Saturday, 21 February 2015

Date and Orange Muffins/ Hurmalı Portakallı Mini Kek

date and orange muffins ready for tea!

Take one whole orange - yes, skin and all, just minus the pips - and pulverise it in the food processor ... these little muffins aren't moist and full of flavour for nothing; right now the oranges are bursting with juice and taste so this is the ideal recipe.

first the orange, then the orange juice, egg and melted butter - give them a whizz and hey presto!

The first time I made them I didn't have any dates and one glance out of the window at the raging snow storm confirmed that I was going to have to use whatever other dried fruit I had to hand. It turned out to be large seedless black raisins, left over from the Christmas mincemeat. They were fine but I made the recipe again, this time with the specified dates, and they were much better: tastier, for a start, with more texture to them. So if you can, I recommend you use dates.

date and orange muffins/hurmalı portakallı mini kek

So how about a bit of homebaking?  It's just the weather for it!

This is a lovely straightforward recipe from a book with the comforting title of Granny's Muffins - 55 New Zealand Favourites Tried & True!  I think it's quite oldMany of you will immediately guess where I got this recipe: yes, from good friend Lesley who lives here but is from New Zealand originally. I made my mincemeat at Christmas this year from another NZ recipe that she passed on and it was fantastic. She is an excellent cook and her recipes are always reliable not to mention delicious!

Date and Orange Muffins/Hurmalı Portakallı Mini Kek

Makes 12


1 medium orange, washed and cut into quarters
½ cup orange juice
1 egg
100g/4oz butter, melted, plus a little extra to grease the muffin tin
1½ cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
¾ cup granulated sugar
½ cup dates/hurma, chopped


  • Preheat the oven to 190C/375F.
  • Place the pieces of orange in the food processor and reduce to pulp. Add orange juice, egg and melted butter, and combine.
  • Sift the flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda and sugar into a bowl. 
  • Add the mixture from the processor to the dry ingredients and stir well.
  • Add the chopped dates and mix until just combined.
  • Use the mixture to fill a 12-hole muffin tin which has been greased. (Each hole will be filled about 3/4 full). OR YOU CAN USE CUPCAKE PAPERS.
  • Bake for 20 minutes in the pre-heated oven or until firm and nicely browned.
Afiyet olsun!

cooling on a wire rack

Make them soon while the weather is still miserable: I loved this recipe because it's simple and unpretentious- these little muffins will be a hit with both friends and family ....

Friday, 13 February 2015

Classic Turkish Flat Breads with a Spicy Savoury Filling/Kıymalı Gözleme

The weather is recovering and so am I.

This week Istanbul and indeed western Turkey has been ravaged by severe winds followed by snow, sleet and now rain. On the personal front, I have had the worst cold of my life which kept me home for days. But still, I've survived .... 

You know you're getting better when you actually feel like getting back into the kitchen again and so it was that I came to make gözleme! I put an exclamation mark because gözleme is something I never thought I would try. 

Turkish flat breads with a spicy savoury filling

Gözleme is something that we associate closely with our village of Assos.Our next door neighbour makes it in her outdoor oven sometimes and makes extra for us. All the little eating places around offer it in the season. Indeed, their repertoire is fairly limited and this is usually a good choice.

Basically it's a pastry rolled very thinly and sprinkled with one of 3 rather predictable fillings: kıymalı/with ground beef or lamb, peynirli/ with cheese, or ıspanaklı/with spinach. The pastry is then folded like an envelope and browned in a pan or griddle. It's ideal for let's say, lunch, served with a glass of ayran, the yogurt-based drink, or as a rather nice snack with çay.

roll it as thinly as you can - it rolls easily
after mixing and kneading, shape into a cylinder and cut into 12 (or 6) equal pieces
I didn't have any qualms about the pastry as regular pastry-making is something that holds no fears for me thanks to my mother insisting I learn how to make it when I was getting married! Let's say I was curious and feeling bored after that enforced inactivity.

The pastry is very different from say, shortcrust pastry but it works beautifully. I halved this recipe which made 12 in total - I thought 6 would do us! The dough is unlike anything I have ever come across: very wet, very sticky, very sloppy. You have to have confidence that you will ever be able to roll it. If you follow the directions to the T however, it works beautifully and the resulting gözleme will be very satisfying. I have to admit, I was really pleased with mine and TT was ecstatic!

