Turkish red lentil kofte

This is the last of the five recipes that I learned in Turkey, at Cookistan. There was another recipe for poached stuffed artichoke hearts, but artichokes are not readily available locally, so I think I will stop with this one. This is so easy; filling, tasty and vegan. 

In this recipe, the addition of the wheat to the lentils adds texture to the mixture, so that it can be formed into small and tasty kofte balls. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 200g red lentils
  • 2 to 3 cups of water
  • 125g fine bulgur wheat
  • 60 ml olive oil
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp pepper paste
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 spring onions
  • a handful each of mint, parsley and dill
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin
  • salt and pepper

METHOD:

  • Rinse the red lentils then boil them in the water; bring the water and lentils to the boil, then turn down to simmer, partially covered until they are soft. There should be a little water left at the top of the cooked lentils.
  • Add the bulgur wheat and mix well. 
  • Fry the chopped onions in olive oil until soft, then add the tomato and pepper paste and continue to fry for another minute, before adding the spices. 
  • Add the onion mixture to the lentil mixture and stir to combine. 
  • Chop the herbs and spring onions finely, and add to the lentil mixture, season and mix well. You might need more than a teaspoonful of salt to taste. 
  • Form the mixture into kofte balls; take large walnut sized pieces of the mixture, and shape into small ovals. 
  • Serve the kofte balls on a bed of lettuce leaves. 

These taste better the following day, when the flavours have developed. They are very filling, and completely vegan. 

 

Leeks in a lemon and tomato sauce

I still have some home-grown leeks and carrots from the garden, trying to eat them up before the weather totally trashes them. I also have a brand new Turkish recipe book to try, and so far, so good. It has a great index by ingredient, an informative forward describing the different culinary regions within Turkey, and it is massive. I’m thinking of adding it to the favourite book list. 

It is called ‘The Turkish Cookbook’ by Musa Dagdeviren.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 600g leeks, sliced (about 3 large leeks)
  • 150g carrot, diced (about 1 carrot)
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp red bell pepper paste (from Turkishop)
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • juice of half a lemon or 2 tbsp grape vinegar
  • 500ml boiling water
  • 40 – 60g rice

METHOD:

  • Heat the oil in a large pan over a medium heat
  • Add the chopped leeks, diced carrot, tomato paste, pepper paste, sugar and salt, and cook for around five minutes. 
  • Add the boiling water, lemon juice, and rice, turn the heat down low and cover the pan. Simmer for around 20 to 30 minutes, until the rice is cooked. 

This works well on its own, as a light supper or lunch. It is also glorious with goat’s cheese and brown bread. 

Circassian chicken salad

This salad is a rich paste made with chicken, walnuts, stock and breadcrumbs. It is delicious spread on bread, oatcakes and other savoury biscuits. I got this recipe from Cookistan, when we were on holiday in Istanbul. 

The Circassians were a tribal people who lived in the area between the Black Sea and the Caspian sea, north east of modern Turkey. They were part of the Ottoman Empire, and the dish has made its way into modern Turkish cookery. 

INGREDIENTS:

 
  • 2 chicken breasts, poached in 1 litre of well-seasoned stock
  • 250g walnuts
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 200g panko breadcrumbs, or other dried breadcrumbs
  • 4 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 12 tbsp plain yoghurt
  • Chopped dill, optional
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 3 tsp sweet paprika, to taste
  • 2 tsp salt and 1 tsp pepper to taste (quite a lot of salt and pepper)
  • 6 teaspoons paprika (sweet)
  • Garnish: 1 tsp paprika in olive oil and whole walnut halves

METHOD:

  • Cool the poached chicken, and strain and reserve the stock. 
  • Shred the cooked chicken breast very finely. 
  • Roughly crush the walnuts and finely crush the garlic.
  • Soften the breadcrumbs with stock to make a soft paste.
  • Add the chicken, olive oil, mayonnaise, yoghurt, cumin, paprika dill, and salt and pepper to make a paste, and stir in the walnuts and garlic. Check the seasoning; this needs quite a bit of salt to bring out the flavour. 
  • Garnish with 1 tsp paprika fried in 1 tbsp olive oil, walnut halves, and chopped dill. 

Borecik

Turkish savoury pastries come in many flavours and shapes, using different pastries, fillings, styles and cooking techniques. These Borecik roses were one of the dishes we made in Istanbul, when we participated in the Cookistan cookery school. 

