the water is boiled.
6. Put couscous balls in the boiling soup (IMPORTANT: The water HAS TO BE BOILING – otherwise the balls will spread). Continue cooking until the balls are cooked and soft, stirring occasionally. At this point, if you want to have a bit more watery soup, you can add a little more hot water. Put also the dried mint in the soup and leave it to cook a bit more, maybe for 5 more minutes.
7. Take the soup away from heat and let it cool down a little and rest. Then serve the soup. If you want (and I always do), you can put about 2 tablespoons of yogurt on each served soup and mix the whole thing with yogurt before you eat. Since I am a yogurt freak, I do this for sure (and I actually use even more yogurt for my portion). I’m thinking that sour cream or creamy goat cheese might be also tasty alternatives to yogurt at that stage, maybe I’ll try that next time.
The soup is best, of course, when it is fresh, but if you have some left, the next it is still very edible. And you can again adjust the density of it by adding more water or not.
But please, go to that restaurant…