The only downside to this recipe is that it does take time: you have to knead and wait, knead and wait. Not difficult, just time-consuming.

here are my 6 balls resting on a plate 

So first, here's the recipe for the meat or kıymalı filling for these classic Turkish flat breads taken more or less from
The Sultan's Kitchen by Özcan Ozan


Makes 12

2 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, finely diced (½ cup)
3 garlic cloves, crushed
3/4 lb/350g ground lean lamb or beef
2 tsp paprika
2 tsp ground cumin/kimyon
2 tsp flaked red pepper/ pul biber
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
salt and freshly ground black pepper


  • Heat the olive oil in a medium-sized frying pan and cook the onion and garlic for about 2 minutes until soft but not brown.
  • Add the ground meat, paprika, cumin, flaked red pepper, and parsley. Season with the salt and pepper. Cook gently for about 5 minutes, stirring well to break up the meat. Remove from heat and leave to cool.

Now, here's the recipe for the dough for these flaky flat breads:


5 cups flour, plus extra for dusting
4 eggs
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup (½ stick) unsalted butter, softened, plus extra, melted for brushing
1 1/4 cups water
ayran or plain yogurt to serve


  • Sift the flour into a large bowl. Make a well in the centre. Add the eggs, salt, butter, and water. Mix well. On a cool, heavily floured work surface, turn out the dough and knead it for about 2 more minutes, until smooth. Shape the dough into a long cylinder and cut into 12 equal pieces with a sharp knife.
  • On a lightly floured surface, gently shape each piece into a tight ball. Cover the balls of dough with a damp cloth and let them rest for about 15 minutes. Knead each piece again for about 2 minutes, reshape it into a tight ball, cover it, and let the balls rest again for 15 minutes. Repeat this process one more time.
  • Sprinkle the balls of dough with flour and flatten each with the heel of your palm. Roll out each piece into a 12-inch/30 cm circle. Spread the filling on each circle. Fold over the dough like an envelope, about 6 inches/15 cm wide and 8 inches/20 cm long.
  • Brush a griddle or large nonstick pan with butter and heat the pan. Cook the gözlemes one at a time for about 2 minutes, turning them once, until lightly browned. Brush the griddle lightly with butter each time before cooking. 
  • Serve hot or warm with ayran, plain yogurt, or çay.

delicious Turkish flat breads with a spicy savoury filling

Afiyet olsun!

These really are easier than they look - have a go, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised...

Monday, 9 February 2015

Shrimp Casserole with Tomato & Peppers/ Karides Güveç: a Popular Fishy Favourite

Turks love fish and they love their fish done simply. 

If you live here or have visited, you will notice that there are no sauces, for example. This means that the only choices you will have to make when eating out, after deciding on your fish of course, is how to eat it: ızgara or grilled, tava or fried, or ğüveç/ done in a casserole, preferably earthenware. Occasionally, fırında or baked in the oven will be a choice too. As far as I know, the reasoning for no sauce is that the pure fresh taste of the fish should not be 'disguised' unless, as in the güveç, with other fresh vegetables.

shrimp casserole/karides güveç

Whatever, I am happy, more than happy with the fish choices we have here in Istanbul and indeed in Turkey generally. I love the traditional fish markets that reflect the seasonality of the fish swimming down the Bosphorus for example, and the general exuberance surrounding the whole idea of eating fish.

Just like your butcher, it is best to cultivate a relationship with your local fishmonger, be he in the supermarket or in one of the outdoor fish markets. It never fails: he will be there for you, advising on the freshest and the most seasonal, so you need not worry about any aspect of buying. He will also pay extra attention to the way he prepares your buy of the day eg if you ask for fillets. We have a new fishmonger, believe it or not: one recommended by my upstairs neighbour for whom I have a great deal of respect. This fishmonger isn't newly arrived but simply I never bought from him because I didn't 'know' him. Now all is set, we have established our mutual contact and he is proving to be excellent. For those of you who live nearby, he can be found in the little row of shops in Feneryolu on the Asian side. Just mention my name!

