Alluciye: A ragout with a fruity flair

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WHAT'S SPECIAL

The combination of sweet and sour with meat is more associated with the Far East, mostly at least, but there is one dish that challenges that with its long-lasting tradition.

What is Alluciye?

Meat is cooked together with green plums to make for a sweet-sour taste. Not much else is added so that the two main ingredients can truly shine.

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The origins

As this dish is also known as “Erik Aşı” or “Erik Yahnisi” in the southeastern Turkish province of Mardin with “erik” meaning plum, it only makes sense to look where the fruit comes from. The fruit is considered to be one of the first fruits domesticated by humans, (1) with remains found in the Neolithic age along with olives, grapes and figs. (2) But they originally came from Iran, making it the direct neighbor of Turkey. (3) Throughout the years, even before the Ottoman Empire, the cultures in the same geography mingled and thus many a Persian word made it into the Kurdish and Turkish language. One such example is the name of the dish we mentioned first here: Alluciye. The Persian word for plum is “allu” (آلو) with the suffix probably added throughout the centuries to signify it as a dish.
With the fruit being widely available it only made sense to combine it with meat and considering the trend of fruity meats in the Ottoman kitchens up until about the 15-16th century, we can find many such “yahni” (a kind of ragout) in their cookbooks. The way the meat needs to be cooked is very particular as it is said that the water added should not be so much as to become a soup, but not too little so as not to burn the meat entirely. (4) Adding the plums into the mixture makes this balance even more challenging as the fruit releases its juices as well.
While the exact recipe is hard to come by in the history books, we know that yahnis were quite popular, with or without the fruity twist to it. Evliya Çelebi wrote in his Travelogue “Seyahatname” in the 17th century that Istanbul alone had 100 specialty shops, only offering the specially cooked meat. (5)

Etymology

As mentioned before, this version of Alluciye comes from the Persian “allu” (آلو). The other names being erik, which can traced back to the 11th century Turkish dictionary “Diwan Lughat al-Turk”, referring to not only the plum but other fruits as well. The “tülüg erük” (tüylü erik) means “hairy plum” meaning peaches and other such examples.

Alluciye: A ragout with a fruity flair

While one needs to be careful about the level of fluids in the dish itself, this can easily be made at home. It is key to have the right kind of plums. You’ll need the round, green kind, which is sometimes called in Turkish “papaz eriği”.

Ingredients

  • 250 grams lamb
  • 15-20 plums
  • half a bundle parsley
  • 6-7 pieces of green onion
  • juice of half a lemon
  • salt

Instructions

  • Cut the meat into small pieces, usually referred to as “kuşbaşı” in Turkish, meaning cubes around 1-2cm on each side. Roast the meat until it has sealed and add about one glass of water and cook the meat until it has softened. Add the washed plums into the meat and cook them together until they have softened as well. Meanwhile finely chop the green onions and parsley and add them once the plums are soft. After a minute or two of simmering, add the lemon juice and salt to the mix as well and let it boil up for one last time. Serve hot.

Notes

Bibliography
(1) Jules Janick, Horticultural Reviews, 1998
(2) Jules Janick, The origins of fruits, fruit growing and fruit breeding, 2005
(3) Ken Albala, Food Cultures of the World Encyclopedia, 2011
(4) Marianna Yerasimos, “500 Yıllık Osmanlı Mutfağı”, 2002
(5) Marianna Yerasimos “17. Yüzyılda İstanbul Sokaklarında Satılan Yiyecekler ve İçecekler; Dükkanlar ve Seyyarlar”, 2020
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Turkish
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