Thursday, 1 October 2015

Roasted Red Pepper & Tomato Soup/ Közlenmiş Kırmızı Biberli ve Domatesli Çorba

 It's not really soup weather yet but these ingredients are so seasonal, so easily available to us here in Turkey right now, I think you simply must try this truly delectable soup. 

roasted red pepper & tomato soup/közlenmiş kırmızı  biberli ve domatesli çorba

Not only the vibrant red but the wonderful aroma of those red peppers and tomatoes roasting away in the oven lend a spring to your step - and a corresponding spring in the appetites of your nearest and dearest! I wish you were in my kitchen right now!

We love soups and I truly believe that everybody should have at least a couple up their sleeves. They are so easy to make not to mention economical in the extreme plus when you buy the ingredients from the pazar, it's surely a win-win situation.

The combination of tomatoes and red peppers is nothing new. The addition of bulgur makes it a trifle different but it certainly isn't a must. You can use either tomato paste or red pepper paste which we find here in Turkey. Right now, I  have a fabulous sweet red pepper one in my fridge which I bought at the Selami Çeşme Market last week. It is so good, I could eat it with a spoon! Not only could but do! The recipe is inspired by one by Nursen Doğan but I have made it my own.

Roasted Red Pepper & Tomato Soup/Közlenmiş Kırmızı Biberli ve Domatesli Çorba

Serves 4


4 big ripe tomatoes, halved through the middle
2 red peppers, cut in half lengthways, stalk and seeds removed
1 tbsp good quality tomato or red pepper paste /domates veya biber salça
2 tbsp fine grain bulgur/köftelik bulgur
4 cups stock or water
1 heaped tbsp cornstarch/nişaşta
1 tbsp sugar OR 2 sugar lumps
salt and pepper to taste
cream or yogurt to garnish


  • Pre-heat the grill of your oven.
  • Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper and place the halved tomatoes cut side up and the red peppers. Don't place the tray too near the grill. Grill until the peppers start to blacken and the skin of the tomatoes starts to split. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.
  • When cool, peel both the tomatoes and the red peppers and roughly chop. Place in a saucepan along with the tomato or red pepper paste, the cornstarch, sugar, salt and pepper.
  • Using a hand blender, mix to a purée consistency. Add the stock or water and gently bring to a boil. Add the bulgur at that point and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring all along.
  • As with most soups, the taste develops and the soup thickens if it sits for a while. 
  • To serve, a swirl of cream or plain yogurt makes an attractive garnish. 

the four basic steps in how to make roasted red pepper & tomato soup

Afiyet olsun!

PS you could serve this with garlic bread and I bet it would be a hit!

Friday, 25 September 2015

Walnut & Raisin Oatmeal Cookies/ Ceviz ve Üzümlü Yulaflı Kurabiye

It's bayram in the Moslem world and the feeling is something like Christmas but the sun is shining.

Many shops are shut but some smaller 'market' as they call supermarkets, are open. However, you don't feel like going food shopping as everybody is away enjoying the last days of summer. It's great for us as we have opted to stay put: the streets are empty, nobody's much around.

But you feel like making something! This recipe is one for store cupboard ingredients. Here, I always have kuru yemiş or dried fruits like raisins, apricots, figs, nuts and the like at the ready. My supplies all survived the hot hot summer because I remembered to put all the containers in the fridge before we departed for our house in the village. Otherwise for sure I would have had some surprises in the form of little bugs and flying insects.

