Incasiye: Dried fruit and lamb meat paired to perfection

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WHAT'S SPECIAL

Many a dish here has similarities with others but that is the nature of cuisine, it is like a language. It changes through time and might sound or taste like something you have heard or tasted before and some just get lost in time. Incasiye is a dish that seems to have been almost completely forgotten nowadays, except maybe in some parts of southeastern Turkey, such as Mardin.

What is incasiye?

Incasiye is a dish made of lamb, dried dark plums, and a bit of pekmez – a kind of grape molasses – cooked together making it soft in texture and with a sour-sweet taste to it.

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The origin

The cuisines of the Turks and that of the Arabs have mingled a lot and influences on each other have remained strong for several centuries. One major feature of this mingling was the inclusion of fruits into meat dishes. While this trend was strong for quite a while, it got lost after the 16th century, which is probably one of the reasons why most Turks raise an eyebrow at this dish, considering that dried fruits are more seen as snack or as an ingredient in sweet drinks nowadays.

This dish has many versions to it and one of them would be “Mutancene” from the 15th and 16th century. The recipe includes, aside from the dark dried plums, dried apricots, almonds and raisins as well. This dish, prevalently presented at circumcision festivities in 1539, was translated by Şirvani from an Arabic cookbook written by El Baghdadi. (1)

Some compare the dish to alluciye, which is a ragout cooked with fresh green plums and is considered a yahni. A yahni is a very particular way of cooking meat, where the amount of water added matters a lot. Not too much should be added so it is not considered a soup, not too little to burn it up. (1) Mutancene is considered a “pot dish”, straying away from the yahni combination, just as incasiye is.

The dish is likened to the Pekin duck and was considered beneficial to one’s health, which wasn’t too far off, considering the antioxidants and other properties it brought along. (2)

The simple version of this dish has survived in Mardin, especially with people cooking at home giving special care to keep the tradition alive. The recipe given here is the original, simpler version rather than the Ottoman one.

Incasiye: Dried fruit and lamb meat paired to perfection

With a bit of patience and the right ingredients you can make this authentic meat dish right in your own home.

Ingredients

  • 400 gr lamb
  • 10-15 dried dark plums
  • 1 onion
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 tbsp pekmez
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 600 ml hot water
  • salt

Instructions

  • Cut the meat down to cubes about 1.5-2cm in size (called kuşbaşı in Turkish) and cook them in the olive oil until they have released their juices.
  • Add the coarsely chopped onion and continue sautéing them until the onions have started to soften.
  • Pour the water and let the meat simmer for about one hour.
  • Once the meat has started to soften, add the plums into the mix and let it cook for another 10 minutes, making sure that those have softened sufficiently as well.
  • If that is not the case, continue cooking until it does.
  • Turn off the heat and immediately add a mixture of pekmez, lemon juice and salt to your taste.
  • Give it a quick stir and let it rest for a few minutes.
  • Serve with a side of rice.

Notes

Bibliography

(1) Marianna Yerasimos, “500 Yıllık Osmanlı Mutfağı”, 2002
(2) Selahattin Esim, İncasiye Mardin Yöresinin Osmanlı Sarayına girmiş şifalı yemeği, 2012 http://www.selahattinesim.com/?p=368     
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Turkish
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