Friday, 8 May 2015

Macun: the Original Turkish Lollypop

The 'c' in macun is pronounced like a 'j'. The 'u' isn't like in 'up' but more like the 'ou' sound in 'bouquet'.

But phonemics aside, macun is a street food, pure and simple!

It's a little lolly on a stick made from sugar and flavouring and traditionally sold at panayırs or outdoor fairs. It's also sold at festivals like the one I have just attended in Edirne celebrating the Romany rites of spring called Hidrellez.

the vendor is wearing classic macuncu attire!
always sold in a circular pan with five flavours, lemon optional!
you see how he dexterously twirls the sticky paste round the stick

This event falls on the 5th and 6th May every year not only in Edirne which is in eastern Thrace on the way to Greece and Bulgaria and about three hours away from Istanbul by bus, but other parts of the country too. But Edirne is a pretty big centre for this. You could visit it from Istanbul in a day.

We all fell in love with the city which has a truly imperial presence since it was the Ottoman capital until the fall of Constantinople in 1453. The beautiful mosques with their slender minarets are well worth visiting. Selimiye is the jewel in the crown and they say Architect Sinan's masterpiece.  The city was originally called Adrianople after the Roman Emperor who founded it just to show you how old it is. 

That the weather couldn't have been better and that music and dance were in the air made our two days there truly memorable.

It was great!!!

I think they probably had a memorable time too!

And no, I confess, I didn't try the macun myself ... I fear those flavours are rather artificial judging by the colours. I asked if the green was mint: no, he said, it's kiwi!!!! 

We used to have a macuncu in our village of Assos but he has long gone. He was special in that he used to use a screwdriver to twirl his lollies!

Friday, 1 May 2015

Monthly Market Update: What's In and What's Not in the Turkish Pazars

April-May 2015: Istanbul

At last! 

The markets are delivering on their early promise!

This is what we have been waiting for: the glorious sight of huge mounds of beautiful spring produce! Finally we can say that winter has been banished and we are officially into the new season.

I often shop at this particular stall

It all looks so tempting after a steady diet of the usual winter fare: celeriac, leeks, carrots and cabbage. You can still find those if you look but they have been eclipsed.

I was surprised to see these pinky red barbunya or borlotti beans: it's early for these and the price reflects this. Same
for the green peppers below.

The enginar or artichokes are well and truly here: look out for the Bayrampaşa ones as they are very good. Look carefully when you are buying your artichoke hearts as there is a definite difference in what's on sale out there. They should be a luscious creamy colour with no blemishes, and I like them plump as opposed to thin.  The price varies between 2-3 lira each. The accompanying broad beans are still here which is great. 

Purslane/semizotu has made a comeback: the larger fleshy leaves are the cultivated variety while the smaller ones are the regular garden sort. I love both! Try to eat it the same day, or at the very least, the next day, because after that, it wilts and is no good for salads.

Irresistible peas in their pods were everywhere! I rashly bought 2 kilos and spent the afternoon podding them and freezing in little bags.

they were so fresh: after shelling, you could pop them straight in your mouth.
Here the sign says' New crop from Yalova. Very tasty!'

The other stunning sight was the strawberries. You can easily tell the tarla or field ones compared with the cultivated ones: they are smaller and have that delicious fresh fragrance that reminds me of those Pick-your-own that we loved back in England in those childhood summers. I never buy those artificially grown big ones, do you? They are tasteless in comparison with the new crop.

'field' strawberries from Aydın (south of Izmir)
two spring delicacies

I've already mentioned in a previous post the real harbingers of Turkish spring: the sour little green plums which come in two varieties, can/pron: jun and papaz; çağla, the unripe fuzzy almonds; and this year for the first time, the unripe apricots. I have yet to meet a foreigner who likes any of these!

note how the price of avocados has gone up

Oh yes, it's also the time for yeni dünya, the Japanese medlar or loquat. These always look a bit battered but that's their look. However, it's best not to buy too many at one time as they become even more bruised if not eaten more or less straightaway. They really do signal spring though and there is a very special kebab that you can only eat now: we had it the other night at Sahan, a well-known kebapçı on Bağdat Caddesi here on the Asian side of Istanbul - it's delicious, made as it is with other grilled vegetables and meat, cooked with spices and then rolled into succulent wraps/dürüm. Don't miss it!

sometimes known as malta eriği
Make sure you visit your local pazar this week!