This is a very simple recipe. Kids might like to have a go. TT is enjoying them just because they are a little sweet and easy to nibble on. I think the ingredients are as healthy as you can get, really. Also, I had bought some lovely fresh walnuts from the çarşı in Kadıköy last week so was happy to use them.

walnut & raisin oatmeal cookies

Here's the recipe:

Walnut & Raisin Oatmeal Cookies/Ceviz ve Üzümlü Yulaflı Kurabiye
inspired by GoodFood


1/4 tsp baking powder
4 tbsp milk
175g/6oz soft butter
100g/4oz caster sugar (in Turkey, use regular toz şeker)
300g/11oz rolled oats/yulaf
140g/5oz wholemeal flour, plus extra for dusting( I used regular un)
50g/2oz raisins/kuru üzüm, finely chopped
50g/2oz walnuts/ceviz, finely chopped
oil for the baking sheet ( I simply used greaseproof paper)


  • Pre-heat oven to 180C/160C fan/350F/gas 4. Dissolve the baking powder in the milk. Beat the butter and sugar until pale and creamy, then mix in the oats, flour, raisins, walnuts and milk to make a stiff dough.

This is what the recipe says:

  • Tip the dough onto a lightly floured surface and roll out until about 1cm thick. Cut into circles with a 5cm pastry cutter, place on an oiled baking sheet, then bake for 15 mins until lightly golden. Leave to cool before serving.

BUT I didn't do this. 

  • Having seen how crumbly the dough was, using my hands, I rolled walnut-sized pieces into rounds and then gently flattened each with the back of a fork. I used greaseproof paper. I also increased the cooking time by about 4 mins.

walnut & raisin oatmeal cookies

Afiyet olsun!

I recommend these with a cup of tea or glass of çay!

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Istanbul once again ...

Never but never have I left my beloved blog to languish like this! I hope you're all still there and haven't forsaken me.

I left you without a word earlier this month. It was hectic with a somewhat rapid transition from our village of Assos to the delights of the Dordogne. Once home in Istanbul some ten days later, we were dismayed to discover the internet was off due to massive work being done in the area. We have now discovered how to access it through our iphones, amazing in itself, and this is how I am on my laptop right now.

Oh Périgord as the Dorgogne is also known (which I hadn't really appreciated),was marvellous! Need I say more? It was just utterly fabulous. So beautiful. So clean, so well-cared for, no rubbish at all, not one plastic bag floating on those wonderful French rivers. Polite people, careful drivers and of course, different food! I must say, after an uninterrupted summer in the village basically living off the land in terms of market produce, wonderful though that is, I was more than ready for something more exotic.

The Dordogne is the region known primarily for its patés de foies gras, magrets de canard, and truffles. Then we have everything else that we naturally associate with France: croissants, pains au chocolat, baguettes, and of course wine and cheese. Personally I love paté in all its forms but TT doesn't share my love of all French charcuterie. He does like the cheeses though!

choosing a cheese is an art in itself

We were lucky enough to visit a couple of markets: one in the beautiful old town of Sarlat and then a much smaller one in Le Bugue. They are hard to resist but I have to say that the vegetables aren't a patch on what we have here. Nothing can beat our markets for the sheer abundance of it all as well as the quality. I was disappointed in the veg we had there. The cucumbers are just like English ones: not worth buying. 

What I brought back:
  • paté (of course)
  • camembert (not enough)
  • honey (chestnut and acacia)
  • a tresse of garlic that will apparently last until April
  • assorted packets of jambon
All quite simply delicious!

even olives 

a wonderful spice stall but I restrained myself  - we have it all here more or less
market crowds in Le Bugue

We also managed to bring back 4 bottles of Bordeaux wine inspired by a first class wine-tasting tour that we took from Bordeaux to fabled Saint-Emilion, yet another of those historic medieval villages surrounded by glorious countryside and vineyards. We can't recommend the tour highly enough: it was an all day affair from 10 to 6, 8 of us with a marvellous guide called Isabelle. The amount of information we acquired both from her and from the chateaux we visited (chateau doesn't mean castle here: it simply means the wine property) was huge. I now realise that we don't know how to drink wine here in Istanbul. We drink it all right but there is a whole finesse attached to it not to mention a wealth of knowledge. I wish there was a wine club here to join. Maybe there is - does anyone know?

