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Tag Archives | Eggplant

Ancient, Wholesome; Bulgur Pilaf with Freekeh, Eggplant and Meat

Firik or Freekeh is a super food and an ancient grain; I absolutely love its delicious, nutty taste, similar to pearl barley. Freekeh used to feature a lot at my grandmother’s table in Antakya, ancient Antioch, when I was a child. Cooked with bulgur and fresh butter, it always tasted so heavenly and the mesmerizing smells always greeted us. Freekeh is a real treat by itself and pairs with bulgur, vegetables, chickpeas and meat beautifully.

Ancient firik or freekeh; a delicious and healthy grain, pairs with bulgur and vegetables so well.

Ancient firik or freekeh; a delicious and healthy grain, pairs with bulgur and vegetables so well.

Firik, (as in Turkish) or Freekeh (sometimes spelled frikeh)  or farik is a cereal  food made from green wheat that goes through a roasting process in its production.  Firik is a popular and ancient grain used Middle Eastern & Southern Turkish cuisine and also popular in Levantine, Egyptian, Arabian Peninsula and North African cuisine. The wheat is harvested while the grains are yellow and the seeds are still soft; it is then piled and sun-dried. The piles are then carefully set on fire so only the straw and chaff burn and not the seeds. It is the high moisture content of the seeds that prevents them from burning. The now roasted wheat undergoes further thrashing and sun-drying to make the flavor, texture, and color uniform. It is this thrashing or rubbing process of the grains that gives this food its name, farīk or “rubbed.” The seeds are now cracked into smaller pieces so they look like a green bulgur.

Antakya - Antioch's ancient Long Market - Uzun Carsi, with abundance of grains, spices and more

Antakya – Antioch’s ancient Long Market – Uzun Carsi, with abundance of grains, spices and more

This delicious, ancient grain freekeh is a similar food made from barley and it is also mentioned in the Bible. Freekeh is also considered as a superfood, as in the category of the healthy grains such as quinoa and farro. Freekeh has at least four times as much fiber  as some other comparable grains, consisting mostly of insoluble fiber. It also has a low glycemic index so is suitable for managing diabetes. You can get freekeh in Middle Eastern or specialty food stores abroad, though it is widely available in Turkey. Bulgur is now widely available in supermarkets, so great to see.

Freekeh with bulgur, eggplants and meat - Firikli Bulgur Pilavi; a delicious & healthy meal.

Freekeh with bulgur, eggplants and meat – Firikli Bulgur Pilavi; a delicious & healthy meal.

I cooked my firik, freekeh here with bulgur, onions, eggplants (aubergine) and chunks of meat. The delicious nutty texture of the grains worked so well with the vegetables. Addition of any meat of your choice is lovely though just with the grains and vegetables itself, this meal would be a delicious vegetarian feast. Chickpeas would go well in this dish too. Turkish hot pepper paste, biber salcasi, gives a wonderful, rich flavor to this dish; you can make your own red pepper paste too, here is my recipe  if you like to make your own. You can also add some heat and flavor with the Turkish red pepper flakes, pul biber.

Serves 6

Preparation time: 25 minutes                  Cooking time: 30 -35 minutes

350gr/12oz/2 cups coarse bulgur, rinsed and drained

225gr/8oz/ generous 1 cup firik or freekeh, rinsed and drained

1 large eggplant (aubergine), diced

2 medium onions, finely diced

450gr/ 1 lb. small chunks of beef, chicken or lamb (optional)

15 ml/ 1 tbsp. Turkish red pepper paste (biber salcasi)

15 ml/1 tbsp. tomato puree

60ml/2 fl. oz./ ¼ cup olive oil

2 pints/ 5 cups hot water

Salt and ground black pepper to taste

 

Red pepper flakes, pul biber to serve

Cacik dip of diced cucumbers, plain yoghurt and dried mint  to serve

Layer the eggplant pieces on a tray and sprinkle salt over them, leave them aside for 15 minutes (salt will help the moisture and bitter juices come out of the eggplant).

Layer the eggplant pieces on a tray and sprinkle salt over them (salt will help the moisture and bitter juices come out of the eggplant).

First prepare the eggplants (aubergines). Peel the eggplants lengthways in stripes using a vegetable peeler or a small sharp knife. Cut the eggplant in quarters and then slice into bite size pieces. Layer the eggplant pieces on a tray and sprinkle salt over them, leave them aside for 15 minutes (salt will help the moisture and bitter juices come out of the eggplant). After 15 minutes, dry the eggplants with kitchen or paper towel thoroughly.