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Purslane Salad with Yogurt & Almonds/Yoğurtlu Semizotu Salatası

I was thinking along the lines of semizotu or purslane as we call it although it doesn't seem to be commonly known, as I was planning on using it in my cooking class in Kuzguncuk

This despite the fact it is really a summer salad green and in our garden in Assos, pops up of its own volition all over the place! But it has just started to appear here and there in Istanbul and has made me think longingly of summery days ahead.

a bunch of semizotu/purslane

I also happened to be in full bulgur mode so it was natural to open up Nursen Doğan's book of bulgur recipes 'Bulgurun Halleri'. Possibly also because I was going to Kuzguncuk where she prepared this book with Refika, and where I first met her.

It may seem unlikely to use bulgur at all with semizotu but it works! It works amazingly well and we loved it, TT and I. Get the balance of the garlic and the salt just right, stir the yogurt to the right consistency and finish with a sprinkle of almonds, and there you have it! One beautiful healthy springlike salad for your table!

purslane salad with yogurt and almonds/yogurtlu semizotu salatası

It couldn't be easier to assemble once you've gathered the ingredients. However, don't do this too much in advance as this green is delicate and wilts easily.

easy steps towards making purslane salad with yogurt and almonds

Purslane Salad with Yogurt & Almonds/Yoğurtlu Semizotu Salatası

Serves 4


2 tbsp fine 'köftelik' bulgur
1 bunch purslane/semizotu, washed, damaged leaves and thick stalks removed
8-10 almonds, peeled/badem içi
1-2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 cup/8oz/225g plain yogurt
½ cup/3½floz/100ml water
2 tbsp olive oil


  • Wash and prepare the purslane; place in a bowl.
  • Put the bulgur in a small saucepan and cover with the water. Boil for 1-2 minutes.Cool.
  • Combine the bulgur, yogurt, salt and purslane. Arrange on a shallow serving dish. Drizzle the olive oil over it and sprinkle the chopped almonds and garlic on top. You can add a little flaked red pepper too!

ready to serve

Afiyet olsun!

Thank you, Nursen! Great recipe!

More purslane recipes to try:

Saturday, 18 April 2015

First Signs of Turkish Spring: Çağla Badem and Yeşil Erik

And that means the sourest tastes you can imagine!

I find it almost impossible to reconcile a liking for çağla or early almonds in their fledgling fuzzy green skins and also can erik or unripe green plums, with the overwhelmingly sweet tastes of baklava, şeker pare, revani and all the other Turkish delights that we all swoon over.

How can they like them??? I absolutely don't get it. The sourness makes you gag. It's worse than anything you can possibly imagine, even more than turşu suyu or pickle juice!

But there you go: different strokes for different folks as they say.

Just so you know, here's what they look like:

çağla or early spring almonds

Do you know how to eat them? You pop them whole in your mouth, that's how!

here's the beautiful fruit plate at Hasanaki's in Küçükkuyu a few nights ago: can you see the çağla?

Avoid at all costs!

I was at my local manav/greengrocer's earlier this afternoon and saw not only çağla badem but çağla kayısı! In other words, unripe apricots! This is the first time I see these.

 çağla badem above with çağla kayısı below

Here are the little green plums that are eaten with a sprinkling of salt:

still not widely available as too early, so sold in very special little packets at select manav

I know that there are Turks living abroad who yearn for the taste of these early spring offerings from their home country and will do anything to get hold of them.

Extraordinary is all I can say! Just wait a bit and all these fruits will ripen and be just fantastic!

What do you think?

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Classic Potato Börek/ Patatesli Börek

I never thought I would make a börek filled with potato and yet I have and I will make it again as it was quite delicious!

That filling of potato isn't as stodgy as it sounds, combined as it is with white cheese/beyaz peynir/feta, and freshly chopped parsley. Olive oil and no fewer than three eggs are beaten into the mixture to make it soft and spreadable. And let's face it: who doesn't like potato?

you will need olive oil and three eggs
here's the filling: mashed potato, crumbled white cheese and chopped parsley

This recipe is a result of reading the cookery section in the latest Cornucopia. If you haven't seen this issue yet, or don't know this magazine, you absolutely must track it down. It describes itself as 'Turkey for Connoisseurs' and this particular issue is a real treasure trove in terms of articles and photography. But actually, it always is.

potato borek/patatesli börek

How many shapes do you have in your börek repertoire? 

