Fava – Broad Beans Spread

Fava beans: Friend or foe? I like listing the health benefits of the main ingredient in my recipes. In this case, I should also list the potential hazards caused by fava beans or broad beans. For those who have a hereditary condition called G6PD (glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency) fava beans can induce a fatal condition called “favism”, a type of anemia, as you may have already guessed, the condition is named after “fava”.

But for the rest of us, broad beans are a good source of protein and other healthy stuff, beneficial for those with Parkinson’s disease or hypertension. Some even say fava beans can be used as a natural alternative to the V drug, based on a proposed link between one’s libido and a substance found in fava beans. I don’t know if that’s true, you’ll have to see it for yourself.

Fava beans are also used in fortune telling by gypsies on the streets of Turkey. So, quite a miracle legume, both revealing your future and aiding you in your love life. Joking aside, I’ll just give out a decent, innocent meze recipe, made with fava beans.

I am not a drinker myself, firstly for religious reasons. But sometimes, I feel grateful to Turkish drinkers of raki, tough. Why? Because if not for those people, great meze recipes would have long gone lost. Except for a few of those mezes, Turkish homecooks and no-alcohol restaurants do not pay much attention to this category of Turkish cuisine. A good, forget about “good”, a decent topik (chickpea pâté filled with caramelized onions, currants and pine nuts and dusted with cinnamon) or tarama (another meze made with fish roe) are very hard to find nowadays, in regular restaurants. You either have to find the recipe and the ingredients and make it yourself or go to a meyhane (Turkish pub) to find those dishes. A good fava is not very easy to find either.

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Humus – Chickpea Spread With Tahini

Humus, originally a Middle Eastern meze, “is high in iron and vitamin C, and also has significant amounts of folate and vitamin B6. Garbanzo beans make it a good source of protein and dietary fiber; the tahini consists mostly of sesame seeds, an excellent source of amino acid, complementing the proteins in chickpeas”, says Wikipedia. Humus is a very convenient food for those who prefer a vegetarian or vegan diet and like other combinations of grains and pulses, when eaten with bread it serves as a complete protein. It’s great for your digestive system as well.

Its creamy texture and earthy, yet rich, flavor balances great with the mild and acidic flavors of olive oil and lemon juice. I am always up for regional staple food recipes as they are usually amazingly well balanced both in terms of health and taste. I am not a drinker at all, but some say, humus when eaten with alcoholic beverages helps avoid a nasty hangover.

Here goes the recipe for humus:

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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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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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Lorlu Biber Mezesi – Stuffed Red Capsicum With Ricotta and Pine Nuts

I love cold dishes in summer, that’s why I keep coming back with more meze recipes. This light and easy but still elegant recipe looks really good. If it looks good, it tastes good. Of course, there are a few exceptions to this, e.g. the previous monstrous looking samphire meze.

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Taratorlu Deniz Borulcesi – Marsh Samphire With Tartar Sauce

Meze dishes are the stars of Ottoman cuisine. The word meze refers to side dishes that accompany alcoholic beverages or main dishes. The other day, I saw a news report on a national TV channel saying that some freaks (yeah I am jealous, I should have thought of that before those guys) decided to take the Guinness challenge of cooking 1500 mezes in one day, original recipes from Ottoman cuisine and they succeeded. I am sure this samphire meze was one of those 1500 dishes. It’s a widely available dish in Turkey, especially at seafood restaurants. I suppose the plant is also quite common in the UK and Australia, I don’t know about the US though. In  Turkey the best deniz borulcesi, i.e. marsh samphire, is available in spring through early summer. The greener the better, as it reddens it gets saltier and coarser, you wouldn’t want that on your plate, considering the stringy bits in the cores of the stalks. Another trick is buying or picking them with the roots still intact, as this makes the process of removing the strings easier. If you ever decide to make this into a salad or meze, make sure that you season it with garlic, the two go really nice together.

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