Menemen – Turkish Style Omelette With Vegetables

Here is a simple breakfast dish, a staple food in Turkey, especially when it’s summer.

Ingredients (serves 2-4):

3 tablespoons of olive oil,

1 onion, grated,

4-5 yellow banana peppers, capsicums and/or hot peppers, chopped into 1 cm pieces,

2-3 tomatoes, peeled and diced,

1/2 teaspoon of salt

3-4 eggs or 50 g grated cheese (or you can leave these out completely)

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Bademli Kayisili Pilav – Pilaf With Almonds And Apricots

We were on a short trip to Ankara during the weekend. I came to understand why my brother’s way of describing Ankara is so true,  he says the city should be called a “staff only” place. We came back to Istanbul on Sunday arvo and I decided to make soup and pilaf for dinner, easy and elegant. I ended up making chicken flavored almond and apricot pilaf. It’s a classic, yet almost forgotten by the general public in Turkey. What a shame!

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Saray Helvasi – Royal Halva

Halva is the generic term for flour and/or butter and nuts based dense sweets in various world cuisines including Ottoman cuisine. This one is called royal halva and it is made of butter, wheat flour, caster/icing sugar and ground nuts (almonds, hazelnuts or walnuts). It obviously tastes somewhat like shortbread cookies, as they both contain the same ingredients, but method of preparation is what separates the two.

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Zeytinyagli Kuru Dolma – Stuffed Sun Dried Vegetables In Olive Oil

I’m quite happy today, because I just received a job offer, one that is related to my profession. I already have loads of other work stuff to do, but I am very much inclined to quit everything else and accept this one.

Anywayz, other than the good news, “Eid” has passed already and we of course visited my parents and in-laws in. On the eve of Eid I baked a cake with damson plums and cooked stuffed sun dried vegetables in olive oil. I took those to Gallipoli with me hoping to be the star of our family gathering :). I don’t know if I succeeded but everyone seemed quite satisfied with both the dolma and the plum cake.

I had bought the sun dried vegetables from Kahramanmaras last month. I also took pictures of the home-prepared ones in the process of drying. They hang carved vegetables on balconies on a clean thread and everyday around noon time covered the vegies with a huge clean cloth to avoid any discoloration from the direct sunlight for around 2 weeks until they dry out completely.

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Su Boregi – Turkish Cheese Lasagna

This borek is very famous all-over Turkey, especially in the Black Sea Region, in the north. The crispy outer layers, squeaky soft layers of lasagna-like sheets, warm and melting cheese taste in-between might be the reason for its popularity. Store-bought versions are also available in Turkey and those are nothing short of being delicious, but home-made borek with the finest ingredients is always better IMHO.

So many people are intimidated by the idea of making pasta from scratch. If you can find semolina flour, it makes the process a lot easier and affects the outcome quite positively.  To get semolina flour you’ll look for ‘semola di grano duro’. Also, flour types made from the harder wheat grains are very much suitable for this borek recipe. The harder the wheat that flour is made from, the more protein and gluten it contains. Harder flour types are good for making this borek as the pastry sheets will be boiled.

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Zeytinyagli Taze Fasulye – String Beans In Olive Oil

Jeanne Calment, a French lady who holds the record for the longest confirmed lifespan, said that she owed her youthful appearance and longevity to olive oil which she poured on all her food and rubbed into her skin. That’s olive oil for you! It’s the fountain of youth and also makes vegetables taste superb, while preserving their color.

String beans in olive oil is a classic Ottoman dish which holds its title in contemporary Turkish kitchen as well. For this recipe, flat, thin and non-stringy types of green beans should be used. A steel pot is also a must, olive oil dishes always taste their best in steel pots.

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Pacanga Boregi – Fried Pastry With Pastrami and Kashar

As a dance, pachanga has been described as “a happy-go-lucky dance” of Cuban origin. There is also a borek named pacanga -pronounced “pachanga”- in Turkish cuisine. I don’t know if or how the two are related in any way. What I know is this crispy borek recipe is a perfect appetizer. Once you have access to the ingredients, it’s fairly easy to make.

Pastrami (pastirma – “pressed”) was obviously brought by the Turkic tribes from the Asian steppes. Apparently Turkish horse rider men would carry the pastrami between their leg and the horse’s back and this way the meat would be cured. You can substitute this with beef prosciutto as well.

Kashar cheese is one of the most consumed cheeses in Turkey and it is a semi-hard cheese produced by heating and stretching the curd. It is classified as fresh and mature in terms of ripening level. Its taste is somewhere in between sweet provolone and cow’s milk caciocavallo, the latter is also a commonly used ingredient in Turkish cuisine. I heard that 1 kg of fresh kashar cheese is produced from 12 liters of cow’s milk in average. You can easily find this type of cheese in Turkish, Greek, Bulgarian, Georgian etc. shops or substitute with mozzarella, if not available.

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