Interview with Hulya Erdal
Born and raised in East London, Hulya Erdal takes her heritage beyond the shores of her English homeland to Cyprus and Turkey. Hulyas parents arrived in the U.K. in the early 1960’s with a suitcase full of Turkish and Cypriot food supplies. Now I am just sayin’ y’all that Hulyas parents might have googled the store shelves to see what they would need because they brought with them in that suitcase Halloumi, walnut jam and dried goats’ meat. None of which sounds good, but bless them they felt they needed it.
As you can tell food dominated this mixed heritage, her life and her culture it gave her a sense of history as well. Hulyas recipes are based around what she was taught by her momma, aunts and of course her Nan. Now I ask you for one moment to think about this. She could not have paid that much attention if she felt the need to attend Waltham Forest College, qualifying her for a City and Guilds diploma in culinary skills, the highest you can get in relation to a chef’s qualifications.
Another thing I noticed is how proud she is of her East London roots so in my research to discover just who this acclaimed Chef is. Therefore, I set out to find more about East London and made a startling discovery.
White Chapel is in East London and Jack the Ripper roamed White Chapel and was prolific with knives. Hulya is from East London and was trained to use knifes, hum I wonder if in my interview she will reveal herself. I may have just solved a crime y’all.
1. Hulya, what is the earliest memory of your Mothers or Grandmothers kitchen?
My mum making the traditional Cypriot Roasted lamb and potatoes (called Firin Kebab) in my grannies old metal baking tray that we call a Tepsi or Sinni, it’s made of Aluminium and full of dents and scratches! If you mean, what the kitchen looked like, I remember more my Nan’s old battered pots and pans, missing handles, bits of aluminium wrapped around trays and dented cooking trays and lots of 70s kitsch!
2. Is it true that you really like to cook?
Ahem, well, yes! I trained as a chef so guess I love cooking! Always have done, ever since I was very little. Sadly, cooking for a living was frowned upon as a very basic career choice and so I was pushed to pursue other areas of work until I was able to finally break away and go back to college to study catering!
3. What recipe of your mother or grandmother do you make that sends you back in time watching (whichever one) in the kitchen?
It’s the most basic dish but just makes me think of my granny or Nene as we called her in Turkish. It is a traditional Cypriot village dish of Minty scrambled eggs and potato. Slow cook diced Cyprus potatoes then whisk up some eggs and pour in, sprinkle over dried mint and season with salt and pepper then mix until eggs are only just cooked. Serve with salad and bread. My Nan used to make this for us each time we went to see her. It’s such a nostalgic dish, almost brings a tear to my eye! The Turkish name is Yumurta Patates (literally Egg Potatoes).
4. What is your favourite herb, spice or both?
Aaah, well, it’s so hard but probably Cinnamon! It’s so prevalent in Turkish food and used to season absolutely anything! I also love Thyme, again another Turkish thing but also because every time I smell Thyme it reminds me of when I trained as a chef, the kitchen always smelled of Thyme and softened onions
5. If you could be a ghost in that kitchen and watch yourself as a small child, what would you tell that child today?
Learn all you can and write it down! Document it all as once the older generation has passed, the old recipes and techniques will be lost!
6. Outside your own country/county, which country’s cuisines do you like or prefer?
Has to be Japanese, I can’t get enough of it! There is no comparison to excellent sushi and Tepanyaki
7. What is your families’ favourite dish?
Turkish style Macaroni and Cheese. I know you Americanos love a good mac and cheese! Ours is made using thick long macaroni, halloumi and cheddar cheese combined, eggs are added to the cheesy roux mixture so it sets when finished off in the oven and the middle is filled with fried onions and lamb mince with parsley and seasoned with cinnamon of course! In Turkish, it’s called Firin Makarna (literally Oven Macaroni).
Just a few more and I will let you go.
8. Of all the kitchen gadgets invented OLD and NEW which OLD and NEW of those gadgets are your favourite?
Oooh, good question!!! OLD – I have owned the same Kenwood Mixer for the last 20 years. Although, I still beat cake batter the old-fashioned way, for larger cakes and lots of bread dough etc. I use my trustee Kenwood; it’s just the most awesome piece of kitchen gadgetry I’ve ever owned! I love it! And so hardy! I love making meringues with it!! Forget Kitchen Aid, Kenwood is where it’s at!
NEW – The newest piece of gadgetry was my hand blender, Swiss made by Bamix…..and let me tell you…..this is just first class. It grinds down granulated sugar into icing sugar! It makes peanut butter, it purees soup to as smooth as a baby’s bum! I mean, seriously, this is so awesome and makes wicked pesto.
The person that spends most of the lesson telling you they’ve done that before and that they cook this and that, don’t stop talking and are basically a know it all…..Really…..So, why are you here?
10. I like the idea of teaching 11 to 16-year olds to cook. What prompted you to teach such a young student? Are you teaching them to cook from scratch as you and I were taught or dare I say, use a microwave?
LOL! Fell into the teaching game. Just happened to be in the right place at the right time and the school was looking for an expert to teach the kids. I only teach from scratch and we never use the microwave! I loved teaching the kids, they were very responsive to the practical lessons. So interested in learning how to do stuff and loved it when I showed them new techniques. I always make them call me “Chef” and wear chef uniforms. They love it, plus I’ve been on TV so that always added a little kudos.
11. I have a old fashion pantry, larder to you Brits, Do you recommend people start one and what would be the most important thing in that larder?
Oooh, you can’t beat a larder!! I have one, it’s the best. I encourage anyone I teach to start a larder, even if it’s just a small space in their kitchen cupboard. There are so many important things to put in there but Flour would be way up near the top of my list! Plus a good selection of dried pulses, grains and rice. Also, jars of sundried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, always great for salads, quiches etc. I’d even encourage some cheats like tins of chopped tomatoes, and even sweated onions in olive oil (yes, you can buy them in tins here, known as Eazy onions and the Spanish housewives have been using them for years!)
Hulya I want to thank you for being the first to being interviewed here at Olives Place. You still have not given me any insight into that White Chapel thing, but you never can tell what you will reveal the next time you visit.
Below is a recipe that Hulya allowed to steal from her website: http://www.madebythechef.com/
Marinade for chicken – this marinade works for both chicken legs, thighs and breast meat but make sure to leave the skin on. You will need: a little olive oil, fresh parsley and sage, some lemon juice and the grated zest, salt and pepper to taste and a pinch of nutmeg. Rub well into the meat and use more or less as needed. Leave to marinade overnight before cooking and make sure the chicken is slow cooked and white right through.