Sunday, 25 January 2015

Chunky Fish Soup with Vegetables/Sebzeli Balık Çorbası & How to Make Fish Stock/Balık Suyu

In our house we love soups especially during the colder months.

Here's my latest and we think it's scrumptious!

fish soup with vegetables/sebzeli balık çorbası

The traditional Turkish soups lend themselves well to this time of year: lentil, Ezo Gelin and Yayla, full of grains and pulses as they are, tasty and filling not to mention economical.

But this time I went for chunky fish soup. We had fish the other day and the fishmonger included the central bones in the bag. There was still some flesh clinging to them so I couldn't bring myself just to bin them. 

Aha I thought. This is a good opportunity to make a good, strong, flavoursome fish stock as I knew that I had a huge fish head in the freezer that I could add. For fish soup you have to have a really good stock otherwise the resulting soup won't have much taste.

fish stock in the making: that huge scaly bit in the middle is a fish head

It's not difficult to make a fish stock. I knew I had all the necessary veg in the fridge as I had just been to the market, so I embarked upon this with gusto. As always for savoury recipes, the exact amount isn't important: if you don't have it, don't beat yourself up about it. The bonus was the appetising fragrance that wafted through the house while it was cooking - not fishy in the slightest.

Ingredients for fish stock
adapted from Özcan Ozan's recipe

Serves 4-6

3lbs/1.350kg fish bones including any flesh or trimmings
1 small onion, roughly chopped
2 sticks celery or equivalent celery root and leaves
2 leeks, trimmed and roughly chopped
2 carrots, roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 or 2 dried bay leaves
1 sprig fresh thyme if available
4 sprigs fresh parsley
6 black peppercorns, slightly crushed
1 tbsp salt


  • Place the fish bones in a deep pan and cover with 4 pints/8 cups cold water as well as all the other ingredients. Bring the liquid to the boil, lower the heat, cover the pot and simmer gently for about an hour. Carefully skim off any foam that rises to the surface. Add extra water if needed to keep the bones and vegetables covered. 
  • Strain or sieve at end of cooking time. Let stock cool, uncovered, before refrigerating.
  • NB Fish stock keeps for up to one week in the refrigerator. You can also freeze it.

Armed with this stock, on with the actual fish soup:

fish soup with vegetables/sebzeli balık çorbası

Ingredients for Fish Soup with Vegetables
taken from 'The Sultan's Kitchen' by Özcan Ozan

Serves 4-6

1 kilo or so/2lbs firm, white fleshy fish, filleted and cut into chunks
(I used levrek/sea bass; this recipe specifies mackerel)
Approx. 3 pints or 6 cups fish stock, or water (not advised)
4 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, finely diced
4 garlic cloves, crushed
2 small potatoes, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 celery stalks or equivalent celery root, chopped
3 tomatoes, skinned, seeded, and finely sliced (2 cups)
1 tbsp fresh flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 tbsp fresh dill, finely chopped
½ tsp flaked red pepper/pul biber
4 tbsp lemon juice
salt and freshly ground black pepper


  • Place the fish chunks and stock in a large saucepan. Bring to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer for about 12 minutes or less if your chunks are small.
  • Using a slotted spoon, remove the fish from the saucepan. Chop it finely, removing any bones, and set aside. Strain the stock into a bowl and set aside.
  • Heat the oil in a large heavy saucepan. Add the onion and garlic and cook them gently, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, for about 2 minutes, until softened but not browned.
  • Add the reserved stock, potatoes, carrots, celery, and tomatoes. Stir well and bring the mixture to the boil, then lower the heat, cover the saucepan, and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender.
  • Add the fish to the pan along with the chopped parsley and dill, flaked red pepper, and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper. Stir gently and cook for another 5 minutes.
  • Serve hot garnished with more chopped parsley or simply parsley sprigs.

chunky fish soup with vegetables/sebzeli balık çorbası
Afiyet olsun!

Note: if you prefer your soup smooth, have a look at this recipe: 
Equally tasty, different consistency!

Monday, 19 January 2015

Mücver - But not the Traditional Courgette Fritters: These are Made with Leeks/Pirasa

I'm going to say it straight: I am not a mücver fan. 