Being away is all very well. In this case, it was a fantastic experience. But inevitably you come back. I was actually looking forward to fresh salads, rocket in particular, believe it or not. But seasonal as it is here, lo and behold, the figs are all but done so I have missed out on making Fresh Fig Clafouti. The peaches are finished so now I have to rethink my breakfast: I was eating one fresh peach with white cheese and a few olives daily. I somehow don't feel like getting back into tomatoes since they proved so disappointing this summer. I do have 6 big packets of white cheese from Assos however in my fridge: this is my absolute favourite feta and beats their chevre hands down.

last night in the Dordogne: not a Bordeaux, it was still hot, but a delicious rosé

I hope you've all had as enjoyable a summer as we have! 


Saturday, 29 August 2015

Courgette Borek with Potato, Cheese and Fresh Herbs/ Kabaklı Börek

At last I've cracked it! And at last I've discovered the börek filling for me! It is so good that I can't stop dreaming about it. Here's my story:

As my friends who have attended my cooking classes will attest, I always advocate buying fresh yufka/filo from a local corner yufkacı rather than a packet from the supermarket. The reason for this is simple: yufka must be fresh and pliable so that it can be rolled into whatever shape without cracking or tearing.

this is kabaklı börek second time round, using three beautifully fresh yufkas

But this time I was stuck: in our village and indeed its environs there are no yufkacis/makers and sellers of the fresh item. I suppose the women around here all make it themselves and so there is no demand. I could drive 20 km to Küçükkuyu as there is one there but I would only do that if really pushed.

So I resorted to buying a packet of ready made ev yufkası from Uysal Market, our little supermarket in Ayvacık. They told me it is delivered on Fridays so it was already 3 days old. Once home I opened it up and soon saw that it was not going to roll into a kol böreği shape - that's the big round one that coils around like a snail - without cracking. As I was determined to make this kabak or courgette filling in this shape, I realised that I was going to have to adapt. Otherwise I have to confess I liked it: the rounds were smaller in circumference than those that I am used to, and each one was thicker. In a way, it was easier to handle.

So I made one large börek in a pyrex dish and with the remaining yufka, a series of rolled ones packed tightly in another ovenproof dish lined with grease proof paper. Personally I much prefer smaller boreks, the larger ones can be soggy with wet layers of filling in the middle.

a larger oven-baked kabaklı böreğı
oven-baked kabaklı börek, nice and crispy

But the smaller ones that I simply improvised on, brushing sunflower oil on the layers and then filling, rolling and cutting, were really absolutely delicious. This is me saying this! I mean, I like borek but I'm not necessarily mad about it. But this filling with the courgettes and potato is truly excellent. If you haven't tried it, then do so today! It's by far and away the best in my opinion.

You can prepare the filling in advance and it can wait, covered, in the fridge until required:

four basic steps in making the filling

Kabaklı Börek/ Courgette Borek with Potato, Cheese and Fresh Herbs


 3 yufka

for the filling:

3 medium boiled potatoes, mashed
2 medium courgettes/zucchini/kabak, washed, peeled if desired, and grated, excess liquid squeezed out by hand, and left to drain in a colander
1 bunch fresh dill/dereotu, chopped finely
½ bunch fresh parsley/maydonoz,chopped finely
2 medium onions, chopped finely
3 tbsp cooking oil (I use sunflower oil) plus extra for brushing over the yufka
1 tsp red pepper/kırmızı tozbiber, less if desired
1 cup/8oz ricotta cheese/lor peyniri - regular white cheese or feta would be fine
½ tsp black pepper
1 tsp salt

sesame/susam and nigella seeds/çörekotu for sprinkling on top


  • Heat the cooking oil in a frying pan and cook the chopped onions until softened. Add the grated and drained courgettes and cook for a further 5 minutes. Remove from heat. 
  • In a bowl, combine the mashed potatoes, the cheese, and the fresh herbs. Season with the salt and pepper. Add the onion and courgette mix and combine well.
  • Line your dish or baking tray with greaseproof paper. Take one yufka round and open it out in front of you. Brush the upper half with cooking oil. Fold the bottom half over the upper half and brush with oil so you have a double layer of yufka in a half moon shape on your counter.
  • Take a spoonful of the courgette mixture and spoon along the straight edge of your yufka shape. Continue all along the edge to the end. Then gently roll until you end up with a long sausage-shape.  Place in the centre of the baking tray, coiling it round on itself.* Continue with the remaining 2 yufka rounds, adding them one by one, to the end of the coil. Tuck the ends underneath. Brush with oil and sprinkle with sesame and nigella seeds. 
  • Bake in a pre-heated 180C/350F oven for 30 minutes or until nicely browned.