The pastry that we used was prepared in a small shop in a traditional way, sold as large round circles of thin and pliable pastry. These sheets are called yufka, and are a bit more robust than filo pastry. They are available from Turkishop, but you could substitute filo. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 sheet of yufka
  • 150g mince
  • 2 small onions, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 150ml milk
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 egg
  • 250g plain yoghurt
  • salt and pepper
  • red pepper flakes
  • Butter

METHOD:

  • Cut the sheet of pastry into four.
  • Kneed the meat with the onions, pepper and salt. 
  • Mix the milk with the olive oil, and use this to wet one side of the sheet of pastry. 
  • Put a quarter of the mince mixture in a line along the curved edge of each segment of the pastry sheet. Roll the sheet around the mince to form a snake. These snake pastries can be frozen for use later, handy for making a feast at short notice.
  • Coil each snake to make a snail shape. 
  • Put the snail shapes onto a greased baking sheet, brush with beaten egg, and bake in the oven at 200C for 35 to 40 minutes. 
  • To serve, mix yoghurt and garlic, and put a dollop on the top of each pastry. 
  • Next, melt the butter and fry the chilli flakes, and drizzle this on top of the yoghurt. 

Turkish candied pumpkin with tahini

We learned how to make this extraordinary dessert when we were on holiday in Istanbul. The first night we went out, I ordered this, thinking it looked really unusual, and then the next day, it was one of the dishes we prepared at our Cookistan cookery class. Our teacher explained that this was a dish invented at the end of the Ottoman empire, for the palace.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 500g peeled pumpkin cut into large cubes, about 2 inches across.
  • 450g granulated sugar,
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 3 cloves
  • 100g tahini (about 7 tbsp)
  • chopped walnuts.

METHOD:

  • Place the pumpkin cubes into a large saucepan and cover with the sugar, and leave overnight.
  • Add a little water if required, so that the liquid in the pan reaches about half way up the pumpkin. Add the cloves and vanilla.
  • Put the lid on the pan and cook for 30 to 35 minutes, until the pumpkin is soft and absorbs all the water it initially released. Check regularly to ensure that the syrup doesn’t stick. Baste the pumpkin in the syrup.
  • Let it come to room temperature. This dish can be kept in the refrigerator.
  • Garnish with tahini and chopped walnuts to serve.

Turkish stuffed vegetables

This is the first of several recipes from Turkey, from our cooking class at Cookistan. I was really impressed with the quality of food that we produced. Some of these recipes are seasonal, so if you were to book with them, you’re sure to learn something new. 

We made stuffed dried aubergines, stuffed vine leaves, stuffed courgettes. The dried aubergines, pepper puree and vine leaves are available from Turkishop online, but peppers, beef tomatoes, or onions could be used. 

Ready for the oven

INGREDIENTS:

  • 8 dried aubergines, or 8 good sized courgettes, or a jar of vine leaves in brine. If you can’t get vine leaves, then chard leaves would do. 
  • 100g mince
  • 50g rice or fine bulgar wheat
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 tbsp pepper puree
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 tsp dried mint
  • 1/2 tsp sweet paprika
  • 1/2 tsp chilli powder or chilli flakes
  • 1 handful of chopped parsley
  • Plain yoghurt to serve (you could add garlic, salt and pepper to the yoghurt)

METHOD:

  • If you are using dried aubergines, these need to be soaked in boiling water for around 5 minutes. They need to be weighed down to ensure they are completely submerged, and then rinsed in cold water. If you are using courgettes, use a teaspoon, melon baller (or a special Turkish courgette knife) to hollow them out. First, cut them in half across the way, not lengthways, and trim the end to make them steady to stand up in the pan. Then, hollow them out carefully. Other vegetables can be prepared in a similar way. 
  • Mix all the other ingredients, and mix them together with your hands.
  • Stuff the vegetables to about 3/4 full. During the cooking, the rice expands, so you need to leave a little bit of room. 
  • To stuff vine leaves, put each leaf shiny side down with the pointy bits pointing away. Put a line of mince about the size of your little finger across the bottom of the vine leaf. Start rolling the leaf round the mince, working away from you, folding in the sides as you go. There are lots of versions on youtube to check for the method. 
  • Put the stuffed vegetables in a casserole dish large enough for them all to fit with the open ends up. Put a plate over the top to keep them in place, smaller than the pan. Pour in around 500ml boiling water, and simmer the vegetables until they are cooked, around 45 minutes. 
  • Serve as a meze dish with yoghurt flavoured with garlic.