Monday, 24 November 2014

Mediterranean Tarts with Bulgur/Bulgurla Akdeniz Tartları

A soon as I saw the pictures of these tarts, I knew I would love them. I then read the recipes and loved them even further.

The pastry is made with the köftelik bulgur or fine-grain bulgur wheat. The amount makes enough for two tarts, one with olives, green and black, and the other with leeks, cheese and a scattering of sunflower seeds. For me, these ingredients - and the photos -  were enough to seduce me.

the uncooked green and black olive tart sprinkled with dried thyme
the cooked leek and cheese tart. this one with pine nuts not sunflower seeds

Where did I see these recipes?

In one of the cookbooks that comes from Refika'nın Mutfağı or Refika's Kitchen: it's called *Bulgurun Halleri/Ways with Bulgur by Nursen Doğan whom I've actually had the pleasure of meeting at Refika's. 

I have already made these tarts several times now and I'm on a roll. Those in my most recent cooking class know that I was planning on making them for a dinner party on Saturday night - and I did!

Mediterranean Tarts with Bulgur


for the pastry (enough for 2 tarts)

1 cup fine-grain bulgur wheat NB you are not going to cook this, soaking will be enough
1½ cups whole wheat flour/tam buğday unu
1 cup hot water
1 egg
125g butter, softened at room temperature and cut into small pieces
1 tsp salt


  • Place the bulgur in a bowl and cover with the hot water. Wait 15 minutes. Put the flour along with the butter in a separate bowl. Add the salt, bulgur and egg and knead together well. Divide the dough into 2 equal pieces and wrap each in cling film. Place in the fridge to rest for 1 hour. I had to leave mine like this for 2 days the first time and it still rolled beautifully once it had come back to room temperature.
  • Preheat the oven to 180C/350F.
  • Grease two tart or quiche tins (I didn't do this) and roll out the bulgur pastry to line them. TIP you will find it a bit sticky so do what I did: roll it out on some cling film covered with a second layer of cling film so that it does not stick either to the kitchen surface OR the rolling pin. You can use your fingers to push the pastry into any stray areas that need it. Prick the base all over with a fork. NB this is important otherwise it will rise during baking!  Bake for 20 minutes in the pre-heated oven and then remove to add the desired filling.

making the bulgur pastry - it makes a nice firm dough

  1. for the olive/zeytinlik filling:

1 cup black olives, de-stoned
1 cup green olives, de-stoned
1 cup white cheese, crumbled
1 cup kaşar cheese or any other melting cheese, grated
2 spring onions, chopped
2 green peppers, chopped
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tbsp olive oil
dried thyme to sprinkle

Chop the olives and mix with the peppers, spring onions, egg and white cheese. Add half the kaşar cheese and mix together. Spread over the bulgur base.  Sprinkle the remaining half of the kaşar cheese over the tart and drizzle the olive oil. Replace in the oven and cook for another 20 minutes or until the cheese starts to turn an attractive toasty brown.
NB when you buy the black olives, make sure you get ones that have been in a salamura and not sele. They will be plumper and easy to de-stone. The others will be dryer and wrinkled, therefore hard to remove the stone.

    2.  for the leek/pırasalık filling:

2 leeks, washed and finely chopped in rings
1 cup kaşar cheese or any other melting cheese, grated
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp sugar
3 tbsp sunflower seeds/ayçekirdeği
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper

Add the chopped leeks to the olive oil in a frying pan and cook for 3-5 minutes till softened. Add the salt, sugar and black pepper and stir for a further 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes.  Add the egg and half of the grated cheese and arrange on the bulgur base.  Sprinkle the remaining half of the cheese over the tart along with the sunflower seeds. Return to the oven and cook until the top changes colour - about 20 minutes.

the leek bulgur tart just out of the oven - I only had pine nuts the first time round.
Definitely better with sunflower seeds!

all the ingredients for the olive bulgur tart
Afiyet olsun!

*I obviously like this recipe book as I realise I've made something from it every month since September! If you like this recipe - if you like bulgur! - here are the links for the others on my blog:

Kısır/Spicy Bulgur Salad with Tomatoes 
& Pomegranate Molasses

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Delicious Apricots stuffed with Cream/Kaymaklı Kayısı Tatlısı

apricots stuffed with cream and sprinkled with toasted flaked almonds

Last week we made this typical Turkish dessert in one of my cooking classes in Kuzguncuk. Suitably sticky, deliciously sweet and syrupy with a slight crunch from the flaked almonds, I think it was a winner!

sweet and sticky ....

