Sunday 27 February 2011

Turks gave the world Yoghurt!

The Turks gave the world Yoghurt!

Yoghurt is derived from the Turkish word yogurt.  The Turks before living in Turkey were nomadic people living in Central Asia.  The tribes of the Ottomans and Selcuks were the forerunner of the modern Turks. As they rode slowly across the plains of Central Asia they needed dairy products that would last the trip.  They were the first to produce yogurt from sour milk.

Man selling Yogurt
Yogurt is a big part of the Turkish diet.  It can be anything from a plain bowl of yogurt with the evening meal to a refreshing drink called Ayran.  As you all know by now I used to live in İstanbul, Silivri in fact.  Silivri proudly presents a Yogurt Festival every year.  Silivri Yogurt is famous throughout İstanbul as it is one of the nicest, plus it is made only with sheep milk.  

I have posted a few yogurt dishes and will post more in the future as it really is a versitile food and can be used in a variety of ways.  

Meze yogurt recipes
Yogurt soup recipe

One of the main dishes that is made with yogurt is Cacık it seems to be eaten all over Turkey and comes in 2 forms.  One is thinner and eaten more like a soup that is eaten in the eastern areas and the other, thicker one featuring in İstanbul cuisine.  I will also give you the recipe for Ayran, this drink is drank everywhere but probably mainly as a Street food, served alongside Döner.

Cacık Istanbul Style
500gr of plain yogurt
4 medium cucumbers
1tbs dried mint
2 cloves garlic, or more if desired

Place the yogurt in a bowl and whisk well.  Put aside and grate the peeled cucumbers.(I don't peel but most people do)Add the grated cucumber in with the yogurt and stir well.  Mince the garlic and add to the yogurt mix along with the dried mint and stir well.  This depends on you, if your yogurt wasn't too thick to start with water will not be necessary.  If you used a very thick yogurt like Greek style you might want to add a very small amount of water.  You want this to be spoonable but not runny.  The recipe calls for a small amount of olive oil (2 tbs) to be added, I don't but feel free to do so yourselves.

Cacık Eastern Style
500gr yogurt
4 medium cucumbers
1tbs dried mint
2 cloves garlic, or more if desired
2 cups of water

Cut the ends off the cucumbers and finely dice them. Put aside.  Put the yogurt into a bowl and whisk well.  Add in the diced cucumbers, minced garlic and dried mint.  Stir well.  Add in the water and stir well.  

Both of these recipes are served in little bowls on the side.  The water in the second version can be increased slightly if desired, as I have been to homes where unexpected visitors have come and more water is added into the cacık to spread it around.  The amount of garlic is really up to personal taste but 2 cloves is a good starting point.  Also some people add a pinch of salt to their cacık.

Cacık is served as a side dish along with salads and pilavs.

500gr plain yogurt
2 cups of water
pinch of salt

In a jug add everything together and using a stick blender, blend for a few seconds.  Serve cold.  

I really like Ayran, especially in summer when its too hot to eat anything except watermelon.

Old yogurt factory in Silivri

I forgot to say that the Silivri Yogurt Festival usually begins at the start of the Summer school holidays, there is a great outdoor, beachfront market that is open until late with live music.  They have several large name singers come to perform for a week and at this time there is the usual Oil Wrestling competitions you can attend.

Friday 25 February 2011

Sigara Börek, Cheese Rolls

Sigara böregi ("cigar börek," named for its shape) is filled with feta cheese and parsley.

When we lived in İstanbul my 2nd son was at a loss for something to do so I suggested he found a job.  We saw a sign in a window of a Börek shop saying apprentice wanted.  Just the thing for him as he liked cooking at the time, was 12 years old and ate alot. The apprentice system in Turkey is a bit different from other places, some places will pay them some wont, some will work them to death others whilst others are a bit more child aware.  This Börek shop was ok they definately made him work, sweeping the floors, making the tea, making deliveries etc but at the same time fed him well, gave him some pocket money, trained him by teaching him how to make them and also by giving him left overs to bring home to us. The owner was from Tunceli, home of the famous Tunceli börek and he also had won first prize making this Börek.  

