Fethiye’s local dishes That are cooked for special events
are like the spirit in the body.
They become like harisa;
there is no difference between them,
all differences are submerged there.>>
Mawlana Jala’ad-din Muhammad Rumi
Keshkek, which as also known in the names of Harisa and Haleeme Gusht in some other parts of the world, is an ancient dish, originally prepared in Iran with barley, that travelled to Armenia, Anatolia, Northern Iraq and the Indian suncontinent. Evliya Efendi wrote that the Prophet himself ate harisa and called it “the Lord of dishes”. In Pakistan, it is prepared on religious holidays, and the urs of saints (death anniversary). In Turkish Rufai dergahs, it is a favoured treatment for the sacrificial (Kurban) lamb, and is cooked and stirred for twelve hours. This smaller batch takes less time, but still provides an opportunity for extended stirring.
Keshkek, which is usually made from motton or chicken and coarsely ground meat), is an essential dish for ceremonies such as weddings, religious chants, and seeing-off youngsters for their military service. A young man is not asked, “When is your wedding?”; instead, the question is, “When do we eat the keshkek?”
In addition, there is a very nice idiom in the region: “We ate keshkek at this wedding also,” they say. It means that the task has been carried out in goodwill. For someone behaving irresponsibly, and saying whatever comes to his mind, there is a saying which goes, “He has no idea where the wedding is; he carries the keshkek to the hayloft“.
Let us see how the keshkek, which has been our national dish since Central Asia and has been linked with our culture, is cooked in our region.
The wheat is first picked over painstakingly and then pounded on the wooden mortar. On the first day of the wedding, the wheat to be pounded are taken to the wooden mortar in bags, accompanied by drums and fifes. While the youngsters perform various folk dances, they take turns to pound the wheat. All the districts in our villages there are wooden mortars. A well-pounded wheat results in a tasty keshkek.
How to cook: Sufficient amount of olive oil is placed inside the caldron where the keshkek is to be cooked. The fire is lit underneath the cauldron. A certain amount of pounded wheat is paced in the cauldron immediately, adding sufficient water and finely sliced onions, starting to stir. It must be stirred well for the keshkek to be cooked well and become tasty. A lady cook for the wedding at Incirköy says, “You must grind it as you stir”… Stirring continues as more wheat is added. Meanwhile, meat stock boiling in another cauldron is taken and poured into the keshkek cauldron, as one keeps stirring. The recently bounded what and meat stock are stirred well while the keshkek acquires the desired consistency.
Salt is not added to keshkek at the beginning; it is added when the desired consistency is achieved. The experienced women by the cauldron look to see whether the dish is cooked well. If it is well cooked, they either remove the cauldron from the fire or carry the fire away. The proper consistency of keshkek, the amount of salt and the taste depend on the mastery of the cook for the wedding.
As keshkek, the indispensable dish of the weddings, religious chants, feasts for the soldiers-to-be and circumcision, is sent to the guests in trays, if powdered pepper sauce fried on butter is poured over the plates, it looks more attractive and becomes more tasty.
P.S.: Dear Readers, please be advised that we shall continue to publish Fethiye’s and other regions’ local special dishes in this column of our next issues. So, we warmly welcome you to send us your comments, contributions as well as your own recipes. We shall much pleased to publish them in our coming issues.