I had some kaymak left over - you may wonder what that is: well, it's buffalo cream! Yes, really!! It's somewhat similar to our clotted cream in that it's firm and can easily be spooned into each apricot. Here, you buy it in rülo or rolls from shops that sell milk puddings eg Sütiş, which is where I got mine. I should add that it's not cheap at approximately 22 TL per roll so I wasn't out to waste the remaining half roll.

So I made it again! This time at home for the family. In fact, this is what we enjoyed after our takoz palamut as there is a general consensus that 'something sweet'  after fish is always nice. In restaurants you are (often!) served a selection of baklava or some warm helva  along with fruit just to satisfy this craving.

Of course the apricots are the dried ones that are sold everywhere here in Istanbul. I bought mine from my local aktar, a treasure trove of dried herbs, spices, oils and essences as well as nuts and dried fruits. Aktars are fabulous places. You can see that the quality of these apricots was superb: firm, fleshy, and on the large side: just perfect for stuffing with cream!

L: apricots after being soaked overnight and R in the pan with the water, lemon juice and sugar

Yes, they are the orange ones, the ones that have been treated with sulphur dioxide to preserve the colour - I suppose we should all be buying the organic brown ones that have been sun dried. I usually do as a matter of fact but for cooking, this colour is so much more attractive. One of the ladies in the group suggested a chequerboard effect: one orange, one brown etc! Not a bad idea.

This recipe is simplicity itself: the only thing to remember is to soak the apricots overnight and then the next day, to reserve 1 cup of that same liquid for the boiling with lemon and sugar.

The ladies were brilliant: how about cinnamon sticks? vanilla pod? cardamom? they suggested.  All excellent ideas!

But here's the typical recipe inspired by Angie Mitchell in 'Secrets of the Turkish Kitchen' for:

Apricots stuffed with Cream/Kaymaklı Kayısı Tatlısı

Serves 4-6


250g/8oz Turkish dried apricots/kuru kayısı
1 cup water
juice of ½ lemon
4 tbsp sugar
kaymak or clotted cream to serve (approx ½ roll of kaymak)
flaked almonds or crushed pistachio nuts for garnish


  • Soak the apricots overnight in cold water. 
  • Drain and reserve 1 cup of the water. Put the water in a pan with the apricots, lemon juice and sugar. Boil gently for 10 minutes or until the syrup thickens, taking care not to allow the apricots to become mushy.      
  • Allow to cool. Then split open the apricots and stuff with a spoonful of the cream. Arrange on a serving dish facing up, spoon over the syrup and sprinkle with either the pistachios or flaked almonds.
  • I decided that I wanted to toast the almonds so quickly did exactly that in a small frying pan over medium heat.

apricots stuffed with cream and garnished with toasted flaked almonds

Afiyet olsun!

An easy dessert that tastes just as good as it looks!
Easy to eat too: 
just pop one straight in your mouth and ENJOY!

Monday, 10 November 2014

Very Seasonal Bonito Baked in the Oven/Takoz Palamut

If you want a true example of what seasonal means, just pay a visit to one of the large fish markets of Istanbul. Karaköy just down by the Galata Bridge is a sight to behold and so is the pedestrianized area - çarşı - in the heart of Kadıköy on the Asian side of the Bosphorus.

But even your little local fishmonger will have a tempting display and right now it's palamut or bonito. These beautiful firm-fleshed fish swim down from the Black Sea: at the start they are çingene palamudu but then they grow into the next size up, bonito or simply palamut. Of course they don't stop there: they keep right on growing until they become fully fledged torik!

Click here if you are interested in the different sizes and names of the inbetween stages of the palamut!

Now, here's an interesting piece of information for those who'd like to cook this delicious fish at home: you can either get it cut into two fillets/filetoOR you can ask for takoz. This refers to the way it's cut into slices by the fishmonger (and I highly recommend that you ask him to do it as opposed to doing it yourself). It looks like this when you get it home:

takoz palamut: it should look like this - shiny and firm to the touch

Up until now, I have always gone for fileto because I thought that sliced meant frying. But no, thanks to SIL, I am now a convert to takoz done in the oven and finished off with a few minutes under the grill!

