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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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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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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Tahin Helvasi – Tahini Halva

No no, I didn’t make this one. It’s a store-bought sweet here in Turkey, called Tahin Helvasi. It’s made of tahini (sesame paste), egg whites, sugar, soapwort, pistachio nuts. It’s a long and tiresome process, ingredients are processed seperately, then churned, then beaten and finally kneaded into a dough before becoming that delicious, crumbly, crispy helva we know. Here are a few links to videos of its production process:

video 1- the churning step- http://vimeo.com/6714556

video 2- beating stage- http://vimeo.com/6714660

video 3- kneading the halva-final step- http://vimeo.com/6714805

 

 

Etli Yaprak Sarma – Stuffed Vine Leaves With Meat

Here comes another star of a typical Turkish feast: Etli Yaprak Sarma – Stuffed Vine Leaves, this time  not in olive oil, but cooked in a rich tomato and butter sauce with a delicious meat and rice stuffing. When people click on our link through Foodista.com on Wednesday (remember we are going to be the featured blog of that day), I want them to land at this post. What do you think? It feels like I am hosting a dinner party and it’s important to greet the guests with our nicest offering.

Ingredients:

60-70 grape vine leaves (fresh leaves are better, those in brine are OK)

2 medium size yellow onions, finely chopped or grated,

1/2 kg of ground beef+lamb, (around 10-15% fat would be fine)

1 1/2 cups of rice,

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Kestaneli Pilav – Rice with Chestnuts

You can make this with either rice or bulghur, as both produce great results. I prefer using chunks of turkey meat when making this pilaf with bulghur and if using rice, lamb meat suits better to the dish. You can also cook this pilaf as a filling for turkey, if so, I’d recommend substituting a handful of black currants with carrots.

Ingredients:

15-20 chestnuts,

250-300 g of lamb/turkey meat, cut into 3-4 cm cubes,

100 g clarified butter/ghee (regular butter would be OK),

2 carrots, julienne or cubes,

1 teaspoon of allspice powder,

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