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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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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Cacik – Cucumber and Yogurt Dip

What could be more cooling than a bowl of cacik on a hot summer day? Greeks make it thicker, Turks like it more in a liquid form. Mix up some yogurt, crushed garlic, chopped cucumber and fresh mint, it’s that easy. Garlic is yogurt’s best friend in a Turkish kitchen and mint leaves freshen up the whole thing. Serve it with bread, legumes cooked in tomato sauce or with meatballs. I know I know, it’s not the healthiest thing to consume yogurt and meat together, as it prevents the body from metabolizing the iron in meat.

The trick to a good cacik or tzatziki as Greeks call it, is to avoid the temptation to grate the cucumbers and to chop them finely with a knife instead.

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Balik Corbasi – Fish Soup

Balik Corbasi - Fish Soup

It’s definitely not the best time of year to crave fish, but I can’t help it. Period. Those cravings would not be satisfied with frozen or farmed fish and I’m not an easy going person when it comes to less than perfect food. ‘Perfect’ fish is a bit expensive around this time of year, so the best thing to make with it is a fish soup, of course Ottoman style. In certain parts of the Black Sea region this recipe is still very common, with generous amounts of lemon juice and a hint of saffron, just like it used to be served in the Ottoman Palace. I’ve met a lot of people who fell in love with this soup at first sip, even those who claim to not like seafood. Here is the guide to your ‘Love at first sip’!

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Cevizli Irmik Helvasi – Semolina Halva With Walnuts

I need a getaway, urgent, seriously! Any suggestions, around Istanbul?

Finally today, sun is up and spring seems to have arrived! Yesterday, I was watching the weather report (yeah I am watching the weather report, that’s how serious my need to have a break is) and apparently it’s 25 degrees Celsius in Kiev!?! What the heck! What’s wrong with you Istanbul! Yet, I guess I am the only person to catch a cold and get an almost 2nd degree sunburn on the very same day!

Enough with the weather, I know, my dear beloved reader… In coming weeks I’ll make it up to you with stories from my soon-to-be-planned weekend vacation, promise.

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Hasanpasa Kofte – Meatballs topped with potato purée

I know, I’ve been the laziest blogger lately, but I am back and full of hope that you my dear readers will forgive me. It’s already May and spring isn’t here yet, around 10 degrees Celsius in Istanbul, the humidity makes it feel even colder, there is even snow in some other parts of the country.

I’ve been sick for almost 4 times in a row, each episode lasted like 10-15 days with horrible sore throat and fever. Oh spring, please come, before antibiotics destroy my body and everything “bio” in it.

Yesterday, with all this in mind I decided that eating more fish would do me good and convinced my husband and sister to go to Garipce, a small village that lies along Bosphorus’ shoreline, near the north end where the strait meets the Black Sea, to have  pan-fried Black Sea turbot, my favorite, well, one amongst a dozen of my favorites.

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Zeytinyagli Pirasa – Leeks In Olive Oil

This olive oil dish can be found on the dinner tables of most Turkish homes quite frequently at all times of the year. Just like her cousins, onion and garlic, leeks have antiseptic qualities. What’s more interesting about these long, sleek, layered tubes is that during Roman times a variant of this vegetable with opium-like qualities was consumed at the end of dinner to induce sleep. Turks, people of the Ottoman land in wider terms, also serve this olive oil braised leek dish at the end of meals. I don’t know if there is any connection between the two cuisines, Ottoman and Roman (if there is such thing) so to speak, but I should note that Ottoman Sultans, starting from Mehmet II the Conqueror, held the title “Kayser” (meaning Ceasar), referring to the Ottoman rule as the heir to Eastern Roman Empire.

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