Tuesday 25 January 2011

Lentil Soup

I love soup nearly every soup.  I could have it everyday 3 times a day and not get sick of it.  Red lentil soup is one of my favorites.  It is a very basic soup and highly nutritious.  The recipe I will give you is the basic lentil soup from the Adana region.

400gr red lentils                                                                      
2 tbsp red pepper paste or tomato paste
salt to taste
1 tbsp dried mint
3 cloves garlic
1 tbsp pepper paste or tomato paste

When I make soups I judge the amount of water, I usually don't go for runny soups rather preferring a soup with a bit of body.  For this soup I would add enough water to cover then about  2 more cups to start with, then if needed add towards the end.  I also cook my soups longer than is probably necessary as I like everything melding into each other. I would cook this for over an hour even though I will tell you 45 minutes.  This soup is made by me nearly every day in winter and quite frequently in  the hotter months.

Wash the lentils well then add into a large saucepan.  Add water and salt and the pepper paste.  Cook for about 45 minutes.  Taste and adjust the salt level if needed.  Add more water if necessary.  I use my hand blender and blend this soup or you can pass it through a colander until smooth.  In a separate smaller saucepan put about 4 tbsp of olive oil, pepper paste, crushed garlic and mint.  Cook for about 2 minutes until fragrant.  Pour this on top of the soup at service, either into the saucepan or into the separate serves.  This is nice served as a main with Coban salad and Cacik with bread. Serve with lemon wedges on the side.


What I gave you was the traditional recipe.  I also make this same soup but add a couple of onions, potatoes and carrots.

I also like a decent chicken soup or chicken and corn soup, most asian soups, brocolli and pumpkin.  Whats your favorite soup?


Meze is probably my favorite way to eat.  Little plates of everything. During summer is the time when we mainly eat like this.  I like to have a few containers in my fridge will all these delicacies ready for an easy meal. Meze can be really anything that is in season and served cold, I have not yet seen a hot meze here in Turkey.  They can range from salads to any veggie put into garlic yogurt to a plate of watermelon.

What can you find on a Meze tray if you come to Turkey? 

Slices of Turkish style fetta cheese drizzled with olive oil and served with olives.
Stuffed vine leaves, usually just with rice
Any of the olive oil dishes
Green salads
Coban salad-tomato and cucumber based salad
Potato salad
Tomato Ezme - like a hot tomato salsa
Slices of Pastirma - turkish style salami
Various pickles
Mucver - zuchinni puffs
Fruits in season
Fried vegetables with garlic yogurt
Fried or pickled fish
Cigara Borek - filo pastries filled with a cheese similar to the continental cottage cheese
Cold bean dishes
Carrot salad
Eggplant salad
Beetroot salad
Cacik - cucumber salad
Fried liver
Kısır - tabouleah type salad
Bowl of plain yogurt

All of this is usually washed down with alcohol if eaten at a restaraunt.  What are your favorite Meze dishes?  Want the recipe? Let me know and you can be making wonderful Meze tables at home.
Hummus Plate on Foodista

Friday 7 January 2011

Turkish Dips

I have written this post in response to my beautiful friends post on her blog The Simple Things.  She did me the honour of posting about my blog on hers  She is one of my closest friends and I look forward to seeing her again soon.

If you are anything like me you are curious about different cultures and people, what they do and what they eat. This has lead me to cook various things other than just the average meat and 3 veg.  I came to Turkey 6 years ago and what an adventure,! many things have happened including living the way the locals do and learning all their culinary secrets.  Turkish food seems to becoming more and more popular these days and I can understand why.  The Turkish food culture is one of appreciating fresh at its best.  Combining ingredients to compliment each other and eating in season.  I have lived in many areas of Turkey from the European side to Middle Anatolia to the Mediterranean.  All the areas have their own distinct dishes and styles but there are many dishes that the Turks as a whole have in common.  Those are the ones you will probably find at your local Turkish restaurant.

What would most people order at a Turkish Restaurant if they have had no exposure to the food before?

