Tag Archives: The Janissary Tree

The best new sleuth since Maigret

Disasters are said to come in threes, so maybe the same holds true of good things, too.

Last week, in The Week, A N Wilson chose The Janissary Tree as one of his six favourite books (between Wallace Stevens and St. Augustine’s Confessions). Wilson – whose new novel, The Potter’s Hand, is out this week – writes:

‘I am addicted to Goodwin’s detective stories set in in Istanbul in the 1840s. Yashim…is the best new sleuth since Maigret. The books evoke that great city and the plots are ingenious.’ 

Simultaneously I received my copy of the London Library magazine, with the cover story one I wrote about Ottomania, searching out the subject in the stacks of my favourite library.


On Monday I delivered a review of Otter Country by Miriam Darlington, to the Spectator, which came out on Friday.

Finally, our house was featured rather gorgeously in Ben Pentreath’s English Decoration, which is out next month – a copy arrived last week, too.

 

That’s four good things, you say? No, that’s one for my wife – revealing, as Ben writes, ‘the brilliance with which Kate puts together her rooms.’

Perfect!

 

 

 

 

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Yashim’s Kitchen III

I don’t know if you’re having turkey this year? Or a goose? We are going for guinea fowl because they are so tasty, with a duck for the crisp skin. I quite like turkey but it makes a greasy stock, and a good stock is what you want for this pilaf.

Mehmet the Conqueror’s Grand Vizier used to serve this as a working lunch in divan, the council meeting held on a Friday. Into it he tossed a gold chickpea for some lucky pasha to discover (or break a tooth on): the Ottoman version of putting a sixpence in the Christmas pudding, perhaps.

 

Ingredients:

Basmati rice

Chickpeas, soaked overnight and boiled for an hour (but tinned chickpeas are pretty handy, too)

An onion

butter, salt, festive stock

 

Rinse the rice in cold water until the water is clear – this is to remove the starch, which would make the rice too sticky. Leave it to soak while you melt the onions in butter. When they are soft, add the chickpeas.

Drain the rice, stir it into the pan and add enough stock to cover the rice and a little more.

When the stock has all been absorbed, check the rice; it should be a little nutty, but almost edible. If necessary add a little more stock until the rice is almost done.

Now comes the strange pilaf magic: cover the pan with a cloth and a lid. Over a whisper of heat, or none, let the rice steam for fifteen minutes.

Turn the rice out into a dish, helping to fluff it out with a fork.

This rice method sounds like complicated alchemy, but it’s simple really – and it works.

 

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