*cut into lengths approximately 4-5 fingers long if preferred, or if the yufka is not very fresh and has a tendency to tear.

Serve the smaller ones with çay at 5 o'clock, the larger ones for say, a light lunch! Allow a little time to cool before serving.

courgette borek with potato, cheese and fresh herbs/kabaklı börek
PS these borek also freeze beautifully! 

The moral of the story is that you can do whatever you like with yufka, the only proviso being that if the resulting borek is going to be baked in the oven, each layer has to be brushed with either oil, melted butter or margarine, and sometimes egg yolk on top. A little yogurt may be used on top as well, mixed with any of the afore-mentioned ingredients.

Living in the village as we have this summer where the cooking by definition is far from sophisticated, borek has been a trusty friend :))

Friday, 21 August 2015

Last Post in Monthly Market Updates: What's In and What's Not in the Turkish Pazars Series: August/September 2015

Today I went to the Friday market in nearby Ayvacık and realised that this time next week we will be back in Istanbul. I can hardly believe that I have been here continuously since the 20th June. Time has slipped by so pleasurably with visits from family and friends punctuating the glorious sun-filled days of the Aegean and now we are on the home stretch.

I am late I know, in posting about what's on in the markets for the month of August. I think I have subconsciously been refusing to accept that September is just round the corner and so is the end of this village idyll.

the women in the lower market: they don't have tables here but display their produce on the ground,
their prices are lower than in the higher, covered area

But this post brings us back to September which is when I started posting about the locally available produce last year. No need to continue as the cycle unfolds in its usual predictable way and the fruit and vegetables timelessly come and go with the seasons.

The produce right now is still very much in full summer mode. The newcomers on the scene are figs which you have to be very careful about at they are extremely delicate. Unless you have a dedicated fig eater in your house, I don't recommend buying more than half a kilo at a time. Make sure you handpick them.

market scenes today in Ayvacık

Loads of brightly coloured peppers, green and red. This is absolutely the best time for roasted red peppers: they are big, fat and juicy. There are now so many varieties of green that I hardly know where to start. They are much tastier than you might imagine although we had a foreign visitor recently and when I offered her some for her breakfast platter, she demurred saying 'it was one step too far'!!!!.

this type is commonly eaten for breakfast

I do have something to say about those purple aubergines or eggplants. There are two varieties: the one in the picture above, the dark purple, and the attractive striped white and purple. Tastewise they are much the same but I had noticed that the latter ones tended to go off even in the fridge much faster than the dark ones so I asked one of my market ladies about this. Yes, she said, you are right. They have seeds and that affects them adversely. So moral of the story: only buy the dark purple aubergines and make sure they are firm and shiny.

courgettes with their flowers at the market in Ayvalık a few weeks ago
fabulous bouquet of courgette flowers today at Ayvacık pazar

I have to say I prefer the display of these courgette flowers to what the locals do with them. These very delicate yellow blooms are always stuffed with the usual rice filling which is never very well seasoned and then they are boiled to death. This results in either a very soggy tasteless stuffed courgette flower or else a filling with the rice not cooked enough. I don't order them any more when we are out as they are not worth it in my opinion. 

My friend Emily says her Italian grandmother used to dip them in a beer batter and fry in hot oil and they were delicious. Cook friend Lütfi says he stuffs them with a mixture of four cheeses. Both of these sound quite delicious to my ear and perhaps worth trying.