Last weekend we had some old friends round and I know they all love fish. For the main course I made sea bass baked in parchment/kağıtta levrek, and for a hot starter along with a couple of salads, I decided I would offer this shrimp casserole. This proved to be a winning choice and the entire dish was devoured with enthusiasm!

shrimp casserole all set for the oven

Shrimp Casserole/Karides Güveç

Serves 6


1 kg fresh shrimps or prawns/karides - I used jumbo shrimps, halved
(you could use frozen but they won't taste half as nice)
1 small onion, chopped
3 small tomatoes, skinned, seeds removed and chopped - I used the tomatoes I had bottled last summer as it really isn't the season for tomatoes
2-3 small green peppers, seeds removed and chopped
5 mushrooms, sliced
bay leaf/defne yaprağı
½ cup fresh dill/dereotu and parsley/maydonoz
2-4 cloves garlic, sliced
pinch of dried thyme/kekik
olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
125 g/5 oz yellow cheese, grated - I used taze kaşar because it melts so nicely


  • Peel and clean the shrimps or prawns, removing the digestive tract if necessary. Pat dry on kitchen paper.
  • Heat a little olive oil and sauté the chopped onion and sliced garlic until soft. Add the sliced mushrooms, green peppers, bay leaf, and thyme. Add to this the prepared shrimps or prawns, and tomatoes. Season well with the salt and pepper. Sauté for 2 minutes. Add almost all the chopped fresh herbs.
  • Transfer to an earthenware dish or individual dishes, and sprinkle with the grated cheese.
  • Bake in a hot oven (180C/350F) for 15-20 minutes or until the cheese melts.
  • Serve immediately sprinkled with the remaining chopped green herbs.

Afiyet olsun!

sautéing the shrimps with the other ingredients

 NB this dish is also great because it can be prepared in advance and then sit in the refrigerator until required.

 I guarantee your friends will love it!

Monday, 2 February 2015

Monthly Market Update: What's In and What's Not in the Turkish Pazars, Plus All About Meyer Lemons!

January - February 2015: Istanbul

This wild weather hasn't bothered me in the slightest: under doctor's orders to stay inside and rest, I have had a great afternoon on the computer learning all about Meyer lemons!

The markets right now are full of predictable winter vegetables but the overriding stars are the huge mounds of glorious citrus fruits: it's a celebration of citrus! They are at their height.

I mean, just look at this amazing selection of mandarines from Izmir 'very sweet'.
The sign begs you to 'try' and there is the little tray with segments all ready

Back to Meyer lemons: I have never heard of them before. Have you? If you are American, the odds are higher that you have, especially if you hail from California, state-grower extraordinaire, along with Florida, of citrus fruits.

not meyer but fulllll of juice/boooool suyu! thin skin/ince kabuk - so says the sign anyway! Eski means 'old'.

I owe my miraculous enlightenment to friend Lale who just by chance mentioned these lemons the other day, adding darkly that 'Turks don't like them'. I was intrigued.

now, he is selling meyers but not openly proclaiming it: can you see how the shape and colour are different?

But I have since been to the market, found them, and can indeed now tell them apart from regular limon. And sure enough, the market sellers don't trumpet 'Meyer geldi ' or anything like that, and when I asked if the lemons they were selling were this variety, they only sheepishly admitted they were. 

So now I can converse intelligently on this species of the citrus family and am bursting to share some facts (and links!) with you!

Meyer lemons were introduced to the US from China by Frank N. Meyer, an 'agricultural explorer', as long ago as 1908. They are a cross between a lemon and either a common orange or a mandarine, with a thin, fragrant skin, and are yellower, juicier and less acidic in flavour than a regular lemon. As a result they can be eaten whole and used in all manner of ways. The season is right now so hustle off to your local pazar and track them down!

Here are some links to fascinating articles about these magical lemons:

Here's a quote from the above article:

'So carpe that diem, diners, and get your mitts on some meyers'! Love it!

The popularity of these citrus fruits apparently owes a lot to culinary legends Alice Waters from Chez Panisse, and Martha Stewart when they started featuring them in their recipes. Read these articles and become a 'meyer junkie' as one of them puts it - like me!

Of course I went on to other citrus links - how could I not? There is so much interesting info out there, I'm just going to condense and give you:

5 Facts about oranges that I bet you didn't know!
  1. The colour orange was named after the fruit. The first recorded usage in English was as early as 1512.
  2. Brazil is the world number 1 in terms of orange production (18.0 million tonnes) (2012) with Turkey ranking 9th (1.6 million tonnes). Just in case you're wondering, South Africa is number 10.
  3. Oranges must be mature when harvested. They cannot ripen internally post-harvest although they may de-green (turn orange in colour) externally.
  4. Oranges can be stored for up to 12 weeks after harvest by refrigeration in controlled-atmosphere chambers but should be displayed on non-refrigerated shelves.
  5. Oranges are, as we know, rich in Vitamin C and don't spoil quickly. As a result, Spanish, Portuguese and Dutch sailors planted them along routes to prevent scurvy during the Age of Discovery.