Heat the 2 tbsp. olive oil in a heavy pan and sauté the onions until soft and they begin to color. Add the pieces of meat, stir and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Toss in the diced eggplants and the remaining 2 tbsp. olive oil. Stir and sauté over medium heat for 3-4 minutes, until they start to color and soften. Then stir in the red pepper paste and tomato paste and combine well with the vegetables and the meat. Season with salt and ground black pepper.

Bulgur pilaf with freekeh, eggplants and meat; firikli bulgur pilavi

Bulgur pilaf with freekeh, eggplants and meat; firikli bulgur pilavi

 Now add the bulgur and freekeh to the pan and mix well. Pour in the hot water, stir and bring it to the boil. Cover, reduce the heat and simmer on low to medium heat for about 20 minutes or until all the water has been absorbed. Turn off the heat, cover the pan with a clean kitchen towel and place the lid on firmly. Rest the pilaf for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Cacik dip with yoghurt, cucumber and dried mint; delicious and refreshing

Cacik dip with yoghurt, cucumber and dried mint; delicious and refreshing

Serve the bulgur and frekeeh pilaf hot with Turkish red pepper flakes, pul biber sprinkled over, if you like. Refreshing Cacik Dip of diced cucumbers and dried mint with yoghurt complements this bulgur & freekeh pilaf very well.

Ancient St Peter's Church, Antakya, Antioch where early Christians congregated.

Ancient St Peter’s Church, Antakya, Antioch where early Christians congregated.

I hope you enjoy this delicious, ancient food, packed with goodness; Afiyet Olsun,

Ozlem

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Simply delicious Aegean flavors;Eggplants, tomatoes, onions, peppers cooked in olive oil & Fascinating Didyma

Kusadasi Bay, Turkey

Kusadasi Bay, Turkey

The Aegean cost of Turkey has a special place in my heart. Perhaps it is the many happy childhood holidays we spent in local resorts in Ayvalik, Gumuldur and Cesme, where many Turkish families have summer houses. As soon as the schools close, we all would dream about the coast, swimming at the turquoise Aegean, playing for hours at the golden sandy beaches and the next ice cream – a piece of heaven.

Fig trees at the Ephesus

Fig trees at the Ephesus

Spring in the air at the Aegean region, Turkey

Spring in the air at the Aegean region, Turkey

 

I don’t have the chance to go back to the Aegean as often as I like and every opportunity is very welcome. Once a year, I host and organise a Culinary & Cultural tour to Turkey, aiming to show my homeland from a local’s perspective – I greatly look forward to these trips and enjoy every minute of sharing this special land with folks. It has been delightful to be back to the breathtaking Aegean region again this April. Spring has been in full bloom; artichoke fields everywhere; the silver, beautiful olive trees welcomes you along the way; fig trees surprise you at the Ephesus – such a beautiful, bountiful region. During our tour, we always enjoy the local cuisine and learn how to cook delicious Turkish food together. This time, we again stopped by the lovely Bizimev Hanimeli to cook  and enjoy delicious Aegean flavors with Hatice Hanim.

Hatice Hanim and family, at Bizimev Hanimeli

Hatice Hanim and family, at Bizimev Hanimeli

I have met Hatice Hanim a few years ago; always with a smile at her face, she has been sharing her love of Turkish cuisine and feeding a remarkable crowd everyday at their Bizimev Hanimeli Restaurant, as well as teaching the local cuisine to enthusiasts like us. It is a real family affair; her husband, son, daughter, daughter-in-law all involved running this wonderful business. I love the fact  that they grow all their fresh produce, herbs, vegetables and fruits  in their beautiful garden and make their own olive oil. It is very remarkable that they grew their business all by themselves with a lot of hard work and maintained the same friendly service and the offer of high quality, consistent, delicious food. When I asked Hatice Hanim what kept her going in tough times, she smiled and said;If you respect your land, the nature, treat your helpers, family well and keep your spirits up, you find a way at the end. Hard work with a kind heart opens the doors for you; always believe in yourself.” How true; her words sealed in my mind.

