This took a bit of testing before I got the method and recipe I liked best. It is from Van, in the east of Turkey. The history of this area is full of conflict, with Anatolian Christians being persecuted. I used to go to the Lake Van monastery in exile in Edinburgh, not really a restaurant, more of a place of welcome with food and history; I learnt a bit about the history of the Lake Van monastery there from the monk that ran the place.
Remember to start the night before.
- 100g coarse bulgar wheat
- 250g Greek-style yoghurt
- 1 large courgette, diced
- 1 tbsp plain white flour
- 300g spinach, chopped
- 100g coriander leaf, chopped, OR mint or savory leaves.
- 1.5 litres chicken stock
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Cook the bulgar wheat in 500ml water, simmer for five minutes and then leave overnight.
- The next day, drain the wheat
- In a large pan, bring the chicken stock to a simmer, and add the wheat and the courgette, and cook gently for around 20 minutes.
- Mix the flour with a spoon of hot stock, and add to the soup, along with the spinach and salt to taste. Cook for another ten minutes
- Add the fresh coriander and whisk in the yoghurt before serving.
It’s courgette season. I love raw courgette, so crunchy. I love it sliced into long strips and grilled, with lemon dressing. I love this salad, from Madhur Jaffrey. It is really easy and quick.
- 2 courgettes, around 350 to 400g
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 1 red onion
- 350ml plain yoghurt
- 3 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 tsp black mustard seeds
- black pepper to taste
- Cayenne pepper to taste and garnish.
- Use a food processor to grate the courgette coarsely. Put the grated courgette onto a tea towel in a heap and sprinkle with half a teaspoon of salt.
- Peel the onion, halve it and then slice thinly across the way.
- Beat the yoghurt in a bowl and add 1/4 tsp salt, a pinch of cayenne and a grate of black pepper
- Wrap the tea towel around the grated courgette and wring out any excess water. Use your fingers to separate any clumps.
- Heat the oil in a pan, and when it is hot, add the mustard seeds. As soon as the seeds start to pop, add the onion, and fry for a couple of minutes.
- Add the dried courgette, and fry for another three minutes or so. When it is done, turn the heat off and let it cool a bit, before stirring it into the yoghurt. Decant to a serving bowl and sprinkle with cayenne pepper.
This can be served as a side dish with just about anything. It is as good cold from the fridge as it is warm.
This is a classic middle eastern dish, found all around the Levant and beyond. I derived this recipe from ‘Moro’ – but I wouldn’t have been able to do it without a really good mincer. I borrowed one as part of a bid to make white pudding, of which, more later. There are some good YouTube videos out there showing the technique, and many many versions. It is easier than it looks at first sight.
- 250g very lean lamb, minced twice, second time on a fine setting
- 1/2 small onion, grated finely
- 125g fine bulgur wheat
- salt and pepper
- 1/2 small onion, finely chopped
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 150g lean lamb, minced once on a medium setting
- 1 heaped teaspoon of Baharat spice mix (or 50/50 cinnamon and allspice, with a pinch of paprika)
- 3 tbsp pine nuts and flaked almonds
- 1 bunch fresh coriander, chopped
- 1 small bunch fresh parsley, chopped
- salt and pepper
- Greek yogurt, flavoured with mint, salt and pepper, crushed garlic, and a drizzle of best olive oil
- Start by making the outer layer. Wash the bulgur wheat with water, and set aside
- Mix the minced lamb with grated onion, salt and pepper.
- ‘Kneed’ the bulgur wheat for around five minutes and then mix well into the minced lamb, to make a stiff paste. Set aside in the fridge.
- Next, make the filling. Toast the nuts in hot olive oil. As soon as they start to brown, scoop them out of the oil and set them aside.
- Fry the chopped onion in the olive oil very slowly for around 15 minutes, until caramelised.
- Add the lamb and Baharat spice mix and turn up the heat a little, to start cooking the lamb. Break up the lamb with a spatula as it cooks. Add a spoonful of cold water to slow the cooking a little, and cook until the pan is dry.
- Add the nuts and the chopped herbs, salt and pepper and remove from the heat.
