Irish Country Living congratulates Chef Ahmet Dede, of Dede in west Cork, on being awarded his first Michelin star on 25 January. This is an excerpt from a recent interview with Janine Kennedy, which appeared in our 2020 Christmas Food Magazine.
Chef Ahmet Dede calls Balitimore, Co Cork, home. He loves working in the seaside community; serving items made with local ingredients. He's lived in Ireland for years and, before running his own Michelin-starred kitchen (Mews in Balitmore; now closed), he worked his way through some of the nation's top restaurants. He now owns and operates Dede at the Customs House in Baltimore, where (in normal times) he offers a multi-course experience largely featuring the flavours of his native country, Turkey.
"I like the lifestyle and the pace here, it's laid back," he says about Baltimore. "I was born in Ankara, the capital city of Turkey. Turkey is a massive country with 85 different cities, the food is very diverse. I have two older brothers; they live in Amsterdam. I have a big extended family and we are all very close."
Living and operating in rural Ireland has enabled Ahmet to regularly travel and spend time with his family – something he says he likely couldn't do if he were still working in Dublin.
"I love eating my mom's food," he says. "There's always a nice soup, some salad and pickles, fresh bread. We're Muslim, but I also enjoy Christmas time in Ireland. In Turkey, our biggest food holiday is Ramadan. It's when people cook really lovely meals; you fast all day and at night you have a really good feast. We all visit each other and eat together – very simple food, but lots of different things."
1 onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp rapeseed oil
1 tbsp tomato purée
200g red lentils (black or green lentils also work)
2l water (or chicken/beef/vegetable stock)
1 tsp chilli powder or flakes
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp dried mint (or fresh mint or coriander, chopped, if available), plus extra for serving
1 tsp black pepper
Natural yoghurt, for garnish
Squeeze of lemon juice
1. Prepare the onion and garlic.
2. Add oil to a deep saucepan and sweat the onions and garlic for a few minutes, until translucent.
3. Add the tomato purée and keep cooking on low heat until it caramelises – this will take about five minutes.
4. Add the lentils and spices; stir and continue cooking on low heat for another minute.
5 Add the water or stock. Cover with a lid and simmer for 30-35 minutes, until the lentils are soft.
6. When the lentils are cooked, use a hand blender or a regular blender to blend to a smooth texture. Check the seasoning and add more salt or spices, to your taste.
7. To serve: Add a pinch of salt to the natural yoghurt. I like adding mint, either fresh or dried. Pour the soup into a bowl and drizzle with yoghurt and a squeeze of lemon.