Börek is a type of baked or fried filled pastry, popular around the Mediterranean Sea, the Slavic cuisines, throughout the Balkans and the former Ottoman Empire. They are made of a thin flaky dough, yufka in Turkish or better known as phyllo pastry, and are filled with white cheese, fetta, minced meat, potatoes, onions or other vegetables. Börek may be prepared in a large baking tray and cut into portions after baking, or as individual pastries. A variety of vegetables, herbs and spices are used in böreks such as spinach, nettle, leek, potato and eggplants.
The pastry here that I make the cheese rolls out of is very different to phyllo pastry as it is softer and not so fragile. It is also made in large circles and phyllo is sold in rectangular sheets. I was surprised when I came here that all the baking things came in circles, circular baking tins, circular pastry, circular ovens etc.  I had to overcome my rectangular mindset. To make this börek you want to end up with something that looks like spring rolls. I think you could probably cut the phyllo sheets into halves vertically and use those for this dish.

Lor Peynir - Cheese

200gr contiental cottage cheese or crumbled fetta cheese
1/2 cup of finely chopped parsley
enough phyllo sheets for about 20 rolls
oil for frying

This makes about 20 rolls if you dont over fill. Put the cheese and parsley into a bowl and mix well. ( you can add chili flakes if you wish, I dont add salt as the cheese is usually salty enough)Place the cut phyllo sheets on the counter or table and place a teaspoon amount of the mixture on the bottom of the sheet.  Roll up tightly and seal the edge with water.  Continue with the rest of the mixture.  Heat up enough oil - 250 ml - in a saucepan and deep fry the rolls until golden in colour.

Sigara Börek, Cheese Rolls on Foodista

Thursday 24 February 2011

Yayla Çorbası - Yogurt Soup

Yogurt Soup, bowl of pickled chilies and a glass of Şalgam
1kg yogurt - plain
1 egg yolk
2 cups water
1 small handful rice
1tbs dried mint
1tbsp butter
1tsp tomato paste

Put the yogurt into a saucepan and whisk, add in the egg yolk and water, whisk again.  Place on stove and heat on medium heat (do not let it boil) add in the rice and stir.  Leave on medium heat until rice is cooked, 10 minutes or more depending on rice. Add in the mint and stir, you want to add enough so it has green flecks all through it.  After the rice is cooked take of heat.  In a small saucepan or frypan melt the butter, add the tomato paste and stir well.  Once they have combined pour on top of the soup.

You want to keep a close eye on this soup when you make it, stirring frequently.  You don't want it to boil and then curdle.  Some people add salt to it but I don't as I think the yogurt has enough zing without it.  Add a pinch if you want salt.  Do not be tempted like I was once to add more rice, you only want a small handful in it or you will end up with mint flavored rice pudding.

I first had this soup when my MIL sent it to us in a metal pail.  I was hesitant at first as I didn't want to be eating hot yogurt.  It is quite a comforting soup and is given to small children, pregnant women, the aged and infirmed.  Yayla means tablelands or plateau so as you can guess this is a soup they say has come from the mountains.

Yayla Çorbası - Yogurt Soup on Foodista

Friday 18 February 2011

Istanbul Sephardic Chicken Soup

Istanbul is a wonderful city, I lived there for a year and a half and loved it.  People from all over Turkey go there to find work and a better life.  The apartment I lived in had people from everywhere.  Sivas, Urfa, Bulgaria, Ankara and from various regions of the Black Sea.  A couple of ladies were from Istanbul, Kadikoy when they were younger, thier families still having the ancestral home there.  They were all a wealth of stories and recipes. Whilst the lady who gave me this recipe is not sephardic herself it was a family favorite and she passed it on to me. 

Turkey has a wealth of soup and yogurt recipes, many of which I have made myself.  This soup has yogurt in it, don't let that put you off.  I have enjoyed alot of yogurt soup dishes many of which I never thought I would have.  After moving to Antep it led me to discover a local dish made for one of the festivals, Yuvarlama.  Yuvarlama is made with meat and rice meal made into köftes then cooked in a meat and yogurt sauce.  If mixing meat and dairy is not your thing you can also make it with chicken and yogurt and which is equally delicious.  But here I'm getting away with myself, I will post that another day.