So yesterday SIL bought 4 lovely shiny, fresh as fresh, palamut and prepared them for us all for lunch (we were 6). It's certainly an easy fish to deal with: here's how...

Method for baking takoz palamut:

  • Wash the slices and place on kitchen paper to absorb the excess water.
  • Line your oven baking tray with greaseproof paper and arrange the slices on top.
  • Don't forget to preheat your oven to 180C/350F first.

basting ...

  • Grind some sea salt over the fish and drizzle the juice of 2½ lemons over each slice. Then baste with olive oil.
  • NB of course you can add some fancy extras eg slices of red onion, bay leaves, lemon or tomato slices, or long green peppers. You could add some sprigs of parsley or dill to garnish at the end of cooking.
  • Cook for 20 minutes approx and then place under the grill for a further 10 minutes, the idea is for the slices to colour. You can omit this stage but the fish does look more appetising when lightly grilled. Check to see if the slices need a little more basting with the olive oil as this fish can dry out easily.

takoz palamut ready to serve
mouthwatering palamut  beautifully cooked by Mete
just right for Sunday lunch with a glass of white wine on the side!

To serve, I made a mixed salad with our favourite crunchy marul lettuce, a few little sliced cucumbers and cherry tomatoes, some parsley and dill tossed at the last minute with a white balsamic vinegar, olive oil and French mustard vinaigrette. The mustard adds a piquancy to the dressing that makes a difference.

Afiyet olsun!
 Ellerine Sağlık, Mete!

If you are looking for a couple of different palamut cooking ideas, I recommend these earlier posts from my blog:


Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Beetroot Leaf Sauté with Chickpeas and Potato

I'm not translating this one into Turkish because in fact, despite the Turkish-sounding ingredients, it's an Observer recipe from Nigel Slater, veteran English food writer. It comes from the Observer Food Monthly which I happened to read when I was delayed at Gatwick one recent Sunday.

But of course the reason I tried it was because of the beetroot leaves! I went to the market the very next day after my return, you see, where I saw the most irresistible freshly-picked beetroots you could ever imagine! The leaves and long red stalks were intact and looked way too good just to cut off and dump. 

vibrantly red

The Turkish cook is a thrifty cook and would not be happy discarding perfectly good yemek potential. Leaves like this would most likely be made into a börek or indeed cooked gently with a couple of eggs cracked into them. 

Elsewhere, it seems to me that beetroot is going through something of a revival: it's definitely being given the thumbs up in terms of all the beetroot hummus recipes I'm seeing, not to mention beetroot brownies (which really don't appeal).

This recipe is basically a stir fry and will gladden the heart of any vegetarian you have in the family:wonderful ingredients such as chickpeas, lemon and mint combined with seasonal potatoes and carrots! For Nigel Slater,the focus is actually not the beetroot leaves and stems but the potato; for me, it's definitely the beetroot.

beetroot leaf sauté with chickpeas and potato

As with any stir fry, the cooking's easy, it's the chopping that takes the time.

first the potatoes and carrots
slicing the rolled up beetroot leaves into ribbons

the sliced stems

Beetroot Leaf Sauté with Chickpeas and Potato

Serves 4-6


2 large potatoes, chopped
3 tbsp olive oil
2 carrots, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 x 400g can chickpeas, drained
50g beetroot stems, chopped into small pieces
150g beetroot leaves, rolled into a cylinder and thinly sliced
1 small lemon, squeezed
small handful fresh mint, roughly chopped

  • Pour the olive oil into a wide shallow-sided pan, add the potatoes and let them cook over a medium heat. Add the carrots and the garlic. Season with salt and pepper and continue cooking until the vegetables are approaching tenderness.
  • Tip the drained chickpeas into the pan and let them warm through for 10 minutes.
  • Stir the beetroot stems into the pan and finally fold in the sliced beetroot leaves.
  • Squeeze in the juice of the lemon, and add the mint leaves. 
  • Stir and serve!
 NB check the seasoning very carefully: it makes a difference!

Afiyet olsun!

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

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

October-November 2014: Istanbul

Last week I was happily out of Istanbul on Heybeliada, one of the fabled Princes Islands in the Sea of Marmara. We were on a photo trek and the day had been chosen because it was the island's weekly market day. We were so blessed with the weather and everything looked totally enchanting.

