Lentil balls, Neolithic Turkey, and construction of the past

Burcu Tung
Dr. Burcu Tung (photo by Scott Haddow)

Today we have a packed episode full of the intricacies of being an archaeologist and how broad the field really is. We are thankful to speak with Dr. Burcu Tung from Stanford University about her work in archaeology, her contribution to the field through her research and Burcu shares with us her Grandma’s lentil ball recipe.

Burcu is a site supervisor at the famous archaeological site of Catal Hoyuk in Turkey. For those who don’t know this, Catal Hoyuk is a Neolithic site located in Turkey that dates back to 7500 B.C. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site which means it is pretty damn important to global heritage. No this isn’t a new world order conspiracy it’s totally true! One thing I’d like to point out is Burcu began her field experience on this site back in 1998 so it’s safe to say she has a real connection and interesting perspective about Catal Hoyuk.

South Shelter (Photo by Jason Quinlan)

We also have a conversation about her latest book project. She and a colleague (Flora Keshgegian) are looking into how people construct their past through their memories and heritage. They are specifically looking at Turkish and Armenian identities. This is a really fascinating talk. Archaeology isn’t always about literally digging up stuff from the past. We do spend a lot of time thinking about real world issues as well.

Finally, I forgot to tell Burcu that this was a cooking podcast so I made no mention about the recipe exchange at the end of the podcast. To her credit, Burcu pulled out her Grandmother’s Anatolian lentil ball recipe. It simple and sounds delicious! I had a great time chatting with Burcu about this recipe and food culture from the region. Hope you enjoy it!

Burcu’s recipe: Lentil Bites (Mercimek Köftesi)

1 C red lentils
1L water
2 C fine bulgur (or cracked wheat)
1 onion, finely chopped
1.5 T tomato paste
1.5 T pepper paste (optional, if you don’t have this use more tomato paste)
1 t black pepper
1 t red pepper
Salt to taste
1/3 – 1/2 C olive oil
1 bunch of parsley, finely chopped
1 bunch of dill, finely chopped
2 T pomegranate juice (sour) (optional)
1-2 T cumin
juice of 1 lemon

Bring lentils to boil in 1 L water, simmer until cooked (they need to become very soft and mushy)
Add the bulgur into the pot, close its lid and wait for 30 min for the bulgur to ‘steam’
Sautee the onions with a little bit of olive oil. Once the onions are cooked add the tomato/pepper paste and cook for 5 mins.
Add onion/tomato paste onto the lentils.
Add al other ingredients.
Mix with hands.
Check on salt and olive oil, be generous with both.
Make little oval balls in your hand and serve with lettuce.

Afiyet Olsun! (it translates to bon apetit)

Oh – and this link has a nice picture of how the lentil balls should look like http://www.nefisyemektarifleri.com/kolay-mercimek-koftesi/


Check out this episode!

One thought on “Lentil balls, Neolithic Turkey, and construction of the past”

  1. It’s an amazing recipe. Great website, archaeology and food are the best thing in the world. :)) It’s my two passions.

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