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.
This dish is sensational. We bought 3kg of small Dublin bay prawns from a local fisherman, and boiled them for a couple of minutes in batches. The cooking water was flavoured with a pinch of saffron. We peeled them after they had cooled. Then I made this sauce and served them with toasted pitta bread and a green salad, as well as a stupendous white burgundy.
Cooked peeled prawns, as above
3 tbs olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, sliced and chopped
1 1/2 tsp caraway seeds
2 small dried hot chillies, crumbled
1 green pepper, diced small
2 cans chopped tomatoes
1/2 tsp honey or sugar
salt and pepper
Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan, and fry the garlic over a medium to low heat until it starts to brown.
Add the caraway and the chilli and cook for a further 30 seconds before adding the green peppers. Cook for another 10 minutes.
Add the tomatoes and bring to a slow simmer. Cook for another 20 minutes, so that the sauce is reduced and thickening. Add sugar, salt, and pepper to your taste.
Add the prawns and simmer for another couple of minutes to heat them through.
Serve in a bowl, garnished with chopped parsley. A rocket salad and toasted pitta bread is ideal as an accompaniment.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
2 chicken breasts, poached in 1 litre of well-seasoned stock
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
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.
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.
1 sheet of yufka
2 small onions, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic
3 tbsp olive oil
250g plain yoghurt
salt and pepper
red pepper flakes
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.
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.
500g peeled pumpkin cut into large cubes, about 2 inches across.
450g granulated sugar,
1/2 tsp vanilla
100g tahini (about 7 tbsp)
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.