But lots of people are so I feel it's appropriate to have a mücver-type recipe on my blog.

 leek mücver served with garlic yogurt sprinkled with red pepper flakes

They look good, don't they?

The typical Turkish mücver is a fritter made essentially with courgettes or zucchini. Why I don't like them is because I tend to find them soggy in the middle and therefore unappetising. But mücver form a very important part of Turkish cuisine: the traditional ones are usually made in summer with what is removed from the insides of courgettes while stuffing them to make dolma. The Turkish housewife being of a thrifty nature will save those bits and make these fritters with them. 

TT absolutely adores mücver so there must be something to them!

I saw this variation with leeks on the blog Almost Turkish and thought aha, these may not be so soggy, let me try them. Leeks are absolutely in season right now so it's the moment to give them a go. I like the idea but I realise one must be very careful when cooking: they must be cooked through and through so therefore don't make them too fat.

leek/pırasa mücver garnished with fresh mint

I love the ingredients and in fact the whole process - just remember what I said: don't make them too thick otherwise the middle remains uncooked.

the process of mixing all the ingredients in the food processor


2-3  stalks leeks/pırasa, washed and trimmed including some of the dark green parts
3 eggs
1 cup white cheese/feta/beyaz peynir
1/4 cup parsley, chopped finely
1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped finely
3/4 cup flour
salt and black pepper
½ cup cooking oil for frying (I use sunflower)

Garlic Yogurt to serve:

1 cup plain yogurt 
1 garlic clove, crushed
pinch of salt
red pepper flakes (optional)


  • Put the leeks in a food processor or chop well, very fine.
  • Mix all the ingredients. If the batter is too runny, add more flour.
  • Heat oil in a frying pan on medium heat.
  • Drop scoops of batter in hot oil. Make sure they don't touch.
  • Fry them on each side until golden brown, 3-4 minutes.
  • When done, place fritters on paper towel to drain excess oil.
  • Serve with plain yogurt or garlic yogurt, sprinkled with red pepper flakes (optional).

leek fritters/pırasa mücveri
Afiyet olsun!

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Have You Ever Cooked Nuar?

I am not an expert on meat and most certainly not on Turkish cuts of meat. They are different, you know.

What I do know is that the meat here doesn't seem to taste the same here as meat back in the UK, let's say. And it can be mighty tough if you're not careful. I am basically talking about beef. 

nuar, boiled, sliced, and ready to serve

When I was first married in Ankara, way back, I thought I would make an English Sunday roast for my adoring young husband. Well, what a fiasco that was. It was as tough as old boots. I was so mad, I could have thrown it at the butcher's head. And do you know what? I have never tried again. 

I've come a long way since those early years.

First of all, one has to find a good butcher and once having found him, develop a relationship with him. This is the way it works. Once you have established that you are 'his' customer, he will give you good service which means good meat!

I have learned a lot about the importance of 'hanging' meat before it's sold, in order to tenderize it. Fresh meat tends to be tough. Also, of course, that all meat in this country or any Moslem country, is halal, an Arabic word meaning permitted by religious law. The opposite of this is haram eg pork is most definitely haram or not allowed. Amongst other considerations, the blood of all meat must be drained to be considered halal. Presumably this explains why the majority of Turks like their meat well-cooked, never rare.

sliced nuar

And this brings us to the mysterious cut of beef here called 'nuar'. Have you ever bought it? It's a nice, clean-looking cut, long and lean. Apparently the name of it derives from the French 'noix,' or walnut - the cut known as gite a la noix is our very own nuar. Because it is essentially a muscle located at the rear of a cow and surrounded by other muscles, it can be tough. So it is usually used for stewing or simply boiling with herbs and veg, to be served either hot or cold - essentially pot-au-feu.

I did some research into nuar or noix and apparently it is quite coveted for mince, not to mention grills but the emphasis is on thin slices. 

here's what you need to prepare your nuar: a carrot, an onion, bay leaves, parsley and peppercorns

Here in Turkey, the usual way to proceed is by assembling the above ingredients and, after searing the meat in a heavy pot with a little oil, boiling it with all of them, or if you have a pressure cooker, cooking for 25 minutes.