500 gr chicken thigh or legs
1tsp salt
1onion, sliced 
2 large leeks
3 Celery stalks
2 tbsp olive oil
chicken stock, 4 cups 
long grain white rice, one handful
2  egg yolks
1 ½ cups yogurt
1 tbsp cornstarch
1 ½ tsp butter
1 tbsp dried mint, 
chili powder to taste 

Put chicken thigh into a stock pot.  Cover with water just 2cm above chicken. Add salt. Bring water to boil. Skim foam from the top of water.  Cover pot and reduce heat to simmer.  Simmer for three minutes, remove from heat and allow to sit covered until cool.  Slice leeks in half and wash well.  Chop leeks and celery. Heat a second stock pot over medium heat. Add oil and vegetables (all).  Cover and cook until very tender.  Take the chicken from the pot and allow to cool on a plate. Pour water from the stock pot into the vegetables.  Add 4 cups of chicken stock.   Add rice. Stir, cover and cook for ½ hour.  Remove the skin and bones from chicken and tear into small pieces.  Add chicken back into the pot.  In another  smaller pot, heat ¼ cup water, cornflour, egg yolks and yogurt over low heat.  Stir constantly, after the mixture thickens, stir into soup.  In a small frypan melt the butter, add the mint and chili powder and fry for a minute.  Pour on top of the soup.

Do not let this boil after you have added the yogurt or it will curdle.

Listen to this great song and look at the shots they have put to the music.  Istanbul, not Constantinople! 

Istanbul Shepardic Chicken Soup on Foodista

Wednesday 16 February 2011

Fried Liver, Chopped Liver and Ciğer Kavurma

chopped liver

Someone perceived as being of little value or worth, as evidenced by being ignored when others are getting attention. Usually used as a semi-rhetorical question. Origin probably in American Jewish humor of the early-to-mid 20th century.
"What am I, chopped liver?" "What do I look like, chopped liver?"

I HATE liver, couldnt eat it as a child when it was hidden in some mystery gravy dressed up with onions and I cant stand to look or touch it now.  How can I eat pate? Chopped liver or Turkish liver? I dont know maybe it is my body craving it to get some element that is missing in my diet.  Or maybe it is because it is just so delicous!

I was first served Kavurma in a doner and loved it, I didnt know what it was but I knew I liked it.  I was horrified when I realised much later that it was my dreaded foe Liver.  I also ate it at my husbands cousins house.  He had served it as a special treat for me and added in some heart and other internal organs because he likes me.  There is a traddition in Turkey that if you have a near death experience and obviously live to tell the tale you kill an animal and give the meat to your neigbours whilst you only keep the internal parts for yourself.  That is what this man did.  He had gone to visit his parents up in a high mountain village and caught the dolmus (Mini bus) back home.  They had nearly made it all the way when a huge truck ploughed into the side of the bus.  His wife and 5 children all got some pretty serious cuts and scraps but no one was killed.  Thank God for that.  So the meal they served to me was special as they were very thankful they were all still together and they wanted to thank God as well.  I sat on the floor and saw everything that went in it including a heart and some white stuff plus the liver.  I told myself I would take enough to be polite then take my leave of the table.  After the first few precautious nibbles I was hooked.  I now make this (just with liver) for my family.  Even my baby likes it.

I love pate even the cheap stuff out of the tube, when I make it I usually make one with mushrooms, walnuts and chicken livers with a splash of something to deepen the flavours.  Chopped Liver is very nice and is suitable for alot of different occasions.  You can dress it up to serve at a cocktail party or just spread it on toast for a good boost in the mornings.

Heres the recipe for Turkish Ciğer Kavurma.  Normally calf liver is used but you can substitute with chicken as I do since it is more readily available.
500gr Liver
2 large onions
2 or 3 green sweet or hot chillies
1 bunch of parsley
2 tlbs pepper or tomato paste
chilli powder or paprika
1 tsp cumin

I wash the liver very well and let it sit in a bowl of water with added salt for about 30 minutes.  Rinse and drain well.  Since I dont like touching the liver I use my food processer to make this dish.  This makes it quick and easy.

I start with the onions and pulse that a couple of times then add in the green chilies then pulse again.  Add the parsley next and process until it is finely chopped.  You can add the the paste, spices and salt at this time then add the liver.  I process the liver until it is fairly smooth, but that is personal choice you can leave it a bit textured if you prefer.