- To make the kibbeh, take a ball of the casing about the size of a golf ball, and hollow it out, making a thin-walled cup of paste, and then fill this with the fried lamb filling, and seal it shut, making something lemon-shaped. Continue this way until all the mixtures are used up.
- Deep-fry the kibbeh in hot olive oil for around five minutes, turning to ensure they are brown all over.
- ALTERNATIVELY put half of the casing at the bottom of an oiled baking dish, add all of the filling and cover with the rest of the casing. Cook for 15 minutes in a hot oven.
Serve with the yoghurt garnish, fresh flat-breads, and a sharp green herb salad. For a more substantial meal, serve with a vegetable pilau.
You know how it is: You go to the shops to buy a green pepper, and they are only available as a pack of three mixed peppers. I ended up with a couple of red peppers, and then found this recipe in Moro. I adapted a little to locally available ingredients.
- 1 large aubergine
- 2 red peppers (I had one red and one yellow pepper, which made for an attractive dish)
- 1 clove of garlic
- a squeeze of lemon juice
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 100g Greek-style yoghurt, seasoned with salt and pepper
- 25g caramelised butter
- fresh coriander leaves
- Turn the oven to 220C. Pierce the skins of the aubergine and peppers, and put them in the oven on a tray for 40 to 45 minutes. I turned them a couple of times, and took the peppers out earlier than the aubergine.
- When the skins of the peppers and aubergine are cooked, cool the vegetables until you can handle them, and peel off the skin.
- Chop the aubergine coarsely, and mix in the crushed garlic, lemon juice, and olive oil, and season to taste. Spread the mixture over the base of a serving plate
- Remove the seeds from the peppers, and chop them coarsely, season lightly and strew artistically over the aubergines.
- Pour the yoghurt in blobs over the dish, and spoon over with caramelised butter. Garnish with coriander leaves and serve with pitta bread or other flatbread.
To make caramelised butter, melt butter in a small pan, and heat gently until the milk solids turn a golden brown. Watch carefully, or it will all go wrong.
This is totally delicious, much more than you’d think. I made this tonight, because of a constellation of ingredients in my fridge that inspired me to try. The trick with the egg and yoghurt really works for keeping the soup smooth. I cut this down from a recipe in Moro.
- 25g butter
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 large leeks
- 1/2 tsp Turkish chilli flakes (pul biber) or paprika
- 1/2 tsp dried miint
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 tsp plain flour
- 150ml greek yoghurt
- 250ml vegetable or chicken stock
- 20g/person caramelised butter
- salt and pepper
- Chop the leeks: slice them in half lengthways, rinse and slice finely.
- Heat the olive oil and butter together until the butter starts to foam, and then fry the leeks over a low heat for ten minutes.
- Add the chilli and dried mint, cover and continue to cook for a further 15 to 20 minutes, checking regularly to ensure that the leeks don’t stick or burn.
- Meanwhile, mix the egg yolk with the flour, to a smooth paste, and then beat in the yoghurt and stock. I used a soup wand to do this.
- When the leeks are cooked, sweet and soft, pour on the yoghurt and stock, and heat gently, do not allow to boil. Keep stirring as the soup thickens. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- To make browned butter, put around 20g per person in a small saucepan, melt the butter over a low heat. The white milk solids will sink to the bottom. Keep cooking until the milk solids start to turn a gentle brown. Remove from the heat.
- Pour a little browned butter into each bowl before serving.
This is a twist on a classic combination, created by substituting ingredients from the fridge. We have storms this week, with a high risk of no food deliveries onto the island, and I didn’t want to use the last of the milk to make this soup, so I used Greek yogurt instead.
- 1 large leek
- 1 potato, diced
- 1/2 an onion, finely chopped
- 1 clove of garlic (optional)
- 25g butter
- 300 ml hot marigold stock
- 200 ml yogurt
- Salt and pepper
- 1 tbsp dry sherry
- Clean the leek, and chop finely; start by cutting lengthways into 4, then slicing.
- In a largish pan, melt the butter, and add the leek, onion, potato and garlic. Season with salt and pepper, and cook on a very low heat for around 10 minutes or more.
- Add the yoghurt and the stock, and bring back to a simmer. Simmer for a further 15 to 20 minutes, so that the vegetables are very soft.