1 nuar - usually 1 kilo or more, the butcher will cut it to whatever weight you want if it's big
1 onion, quartered
1-2 carrots, cut into large chunks
3-4 bay leaves/defne yaprağı
flat-leaf parsley, including stalks
some peppercorns/tane biber
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
a little sunflower oil to sear the meat at the beginning


  • Prepare the vegetables first. Then heat the oil in your pan and when hot, sear the meat on all sides.
  • Add all the prepared vegetables around the meat, season well, and add cold water to a little more than halfway up the side of the nuar.
  • Bring to the boil then lower the heat, half cover the pan, and boil for approximately 1½ hours. Check the level of the water from time to time and add (hot) water if necessary. I always check with a knife to make sure the meat is tender enough before turning off the gas.

TIP I have a friend who slices her nuar for the last half hour of cooking and replaces it in the stock to continue. I have another one who cooks it through completely then slices it and if it's to be eaten later, leaves the slices in the stock/or gravy and gently reheats it when required.

This meat can be eaten hot or cold. If hot, a delicious gravy can be made using the stock in which it has been cooked. Or you can save the stock for soups, drink it as a bouillon (it's delicious!), and use the sliced meat with salad or in a sandwich. It's a very good diet option as well! In fact, this is when I cook it: when TT and I think we need to watch our waistlines :(.

Afiyet olsun!

Thursday, 8 January 2015

How to make Turkish Fava ....

Fava  is one of those dishes that you either love or you don't. It's really that clear. 

Personally, I love it: there's something about the consistency, soft and melting-in-your-mouth, that I find irresistible but the family isn't that keen. 

the beautifully turned-out fava with dill

But generally speaking, it's a popular dish here and nowhere more so, funnily enough, than on the tea table! But it can also be part of the rakı spread in the evening and of course, as a lunchtime dish too. I know that we foreigners like to take it along when we are asked to 'bring a dish'.

I've described Turkish tea parties before. They can be killer affairs with a selection of not only sweet goodies but at least three savoury ones too. Fava, along with mercimek köftesi and kısır, are very common and so is börek.

My neighbour invited me and all the other neighbours round just before the holidays and sure enough, she had made fava. She had made it beautifully using a silicone mould - she lent it to me when I made it recently as you can see in the picture! In previous times, the shape was much less adventurous: round or square but the arrival on the market of these new moulds has been inspiring! I must say, the chilled fava slipped out without any difficulty whatsoever but my neighbour had insisted on oiling each and every crevice individually .... just in case.


I had always thought that the dried fava beans had to be soaked overnight before cooking but apparently not. So it couldn't be easier: just put them in a saucepan with 1 onion, quartered, the sugar and salt, cover with water and add the olive oil, and boil gently. Yes, this does take a little time: approximately one and three quarter hours, but it's painless. However, it's best if you leave the dish in the fridge to set overnight.

So I don't know how many times over the years, friends and Turkish cousins have passed on their wisdom re how to prepare fava. The trouble is, invariably, they don't measure: it's all göz kararı  or spoonfuls of this, a pinch of that. Actually, the real Turkish way of measuring is in glasses: a water glass = 1 cup and a tea glass = ½ cup. But this time, I tried to pin down the amounts and times and it was successful.

fava waiting to be served
 How to make Turkish Fava

Serves 10-12


400g dried fava beans, washed 
1 medium onion, quartered
1 clove garlic (optional)
4 sugar lumps
½ tea glass /a quarter of a cup, olive oil
cold water to cover
fresh dill, to add to the mixture (optional), and for garnish
a little chopped red onion and lemon slices for garnish (optional)


  • Wash the fava beans in cold water and place in a large saucepan with the onion, sugar, salt, and olive oil. Cover the beans with 2 fingers of water and bring to the boil.
  • Lower the heat and continue cooking, checking from time to time to make sure the beans are not sticking. This will take approx 1 hr 45 minutes. The beans will become thoroughly soft and mushy
  • Using a stick blender, blend everything including the onion, to a smooth purée. Add the chopped dill at this point if desired.
  • Pour into the prepared mould. NB it isn't always necessary to turn the fava out: it can be left in a pyrex dish and cut into squares in the dish.
  • Garnish with more chopped fresh dill. 
  • Sprinkle with a little chopped red onion if using.
  • Leave to set in the refrigerator, preferably overnight. Turn out just before serving.
Afiyet olsun!