I dont like using alot of oil but for this I make an exception and use more than I normally would.  I would recomend about 1/4 of a cup.  Heat your frypan with the oil until hot.  Add the liver and cook until done - I probably overcook mine as I dont want to be gagging on any raw bits.  That would be about 30 minutes so cook it until you are happy with it.

Serve this with flat bread, salad and pickled chilies.

Fried Liver, Chopped Liver and Ciğer Kavurma on Foodista

Monday 14 February 2011


My favorite food actually isn't Turkish, its Asian.  What has this got to do with Hummus? nothing but Hummus and falafel are probably nearly on equal footing as Asian food or a very close second.  I don't know what it is about Hummus maybe its just the taste, the texture who knows.  Turkish people do eat this and whilst it is not eaten everywhere or even known throughout Turkey you can find this in Antakya and Hatay.  Alot of Turks would even say its not a Turkish dish, the Arabs would say its theirs the Israelis claim it as well.  The fact is that alot of the Middle Eastern food is very similar with some of the dishes crossing over boarders and Hummus is one of them.  As a result many countries will claim this divine dish as their own.  Speaking about Divine I happened across a blog devoted just to Hummus and they have an excerpt on there from Israeli writer  Meir Shalev who says he can prove it is Israeli as its origins can be found in the Bible, the old testament.

The first time Ruth and Boaz had met in Bethlehem, he offered her some humus: “And at meal-time Boaz said unto her, Come hither, and eat of the bread, and dip thy morsel in the vinegar” (Ruth 2-14).
This is a mistranslation of course. The original word in ancient Hebrew, is “Hometz”. Which not only sounds a bit like “Humus”, but also resembles the word “Himtza”. The Hebrew name of chick-peas.
True, “Hometz” in modern Hebrew is vinegar. But you don’t really think Boaz was so rude as to offer Ruth to dip her bread in vinegar, do you? Got to admit it’s more reasonable to think it was Humus.

Not only are the origins of Humus ambiguous but so is the recipe or should I say recipes!  As people are very different, recipes also change and are different depending on where you come from. Syrians might like more tahini whilst I have heard Jordanians like more lemon so therefore the recipe is slightly different depending on where you come from.  Most of us have probably bought a tub from the fridge section in the local supermarket and so have a basic idea on what is involved in the final product.  I have given you the recipe for this in my Meze post before.  I thought it deserved another honourable mention when I saw a few videos about Hummus on youtube.

This first one shows the whole eating experience for those who haven't yet partaken of this dish, but as you will see on the video it is also a staple for some.

This second one will show you how to serve it perfectly for your next dinner party or lunch. The guy dresses it up with pine nuts but I really think it would be much more appropriate to serve it with a few boiled chickpeas.
Hummus Plate on Foodista

Baked Beans - Turkish Style

I love Baked Beans.  We ate it alot when I was little and it was one of the only things I could give my oldest son to fill him up when he was starving.  After coming to Turkey I was introduced to a local bean dish from the Adana region.  It was nice even though I was dubious as it was kind of watery with beans and a few meat pieces floating in it.  My MIL made this and we ate it but I always thought that there has to be a way to make it a bit more eater friendly.  I started making this as per instructions given to me by my MIL but over the weeks I slowly made a few changes not realising of course that the bean dishes kind of vary within the regions of  Turkey.  Being a Heinz Baked Bean fan I tried to recreate the same thickness and texture I was so familiar with.  I am happy to say I have perfected my baked bean recipe and converted my Turkish husband over to my side.  With all my recipes there is room for various expressions depending on my mood or what I have in the fridge and cupboards. I will give you a list of my favorite variations.

Chili - Sweet paprika, chili flakes, minced green sweet chilies.  Fry onion then add the sweet chilies and cook for another 3 minutes.  Add to bean mix then add in the paprika and chili flakes.

Sausage - Turkish Sucuk (you could use any spicy sausage) and fried onions.  Cook the sausage with the onions then add to the beans.

Meat - Using a meat stock and adding in about 150 grams of cubed beef or lamb.  Fry the meat with the onion then add to the beans.

Veggie - Grated carrots(1 cup added just after frying onions then add the tomatoes then fry for a couple of more minutes), fried onions, garlic and a couple of tomatoes.

