A text published by the University of Kars (on Turkey’s eastern border) identifies 193 types of cheese commonly used in Anatolia—twenty-three of them made in Kars. The favourite type is ‘white’, a variation on the Greek feta. Mostly it’s made from cow’s milk, but sometimes from sheep’s or goat’s or a mixture. It’s an essential component of breakfast, while other cheeses start to appear later in the day.
Sheep were first domesticated in Anatolia around 10,000 years ago and, soon after that, the habit of storing milk in the stomachs of sheep produced the first cheese (because the milk reacted with the stomach enzymes, known as rennet).
The first written reference to cheese is in The Iliad, where Homer describes a wounded soldier being treated with a mixture of wine, barley and goat’s cheese.
Next comes kaşar, a semi-hard yellow cheese often melted on toast. For the recipes in this book I’ve tried to suggest alternatives that might be available in deprived English-speaking countries, but when you’re in Turkey, I urge you to try every regional artisanal cheese you can find, because the more unusual types are at risk of disappearing.