Cooking together at Hanimeli, near Sirince, Turkey

Cooking together at Hanimeli, near Sirince, Turkey

We prepared a delicous 4 course meal with Hatice Hanim, in just over 1 hour – look forward to sharing all these recipes in the coming weeks- .Using their fresh produce from the garden and the olive oil, we made this wonderful Zeytinyagli Patlican; Eggplants, onions, garlic and tomatoes cooked in olive oil; simple, seasonal ingredients produced such a delicious, memorable taste. We like to eat Zeytinyaglis, Vegetables Cooked in Olive Oil in room temperature. It is also delicious when served cold. I hope you enjoy it and can have a go sometime.

Zeytinyagli Patlican; Eggplants cooked in olive oil with vegetables

Zeytinyagli Patlican; Eggplants cooked in olive oil with vegetables

Zeytinyagli Patlican; Eggplants, Onions, Garlic, Peppers and Tomatoes Cooked in Olive Oil

Serves 4

3-4 small Holland (dark purple) eggplants/aubergines

2 medium onions, halved and chopped in thin slices

1 green pointy pepper, coarsely chopped

1 red pointy pepper, coarsely chopped

3-4 medium tomatoes, halved and sliced

5-6 garlic cloves, quartered

3 medium tomatoes, skinned and chopped finely or 14oz/400 gr Italian chopped tomatoes

45ml/3 tablespoon olive oil

Handful of flat leaf parsley

Salt and ground black pepper to taste

Drizzle of extra virgin olive oil to serve – optional

Using a vegetable peeler, peel the eggplants in zebra stripes. Cut each eggplant in half length wise and then about 1/2 inch thick slices. Lay them on a wide flat tray and generously season with salt. This will help the moisture to come out of the eggplants. Leave for about 15 minutes. Drain the water that came out of the eggplants and squeeze them with a paper towel to extract the excess water.

Layer the sliced onions, garlic, pepper and eggplants one at a time.

Layer the sliced onions, garlic, pepper and eggplants one at a time.

Pour the olive oil in a heavy pan and spread the half of the sliced onions and garlic. Then spread half of the sliced peppers and a layer of sliced eggplants over them.

Repeat the layering with the remaining vegetables

Repeat the layering with the remaining vegetables

Repeat the same layering procedure for the 2nd half of onions, garlic, peppers and eggplants, and pour over the diced tomatoes. If you have any remaining eggplant slices left, layer them over the top.

Add the sliced tomatoes and a handful of parsley over the top.

Add the sliced tomatoes and a handful of parsley over the top.

Spread the sliced tomatoes over the very top and place a handful of flat leaf parsley. Season with salt and ground pepper and cover the pan. Start cooking at a medium heat for the first 5-8 minutes, then turn to heat to low and cook for  a further 3o minutes, until all the vegetables are cooked.

Delighted with the outcome :)!

Delighted with the outcome :)!

The vegetables here has been cooked in their own juices over low heat, and each of them just melt in your mouth!  The cooked  eggplants, garlic onions so scrumptious, packed with flavor. Seasonal produce cooked this way are not only healthy, but also very easy and delicious too.

 

Zeytinyagli Patlican; eggplants cooked in olive oil with vegetables

Zeytinyagli Patlican; eggplants cooked in olive oil with vegetables

 

I hope you enjoy this delicious eggplant dish, as you see, delicious food can also be healthy and easy. A few good seasonal produce, some olive oil and fresh herbs can produce wonders. You can drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil over the dish before serving and decorate with sliced peppers if you like.  Traditionally, we like to eat Zeytinyaglis, Vegetables Cooked in Olive Oil, in room temperature or cold.

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It is very rewarding to cook together and share a delicious bite with others. We have a fabulous healthy eating event with my Turkish cookery demonstration on May18th; if you are in the area and would like to join us, please contact me, I would be delighted to have your company.

 Afiyet Olsun, May you be happy and healthy with the food you eat;

Ozlem

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fascinating Didyma and Its  Exquisite Columns

Temple of Apollo, Didyma (Didim), Turkey

Temple of Apollo, Didyma (Didim), Turkey

We made it to the fascinating Didyma, at the Aegean region, Turkey, at a rainy, windy April day and the temple looked even more stunning and dramatic. The huge white-marble temple is simply amazing and so worth seeing. The gigantic Temple of Apollo at Didyma (Didim in Turkish) was among the most famous oracles in the ancient world, equal in importance to the oracular temple at Delphi in Greece. There has been a temple here since very early times, but the older structure was destroyed by Cyrus of Persia in 494 BC. Construction began on the present stupendous structure soon after.

