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Our Turkish Cookery Course in Amman, Jordan; A Very Special Trip

Making Sarma, Stuffed vine leaves with participants in Amman, Jordan

Making Sarma, Stuffed vine leaves with participants in Amman, Jordan

Merhaba All,

I have just returned from Amman, Jordan, where we had our 3 day Turkish cookery course; it was a very special trip from the start to beginning and I wanted share some highlights here with you.

JA University students helping out at our Turkish cookery course.

JA University students helping out at our Turkish cookery course.

Preparing for our Turkish cookery course in Jordan, love the fresh produce

Preparing for our Turkish cookery course in Jordan, love the fresh produce

My huge thanks first of all to dear Mrs Suhair Kilani and Panthera Jordan for organising our Turkish Cookery Course in Amman; Mrs Kilani has done so much for spreading the word on Turkish cuisine and make our course happen 2nd time in Jordan, my heartfelt thanks to her. It was very special to return to JA University to teach and I love being with the students there. They have been very enthusiastic and hard working; always a very happy feeling being inspired by them and be able to inspire. I was very touched by all the kindness and generous hospitality of our Jordanian friends , it really has been a very special trip.

Turkish Jordanian Friendship Association Opening

Turkish Jordanian Friendship Association Opening

With dear Suhair Kilani and Manar Bilbesi at the Turkish Jordanian Friendship Association

With dear Suhair Kilani and Manar Bilbeisi at the Turkish Jordanian Friendship Association

I had the honor to be the guest speaker at the opening of the new premises of the Turkish Jordanian Friendship Association. It was an honor to be able to meet Turkish food lovers and have a chance to talk about Turkish cuisine. I have been so touched by dear Jordanians’ love and interest for Turkish cuisine and Turkey.

Potato and bulgur patties at our course in Jordan, it was a huge hit!

Potato and bulgur patties at our course in Jordan, it was a huge hit!

Gozleme, Anatolian flat breads with spinach and cheese, another very popular dish from our Turkich cookery course

Gozleme, Anatolian flat breads with spinach and cheese, another very popular dish from our Turkish cookery course

Zeytinyagli Sarma, Stuffed vine leaves with aromatic rice from our class, big hit

Zeytinyagli Sarma, Stuffed vine leaves with aromatic rice from our class, big hit

We had over 14 classic Turkish recipes we made during our Turkish cookery course. It was wonderful to see the keen interest from the participants and their enjoyment; some of the highlights have been Potato and bulgur rolls with pomegranate molasses, stuffed vine leaves with aromatic rice,  Gozleme, Anatolian flat breads with cheese and spinach and many more.

Islim Kebabi, eggplant slices wrapped around marinated chicken

Islim Kebabi, eggplant slices wrapped around marinated chicken

Making Sekerpare with the participants

Making Sekerpare with the participants

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Cezerye, caramalised carrot paste with walnuts from our class, delicious and healthy

We also made other classics such as Iskender Kebab, Stuffed peppers and tomatoes, Dolma, this delightful, gluten-free Islim Kebabi, marinated chicken wrapped around eggplant slices,  Manti, Turkish dumplings and many more. Desserts we made included Sekerpare, Semolina cookies in syrup, Cezerye, caramalised carrot paste with walnuts, Semolina Halva and the very special Tavuk Gogsu; Ottoman milk pudding with finely shredded chicken. I will share the recipe of this unusual but delicious dessert in a separate post.

Our visit to the Turkish Embassy in Amman

Our visit to the Turkish Embassy in Amman

Our Turkish cookery course in Amman has been very generously supported by the Turkish Embassy in Amman; it was a great honor to be able to visit our Turkish Ambassador, Mr Onal, to give our thanks for their support. Also very humbled by his kind words for our contribution to Turkish cuisine, we hope to organise many more of these courses in the near future.

A delightful pomegranate tree at TIKA office in Amman

A delightful pomegranate tree at the TIKA office in Amman

Turkish tea, cay, very kindly offered at the TIKA office

Turkish tea, cay, very kindly offered at the TIKA office

More kindness and hospitality followed, we felt home at the wonderful TIKA office in Amman and seeing their garden, I was transported to my grandmother’s 450 year old stone home in  old Antakya. She used to have pomegranate, fig and walnut trees in her garden and we would wake up with the doves singing, seeing these beautiful trees and hearing the doves were a very magical reminiscence.

TV interview during our Turkish cookery course in Amman.

TV interview during our Turkish cookery course in Amman.