In the markets, interestingly enough, I didn't see any of those huge pomelos - I only see them in selected greengrocers and they don't appeal. They are relatively new on the scene. Otherwise there are grapefruit but it is the mandarines, the satsumas and the oranges themselves that are available in such abundance in the markets right now. If you look at wikipedia, you will see the wide number of hybrids and cultivars that exist worldwide.

fabulous juicy oranges/portakal
market seller at Erenköy pazar last week

If I can tear myself from citrus, what else should we look out for in the pazars right now? I notice that the persimmons/trabzon hurması have disappeared until next year. Quince/ayva are still widely available. I actually saw some fresh artichokes/enginar being prepared - surely this is too early for the new crop?

fresh artichokes in acidulated water
I actually went to a different market than my usual Selami Çeşme one: this one was the weekly Erenköy pazar. It was big and sprawling: long streets covered with tarpaulin in case of rain, fruit, vegetables, clothing, textiles: you name it. But I missed my usual crew, 'my' guys, so not the same experience.

I did see these extraordinary cucumbers:

prickly cucumbers
I asked if they were for pickling but apparently not: they are just regular cucumbers which are kıtır/crunchy to the taste! I wasn't tempted.

Another interesting stall was selling varieties of mushrooms:

so many types of mushroom/mantar to marvel at

This is possibly only of interest to me and anyone else who has been here a long time  and remembers when mushrooms were scarce. For dinner parties we had to have a Plan A and a Plan B: with mushrooms and without. And that was only the one variety.It was all a function not only of agriculture but also of road systems and transportation. Many sorts of fungi grow out in the countryside but they never made it to the cities in those days.

And finally there is one item of produce that if you like it, buy it from the markets as they are much cheaper: avocados. These are not typically Turkish at all and in fact only appeared on the scene in recent years. Many of my Turkish friends are still not fully acquainted with how to use them. Typically avocados are sold as hard as a brick but after 3-4 days, left out of the fridge, they will soften up beautifully. Sold singly, they cost 2½ liras but if you bargain for 5 for 10 liras, the vendor will almost certainly oblige. In the regular manavs, they cost 3 - 3½ liras each.

Sunday, 1 February 2015

A Variation on Traditional Bean Piyaz, This Time with Chickpeas: Nohut Piyazı

chickpea/nohut piyaz: a Turkish salad

If you order piyaz in a restaurant, the odds are that a colourful healthy salad made with beans, tomatoes and hard-boiled eggs will appear in front of you. It's often known as Turkish Bean Salad abroad and is a traditional accompaniment to köfte here in Turkey.

But perhaps unsurprisingly, depending on region. piyaz can also be made with lentils or chickpeas. Very often these pulses are interchangeable. I for one have really got to grips with them after all these years of living in Turkey! Which means I'm game for any vegetarian visitor who comes our way.

The chickpeas can be either dried or tinned. I have to say that there is a difference in taste and consistency between the two so if you have time, do go to the trouble of soaking overnight and then boiling. NB the freshness of your dried chickpeas makes a difference too.  But for the sake of convenience, the tin will usually win out so it couldn't be easier to make. I love this salad as it has all my favourite flavours: garlic, cumin, onion and lemon juice. They all come together to make a really zingy salad and one that will keep a few days in the fridge quite happily.

It wouldn't go with fish but definitely with meat, and for the vegetarian, it's perfect.

just gather all the ingredients in a bowl 

Chickpea Salad /Nohut Piyazı

adapted from Özcan Ozan's Sultan's Kitchen

serves 4-6


2 cups dried chickpeas/nohut, soaked and drained, then cooked in a saucepan with 3½ cups water for approx. 1½ hrs and 2 tsp salt OR 4 cups tinned, drained (1 large tin)
1 red onion, finely chopped (½ cup)
2 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded and finely chopped (1 cup)
2 garlic cloves, chopped
½ bunch flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
½ tsp flaked red pepper/pul biber
2 tsp cumin/kimyon
2 tsp paprika
1/4 cup lemon juice
5 tbsp olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • Place chickpeas in a bowl along with the onion, tomatoes, garlic and spices. pour over the lemon juice and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and toss well.
  •  Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  • To serve, arrange in a shallow dish or on a bed of lettuce leaves with some pita bread alongside.

chickpea salad/nohut piyazı

Afiyet olsun!

Check with me tomorrow to see what's going on in the local markets!

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!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...