Heybeliada pazarı, last Wednesday

Now, in this picture there is only one clue that we are now in October and that is the mushrooms. With all the other produce, you could easily think it was summer. What do we see here: courgettes, aubergines, okra or ladies' fingers, tomatoes, cucumbers - it is quite remarkable to see them on the market stalls in October. But rest assured, it is the end of them!

So it is getting quite confusing to track down what is truly seasonal. I only know because I have lived here such a long time, way before markets became interesting at all.

There is no way I am going to buy the vegetables that I have just listed above even though they look completely fine. It is just the wrong time of year for them.

Here's what you should be looking for:

persimmons and pears
pumpkin - right in time for Hallowe'en
crunchy carrots
here come the root vegetables: celeriac
çintar mushrooms which look quite evil but are OK

And yesterday I went to the market in Selami Çeşme, my local market, which I almost always go to instead of the supermarkets around. True, I do have my guy on the corner who always has lovely fresh stuff in extremis. It's just that I like the markets.

It was the same story: the market was bursting with produce and if you were a newcomer, you would be forgiven for thinking that it was an amazing paradise for fresh vegetables of all sorts.

citrus fruits make their entrance around now: mandarines but not the time for oranges

I bought a lot of stuff as I really had nothing in the fridge after my recent travels, including cauliflower and a red cabbage, both newcomers on the seasonal front. Oh I also bought some lovely small beetroots - I am a bit confused myself as to beetroots as you see them on and off throughout the year but these really did look appetising and I happen to love them.

I even saw barbunya/borlotti beans and figs! Not to mention red peppers. I know they are tempting and who knows, I may change my tune.

the time to buy them is August

But now you can see pomegranates appearing in all their glory. In Eminönü you will see little barrows offering glasses of their ruby red juice for 1 TL per glass. I recommend you get it mixed with the juice of 1 orange just to dilute the sourness because, let's face it, it's still very early.

And of course this month sees the grand re-entry of the ayva or quince, which will be around for some time now. 

they look beautiful: the sign says Real Bread Quince! i.e. can be eaten raw

So enjoy your local pazar! The colours and the sheer abundance of the fruits and vegetables will intoxicate you! 

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Müceddere/Mercimekli Bulgur Pilavı: Bulgur Pilav with Green Lentils and Walnuts

My love affair with all things bulgur continues despite a totally bulgur-less 9 days in England!

Back in my own kitchen and getting back into my old routine helps. And I really am a big fan of this nutty grain: I like its taste and the fact it's so healthy and easy to cook.

I am also a pulse devotee: ie when I see lentils, red or green, mentioned in a recipe, the odds are that I will read on and in all probability try it.

green lentils/mercimek

Refika Birgül, the celebrity chef whose fab kitchen in Kuzguncuk is the one I have been using for my cooking classes, also has a similar recipe to this one which I have actually made and posted about. It's called Mucandara Pilavı and originates from Cyprus while the origin of this one is Arabic. Are they related? Who knows? Both pilafs use green lentils, this one with walnuts, the other with sesame seeds. This one using butter and Refika's olive oil. But this one is a bulgur one while Refika's is a rice-based pilaf.

adding the bulgur to the boiled lentils

I actually think I prefer this one! The instructions are clearer apart from anything, and so are the measurements! This recipe comes from the book Bulgurun Halleri/Ways with Bulgur, that I mentioned recently, written by Nursen Doğan along with Refika.

Müceddere/Mercimekli Bulgur Pilavı or Bulgur Pilav with Green Lentils and Walnuts


1 cup green lentils/mercimek, washed (pre-soaking not necessary)
1 cup large grain bulgur/pilavlık bulgur
1 large onion, chopped
3 cups water
2 tsps salt (1 tsp for the bulgur, 1 tsp for the onion)
1 tsp sugar
3 tbsp butter
1 handful walnuts/ceviz


  • Boil the washed lentils in the water for 10-15 minutes. Do not overboil but do check for doneness. 
  • When they are cooked, do NOT throw away the remaining water in which they were cooked. Add the bulgur and 1 tsp salt to the pan. If necessary, add a little more hot water. Cook for a further 10 minutes until the grains have swelled and softened. Remove from heat.
  • Heat the butter gently in a small pan and pour half of it over the pilaf. Then place the lid on top and leave to 'rest'.
  • Gently cook the chopped onion in the rest of the melted butter. Add 1 tsp salt and the sugar and cook till the onion caramelizes. 
  • Place the bulgur and lentils in a serving dish with the caramelized onion on top. 
  • Take the walnuts and heat them through in the pan in which you cooked the onion. (1-2 minutes).
Nursen's serving suggestions are  salad, pickles/turşu, and ayran, the yogurt drink, or cacık/cucumbers in garlic yogurt.

