Yogurtlu Semizotu Salatasi – Purslane and Potato Salad With Yogurt Sauce

This one’s not so Ottoman. The ingredients are very Turkish though. I like it because it’s simple, delicious, fulfilling and healthy.

Ingredients:

300-400 of purslane

2-3 medium size potatoes

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Tulumba Tatlisi – Fluted Fritters In Syrup

While we were in Kahramanmaras, we went on a day trip to a place called “Icme” which literally means “drinking / to drink”.  No no, it’s not a bars street, there is a spring resort in “Icme”. People travel to the place from all over South Eastern Anatolia and the Mediterranean region just to drink and possibly take back home as much mineral water as they can to restore or  preserve their health.

The mineral water in Icme is quite bitter and not very pleasant to drink. Locals came up with a solution to this. Just next to the main spring, there are dozens of stalls selling sweets, especially in-syrup types, providing the visitors with a chance to get as thirsty as possible. They serve generous  amounts of sweets followed by bottles of mineral water, fresh from the springs. So if you survive the glucose coma,  you’ll have drunk lots of water from the fountain of health. Yeah, I am all for healthy living, so give me more of that dessert!

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Ic Pilav – Garnished Rice

On Sunday, we were at my parents’ place. Towards iftar time, my sister was trying real hard to convince to make some ic pilav – garnished rice dish, mainly used as a filling for most stuffed vegetable and meat dishes in Ottoman cuisine. A starving and insisting sister ain’t no good. I gave up and pulled myself together despite the fatigue caused by fasting on such a long day and made her the pilav. She was happy and so was I.  Mom’s garden has the perfect lighting to photograph the food I make.

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Sakizli Muhallebi – Mastic Pudding

I just realized that I have put up only a few dessert recipes. I need to add more. Especially in Ramadan, I crave sweets, after iftar. I am sure there is a medical explanation to this, but when the cravings are here, all I need is sugar, no explanations for me, thanks. I totally love milk-based sweets and they constitute an important role in Ottoman cuisine with their calming and subtle flavors.

Mastic pudding –sakizli muhallebi- derives its name from mastic gum. I know all it reminds you is construction supplies but trust me there is a lot more to this word. Mastic gum, also called damla sakizi (droplet gum) in Turkish, with its exquisite aroma is exuded from the bark of the mastic tree. The tree is native to the Aegean Island of Chios. According to the hearsay, during the Ottoman rule of Chios, mastic was worth its weight in gold. Apart from the culinary uses of its deep, woody and slightly bitter aroma, mastic gum has been used as a medicine since antiquity. It contains antioxidants, and also has antibacterial and antifungal properties, it’s also good for your gums and teeth, no wonder my mom used to chew mastic gum once or twice a month. To me, she was a crazy woman back then, for gnawing on such a hard and intensely flavored matter.

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Fellah Kofte – Bulgur Gnocchi In Garlic Tomato Sauce

Bulgur was never a favorite ingredient for chefs in the Ottoman palace. They preferred white rice over this nutritious cereal, whereas bulgur was a staple food item for the general public in the Ottoman land. Bulgur is simply parboiled, dried and partially de-branned wheat. It is available in most Western countries in natural and organic food stores, some mainstream supermarkets, Turkish, Arab and Greek grocers. It’s high in fiber and protein, makes a wonderful ingredient for a lot of vegetarian dishes.

Fellah Kofte is a widely known recipe in Eastern Mediterranean region of Anatolia in places such as Gaziantep, Kahramanmaras, Adana, Mersin and Hatay. The recipe calls for fine-ground bulgur, (“#1 Fine Grind” in the U.S. and “koftelik bulgur” in Turkey). It’s easy to make and the outcome is definitely worth the effort.

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Kaygana – Turkish Omelette

Breakfast in Turkey is not considered complete without fresh cheese, tomatoes, olives and bread. Egg dishes and/or pastry usually accompany these. A traditional recipe, despite wide variations, a common favorite of both people of rural Anatolia and the Ottoman elité, is called kaygana. It’s something in between crepés and omelette.

Again, contemporary Turkish cuisine has a tendency towards neglecting classic recipes of good old kaygana, especially those sweet ones. Savory types still have a huge crowd of fans. I know dozens of locals who frown upon recipes such as “eggplant kaygana” or “anchovy kaygana”, let alone sweet kaygana recipes. They say they hate the idea of a sweet omelette because mixing eggs with sugar/honey sounds gross, well, what’s the main ingredient in a sponge cake, or almost any cake for that matter? I can’t sympathize with them, sorry. When a classic Ottoman dish is of concern, I am ready to try it, it turns out to be delicious 99 percent of the time  and that 100th percentile never came in my way, anyway.

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Balli Mahmudiye – Lemon Chicken in Honey Apricot And Almond Sauce

Ramadan is a great time of year to revive those nearly-forgotten classic dishes of Ottoman Cuisine. Istanbul turns into a huge festive ground full of venues serving the most sophisticated delicacies from the city’s over 1000 year-old heritage. One of my favorites is Balli Mahmudiye, a lemon marinated chicken dish cooked and served in a scrumptious honey, apricot and almond sauce. I made this classic recipe today, for the first dinner of Ramadan. Hubs seemed really happy to dine on some very fine Ottoman food on the very first day of fasting. I suppose, the fact that I used hand-made copper cookware has been a contributing factor as well…

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Pide – Turkish Pizza With Various Toppings

Nothing delicate or sophisticated, just simple, cheerful, comfy and filling. This is what pide is or Turkish Pizza in other words. This archaic way of combining a hearty dough base and meaty, cheesy or vegetarian toppings is divine, especially when it meets the goodness of a wood oven. Still tastes great even if you do not have access to a wood oven.

By the way, Ramadan starts tomorrow. I am planning to throw several dinner parties for friends and family, seems so hard  though, considering the weather and long hot days of fasting ahead…

Back to our recipe… This one in the pictures were made by me and my cousin Birsel in the weekend at my parents’ place and enjoyed by around 15 people. I’ve adjusted the recipe to 4-5 people. In case you have any left overs, you can reheat them in the oven, on the stove in a pan with the lid on or just in a microwave. They are good for breakfast as well.

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Imam Bayildi – Stuffed Aubergines In Olive Oil

Here comes one of the most famous olive oil dishes in Turkish cuisine: Imam Bayildi, literally means “the Muslim cleric fainted”. There is a dozen of stories surrounding the name of this meze, some claim that the imam in the tale fainted because he was so overcome with the flavor of this dish, some other accounts focus on the cost of the ingredients. Imam bayildi has also been an inspiration to the confit byaldi dish in modern French cuisine.

Nowadays people have no time to cook such classic dishes and follow the original recipes religiously. Imam bayildi would still taste good even if you skip adding pine nuts or nutmeg, but IMHO we should pay our respects to the cooks of the Ottoman palace by sticking to the original recipe as much as we could, trust me, there is a reason for every ingredient to be there in the recipe. I think, cooking is about great attention to detail, picking the finest ingredients and treating them the way they deserve to be treated.

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