Check them off: the classic sigara or cigarette; gül or rose, muska or amulet, moving into the larger ones such as kol böreği, the one that coils round itself, not to mention all the others that are baked in the oven. 

clockwise: gül,  sigara , muska and eggplant

All variations on a theme that starts with yufka. This is made from wheat flour and water, then rolled out into large circular sheets measuring about 60cm in diameter before being cooked dry. Filo pastry is sometimes quoted as being interchangeable and to a certain extent it is, but be warned: it is much finer and you need to use multiple sheets to achieve a similar effect. We are lucky here in Turkey as yufka is easily available from specialist shops which make it fresh on a daily basis. Here where I live, I can think of no fewer than five places all within walking distance where I can buy it and this isn't counting supermarkets.

There's no doubt about it, Turks love their börek and they are right. Cheap, easy to make, loved by all, they are in a way the equivalent of our quiches and savoury tarts. Fillings are on the whole predictable with white cheese/feta and parsley being the most common, I would say. In season there is also spinach and leek, with the summer counterpart being grated courgette or, my favourite, aubergine. Also, any ot or fresh seasonal herb can be, and is, made into a börek!

Potato Börek/Patatesli Börek


2 sheets of yufka or filo pastry equivalent


4 small potatoes, boiled
3 eggs
½ cup olive oil
250g/9oz white cheese/beyaz peynir/feta cheese, crumbled
black pepper
1 tbsp nigella seeds/çörek otu

  • Mash the potatoes. Beat the eggs, reserving a little for later, and add to the potatoes, along with the olive oil, cheese and parsley. Use a fork to blend the mixture well, and season generously with pepper.
  • Lay a piece of greaseproof paper on a flat surface and spread the first sheet of yufka over it. Spoon half the potato filling onto it, spreading it evenly with the back of a spoon, taking care not to tear the yufka. Place the second sheet on top and cover with the rest of the filling. Trim the sides of the yufka into a square and place the trimmings on top of the filling. Using the greaseproof paper to hold it all together, roll into a neat cylinder, sealing the seam with a touch of beaten egg. Wrap the cylinder in the same paper and chill in the fridge for an hour or longer.
  • Before baking, use a sharp bread knife to cut the cylinder crosswise into slices two fingers thick, and arrange them cut-side up on a greaseproof paper-lined baking tin. Brush the tops with the reserved beaten egg, sprinkle with the nigella seeds, and bake in the pre-heated oven (180C/350F) for about half an hour or until golden brown

spreading the mixture over the yufka
using the greaseproof paper to roll into a cylinder
potato börek/patatesli börek

Afiyet olsun!

PS for further börek recipes, click here!

Friday, 3 April 2015

Monthly Market Update: What's In and What's Not in the Turkish Pazars

March - April 2015: Istanbul

Monday was market day but I wasn't able to go for multiple reasons. After a very up and down week weather wise, Wednesday dawned fine and clear and I resolved to pay a visit to my local organic market which is also in Selami Çeşme but on a much smaller scale than the regular pazar.

my local organic market in Özgürlük/Freedom Park, Selami Çeşme

I do know people who are weekly faithfuls; I have been  a couple of times but that's all. It didn't draw me and I am not enough of an organic enthusiast to go every Wednesday. Up until recently, I have always thought that the benign climate and the fertile soil were enough to ensure beautiful vegetables: now, with changing agricultural methods, I am not so sure.

But anyway, this time I went. The sun was shining and there was a hint of spring in the air. There were again the same relatively limited number of stalls there with a lot of dried products eg flour, pulses all proudly bearing their organic stamp.

The fresh produce looked very sad, I have to say. You know how organic vegetables look - small, hoary, faded, wizened. And it was all very much the winter stuff: the carrots, the leeks, the celeriac. There was nothing here that screamed SPRING IS COMING! I'm afraid compared to the regular market, this was a non-starter in terms of colour and vibrancy. 

'pink' village tomatoes - I bought some just to see what they were like but was disappointed: still too early, organic or not
a box of  organic broad beans/bakla

The markets at this time of year should be full of exciting seasonal change and I am sure all down the Aegean coast, for example, there must be some marvellous ot or herbs/greenery such as we don't see in Istanbul. All the organic market could produce that was remotely springlike was nettles!