Now is the time for melons, both the regular ones and watermelons. They are everywhere: there are roadside stalls, kamyons filled to bursting, market stalls with nothing else but. The sad truth is that none of them are worth buying. They are so big and the odds of buying one that is tasteless so high, that personally I have given up. Our gardener maintains that kabak or courgette seeds are injected into the watermelons as they ripen faster. That would explain the lack of taste but how true it is, I'm not sure.

they look great but are usually disappointing

If you live in Turkey you know that melon and white cheese are favourite rakı meze. Unfortunately, at least in our region around Assos, the melon is often a huge let-down.

Grapes of all the pinkish hues as well as the different shades of green are coming into their own now. There are some huge pink ones that are just too big and perfect to be true but they do taste good.

But the real disappointment is the TOMATOES! Who would ever have thought I would be saying that. Çanakkale tomatoes are the jewel in the summer crown in this region and are usually to die for. This year I became aware back at the beginning of summer that things were not looking good. I am an avid market goer and have been hoping to find some tasty specimens but to date, am really disappointed. What is happening? There they are, looking fat and juicy but get them home, and the story is very different. They have large white cores and thick skins. I haven't been inspired in the least to do my usual bottling routine. I know I will miss my jars of chopped tomatoes in the winter but the motivation isn't there. 

beautiful grapes today at the pazar

Despite the note of gloom, Turkish markets are still a joy to visit with the freshest of produce. Let's just hope that the growers won't tinker with the seeds and fertilizers too much!

Monday, 17 August 2015

Turkish Beach Food: Assos '15

This is a summer beach post that I wrote about four years ago. It's one of my favourites but I was afraid it might be lost in the archives... so I have revived it! Same beach, same guys (I think), same beach food ... this year however there is a newcomer, the helvacı: he also does a balancing act with a tray on his head selling those wrapped flaky wafers or kağıt helva. His is the only thing I have occasionally bought as with a scoop of ice cream on top and a serving of say, syrupy cherries or plums, a quarter or half of one of those wafers makes a fine summer dessert!

There you are at last, stretched out under a sun umbrella, the sea a dazzling blue in front of you, a cloudless sky above,  and what is your heart’s desire? Seems to me it would surely be something like a choc ice or vanilla wafer with a Cadbury’s Flake stuck into it. Hot dog?  Smoothie? I know! an ice lolly!
But surely never, never, mussels stuffed with rice!!  Yet this is a staple of the Turkish beach crowd: midye dolma. Literally mussels back in their shells surrounded by a tasty rice filling sold singly or however many you want. They come with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and as in this picture, a paper napkin too!

midye dolması

When you are on a Turkish beach, you will see these guys flogging up and down in the heat selling their wares  displayed on trays which they carry on their heads. Believe me, there is a receptive audience. The mussels will be prepared in private homes and over time, these will acquire a reputation for being both tasty and for being prepared under hygienic conditions.

midyeci posing with his tray of stuffed mussels

After the midyeci, we have the mısırcı, the corn-on-the-cob vendor who pushes his little cart. In this area, the beaches are very stony so he has a hard time of it and I feel quite sorry for him.  He doesn’t of course grill his corn but this time boils it. I’m not sure how hygienic this is but he manages to sell a lot. Corn is always popular.

mısırcı on Kadırga Beach, Assos

And the third seller in this beach scenario is the simitçi. He performs a balancing act with his tray of round simit on his head. When he spies a potential group of buyers, he opens up his trestle legs and rests his tray on top of it. Simit are delicious: not sweet but more in the bread category and are amongst every Turk’s favourite foods. They are sprinkled with pre-toasted sesame seeds which adhere to the pekmez or grape molasses in which the pastry is briefly dipped before baking. Usually eaten for breakfast instead of bread with jam or cheese, or in the late afternoon traditionally with kaşar peynir/kaşar cheese and çay or Turkish tea.

simitçi on the same beach, same afternoon

I shouldn't forget to say that when you are on a Turkish beach as the sun's rays start to lengthen and everybody is feeling mellow after a day at the seaside, best of all, çay is brought round - a very civilised custom - and everyone chats with everyone else.