I'm thinking the dip platter(I have checked online and most still seem to be serving this)so I will give you the recipes for all those beautiful looking dips and you can do these at your next BBQ or dinner party and impress your friends.

We will start with Baba Ghanoush, Beetroot dip and Hummus.  You will find these very very easy to make.  You might have all have your favorite recipes already for these as I know in most areas these are sold in the fridge sections of most supermarkets.  I will be giving you the recipes as I know them from the average Turkish housewife.

Baba Ghanoush

1 large eggplant or a couple of small ones
garlic to taste, minced
salt to taste 
lemon juice to taste 
yogurt --- probably 1 or 2 cups

Cook the eggplants whole in your oven until black.  Place them into a plastic bag until cool.  Take off the blackened skins, rinse off then chop roughly.  Add everything into the yogurt and serve.  You can garnish with dried mint or chili.

Beetroot or Pembe Sultan

I love this and make it all the time.  I usually eat it as a side with salad.

1 kilo of cooked beetroot - you can boil it or roast it to be fancy - you can add it in raw if you like but it doesn't give you the deep red colour.
garlic, minced
yogurt - 1-2 cups

Peel and grate the cooked beetroot.  Add everything else, stir and serve.


1 tin of cooked chickpeas
sesame paste - half a cup
lemon juice to taste - 1 or 2 tbsp
garlic, minced
olive oil

Drain the chickpeas and put everything into a food processor or use a hand blender and then blend until it is a paste.  Add in everything else and blend again.  When you add in the sesame paste add half in first, taste to see if you want more, then add the rest(some people find it a bit strong) same with the garlic add to your own taste.  I would probably add in 4 cloves. With the olive oil I would probably put in a couple of tablespoons, if the mix looked a bit dry then add in some more.

With all of the above dishes you can add olive oil.

(Forgive my use of google photos as I am having camera issues but hopefully that will be rectified soon)

Wednesday 5 January 2011

Essential Pantry Items

Before we start making any Turkish dishes we need to know what is in the basic Turkish pantry.  I compiled a comprehensive list of what you would probably find and most of this is in my pantry as well.

Lets start with spices, Turks like their spices though not all areas indulge as much as the ones bordering the famous Silk Road as that is the route that bought them into the country.  When I lived in Istanbul one of my must go to spots was the Egyptian Bazaar ((Spice Bazaar).  It is in a beautiful old building and is always crowded with locals and tourists.  The colours, the smells, the textures and the sights are amazing.  You could probably find any spice you wanted to here.  They don't just sell spices it is also probably the best spot for buying Turkish delight, tea and coffee.

Even though this list is long to meet your most basic needs you would have to have:

chili hot and sweet
citric acid


 It is mainly used in meat dishes, köfte,  sausages, various dolmas and sweets.

It is used in baking, the making of rakı.

Arugula, Rocket Roka
It is made into salad, and also eaten with fried or grilled fish. It is frequently used as a garnish as well.

Frenk Fesleğeni
Recommended in eggplant and pepper dishes.

Bay LeafDefne
Used in various fish,meat,poultry,game dishes,kebabs and in certain pickles and preserved foods.

Black Pepper
It is used in almost any dish, and is one of the most basic ingredients in Turkish cooking.

Used for some pilavs and desserts.

Used in pastries, cakes and biscuits as well as sprinkled on drinks such as boza and salep.

Cloves Karanfil
Used to add flavor to compotes, syrups, cakes, ice creams and certain stews.

Mostly used in salads and also for garnishes.

 It is mostly used in meat dishes, köfte and in the making of sucuk.

Coriander / Cilantro Kişniş
Coriander is mostly used in syrups and liqueurs, as well as certain meat dishes. Candied coriander seeds are sometimes used in pastries. The leaves and shoots of the plant are chopped and added to soups and salads in some regions.

Curly Parsley
Frenk Maydonozu
Mainly used as a salad ingredient and in some regions as a salad itself seved with lemon wedges.

Used in pilaf, dolma fillings and certain sweets.

It is used in many salads and “olive oil” dishes.