Cheese - Crumbled fetta and sliced black olives (stirred through just before serving)

Herbal - One large bunch of finely minced parsley and bit of basil if in season.  Add the  parsley to the onions and cook for a minute then add.

250grams dried white beans, soaked overnight then cooked (you can use canned/tinned)
salt and pepper to taste
garlic to taste if desired
1 or 2 chopped onions(I don't always add as my younger children wont eat them)
2 or 3 tbs pepper or tomato paste

If you don't want to use oil (I try to use as little oil as possible) you don't have to fry the onion and garlic just add everything in together and cook.

Fry the onion and garlic until clear add the pepper paste, stir through and cook for another minute then add a glass or two of water and add to the cooked beans.    Add in the salt and pepper.  Taste.  Add enough water to cover the beans and about 2 centimetres more.  Cook for about 40 minutes until thick.

There are thousands and thousands of local restaurants all serving delicious and cheap meals.  This bean dish is one of the staples of these eateries.  I found this great photo of the baked beans and also of one these local restaurants showing the daily offerings that are typical in Turkey.

Click here Durak Lokantası

Don't forget for all those bean phobes out there that they say if you cook the beans in separate water then drain to make the dish it wont cause any flatulence.  Did you know that their are more bean related deaths per year than death by shark attack!  There are an average of 423 beans in a 400gr tin.  The variety of bean Heinz uses is the Haricot.  So readers what bit of food trivia will you share with the rest of us?
Baked Beans - Turkish Style on Foodista

Friday 11 February 2011

Grand Bazaar

I have just opened a market with Amazon on my page 'Grand Bazaar' not to confuse that with the 'Kapali Çarşı' to showcase Turkish foods, teapots, coffee cups, language and cultural books. Feel free to browse amongst the selections or to buy.  I was really surprised at the amount of authentic Turkish food on Amazon.  I have tried to select the most authentic of the offerings, even down to the strings of dried eggplants and peppers from Gaziantep.  For those thinking about coming over for a holiday there are Turkish language phrase books, cultural books and Turkish music, featuring TARKAN as he is my favorite, to get you prepared.  With the selections I have chosen you should be able to have a real Turkish experience.

Monday 7 February 2011

Kadayif, Sweet Noodles

One benefit of living in Gaziantep is the relationship the people have with the firins(Turkish bread bakeries).  The locals can front up to these bakeries with thier prepared food or semi prepared food and get it cooked in these wonderful wood fired ovens.  Anything from a tray of vegetables with chilies to stuffed pides to lovely desserts.  I along with most of the population try to get the most out of these firins.  Yesterday we had a group of friends over and decided that the local firin could do all the work for a change.  I prepared a spinach, cheese and chili filling for stuffed pides and something I hadn't tried cooking at the firin before, Kadayif.

Kadayif are noodles used to make a range of desserts.  They are very easy to prepare and look spectacular. We have just moved to a new area and one of the firins near us do this(not all of them will) they also will make baklava for you as well.  The amazing part of it all was that I only had to give them my tray, a packet of butter, some nuts and they did it all.  When I got it home all I had to do was to pour over the sugar syrup and serve.  I got rave reviews for my triumph of this traditional dish.

Take a look at this Video,  yes I know it is in Turkish but all you have to do is click it and watch the guy go through the motions.  The kitchen our new place has is absolutely tiny so I think this video is the best option to show you all how its done. (after you click there is an ad then the demonstration starts)

As you can see the chef shows you the noodles.  Cuts them into smaller pieces puts them in the tray, spreads on the nuts, then covers again with more noodles.  How easy is that!

750 gr Kadayif noodles
250 gr butter
200 gr crushed walnuts

3 cups sugar
2 cups water
pinch of citric acid or a bit of lemon juice

I usually make the syrup first.  Add all the ingredients and boil for 20 minutes until it is fairly thick.

Melt the butter and pour over the noodles.  Sift through the noodles to make sure they are covered with the butter.  Take half of the noodles and press into your pan.  Sprinkle over the walnuts.  Place the rest of the noodles on top and press again.  Press fairly hard as you want it to be as compressed as you can make it.  Place into a hot oven and cook until golden brown on top.  Then getting another tray turn over the noodles and place into the oven again.  When the other side is golden brown take out of the oven and let cool a little.