Head of Medusa, Didyma, Turkey

Head of Medusa, Didyma, Turkey

 

Head of Medusa at Didyma – we have been comparing it with the Medusa at the Basilica Cistern, Istanbul.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beautiful base column details at Didyma

Beautiful base column details at Didyma

 

But most of all it was the delicate, exquisite columns of Didyma, that fascinated me.

Originally, 122 enormous Ionic columns surrounded the temple; today only three remain intact. Dating from the 2nd century BC, the columns are 60 feet tall (the height of a six-story building) and have a diameter of 6 feet at the base. Even the stumps of columns that fell are impressive in size and display beautiful carvings at their base, like designs of Daphne leaves.

It's all in the details - beautiful carvings at the marbel columns of Didyma.

It’s all in the details – beautiful carvings at the marbel columns of Didyma.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Make sure to have enough time to walk all the way around the temple to get the full effect. Didyma is well worth visiting, hope you can make it here sometime.

Happy Travels,

Ozlem

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Sigara Boregi – Crispy Cheese and Herb filled Filo Pastry Rolls

Asli Borek, Besiktas; here is the cheese & parsley rolls on display

Asli Borek, Besiktas; here is the cheese & parsley rolls on display

If you have read my previous post on Istanbul, you may already know how much we Turks love a good borek, savory pastries, made with paper thin pastry called Yufka. Boreks are widely available in pastry shops and bakeries, they are also sold on stalls and a hugely favorite street food; delicious and great value too.

It is thought that the Ottoman Palace kitchens devised these tasty treats in order to tempt the precious little princes. These cigar shaped rolls with cheese and parsley is very popular at home. Traditionally the rolls are deep fried in a deep-sided pan, I love this way too as it taste great and crispy. We recently had a go at these rolls in my recent Turkish cookery class and this time we baked them in the oven; the result was still very delicious with a bonus of them being healthier. The rolls disappear very quickly, very popular with children as well as adults. Worth giving a go!

Sigara Boregi; cheese and herb filled pastry rolls

Sigara Boregi; cheese and herb filled pastry rolls

These rolls, as with most savory pastries, are made with paper thin sheets of dough called Yufka in Turkey. As it is difficult to find yufka abroad, I made them with filo pastry sheets and it worked really well. You can prepare the rolls in advance and keep under a damp tea towel in the refrigerator. As with most savory Turkish filled pastries, this borek freeze very well once cooked too.

Serves 4 – 6

Preparation time: 20 minutes              Cooking time: 25-30 minutes

260 gr / 9 oz phyllo (filo) pastry sheets, thawed, or fresh yufka sheets, if you can get

225gr/ 8 oz feta cheese, crumbled

60gr/2 oz shredded mozzarella

2 eggs (one for the filling, one for brushing the boreks)

1 bunch / 1/2 cup chopped flat leaf (Italian) parsley

Salt and pepper to taste

15 ml / 1 tablespoon olive oil

15 ml / 1 tablespoon whole milk

Bowl of water to seal the rolls

Preheat oven to 180 C / 350 F / Gas 4

Cheese and parsley mixture for the Sigara boregi rolls.

Cheese and parsley mixture for the Sigara boregi rolls.

Mash together the cheese (feta and mozzarella), 1 egg, parsley and the milk to form a smooth paste. Season with salt and pepper.  However, if the feta cheese is already salty, you may wish not to add salt.

Place the filo sheets on a flat surface. Keep the pastry covered with a damp cloth as you are working. This will help to avoid it getting too dry or less manageable. Working with one sheet at a time, cut the filo into strips about 10-13cm/4-5in wide. Keep the strips covered with another damp cloth.

Fold over the pastry from each side to seal in the mixture.

Fold over the pastry from each side to seal in the mixture.

Lay one strip of filo and place a tablespoon of the filling along one of the short ends (take care not to overfill as the filling may ooze out while cooking). Fold over the pastry from each side to seal in the mixture and then roll up like a cigar.

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Wet the end of the pastry with water to seal.

Wet the end of the pastry roll with water to seal.

Wet the end of each pastry roll with water to seal. Continue, keeping the finished ones covered with a damp cloth as you work. It would be ideal to cook straight ahead, but you can cover with a cling film and refrigerate for an hour or so if you need to.

Brush the pastries with olive oil and egg mixture .