Below are three different presentations of fava, all of which I have enjoyed: the top two at friends' houses and the last one at a restaurant where little silicone moulds were used to great effect. They all look most appetising, I think!

Beautiful, eh?

Friday, 2 January 2015

Chargilled Aubergines with Saffron (or Garlic) Yogurt, Parsley & Pickled Chillies

chargrilled aubergines with garlic yogurt, parsley & pickled peppers

New Year's Eve saw my first foray into recipes from my new cookbook 'Persiana' by Sabrina Ghayour and once again, it was the picture that enticed me into going down to Kadıköy in quest of pickled chillies. Despite sleet, wind and downright disagreeable weather, off I went.

I'm pretty good at making do, substituting or just omitting ingredients, but I felt like savouring the New Year's Eve atmosphere in traditional Kadıköy and this gave me the motivation. We had thought we'd be in Assos for the 31st but because of the dire weather, decided to be cautious and stay put. This turned out to be a wise decision.

So I set out to make something different - festive and cheerful. First things first, you need to get your griddle pan nice and hot:

chargilled aubergine slices resting on the side

The picture at the top is the Turkified version ie minus the saffron in the yogurt. Instead, I simply crushed a garlic clove into the yogurt and drizzled that over my aubergine slices.

Here is the saffron version:

I forgot to sprinkle the black nigella seeds over the dish which annoyed me no end
when I realized (belatedly)

By cutting the aubergines into rounds, the dish had an instantly different look to what we are used to here where traditionally they would be sliced lengthways. I think this is a great looking dish and a cinch to prepare. Personally I like the yellowish yogurt: it makes it different! 

here are the aubergines sliced into rounds before being
brushed with olive oil

BTW you do know, don't you, that what they call Turkish Saffron down in the Spice Market is fake? They will try to persuade you to buy it but you must only buy saffron from Iran, the real deal. Yes, it's much more expensive but that price is an indicator. Click here for a riveting post on the subject by Delicious Istanbul.

Another BTW: it really isn't the season for aubergines, honestly it isn't. They are the queen of the summer vegetables. I only bought them because I really really wanted to make this dish!

Chargrilled Aubergines with Saffron Yogurt, Parsley & Pickled Chillies

Serves 4


2 large or 3 small aubergines, sliced into ½ inch pieces
olive oil for brushing
2 good pinches of saffron threads/safran, ground with a pestle and mortar
2 tbsp boiling water
250ml (9fl oz) Greek yogurt
2 tbsp garlic oil
sea salt
1x20g packet of flat leaf parsley, trimmed and roughly chopped
8 red pickled chillies,kırmızı biber turşusu thinly sliced (the ones I 
used were not hot/acı)
1 tsp nigella seed/çörekotu


  • Preheat a griddle pan over a medium-high heat. Brush the aubergine slices with olive oil on one side and chargrill them for approximately 6-8 minutes on each side, brushing the reverse side with more oil as you turn them over, until the texture softens and they are cooked through with nice griddle marks. Set aside.
  • Using a pestle and mortar, grind the saffron to a powder, then pour over the boiling water and leave to infuse for at least 15 minutes. Once done, put the cooled saffron water into the yogurt along with the garlic oil and a generous seasoning of sea salt and mix well. If you want to slacken the yogurt mixture, stir in up to 5 tbsp water.
  • Arrange the aubergine slices on a platter, drizzle liberally with the saffron yogurt, scatter over the chopped parsley and top with the thin slices of pickled chillies. Sprinkle with the nigella seeds and serve.

Afiyet olsun!

Monday, 29 December 2014

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

December 2014 - January 2015: Istanbul

It's almost time to say farewell to 2014 and the weather is abysmal. Snow is predicted for the next few days - we are truly in the heart of winter!