Pour the syrup over the cooked noodles and let it sit for a few minutes so it can get soaked up.  

Serve with sprinkled nuts on top and with cream on the side if so desired.

So to my lovely friends, yes I did make it! and this is my secret.  What little entertaining secrets I mean tips do you have readers?

Here is the link for another famous dish Künefe using the same noodles and cheese.

Kadayif on Foodista living in Turkey

Friday 4 February 2011


Zucchinis are prolific at the best of times. After stuffing them, frying them, grating them into veggie loafs and making ratatouille, you can get a bit bored of them so here are two recipes that will help you enjoy zucchinis again. These recipes are good for breakfast or a light meal.   The first recipe is from Konya and the second can be found pretty much all over Turkey.

6 diced zucchinis
1 finely chopped onion
4 beaten eggs
salt and pepper
İn a fry pan saute the onion until soft then add the diced zucchini and cook for a further 10 minutes or until the zucchini is soft.  Turn down the heat to moderate and add in the beaten eggs, stir into the zucchinis and then add salt, pepper and chili.  Cook for a further 4 minutes.  Serve this for breakfast or with salad as a light meal.

Mücver aka Zucchini Puffs
For this second recipe you need

2 grated zucchinis
1 finely diced onion or a few sprigs of green onion chopped
8 eggs
1 tbsp of flour
1 tsp of baking powder
half a cup of crumbled feta - you can omit this if you wish
a handful of chopped herbs ie parsley and or dill
salt, pepper and chili to taste 

Grate the zucchinis and drain.  Add in beaten eggs, flour, baking powder, herbs, salt, pepper, chili, cheese and onion.  Stir until well combined.  İn a fry pan add a small amount of oil and start frying a couple of tbsp of mixture.  Fry each side until brown.  You can serve this along side salads and garlic yogurt.

Dandelion Greens

I had grown up sitting on the lawn trying to find a 4 leaf clover and making dandelion necklaces and bracelets for myself or my sister or my little neighbour but never saw myself weeding them out to make a salad.  When we were little, one time I remember we had gone somewhere on a picnic and my mother saw alot of dandelions and she got us picking the leaves and the roots saying the we could eat them and what a good source of free food.  When we got back home it didnt live up to her expectations and she was never tempted again to out to our lawn and partake of these delights.  Dandelion Greens are very healthy and they make a nice side dish or can be used as a meze.
I lived in Konya for 2 years and one thing I noticed was the women picking weeds.  I took a closer look and saw it was dandelions.  These dandelions were all  a bit different from the normal ones I had seen growing in our lawn.  All different shapes and sizes but all Delicious.  The women told me they ate them as a salad by themselves or mixed in with a salad but  no one  ever gave me a specific recipe.  I remembered when I had lived in Adana that I went to my friends house and she had made a dish.  Dandelion salad, at first I was a bit tentative to taste it as I had remembered my mothers experiments with it.  After the first bite I was taken, such a lovely dish but I had never made it as I hadn't been anywhere where I could find enough of them to make a meal out of.  After 2 cold years of living in Konya we moved to Gaziantep where we still are.  Guess what I saw at the local Bazar? Dandelion greens for sale and 1 lira a kilo.  I bought half a kilo even though the woman was pushing that I buy 2.  I recreated my friends recipe and we have been hooked ever since.  Half a kilo is enough for a family meal or for my husband and myself 2 times.  
500grams dandelion leaves
juice of one lemon
garlic to taste or 4 cloves
Wash the dandelion leaves well and chop roughly.  Put into saucepan and just cover with water, boil for about 5 minutes.  Drain the leaves.  İn a fry pan saute diced garlic cloves for a couple of minutes then add the dandelion leaves and continue for about another 3 minutes.  Take off the heat and place into serving bowl, pour the lemon juice over the leaves and chill. I usually mash the oil, lemon juice and salt into the leaves for a couple of seconds to bring out the flavours. This salad tastes nice if left a few hours before serving.

(for this recipe İ am generous with the oil, İ usually cook with no oil or very little for this İ would probably use 3 tablespoons of oil)

I have a Dandelion Soup recipe here.