So organic leaves me a bit cold, I have to say. The only organic product I really believe in is eggs and I regularly buy organic here or village/köy when we are in Assos. Those eggs are fantastic with glorious bright yellow yolks and a taste to match.

organic eggs from Manisa laid at an altitude of 1250 metres!

What signs of spring are there where you are? 
How organic are you?

Monday, 30 March 2015

Yogurt Cake with Blood Oranges/Kan Portakallı Yoğurtlu Kek

I have a board on Pinterest called Recipes I have to try. 

'Pinning' interesting-looking recipes onto this board is fun and at the same time by far and away the easiest way to save them without cutting out, putting in a scrapbook or creating a recipe file online.


This month it was my turn to have the neighbours to tea and I had been mulling over in my mind what exactly I was going to make. The usual pattern is two tuzlu and two tatlı ie two savoury dishes and two sweet. But I knew what I wanted to try and it was two delectable cakes I had saved on my special board. One in particular, with its eye-catching photograph of a loaf cake topped with vibrant ruby red slices of orange. It looked amazing.

Just look at it:

yogurt cake with blood oranges

Planning ahead, I bought my blood oranges from the market, and with anticipation - I love nothing better than the challenge of a new recipe - got out my mixing bowl and baking ingredients one day last week. Then I brought my laptop into the kitchen to find that recipe. That was easy. I clicked through to the actual website to find the instructions and what should I see but what looked like Polish: something totally incomprehensible at any rate. Well, you can imagine what I thought. Yes, exactly.

Oh no, I thought to myself. Amazing photographs yes, but not one word could I understand. But I was skimming down, feeling more and more irritated, and eventually spotted in small print Scroll down for English version

To cut a long story short, there is a happy ending: this recipe is excellent. It makes a truly delicious loaf cake, every mouthful light and moist, using ingredients that we usually have in our store cupboards. All except orange blossom water -not a staple for me I have to say, but I substituted plain orange juice instead which was just fine. But the point is that pinterest is a site based on sharing images so be careful: often the photos are better than the recipes! But this time the photos were fantastic and the recipe - once I got to it - certainly matched up.

adding ingredients to the mixing bowl

So here's the recipe for Yogurt Cake with Blood Oranges from a blog intriguingly called Chili & Tonka:


(the measurements were all in cups but I have added oz and gr)

1½ cups flour + extra for dusting
2 tsp baking powder
¾ tsp salt
1 cup/8oz/200g sugar
1 tbsp finely grated lemon or orange zest
¾ cup/6oz/150g plain yogurt
½ cup/4oz/100g vegetable oil + extra for greasing the tin
2 large eggs
½ tsp vanilla extract
2 blood oranges/kan portakal
1 tbsp orange blossom water


  • Preheat oven to 180C/350F degrees.
  • Grease and flour a standard loaf tin (5¼ x 9¼in/ 13 x 23 cm)
  • Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.
  • Using your fingers, rub the lemon zest into the sugar in a large bowl until sugar is moist and fragrant.
  • Add yogurt, oil, orange blossom water, eggs, and vanilla extract. Whisk to blend. Fold in dry ingredients with a rubber spatula just to blend. Don't over mix.
  • Pour the batter into your prepared tin and smooth the top.
  • Peel the oranges and cut them into THIN slices. Arrange on top of the cake. Overlapping if fine. NB One orange may be enough.
  • Bake about 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean.
  • Let cake cool in pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Invert onto rack and let it cool completely.
  • Additionally you can brush the top of the cake with liquid fruit jelly or other glaze. Here the recipe leaves you on your own. This is what I did:
  • for glaze:
  • Sieve approx. 2 tbsp apricot jam  into a small saucepan and add the juice of ½ lemon. Using a whisk helps.  Stir over the heat until ingredients are blended, then bring to the boil and simmer for a minute. Let cool slightly then brush over the cake. You can do this a day in advance and it will still be shiny the next day. I really recommend the glaze as it brings out that fabulous colour.
The cake itself can be made up to 3 days in advance and kept at room temperature in an airtight tin or simply wrapped in foil.

here are my two tatlıs: the one on the right, an upside down banana cake with nuts, is another pinterest find - more about that later!
But take it from me, everybody loved both!

Afiyet olsun!


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