Friday, 14 August 2015

White Cheese & Dill Savoury Treats! Peynirli Poğaca

I've just been wondering what the translation of poğaça (pron: po/a/cha) could possibly be and have come to the conclusion that there isn't one per se. These are delightful little savoury pastries that come into their own with a glass of çay around 5 o'clock.

cheesy poğaça fresh out of the oven

Whereas we are the masters of cakes, buns, biscuits and scones, Turks are the masters of the little snack, either sweet/tatlı or savoury/tuzlu, generally known as kurabiye.

These little poğaça are usually filled with white cheese or mince but friend Lütfi here who runs a boutique hotel has also suggested a sweet filling of chopped dried figs or dates and nuts with a sprinkling of cinnamon and sugar added to the basic dough. Sounds delicious! But that would be considered pretty radical.

Anyway, if you want to try your hand at a well-loved Turkish favourite, I really recommend this recipe. It reminds me forcibly of the borekitas I made with Madam Fortuna: this time, not a Jewish speciality, but something very similar and definitely considered Turkish. TT was thrilled when I made these so if you have a Turkish husband or partner and want to give him a treat, try them!

white cheese and dill teatime treats/peynirli poğaça

This pastry, by the way, is a dream to make! Nothing like our shortcrust pastry which can be problematic especially in hot weather: no, this one always works, Lütfi says! All you have to do is knead the ingredients together to form a soft dough the consistency of which is as soft as your earlobe! This is always the given comparison and you know what? Even though it sounds funny to us, it's very apt.

I last made these here in Assos almost exactly two years ago! Here's the link if you'd like to compare. The recipe is slightly different but nonetheless similar. Put it this way, I was very pleased with this one!

White Cheese & Dill Savoury Treats/Peynirli Poğaça

Makes approximately 36

Ingredients given with authentic Turkish measurements but cup equivalents alongside

150g margarine, softened to room temperature
½ çay bardağı/tea glass sıvıyağ OR 1/3 cup sunflower oil
1 su bardağı/water glass yoğurt OR 1 cup plain yogurt
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 packet baking powder/hamur kabartma tozu (here it comes in 10g packets)
½ tsp salt
5 su bardağı/water glasses un OR 5 cups plain flour

for the filling:

2 su bardağı OR 2 cups white cheese/beyaz peynir, either chopped in small pieces or grated

1 su bardağı OR 1 cup lor peyniri/ probably ricotta is the nearest equivalent. If you can't find it, simply increase the amount of the regular white cheese
½ bunch fresh dill/dereotu - essentially a good handful, chopped

for the topping:

1 egg yolk
1 tbsp nigella/çörekotü
1 tbsp sesame seeds/susam (optional)


For the filling:

  • Combine the chopped white cheese and the lor peyniri/ricotta with the chopped dill in a bowl. Set aside.
for the pastry:
  • Place the softened margarine, sunflower oil, lemon juice and salt in a second bowl and mix. Add the baking powder and flour and knead well until the dough reaches the consistency of an earlobe. Cover with a clean tea towel and leave for 20 minutes.
  • Then take walnut-sized pieces of the dough and roll them in your hands. You can also roll them with a rolling pin on the counter. Each piece should be the size of a glass top. You can also use a rounded fluted cookie cutter. 

  • Place a tablespoon of the filling on each round and fold the pastry over to make a D shape. Pat to seal.  I used a fork to flute around the edges but this fluting got lost in the baking. I think this is more appropriate for Cornish Pasties! 
  • Place each pastry on an oven tray lined with greaseproof paper.
  • Brush each one with the egg yolk and sprinkle with the nigella seeds and sesame if using.
  • Bake at 180C/350F degrees for 25 minutes.
  • Serve warm with freshly made çay or tea!

white cheese & dill teatime treats/peynirli poğaça

I don't know anybody who doesn't like these! So, not difficult to make, pantry ingredients, nothing fantastic, and really, really light and delicious! These poğaça are at their best slightly cooled out of the oven when they smell fantastic, but the next day is also fine! You can also reheat.

Bound to be a hit!

Afiyet olsun!


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