Fall-Winter 2017 Cooking Classes: Turkey and the Levant

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To be “a crossroads” is both boon and burden, and surely no other part of the planet bears that label more securely than the Middle East. Clashes of religion and military force, and the possession of fruitful land astride crucial trade routes, gave rise to war and cultural conflict measured in millennia, not centuries – conflict that continues to tear at the region. It also has created astonishing cultural riches – including cuisines – that spark our imaginations and draw our admiration even in the context of brutal discord and upheaval.

Turkey straddles Europe and Asia, and during six centuries of Ottoman rule, it controlled much of both – Central and Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, the Levant, North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. The culture of the fierce and formerly nomadic tribesmen who formed and ruled this multi-continental, multilingual, multiethnic empire was, as is always the case, subsumed by the sophistication of those they conquered. Their simple herdsmen’s diet absorbed influences from the Persian Empire, the Golden Age of Islam, new ingredients from the New World via Europe, spices from China and Southeast Asia… and became the exultant cuisine of the Sultanate court.

The Levant is that crescent of coastal countries extending from Turkey to Egypt, but, in terms of cuisine, its heartland is Lebanon, a tiny country (less than a third of the size of Vancouver Island and little more than1% the size of Turkey) that definitely punches above its culinary weight.

Where Turkey amassed it’s culinary richness and diversity from the lands it ruled, Levantine cuisine was enriched by conquerors. As Salma Hage, Author of The Lebanese Kitchen puts it: “Lebanon’s diverse and fertile landscape has always been in high demand.” Most recently that demand was from the French, whose decades-long twentieth century occupation added a little Gallic flair, at least in Beirut, to what was already a pretty exuberant cuisine.


Congenial company, abundant and interesting food to learn about and enjoy, wine and beverage pairings and recipes to take home make for an evening out that combines the best of a cooking class with a spectacular restaurant meal.

South China Seas Sous-Chef and Commissary Manager Shadel Haddad, will be assisting Chef Don Dickson and offering insights into the culinary culture he grew up in, and James Wallace, our Customer Service Manager, and a professionally certified sommelier, will be presenting the wine pairings. 

Classes will be held at our Victoria Drive location. They begin at 7pm and wrap up at about 10pm.


Thursday, November 23

The cuisine of the palace, though fashioned from the bounty of an empire in grand kitchens employing thousands of cooks, retained a fundamental simplicity, which is retained in modern Turkish cooking. The quality and diversity of ingredients, and care in their preparation, was paramount in the 16th century, and today.

Patlican Salatasi: Charred Eggplant Dip with Clarified Butter
Pancar Salatasi: Quick-Pickled Roasted Beet and Yogurt Salad
Suzme: Drained Yogurt “Cheese” with Walnuts and Sumac
Balik Çorbasi: Saffron and Lemon Fish Soup with Mussels
Hünkâr Beĝendi (Sultan’s Delight): Lamb Ragout with Eggplant Béchamel
Perde Pilav: Rice with Currants, Nuts and Confit Duck Encased in Pastry
Zeytinyağli Kereviz: Celeriac in Olive Oil
Borani: Greens with Garlic Yogurt Sauce and Beurre Noisette
(Dessert will be served, but as always, will be a surprise.)


Thursday, December 7

Surprisingly, given its compact size, Lebanon is geographically and climatically diverse, with warm subtropical coastal plains and fertile moisture-laden valleys nestled in snowy mountains; the food is local, diverse, and seasonal.

Filfil bel T’heeneh: Roasted Green Peppers with Tahini
Hommos bel Lahm wel Snobar: Hummus with Lamb and Pine Nuts
Hommos bel Shamandar: Roasted Beet Hummus
Habbar Mahshi ma’ T’heeneh bel Carry: Rice, Spice and Nut Stuffed Squid on a Tahini Curry Sauce
Farrouj Barri Mhammar ma’ Za’atar: Roasted Game Birds with Zaatar
Salatet Freekeh o Teen ma’ Jibn o Basal: Warm Freekeh, Fig, Cheese and Caramelized Onion Salad
Yakhnet Khodaar ma’ Bharat: Butternut Squash and Winter Vegetable Stew with 7 Spices
(Dessert will be served, but as always, will be a surprise.)