Giving certificates to the participants of our Turkish cookery course

Giving certificates to the participants of our Turkish cookery course

Last day of our Turkish cookery course was filmed and I was interviewed on Turkish cuisine and its perception in Amman, to be aired on national TV. We also made it to Jordanian Times apparently! So good to see all this interest for Turkish cuisine. Another highlight was giving certificates to the participants of our 3 day Turkish cookery course, they have been all so enthusiastic and wonderful.

Turkish coffee, enjoyed by everyone at our Turkish cookery course.

Turkish coffee, enjoyed by everyone at our Turkish cookery course.

We made everyone Turkish coffee at the end; many thanks to Ozerlat Coffee for providing our Turkish coffee, everyone greatly enjoyed the aromatic taste and the traditions, rituals behind this special drink, it really is more than a drink for us.

Our Turkish Cookery Course in Jordan has been a very special trip from start to the end, my heartfelt thanks to everyone for their warm hospitality, can’t wait to come back again!

Brief but very Special Stop in Istanbul

Hello from Istanbul; a very precious stop at the Bosphorus

Hello from Istanbul; a very precious stop at the Bosphorus

Icing on the cake of this trip has been a brief but very special stop in Istanbul afterwards; the city I adore. As soon as I landed, I was by the Bosphorus in Bebek, a very special, memorable moment!

Dear Claudia Turgut's photo exhibition at PositivIST, Arnavutkoy, Istanbul

Dear Claudia Turgut’s photo exhibition at PositivIST, Arnavutkoy, Istanbul

Mum, my lovely sister Oznur and me together, a very precious moment

Mum, my lovely sister Oznur and me together, a very precious moment

Dear friend and ex-fellow blogger, owner of the wonderful A Seasonal Cook in Turkey blog Claudia Turgut has now a wonderful new passion, photography. She and some other photographers opened this lovely photo exhibition called PositivIST, sharing Istanbul they love through their photographs. Thanks to my lovely sister, we managed to make it to the Exhibition and met lovely Claudia. The exhibition continues until October 13th, located in Arnavutkoy Istanbul and highly recommended; gorgeous photos of Istanbul from these wonderful artists.

Fascinating Bosphorus and Istanbul

Fascinating Bosphorus and Istanbul

Glass of Cay by the Bosphorus, heavenly

Glass of Cay by the Bosphorus, heavenly

 Time to say farewell to this fascinating city, Istanbul, until next time; it was a huge dose of home, seeing loved ones being at home, treasured every minute.

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Baked Zucchini (courgette) halves with vegetables and chickpeas (garbanzo beans) -Nohutlu Kabak Dolmasi

I previously made the delicious stuffed zucchini halves with ground meat, vegetables and chickpeas or garbanzo beans, inspired by my home town, Antioch’s (Antakya) cuisine. I was asked for a vegetarian version of this dish during my Turkish cookery class past Saturday and there came this delicious dish. The meaty mushrooms, onions, peppers made a scrumptious filling and worked so well with chickpeas. With a touch of heat by the Turkish hot pepper paste, biber salcasi & Turkish red pepper flakes and the refreshing dried mint, we had an at least equally delicious vegetarian stuffed zucchini that we all very much enjoyed.

Stuffed zucchini with onions, mushrooms, pepper and chickpeas, in tomato sauce

Stuffed zucchini with onions, mushrooms, pepper and chickpeas, in tomato sauce

I also used a little pomegranate molasses, nar eksisi, to add a delicious sweet & sour taste to the zucchini halves. Pomegranate molasses is used a lot especially in Southern Turkish cuisine in salad dressings like in this Gavurdagi Salad of tomatoes, onions and walnuts or in bulgur wheat salad, kisir; a little bit of it adds a great punch.

You can prepare this healthy dish ahead of time and the leftovers freeze beautifully. Please save the flesh of the zucchini or courgettes that you scooped out. They are delicious & wholesome cooked with onions, tomatoes & dried mint in this bulgur pilaf .

Serves 4-6

Preparation time: 20 minutes                                                Cooking time: 50-55 minutes

3 chunky zucchini/courgette

200gr/7oz chestnut mushrooms, wiped clean and finely chopped

1 green bell pepper, finely chopped

1 onion, finely chopped

3 cloves of garlic, crushed and finely chopped

200gr/7oz (1/2 can of) chopped tomatoes

200gr/7oz (1/2 can of) cooked chickpeas, rinsed

15ml/1 tbsp. pomegranate molasses, nar eksisi (optional)

30ml/2tablespoons olive oil

240ml/8fl oz./ 1cup water

15ml/1 tbsp. tomato paste

5 ml / 1 tsp. Turkish red pepper paste – optional-

10ml/2 tsp. dried mint

5ml/1 tsp. red pepper flakes

Salt and ground black pepper to taste

To serve:

120ml/8fl oz. plain yoghurt

1-2 garlic cloves, crushed with salt and finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 180 C/350 F/Gas 4

carefully scoop out some of the flesh to create a cavity that is large enough to stuff

Carefully scoop out some of the flesh to create a cavity that is large enough to stuff

Cut the zucchini in half and then in lengthways. Using a dessert spoon, carefully scoop out some of the flesh to create a cavity that is large enough to stuff the filling (Please save the flesh of the zucchini that you scooped out. They are delicious cooked in bulgur pilaf). Mix 2 tbsp. water with the pomegranate molasses (if using) and wash the inside of the courgettes with this mixture; this adds a delicious sweet & sour taste to the zucchini.

