Typically cooked in huge quantities for weddings and other special occasions, keskek became part of UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage of Turkey in 2011. While typically associated with the colder regions of Turkey, the dish is also found in Iranian and Greek cuisines, with the earliest written keskek recipe dating back to 1360.
Traditionally made with lamb or chicken meat and wheat or pearl barley, preparations begin one night in advance. Following a conventional keskek recipe, wheat is cleaned and the shells are separated, and both wheat and meat are boiled separately. Once the wheat breaks down and the meat is tender, both elements are combined and complete with a sauce generally made using butter, meat broth, and pepper flakes.
Meaning ‘dream’ in Turkish, Rüya is a high-end Turkish restaurant in Mayfair, which specialises in Anatolian cuisine. The restaurant’s menu nods to the area’s feasting tradition, with influences stretching from the Mediterranean to the Black Sea. Following the success of the original Rüya in Dubai, a London site opened in 2018, occupying a huge dining room space in The Grosvenor House Hotel. Launched by Istanbul restaurateur Umut Özkanca, Rüya explores the extremely rich history and diversity of Anatolian food, which draws inspiration from a number of rich culinary traditions.
Rüya Executive Chef Colin Clague’s mantarli keskek recipe is both refined and completely vegetarian. In place of lamb or chicken, truffle and mushrooms (mantarli) are utilised, with the pearl barley element of the dish named ‘pearl barley risotto’. Instead of being cooked overnight, the mantarli keskek can also be prepared in under an hour, with the pearl barley cooked similarly to risotto and served al dente rather than mashed. The mantarli keskek is also garnished with crispy mushrooms and sage, plus optional truffle paste, truffle butter, fresh truffle shavings, or good quality truffle oil.
- 25 g unsalted butter
- 75 g verjus or white wine
- 300 g pearl barley
- 600 ml mushroom stock or vegetable stock
- 50 g shallots brunoise finely diced
- 3 shitake or chestnut mushrooms thinly sliced and fried until crispy
- 12 leaves sage picked and deep fried until crispy
- 6 leaves flat leave parsley cut into julienne
- 500 g wild mushroom mix or a mixture of your favourite mushrooms
- 20 g truffle paste optional
- 20 g truffle butter or unsalted butter
- Maldon sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Vegetable oil for frying
To cook the pearl barley
- To cook the pearl barley take a thicker bottomed pan and heat over a medium heat, once the pan is hot, add the unsalted butter. Once it’s melted, add the diced shallot and cook for two to three minutes without colour.
- Add the verjus or white wine, deglaze the pan and reduce by 50%, at this point add the pearl barley and stir until the barley has absorbed approximately 90% of the liquid.
- Reduce the heat then add the mushroom or the vegetable stock until just covering the barley, stir until the liquid has been absorbed, repeat the process a little at a time until the barley absorbs the stock. You may not need all the stock or you may need a little bit more but the whole process should take 25 to 30 minutes. You want the barley to be al dente once ready, remove and place on a flat tray to cool.
- To prepare the crispy mushrooms and sage garnish
- Slice your chestnut or shitake mushrooms as thinly as you can, then in a pan with roughly 1cm of hot vegetable oil or similar place the mushrooms into the oil and fry until golden brown. When ready remove and drain on kitchen paper to absorb any excess oil. Follow the same process for the whole sage leaves and set aside until needed.
- In a medium sized pan, add the pre-cooked barley with a little mushroom or vegetable stock and slowly heat through. Right at the end, add the truffle butter or the unsalted butter and season with the salt and pepper.
- In a separate pan, add a little olive oil and add the mushroom mix and sauté until cooked, stir in the truffle paste and add salt and pepper to taste.
- Take your serving bowls and spoon in the ‘pearl barley risotto’, you will need the pearl barley to be flat, so you are then able to arrange the mushrooms on the top of the risotto in a circle shape, on top of this sprinkle the julienne of flat leaf parsley and scatter the crispy mushrooms and sage leaves, to finish give a good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
- Finish with shaved truffle or a little drizzle of good quality truffle oil.