Personally, I think this pilaf is the perfect complement to any meat dish!

However you choose to serve this delicious, moist and very satisfying pilaf - and it seems to me that this will be culturally based,

Afiyet olsun!


  • I needed to boil my lentils longer than the time stipulated here before they were done. I think it's because they'd been in the store cupboard for some time so were that much harder and dryer.
  • When you chop the onion, you may think it looks like a lot: in fact, once it cooks, it looks a whole lot less. I think a second one wouldn't come amiss!

here's what 1 chopped onion looks like 
Adding the melted butter to the pilaf

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Kısır/Spicy Bulgur Salad with Tomatoes and Pomegranate Molasses

I think that in the 4-year career of my blog, this is the longest gap that has ever occurred between posts.

And the reason is travel.

Travel is truly my favourite thing (and luckily, TT's) and I have had two fabulous trips recently: one to Paris and the south of France, and then shortly after, one to London and Brighton.

So I came back late on Sunday night not quite sure whether I wanted to be here or not. But to cheer me up, there it was writ large and clear on Facebook that my blog was included in the Top Ten Expat Blogs in Turkey. Very nice and very motivating indeed: warmest thanks to Property Turkey for giving me this boost.

Now I can get down to business as usual and concentrate on my Turkish table: today's recipe is one that I made just a few days before I flew off to Gatwick. We were invited to a lovely lunch party in Riva, which is out in the country towards the Black Sea. I had said I would like to make kısır, one of our favourite salads using bulgur or cracked wheat. I also was dying to try it out with my all-time favourite, pomegranate molasses..

here is my kısır in its plastic box all ready to go to the party

Now, all this may be sounding rather familiar: I do have not one but two posts all about somewhat similar salads using somewhat similar ingredients, but they are called tabule not kısır! May I remind you that Daughter No 1 always says that tabule is white while kısır is always, but always, red!!

This red is achieved by adding a spoonful of red pepper paste, a true Turkish ingredient that I recommend you add to your store cupboard if at all possible.
When you combine just the right mix of herbs and spices, I believe this salad is one of the great Middle Eastern salads, one that you, your friends and family will just love. I certainly do!

adding the red pepper paste to the onion and cumin
getting there ..
the spring onions, washed and trimmed and ready to be chopped

Kısır/Spicy Bulgur Salad with Tomatoes and Pomegranate Molasses

Serves 8


2 cups fine-grain bulgur wheat
1 large onion, finely chopped
8-10 spring onions, chopped
4-5 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 tbsp red pepper paste/biber salçası
1 bunch of flat-leaf parsley/maydonoz, chopped
½-1 bunch of fresh mint/nane, chopped
½ bunch of fresh dill/dereotu, chopped (optional)
1 tbsp flaked red pepper/pul biber (spicy/acı, if liked)
1 tbsp cumin/kimyon
salt to taste
4 tbsp pomegranate molasses/nar ekşisi
juice of 1 lemon
½ - 1 cup olive oil/zeytinyağı


  • Place the bulgur in a large bowl and add the chopped onion, cumin and 2-3 tablespoons hot water. Add the red pepper paste. Mix together. The idea is that the bulgur grains will swell and soften. No cooking is necessary.
  • Add the chopped tomatoes, pomegranate molasses and lemon juice to the mix.
  • On top, sprinkle the chopped herbs: parsley, mint, dill if using, spring onions and olive oil. Combine but try to avoid over-mixing. Season with the salt.
  • Taste and see if you think if any of the herbs or spices should be increased: as with all these salads, nothing dire will happen if they are. It's all very personal!
  • Decorate with black olives if desired, and mint sprigs. Kısır is often served with lettuce or even vine leaves on the side in which it is wrapped.

This salad can be made in advance so very handy for the busy cook! Just give it a stir before bringing to the table. Such a healthy dish I feel, and surely one that vegetarians in particular will love. It is also one where the tastes improve if made in advance.

kısır/spicy bulgur salad with tomatoes and pomegranate molasses

Afiyet olsun!


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