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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Soganli Yumurta – Eggs With Onion

 

I’ve been the laziest food blogger for the last few weeks. Sorry about making you, my dear readers, stare at a couple of meatballs and gherkins for weeks. I have some good news that, maybe, compensate for my failure to post as often as I should. Ottoman Cuisine has been selected as the ‘featured blog of the day’ on Foodista.com. On December the 8th, our blog will be featured on the main page of Foodista.

I chose to celebrate the news with a very Ottoman recipe. This recipe has been revived in the last couple of years from the dusty pages of palace kitchen records. Seems very simple, cook the onions, crack the eggs, sprinkle with spices, you’re good to go? No, not so much. The original recipe calls for 4 to 6 hours of work with a lot of attention to detail. This recipe was a Ramadan specialty in palace kitchen. They say, especially on the 15th day of Ramadan, chefs from Enderun (an educational institution within Ottoman palace) prepared this dish and served it to the Sultan. If the Sultan approved the dish, the head chef of Enderun would be assigned kilercibasi (head butler) to the palace, one of the highest ranking personnel of the palace kitchen.

Here is what I like about this recipe: If you are patient enough and pay attention to each step and choose the finest ingredients, it is hard to go wrong. You do not need to be crafty, so you are not running much risk there.

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Hunkar Pilavi – Pilaf With Lamb, Pistachios and Black Currants

The other day, I decided to try a recipe from a book by Ozge Samanci and Sharon Croxford. If any of you guys remember, that is the book my husband bought for my birthday. It’s called XIX. Yuzyil Istanbul Mutfagi which translates into “19th Century Istanbul Cuisine”. I ended up playing around with the amounts and the ingredients, but still this recipe is inspired by the above-mentioned book.

Ingredients:

3.5 cups of water

300 g (around a cup) of boneless lamb meat, cut into walnut-size cubes

100 g of clarified butter (regular butter would be fine too)

A handful of pistachio nuts, shells removed

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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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Balli Mahmudiye – Lemon Chicken in Honey Apricot And Almond Sauce

Ramadan is a great time of year to revive those nearly-forgotten classic dishes of Ottoman Cuisine. Istanbul turns into a huge festive ground full of venues serving the most sophisticated delicacies from the city’s over 1000 year-old heritage. One of my favorites is Balli Mahmudiye, a lemon marinated chicken dish cooked and served in a scrumptious honey, apricot and almond sauce. I made this classic recipe today, for the first dinner of Ramadan. Hubs seemed really happy to dine on some very fine Ottoman food on the very first day of fasting. I suppose, the fact that I used hand-made copper cookware has been a contributing factor as well…

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