Guvecte Sucuklu Kuru Fasulye – Navy Bean Casserole With Sujuk

There is one common rule all over Turkey in regards to cooking dry beans: You must serve it with rice. Apart from that, there is not much of a rule. Here, I’ll pass my favorite casserole recipe with navy beans. It’s more of a winter dish, but depending on the cravings of our household, i.e. my husband, I end up cooking dry beans in summer time as well. It is perfect if you can find an earthenware bean pot in order to achieve over-the-top flavor but you’d be fine with any casserole dish. 

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Icli Kofte – Bulgur Balls With Meat and Walnut Filling

This kofte is not just crafty stuff but definitely an artistic touch to your dinner tables. In Southeastern Anatolia elongated icli kofte is usually served fried and boiled round icli kofte is enjoyed in Eastern Mediterranean towns like Adana and Kahramanmaras. The recipes for the stuffing and bulgur mix do not differ much throughout Turkey. Various Arab countries have bulgur balls, called kibbah. The only variation between these and the Turkish version is the use of spices I suppose.

My grandma was an icli kofte master and she was famous for it in the town we used to live, I even remember strangers (friends of friends of friends and so on) dropping by our house on the days she made kofte. Yes, it requires a lot of time and skillful hands, but it is totally worth it. Here we go:

Ingredients:

3 cups of fine grind bulgur (parboiled cracked wheat, you can find it in the organic food section of your supermarket or at Middle Eastern grocery shops)

500g of lean minced beef or lamb (ask your butcher to double grind it, it’s crucial)

2 onions, finely grated

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Yumurtali Ispanak – Eggs With Spinach

It’s good for you, it’s green, leafy, crispy and aromatic. It releases its aroma when heated. Turks like it with yogurt, nutrition experts advice against this as yogurt will block the absorption of iron in spinach. If you wash, drain and prepare spinach leaves beforehand, eggs with spinach recipe serves as a very quick and fulfilling lunch or dinner, a very healthy option indeed. Here comes one of the most homely, motherly recipe of Turkish cuisine.

Ingredients

3 tablespoons of butter

1 medium size onion, chopped finely

1/2 kg spinach leaves, washed, drained and chopped into 1 inch pieces

1/4 teaspoon of salt

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

3 large free range organic eggs

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Karnabahar Oturtma – Cauliflower Medley

Cauliflower is not everyone’s favorite vegetable, I know. Daughter of a close friend put it bluntly when she was only 2, by saying “Please mom, I can’t eat flowers or trees” when offered cauliflower for the first time. For some, it is the sight of this pretty vegetable, for others it is the smell that is off-putting. For me, cauliflower is one of those saponin-flavored beautiful winter vegetables. Au gratin and this medley recipe I’m giving here are the two most common ways of cooking cauliflower in Turkey.

Ingredients:

100 g butter

1/2 kg minced beef

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Etli Lahana Sarmasi – Cabbage Rolls With Meat

A winter classic in Turkey and neighboring regions… Spices and herbs used in the meat stuffing varies from town to town, whereas soft and glossy texture of the cabbage remains the same. I made it my grandma’s way, cooked the rolls with the sourest quinces.

Ingredients:

1 medium size whole cabbage (try to pick the less veiny, thin layered and soft cored ones)

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Lakerda – Cured Fish in Olive Oil

During our last meal in Cunda, before the mesmerizing effect of the lor tatlisi arrived, we were knocked down by a couple of meze dishes. One was lakerda, which is among my a dozen seafood favorites and a new acquaintance for my husband. I was reluctant to tell him that it was raw fish in fact, I know he would do anything to avoid it if he knew. The plan worked well. The delicacy turned him into a humming bird soon enough so I told him what it really was, two seconds of hesitant silence was again followed by num nums. He liked it so much that he asked the restaurant owner to pack a jar of that goodness for us to take home.

A properly-made lakerda tastes divine. Fatty fish fillets, cured with salt, then soaked in extra virgin olive oil… The type of fish differs. What we had was akya, garrick fish that is. A more desirable fish for pickling would be large bonito, called torik in Turkish. It takes around two weeks to cure the fish. Cleaning is the tricky part, no blood should remain in the flesh.

It is best served cold with olive oil, red onions and dill. It makes me thank God for living in this part of the world.

Zeytinyagli Bamya – Okra in Olive Oil

One last recipe from the summertime. Perhaps, I’ve heard over a hundred people say that they like the taste and aroma of okras but they hate the gooey texture. The best way to avoid the sticky slimy texture is to keep the pods intact, only peel the most outer skin on top and leave the cap intact (the holes inside shouldn’t be seen so that the mucilage will not come out of the pod), to add lots of lemon juice and not to stir it while cooking. Here’s the recipe to a flowy clear okra dish.

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Kavun Dolmasi – Stuffed Melon

These days, the hype in Istanbul is (not-so) fine dining restaurants that claim they serve Ottoman palace cuisine. Are all of those places bad? Of course not! Some are very genuine and not overpriced considering the food they serve. But for others, all I can say is “overrated”! Kavun dolmasi or stuffed melon is one of those dishes that existed since the 15th century, maybe even earlier. I guess it is Persian and Armenian influence what made Ottoman cooks combine meat and fruits, which when done right creates an excellent balance of flavor. The trick to this recipe is picking the right size and type of melon, small, round, aromatic variety that is, adding the right amount of spices and nuts and using good quality minced meat (preferably lamb meat ground with a chopping knife) with a good amount of fat content.

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Siron – Baked Pastry Rolls With Yogurt

Dear Reader, I can’t promise you a very exciting intro to this post, sorry but you’ll have to bear with me till the end of this memoir which I’m about to tell you.

Last year, mid-July, we, my hubs and I, were driving back to Istanbul from Gallipoli where my in-laws reside each summer. While in the car, browsing through radio channels, Greek, Turkish, Bulgarian ones… We stumbled upon one and were quite puzzled because we could swear we recognized the language, it sounded exactly like the Eastern Black Sea Region accent of Turkish. It felt like we could understand what it was saying but no, we couldn’t. Then we found out that it was the radio channel of Pontic Greeks who migrated to Greece from Black Sea Region of Turkey in the last century. There were dozens of words I could recognize in the songs besides the accent and the sound of it as a whole. “Sirona gel sirona” (come and join the siron) was one phrase upon hearing we went “hey, did you hear that?”. Yes, dear reader, Black Sea Region is where siron and Pontic Greeks come from. It is the name of both a dancing style and a manti-like dish. The song was probably talking about the dance unless the songwriter was a food-maniac like myself and took the trouble of writing a song about a dish. Oh no, even I haven’t done anything like that, yet!

I’m an epic fail when it comes to dancing, but here is the recipe to the food version of siron:

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Karniyarik – Stuffed Aubergines With Ground Meat

Eggplant’s last stand before winter arrives. Did you guys know that the eggplant is a close cousin of tomatoes? Did you know that the Ottomans prepared hundreds of dishes with this vegetable? Did you know that it contains nicotine? Maybe that’s why Turks like it this much. Keywords: nicotine, Turks, smoking…

Karniyarik literally means “slashed belly”. It’s not a very complicated recipe, especially if you consider how sophisticated the final outcome looks, and of course tastes. Here’s how to make this famous Turkish dish:

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