Chickpeas (garbanzo beans) combined with vegetables make a delicious filling

Chickpeas (garbanzo beans) combined with vegetables make a delicious filling

Heat the oil in a heavy pan. Stir in the onions and garlic and cook until light golden. Add the mushrooms, bell pepper and hot pepper paste (if using). Season with salt and pepper and sauté for about 5 minutes. Stir in the chopped tomatoes and the cooked chickpeas, mix well. Add the red pepper flakes and the dried mint, combine well. Cover and cook for another 10 minutes. Turn the heat off; the filling is ready.

Take a spoonful of the filling and stuff the zucchini halves.

Take a spoonful of the filling and stuff the zucchini halves.

Grease a baking tray with 1 tbsp. olive oil and place the scooped zucchini. Take a spoonful of the filling and stuff the zucchini halves, taking care not to over fill them. Dilute the tomato paste with the water and pour on the tray. Cover and bake in the oven for about 25-30 minutes. After this, uncover and bake for a further 10 minutes for a lightly brown finish.

While the zucchini halves are baking, prepare your garlic yoghurt. In a bowl, mix the plain yoghurt with the chopped garlic. Serve the stuffed zucchini hot, with the garlic yoghurt by the side. You can make this wonderful bulgur pilaf using the flesh of the zucchini we scooped out; they complement each very nicely and you get a complete meal.

Baked zucchini halves with vegetables & chickpeas; great with garlic yoghurt aside

Baked zucchini halves with vegetables & chickpeas; great with garlic yoghurt aside

Afiyet Olsun,

Ozlem

Istanbul is Calling!

Turkish tea, Cay, Simit and Istanbul's Bosphorus; a heavenly combination

Turkish tea, Cay, Simit and Istanbul’s Bosphorus; a heavenly combination

Indeed Istanbul is calling and I can hardly wait! I will be in Istanbul next week, the city that makes my heart beats fast, a feast to all senses. Greatly looking forward to seeing family, friends and feeling the beat of this fascinating city.

The very atmospheric Spice Market, Misir Carsisi, Istanbul - feast to all senses

The very atmospheric Spice Market, Misir Carsisi, Istanbul – feast to all senses

I also very much look forward to sharing delicious Turkish cuisine with food lovers at my Turkish cookery class on Wednesday, 19th February at the Istanbul Culinary Institute. I will be in touch soon with delicious memories from home!

With my best wishes, Selamlar,

Ozlem

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Lamb Kebabs with Pistachios on Flat Breads in Cherry Sauce

Lamb kebabs with pistachios in cherry & tomato sauce - Fistikli, visne soslu kebap

Lamb kebabs with pistachios in cherry & tomato sauce – Fistikli, visne soslu kebap

The pistachio lamb kebabs I posted earlier has been a big hit and I have been experimenting a little more with these delicious treats. They are easy to recreate in your home, delicious and look impressive. Children love them as well as the adults, so they are great for entertaining. Having pistachio nuts in kebabs is a Southern Turkish specialty; I love the rich nutty flavor the pistachios add to the kebabs. They kebabs are wonderful when chargrilled in summer time, but equally delicious grilled or baked in the oven. With flat breads as the base and roasted vegetables by the side, this succulent kebab is a real crowd pleaser, and can make any day special.

The cherries in the tomato sauce add a lovely refreshing flavor to the pistachio kebabs.

The cherries in the tomato sauce add a lovely refreshing flavor to the pistachio kebabs.

This time, during my recent Turkish cookery class, I prepared the kebabs in cherry and tomato based sauce. Cooking meatballs in (especially) sour cherry sauce is a Gaziantep specialty. This way of incorporating meat & fruit dates back to the Ottoman, Persian and medieval Arab cookery. The sweet & sour combination of meat and visne (sour cherries) is just marvelous. You can get frozen cherries in most supermarkets when they are not in season. If you’d like a stronger cherry flavor, also try dried cherries, like dear Claire did after our cookery class. Apparently  it was a delicious hit. I greatly look forward to trying out this recipe again when sour cherries are in season, in June-July time.

