During the Ottoman era, when ovens were not small enough to fit in every kitchen, baked dishes had a cultural significance. As tradition went, people would send dishes in trays, casseroles, pots, etc. to bakeries for cooking.
In the Ottoman period, bakeries and their bread were frequently inspected. The reason for this strict regulation was to ensure that bread was affordable, delicious, and clean because when people were happy with bread, they were also happy with the sultan who provided it to them.
The most important reason behind the importance attached to bread and bakeries is that bread is regarded as sacred in the religion of Islam and, as mentioned in Evliya Çelebi's travelogue, the belief that the first human, Adam (a.s.), was the first person to bake bread. Bakers believed that they were keeping the profession of Adam (a.s.) alive and some of them regarded him as their father. When a piece of bread was dropped on the floor, Ottomans would pick it up and raise it to their forehead after kissing it three times. Stale bread was not discarded and was always used in another recipe. Bread dishes such as ekmek aşı and tirit were created as a natural result of this culture. Ottomans would call bread “nan-ı aziz,” i.e. sacred bread. The Turkish saying “The right of salt and bread” (meaning that one should remember the spiritual right one has over someone they feed or take care of) also signifies bread’s importance in Turkish culture.
In his cookbook from 1900, Mahmut Nedim complains that the neighborhood bakers would eat half the casserole to check it was cooked and suggests kâğıt kebabı (paper kebab) to cover it. Today, we almost never see the tradition of sending a dish to the bakery for cooking.
I’ve prepared two delicious oven-baked dishes for you cooked at neighborhood bakeries in the past.
7 eggplants / 400 g cubed lamb / 4 tbsp. butter / 100 ml hot water / 7 long green peppers / 3 tomatoes / 3 onions / 2 garlic cloves / 1 tbsp. tomato paste / 1 tbsp. pepper paste / 1 tsp. black pepper / 2 tsp. salt
Peel the eggplants in stripes. Roughly chop all the other vegetables and put them in a big bowl. Add the lamb meat, spices, tomato and pepper pastes, butter, and water. Mix and place all the ingredients in a casserole. Cook for 2 hours at 190 degrees.
Oven-Baked Vegetables and Meat
1 kg lamb chops / 10 long green peppers / 6 tomatoes / 2 garlic cloves / 100 g tail fat / 1 cup water / 1 tsp. black pepper / 1 tsp. salt
Slice the tomatoes in rings. Place the lamb chops in a large bowl, and sprinkle with salt and black pepper. Spread the green peppers and the garlics cloves over the lamb chops you have placed on a baking tray. Place the sliced tomatoes on top. Finely chop the tail fat and place it on the tomatoes. Add a glass of water and seal the tray with baking paper. Bake in the oven for 1.5 hours at 180 degrees.