Fennel Rezene
Used in cooked dishes and salads.

Fenugreek Çemen Otu
Used ground in pickles, soups and meat dishes.

It is mostly used in syrups, as a garnish for drinks and in the making of liqueurs.

These are used in poultry dishes and in marinades for meat.

Köfte Spice (Meatball Spice)
This is a spice mix composed of coriander, black pepper, cloves, bay leaves and wild thyme. It is mostly used in köftes.

A very similar plant to wild thyme, marjoram is used in salads as well as meat and vegetable dishes.

Used in foods ranging from soups to vegetable dishes. It is added to lamb and mutton, and is also generally used in salads.

Musk Plant / Mimulus moschatus
This herb is used in oily dishes such as goose, duck and eel, and in stews. 
NigellaÇörek Otu
It is sprinkled on çöreks, breads and certain salty cookies and crackers. It may also be used in salads.

Cevz-i Bevva, Muscat Cevizi, Hint Cevizi
Used in meat dishes as well as dolma and sarma, and in bechamel sauce and cheese dishes. 

Pine Nuts
Çam Fıstığı, Dolma Fıstığı, Dolmalık Fıstık
Used in dolma and aşure.

Poppy Seeds
Haşhaş Tohumu
Blue-black or white. It is used in baking as well as sautéed in oil and added to salads, canapés and appetizers.

Red Flake PepperPul Biber
Obtained by grinding hot red peppers. The Antep and Maraş varieties are especially prized, and are available in oiled and unoiled form. Also available in powdered form. I have seen this being made they add the oil when they grind it to make it easier.

The narrow, thick needlelike leaves of this bush are used in meat dishes and sauces. In its fresh form,

Sage is used in the Aegean and Marmara regions to make tea.

It is used in some soup and seafood soups, in pilafs and in desserts made with milk and rice. It does not dissolve in olive oil. Saffron is also used in a dessert called zerde. It grows in Western Asia and in Northern Anatolia.

Salep / Sahlep
Salep/sahlep is the name give to the tubers of orchids in the genera Orchis and Ophyris. The dried tubers are beaten into a powder, which is now ready for use. Salep grows chiefly in the Turkey’s western regions.

The seed is used in simit and other baked goods, and ground to make tahini.

This spice is made from the ground berries of a small tree which grows in Southeast Anatolia. It has a sour flavor and is used as a souring agent in kebabs and some salads. A syrup made by boiling the berries is also used in salads.

Its aromatic leaves are used in certain sauces and meat dishes as well as eggs and salads.

It is used in meat, fish and egg dishes.

It is used to add flavor to pastries and confections, cakes, ice cream, compotes and milk puddings.

White PepperBeyaz Toz Biber
Used widely.

Wild Thyme
Also known as “Greek oregano,” this herb grows throughout Anatolia, mostly in mountainous regions. It is dried and used in meat dishes, grilled meats, vegetables and fish. It is especially used in soups.

You also need bulgur and that comes in various grades  but the two most widely used ones are large and extra fine.  Large being for pilaf's and some soups and the extra fine for salads and köftes.  Yoğurt is also widely used,  For soups and to make a large range of Meze.  Rice like the bulgur comes in a range of sizes from the long grain varieties I grew up with to the broken ones that are good for making dolmas.  Sugar is consumed in large quantities with tea and coffee but it is also used for making syrups that forms part of baklava and many other lovely desserts.  Oil, once I asked my mother in law for some oil as I had run out and I needed to make the evening meal.  I thought she would at the most give me a glass and that would last me several days.  Most Turkish housewives will use a glass of oil to make any meal, they are not shy when it comes to adding it to their food.  Bread is probably the most important ingredient to any Turkish dish, Turks cannot eat food without it.  Sun dried tomato paste and sun dried chili paste.  I love this ingredient and have made it myself during summer.  It doesn't need to be refrigerated as it has been sun dried.  Most households will make about 20-25 kilos of this per year some women prefer to make a mixture of the tomato and chili but some purists like myself have to have all 3 to mix and match to our palettes.