Brush the pastries with olive oil and egg mixture .

Mix the olive oil and the other egg in a bowl. Grease the tray with a little olive oil. Brush the pastries with olive oil and egg mixture and bake until they are golden brown, about 25 – 30 minutes.

Crispy, delicious Sigara boregi, ready to be enjoyed!

Crispy, delicious Sigara boregi, ready to be enjoyed!

You can serve these delicious rolls, Sigara Boregi, hot as part of a meze spread. We also like to eat them as morning or afternoon snacks and they also go down very well for lunch next to this Coban Salata – Shepherd’s Salad of tomatoes, cucumbers, onions and parsley with olive oil and lemon dressing.

Cheese and parsley filled cigar rolls, Sigara Boregi.

Cheese and parsley filled cigar rolls, Sigara Boregi.

Afiyet Olsun, I hope you can have a go at this easy and delicious treats and enjoy,

Ozlem

A Delightful & Delicious Turkish Restaurant  – Karakoy Lokantasi, Istanbul

Karakor Lokantasi, Istanbul - a charming restaurant with delicious mezzes.

Karakoy Lokantasi, Istanbul – a charming restaurant with delicious mezzes.

Karakoy district of Istanbul is buzzing with exciting eateries; there is the Gulluoglu Baklava, one of the best in town; then the Namli Deli & Kebabs next door – a feast to all senses with the wonderful kebabs, mezzes, vegetables cooked in olive oil and more. While in Istanbul, friends this time took me to the Karakoy Lokantasi, placed along the same line with all these wonderful eateries; this buzzing, charming restaurant was a great treat and did not dissapoint us.

Jars of pickled vegetables displayed at Karakoy Lokantasi.

Jars of pickled vegetables displayed at Karakoy Lokantasi.

The restaurant serves delicious, traditional Turkish mezzes and main courses and has been buzzing with locals and foodies constantly getting in and out. Their meyhane – tavern style dinners, I hear is especially popular with more variety of  deliciuos mezzes, so booking recommended.

Eggplants stuffef with onions, pepper and tomato; Imam Bayildi, and many more at Karakoy Lokantasi

Eggplants stuffed with onions, pepper and tomato; Imam Bayildi, and many more at Karakoy Lokantasi

A delicious array of vegetables cooked in olive oil greeted us; Imam Bayildi – eggplants stuffed with onions, tomatoes, peppers, stuffed vine leaves – sarma-, runner beans (french beans also works) cooked in olive oil with onions and tomatoes, all freshly cooked and so delicious.

 

Hunkar Begendi - Sultan's Delight; chunks of delicious meat served over the eggplant puree

Hunkar Begendi – Sultan’s Delight; chunks of delicious meat served over the eggplant puree

I tucked in the delicious Hunkar Begendi – Sultan’s Delight of chunks of delicious meat ragout served over the eggplant puree.  This dish is one of the landmarks of our cuisine and very popular at home. Apparently when Empress Eugenie, the wife of Napoleon III, visited Topkapi Palace – Istanbul as a guest of the Sultan, she admired the puree so much that she sent her chef to Topkapi Palace to learn the technique. Once you’ve mastered the eggplant puree, it goes well with any grilled meat and chicken. Here is the recipe if you would like to have a go at Hunkar Begendi.

Fried anchovies, hamsi; so fresh and delicious

Fried anchovies, hamsi; so fresh and delicious

Anchovies, hamsi is a popular fish in Turkey, and they are especially very popular in the Black Sea Region. My friend enjoyed this lightly fried anchovies with a rocket salad, a popular way to serve fish at home.

kaymakli Ayva tatlisi - Quince dessert with Turkish clotted cream

kaymakli Ayva tatlisi – Quince dessert with Turkish clotted cream

 Have you ever tasted Turkish quince dessert, Ayva Tatlisi? It is one of my favorite desserts and we had to have a go at this one at Karakoy Lokantasi, looked so inviting (and tasted amazing). To make this dessert, we pouch the halved quince with its seeds and skin, adding sugar and cinnamon stick  for about 1 1/2 hours. The skin and the seeds of quince give this dessert its glorious color. Topped with Turkish thick clotted cream, kaymak, this dessert is an absolute treat.

Ciragan - Spring is in the air in Istanbul.

Ciragan – Spring is in the air in Istanbul.

Happy travels, Afiyet Olsun,

Ozlem

 

 

 

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