- Use a soup wand or blender to make a very smooth soup. Add the sherry, and check the seasoning.
- You could garnish with chopped herbs, but it was delicious without.
I served this with homemade oatcakes.
I only recently discovered Labneh, and now I want it every day – classic with salad at lunch-time in the summer. It is very easy to make as well. It is a dish from the Levant (think of the countries south of Turkey, like Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, Palestine) – east of the Mediterranean.
There are recipes everywhere once you start looking; this one is from Jerusalem
- Two tubs of thick plain yoghurt, around 500g each, could be greek style yoghurt, goats’ milk yoghurt
- 3/4 tsp salt
- Pour the yogurt into a large bowl. Stir in salt.
- Line another large bowl with a linen or muslin towel (or several layers of cheesecloth.) Pour the yogurt mixture into the towel. Pick up the edges of the towel and tie at the top. Hang from a kitchen sink faucet to drain for 24 to 48 hours. Alternatively, set a large sieve, lined with linen towel over a deep bowl. Add the yogurt mixture. Cover gently with the overhang of the linen towel, or another linen towel. Set aside on the counter, or in the fridge, to drain for 24-48 hours. I actually used a muslin intended for coping with babies, still new. I tied the tops over the yoghurt, and rigged up a thing with string and a wooden spoon over a deep bowl. You may need to empty the bowl at the bottom half-way. Also, it takes up a bit of space in the fridge.
To serve, spread labneh in a bowl and top with extra virgin olive oil, za’atar spice (or chopped fresh herbs like mint or parsley). Add fresh pitta, or other warm bread, on the side. Sliced vegetables, such as tomatoes, radishes, olives, are a good addition.
I have been storing the labneh in a plastic container in the fridge, and allegedly it will keep for a couple of weeks.
This is a very easy Persian version of a common middle-eastern dip. Be prepared to get a bit messy for the best results.
- 2 large aubergines
- 1 tbsp very good quality olive oil
- 4 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
- 200ml plain full-fat greek yoghurt
- 4 tbsp chopped fresh mint
- 2 tbsp fresh lime juice
- Preheat the oven to 180C. Rinse the aubergines and prick them with a fork in a few places. Put them in the centre of the oven on a rack with a baking tray underneath. Bake for one hour.
- Remove the aubergines from the oven, let them cool until you can handle them. Peel off the skin and chop the flesh.
- Put all the chopped aubergine into a bowl, add the remaining ingredients and mix well. I used my bare hands to squish the aubergine well, before beating with a fork. Adjust the seasoning to taste.
- Transfer to a serving dish, garnish with saffron water, a tablespoonful of plain yoghurt and mint leaves.
- This recipe is best made 24 hours in advance, and stored in the fridge. Remove from the fridge 10 minutes before serving. This is good served with bread.
Some of you will know that I spent some time living in Teheran when I was a child. Zara used to work for our family as a housekeeper, and she used to cook wonderful Persian home-cooking for us. Our favourite was a dish called Loubia Pollow, made with rice, beans, tomatoes and lamb. We also used to eat the most delicious barbari bread and thick plain yoghurt sold in blue earthenware bowls.
I have sought to recreate the flavours of the food we ate there, and have never managed to get it quite right. Persian food is very complex and sophisticated, from ancient civilisations, combining the herbs and spices of east and west.
There are a few sites online where you can look up Persian recipes, but the flavours and end-results are unfamiliar to most. I have one recipe book, A Taste of Persia which is aimed at the US market, and has all the ingredients in cups. I’ve been working my way through the recipes and re-jigging them to suit local ingredients and UK directions.
- 1 cucumber, peeled and finely diced
- 1 500g tub of full-fat plain Greek Yoghurt
- A bunch of spring onions, finely chopped
- 2 tbsp fresh mint, chopped
- 2 tbsp fresh dill or fennel leaf, chopped
- 1/2 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
- 1 tsp dried tarragon
- 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 3 tbsp chopped walnuts
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp ground black pepper
- Garnish of fresh mint, rose petals, dill leaf, chive flowers, chopped walnuts, chopped radishes etcetera
- Combine all the ingredients, mix well and adjust the seasoning.
- Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes, and up to four hours before serving. Take out of the fridge ten minutes before serving and garnish.