Serves 4

Preparation time: 35 minutes               Cooking time: 60 minutes

For the kebabs:

500 gr/1 ¼ lb. / 2 ¼ cups ground lamb (or half and half with ground beef)

1 medium onion, finely chopped

4 garlic cloves, crushed and finely chopped

60ml/4 tbsp pistachios, shelled

1 bunch of flat leaf parsley, finely chopped

5ml/1 tsp red pepper or paprika flakes;

5ml/ 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Salt to taste

A bowl of water with a drizzle of olive oil to help shape the kebabs

For the cherry & tomato sauce:

1 onion, finely chopped

400gr/14oz can of chopped Italian tomatoes

½ tbsp. red pepper paste

400gr/14oz frozen cherries, stones removed

15ml/1 tbsp olive oil

For the roasted vegetables: 3 colorful bell peppers, deseeded and cut in thick slices lengthways and a few chilli peppers deseeded, OR 10-12 sweet and chilli small, colorful peppers, cut in half lengthways and deseeded

4 medium tomatoes, halved and cut in chunky slices

1 medium onion, halved and cut in chunky slices

45ml/ 3 tbsp olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 large flat bread; pide, or 4 pitta bread, sliced lengthways

Preheat the oven to 200 C/ 400 F

Roasted vegetables ready to complement the kebabs - make sure to save the juices to drizzle over the flat bread.

Roasted vegetables ready to complement the kebabs – make sure to save the juices to drizzle over the flat bread.

First roast your vegetables. Place the onion, peppers and tomatoes in a baking tray. Drizzle the olive oil over, season with salt and pepper. Give them all a good mix to make sure all the vegetables are coated with the olive oil and the seasoning. Bake in the oven for 35 – 40 minutes, giving them a mix half way. I like to roast the vegetables rather than grilling, to save and enjoy all the wonderful juices of them over the flat bread.

Pistachios add a rich, nutty taste to the lamb kebabs.

Pistachios add a rich, nutty taste to the lamb kebabs.

While the vegetables are roasting, prepare the kebabs. First have a bowl of water, drizzled with olive oil ready aside, to knead and help shape the kebabs. Pulse the shelled pistachios in a food processor a few times, until it is grainy. Place the ground lamb in a bowl, stir in the pistachios, chopped onions, garlic and parsley. Season with salt and ground pepper, add the red pepper flakes. Wet your hands in the water & olive oil mixture and knead well to a smooth paste. Cover and rest for about 10-15 minutes or until the vegetables are roasted in the oven.

Once the vegetables chargrilled, take the tray out of the oven, cover  and set aside (you may need to warm the vegetables before serving).

Wetting your hands with the water & olive oil mixture helps shaping the meat and keep the meat moist and intact.

Wetting your hands with the water & olive oil mixture helps shaping the meat and keep the meat moist and intact.

Now start shaping the kebabs. With the bowl of water & olive oil mixture by your side, take a handful of the meat mixture, and make it into a shape of a flat sausage. Good tip; wet your hands with the water & olive oil mixture; this will help shaping the meat and keep the meat moist and intact.

As soon as the kebabs are shaped, you can cook them under the grill/broiler for about 6 -8 minutes, turning over half way until they are golden and cooked through that side (this method especially great for summer.) Alternatively, you can lay the kebabs side by side in a greased tray and bake for about 25-30 minutes or until they are cooked and chargrilled.

Cherries in the tomato sauce bring a refreshing flavor and goes well with the pistachio kebabs.

Cherries in the tomato sauce bring a refreshing flavor and goes well with the pistachio kebabs.

While the kebabs are cooking, prepare the cherry & tomato sauce. In a heavy pan, sauté the onions in olive oil for 2-3 minutes. Stir in the pepper paste, chopped tomatoes and cherries to the pan and combine well. Season with salt and ground pepper and simmer for 15-20 minutes until the sauce thickened.

While the sauce is simmering, place the sliced flat bread on a tray and put in the preheated oven (180 C/350 F) to warm up. Also at this stage place the roasted vegetables and kebabs back to the oven to keep warm.

Lamb kebabs with pistachios in cherry & tomato sauce - Fistikli, visne soslu kebap
Time to enjoy the feast; lamb kebabs with pistachios in cherry & tomato sauce – Fistikli, visne soslu kebap

How about serving the kebabs with this sautéed carrot &  garlic yoghurt dip? This refreshing and mild dip complements the rich flavors of the pistachio kebabs beautifully.

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Sauteed carrots in olive oil with garlic yoghurt

I hope these recipes inspire you all; Afiyet Olsun,

Ozlem

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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