Keşkek is a special name of a traditional wedding dish. It is mostly made in Central Anatolia and Agean region of Turkey. Weddings in these places last a few days and during this time, various dishes are served in front of bride’s or groom’s home. The wedding traditions may differ in regions but food serving is a fixed part of the tradition. As the word “tradition” points out, these are mostly forgotten in big cities, but people in towns or villages still live with them. Moreover, some young couples in big cities also want to continue their wedding traditions and they prefer holding wedding ceremonies in their hometowns or their villages.
There are a lot of different and interesting wedding traditions in Turkey, but I’ll write about one of them in this post. However, I should give a piece of background information about wedding traditions.
Before the ceremony, it is typical in Turkish culture that groom’s parents or the elderly members of his family visit bride’s parents to know each other (of course after making an appointment). The first visitors always must be groom’s parents, not the bride’s. And it is a must to take something sweet with them such as chocolate, Turkish delight or a kind of Turkish dessert. After welcoming them, the girl makes Turkish coffee and serves it to the guests. Parents introduce themselves and then the boy’s parents state “the reason for their visit”. They say that their son wants to marry the daughter of the family and ask if they give permission to this marriage or not. The girl’s family wants some time to think about it and boy’s family leave. In some regions, this event repeats a few times. No matter girl and boy already have a relationship, this is a permanent tradition before marriage, a Turkish girl should have the permission of her parents.
After everything is arranged and when the wedding day comes, both parents decide on where to organize the ceremony. In such cases, generally thy do what the girl’s family wants. If it is a traditional ceremony, then some cooks are held and they start to prepare some wedding dishes to be served in the wedding area. As I said, the main dish may differ in regions. The picture above was taken at the wedding of my friend’s cousine. You can see the cauldrons on wooden fire here and men and women work together.
In Central Anatolia and Agean region, Keşkek is generally the main dish. Besides it, chickpea stew, rice pilaf, a kind of meat dish, salad and ayran are also served. These dishes are all cooked in large cauldrons over wooden fire, so they are always more delicious than the dishes you make at home.
And in this picture which is from the same wedding, you see the big amount of keşkek and two men are continually stirring it to mash them as a small blender doesn’t work for such a big amount. Generally it’s men’s job to mash them in this way because it really requires physical strength. Even one man is never enough for this.
I’m not from Central Anatolia or Agean region, so I hadn’t known how to cook Keşkek until last weekend. Last weekend my husband’s mom suggested to make this unique dish together. She is from Central Anatolia and her mom, when young, was the best cook in their town, everyone would want help from her mom about wedding dishes. So my second mom learnt this dish from her own mom. No need to say that elderly women are always the best cooks!
-2 cups wheat (you see it in the picture above)
-8 cups hot water for wheat
-6 cups water for lamb chops
-6 lamb arm chops
-1 tbsp pepper paste or red pepper flakes
-2 tbp butter
-2 tsp salt
-2 tsp black pepper
Soak the wheat overnight. Wash it by rubbing the following day a few times until the water seems clean.
First boil the lamb chops in 6 cups water for about 40 minutes until tender.
Put it in a pressure cooker and pour the hot water into it. When it releases its steam, bring the heat to the lowest and cook it for 50 minutes.
When it’s cooked, take the pressure cooker from the heat and when it gets cool enough, open it. Stir it with a big spoon and add 4 cups of meat broth (the water in which you boil the lamb chops) into the boiled wheat. Then add salt and stir it again. Taste it and if you think the salt is not enough, add some more. Lastly, mix it with a blender until it gets chewy.
For its sauce, heat the butter and add ½ cup meat broth (the water in which you boil the lamb chops) and pepper paste or pepper flakes.
For its serving, take some keşkek ( the mashed wheat) in a bowl and pour the sauce on it, sprinkle some black pepper and put one piece of lamb chop on it. You can serve it with ayran.
As it includes energizing ingredients, keşkek is mostly prefered in Winter when it is made at homes. But if it’s a wedding day, season doesn’t matter.
In traditional wedding ceremonies, all relatives are ready to help. Bur the boys of that family have the big responsibility. They serve dishes in a tray you see in the picture. They work like waiters on that day. Also, they are responsible for organizing the place of the ceremony by carrying chairs and tables here and there depending on the number of the guests. And the number of the guests is never less than 100 hundred people.