Coskun Uysal is the Head Chef of Tulum Restaurant in Melbourne, Australia. The restaurant can be found in Balaclava, in a vibrant re-decorated space with exposed brick walls, and modern lighting. They offer a menu of modern takes on classic Turkish dishes, which has won the restaurant many accolades. It was recently named best restaurant in Australia by Delicious Magazine and has won praise from industry heavyweights such as Nigella Lawson. To get to know Chef Coskun better we asked him to share what he likes to cook, his best cooking tips, and to share one of his favorite recipes.
What do you like to cook and why?
"I always wanted to be a cook, just like my mother. She is one of my biggest inspirations – as a boy, I was lucky enough to have 3 or 4-course meals every single night. My mum used to work all day, and I would miss her like crazy. When she came home after her work, she had to spend time in the kitchen to cook for the family. Because I missed her so much during the day, I would stick by her side, sitting on the kitchen counter to help her cook - or sometimes annoying her with my questions!
When I realised I wanted to be a chef, I knew I wanted to be a good chef, so I went to London to study (Prue Leith’s School of Food and Wine) and get work experience. London helped a lot to open my mind, think outside of the box and also think deeply. In London, people always asked me where I was from. When I would say I was from Turkey, everyone had the same ideas about the Turkish culinary scene: that it was comprised of dips and kebabs. This perception actually made me work and think harder to improve Turkish food culture abroad and change how people outside of Turkey viewed our culinary scene. I made it my mission to show that we don’t just eat kebabs and dips in Turkey, our food is progressive, bold and elegant. That was a turning point for me. It made me find my way and develop my own cooking style."
What is your best cooking tip?
"Follow your heart. Enjoy what you do. For readers that have the Tulum cookbook, don’t just follow the recipes. Have your own idea and mix it with some of the recipes from the book."
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you first started as a chef?
"I have no regrets from the past. Every day was a learning experience, and I continue to learn every single day."
What are your favourite dishes to cook on your current menu that you recommend the most to diners?
"At the moment my favourite dish is Watermelon Feta Salad. It may sound very simple, but I love this dish because it reminds me of childhood summers spent in Istanbul. Over there, summer gets so hot that you don’t want to eat anything. When the weather got this hot in our house, all we wanted to eat was chopped melon mixed with crumbled feta cheese on top and some fresh mint leaves. Sometimes, the scorching Melbourne summer days remind me of Istanbul, so at Tulum, I used the same idea but played with the cooking techniques to create a modern and refreshing version. First, we pickle the watermelon with rosewater, then top with whipped feta cheese, sunflower seeds and mint, and then we cover the melon with rose vinegar mousse."
Recipe: Tarhana Soup & Octopus
"At Tulum, we grill the octopus after braising to add a smoky aroma and a slightly crunchy texture. We then combine the grilled octopus with one of the world’s oldest ‘instant’ soups, tarhana. The soup begins as a dried tarhana dough. Most Turkish households will have some tucked away in a cupboard, usually prepared by a mother, aunt or grandmother. The dough is then divided up to be shared amongst family and neighbours on a cold winter’s day."
- 2 kg octopus
- 1 sliced lemon
- 1 sliced orange
- 10 bay leaves
- 2 sliced carrots
- 1 sliced fennel
- 10 L water ice to blanch
- 250 g olive oil
- zest of 1 lemon
- 3 garlic cloves
- Boil water in a large pot. Add lemon, orange, bay leaves, carrots and fennel.
- Prepare another large pot filled with cold water and ice. Submerge the octopus in the boiling water for 3 minutes. Then remove and submerge into ice water for another 3 minutes. (This process is known as blanching.)
- Repeat this process 3 times, allowing water to reach boiling point between each immersion. On the last immersion, leave the octopus in the hot water and reduce heat to barely a simmer.
- Cook for 30–35 minutes until the octopus is tender but the outside pink layer is still intact. Strain the octopus and set aside until cool enough to handle.
- Marinate the octopus with olive oil, lemon zest and garlic. Cover and rest in the fridge until use. Grill on high heat, 2 minutes on each side, until octopus is a golden caramel colour.
- 50 g tarhana
- 250 ml water
- 750 g vegetable stock
- 50 g butter
- 50 g vegetable oil
- 1 chopped onion
- 50 g red chilli paste
- 50 g tomato paste
- 100 g fresh grated tomatoes
- 2 g salt
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 50 g tulum cheese (to serve)
- Mix the tarhana in a pot with 250 ml of cold water and leave to soak for 30 minutes.
- In a large pan, heat the butter and oil on medium heat, then cook the onion with salt for 5 minutes.
- Add the red chilli and tomato paste, turn the heat to high, cooking for 5 minutes until the paste has dissolved.
- Add the grated tomatoes to cook for another 5 minutes. Pour the rest of the
vegetable stock over the mixture and bring to a boil.
- Add the tarhana mix to the tomato broth and cook for 15 minutes, stirring
constantly on medium heat. The soup will start to thicken as it heats.
- Pour the mix into a blender and blitz until it has a soup-like consistency.
- Sieve into a big bowl, squeeze the lemon over it.
- Set aside
BLACK OLIVE BISCUIT
- 100 g flour
- 100 g almond meal
- 100 g butter
- 100 g black olive purée
- 40 g squid ink
- 2 fennel seeds
- Preheat oven to 170°C.
- In a large bowl, mix butter, black olive purée and squid ink until it becomes a smooth, creamy consistency.
- Sift flour and almond meal, then add into the mixture with fennel seeds.
- Transfer the dough onto a clean and floured surface and knead for 3–4 minutes, adding extra flour if necessary, until cookie dough consistency.
- Roll the dough between 2 sheets of baking paper until 2 mm thick. Rest in the fridge for 15 minutes.
- Bake for 20 minutes until cooked and dry.
- Remove the biscuit from the oven and allow to cool for 30 minutes. Crumble and keep in a container to serve
- 300 g yoghurt
- 2 g black garlic
- 2 g smoked paprika
- 2 g dill powder
- Mix 100 g of yoghurt with garlic, then another 100 g of yoghurt with paprika, and dill powder with the last 100 g of yoghurt.
- Put a non-stick sheet or baking paper over a dehydrator tray, then spread the yoghurt over the top in an even, thin layer.
- Dehydrate at 57°C for about 6–8 hours until completely dry and brittle.
- Remove from the dehydrator and let cool. Snap dehydrated yoghurt to serve.
This recipe is from the Tulum Cookbook, which can be purchased here.