Today's usual Monday market in Selami Çeşme was somewhat subdued but nonetheless colourful. Intrepid housewives, undeterred, were out in force with their shopping carts and umbrellas.

Here's a pictorial account of what's in season right now with photos that I took this morning:

olives for all tastes

A favourite of mine is the olive stall above: there is a fabulous variety in all hues of green and pink through to black. It is absolutely the season for olives - it's such a hard task to harvest them especially when the weather is cold and wet like today. I bought some of the black breakfast ones from Gemlik, THE place for breakfast olives, etli/meaty, and not too salty. The slits on the green ones are typical of now: they have been slit - çizik - or broken - kırma - to release the bitter juices into the salty brine in which they are stored, to make them edible.

There are two items in the photos above that may be new to you: one is those gorgeous dark red carrots. They come from the south of Turkey and have only recently become available here. The other is a nondescript-looking brownish coloured fruit that has quite the weirdest texture if you eat one: it's called muşmula and TT informs me that it isn't very popular! I'm not surprised. 

The courgettes, green peppers and cucumbers should by rights not be here but they are. I was surprised not to find marul, the firm lettuce that we love - THAT should be available but wasn't to be seen today.

So now all that remains is for me to send you all my warmest greetings and good wishes for 2015. Let's see what the new year will bring .....

Thank you all for your wonderful, loyal support -
Happy New Year!

Sunday, 28 December 2014

First Impressions of My Christmas Cookbooks

And how was your Christmas? Ours started on Christmas Eve and went from strength to strength ...

My gifts had a theme and guess what it was: well, no prizes, it was cooking of course!

I now have the addition of no fewer than three beautiful new cookbooks to add to my burgeoning collection. The top one isn't a cookbook per se but according to the blurb is an 'astonishing first novel' about Tarquin Winot who relates his life story through that 'most basic and sublime of human passions: Food'! So the theme continues...

my Christmas cookbooks

Yesterday afternoon I sat down and enjoyed a thoroughly pleasurable moment browsing through them all.

Here are my first impressions: 

  • The Edible Atlas: Around the World in Thirty Nine Cuisines by Mina Holland is a real treasure trove. 39 cuisines? Wow. I checked out the Turkey section and liked what I read although I have never heard of Rebecca Seal who the author uses as her source for the recipes. Sorry Rebecca! But I'm going to really enjoy this book, I can see. Not only is it very well-written but the two Turkish recipes she chooses to describe in the Middle East section are well-loved and true: deep-fried anchovies ie hamsi tava, and beef kofta/köfte. From there Mina Holland goes on to the Levant and Israel with tabbouleh and baba ghanoush, humus and shakshuka. These are just a fraction of the 39 cuisines. I'm really looking forward to a good read of the others.
  • Turkey: Recipes and Tales from the road by Leanne Kitchen. Absolutely fabulous beautiful photos of all the aspects of Turkey that we know and love: at first glance, this is a gorgeous book. I looked curiously at the recipes and was disconcerted to find that she doesn't use enough Turkish to describe the ingredients. I guess someone like me, who lives here in Turkey, is not the target audience. For example, what on earth is silverbeet? She adds Swiss Chard so I suppose that brings us back to pazı. I would also like to know which region the recipes hail from eg pekmez, roasted pear, feta, watercress and hazelnut salad: is this really Turkish or did she create it? Maybe it's from the Black Sea because of the nuts but the other ingredients don't sound authentic. But maybe it is. I would just like more info! But overall, it looks like a stunning cookbook.
  • Persiana: Recipes from the Middle East & Beyond by Sabrina Ghayour. This was the winner of the Observer Food Monthly Awards in 2014 and I can see why. It reminds me of Ottolenghi as all the ingredients are familiar indeed. The photos of the finished dishes are plentiful and make you want to dive into the kitchen to have a go! I am familiar with lots of them as you might imagine but the ones I don't know, sound and look, delicious.

So I'm all set in the culinary department.

How about you? Did your presents reflect your favourite hobbies and pastimes like mine did? Above all, I hope that Christmas 2014 was as warm and wonderful as mine was:)


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