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Greetings from Istanbul! Sights, people and food, glorious food

The Bosphorus bridge, Kiz Kulesi - the Maiden tower and the glorious Bosphorus

The Bosphorus bridge, Kiz Kulesi – the Maiden tower and the glorious Bosphorus

Istanbul’dan merhaba! Home, sweet home; I think the more I age, home, my roots calls me even more eagerly, it is wonderful to be back home. Here are a few snap shots of what we have been up to.

It’s been only a few days since we’ve been here and we managed to fit in a lot of family visits and said “Mutlu Bayramlar.” I especially enjoyed having a chance to visit the elderly with the children, hearing their stories to them, such precious moments to savour. Istanbul is the place to be during the Bayram holiday as most folks left for holidays. So wonderful to be able to enjoy the city minus the traffic.

Cay, peynirli borek and pogaca; a very warm welcome home

Cay, peynirli borek and pogaca; a very warm welcome home

Cay, peynirli borek, Turkish tray bake pastry with cheese and parsley and pogaca made a very warm welcome home.

Turkish mezzes and vegetables cooked in olive oil

Turkish mezzes and vegetables cooked in olive oil

One of the things I very much long is enjoying a vast array of freshly prepared mezzes and enjoying them along the Bosphorus. With a beautiful breeze and friends and family nearby, it is heavenly.

Enjoying a glass of cay and Turkish breakfast at Rumelihisari, Istanbul

Enjoying a glass of cay and Turkish breakfast with dear friends at Rumelihisari, Istanbul

I was grateful that a few dear friends were still in Istanbul during Bayram and we enjoyed a long, leisurely Turkish breakfast and multiple glasses of cay at Rumelihisari, Sade Kahve.

Sigara boregi, ciborek, freshly squeezed orange juice and many more; Turkish breakfast

Sigara boregi, ciborek, freshly squeezed orange juice and many more; Turkish breakfast

Gozlemes, Anatolian flat breads with fillings are made at the oval sac oven in front of you, with an infectious smile. Impossible to pass on.

Ciborek with a smile

Ciborek with a smile

Gozleme; Anatolian flatbreads with fillings

Gozleme; Anatolian flat breads with fillings

And we’re off again; this time taking the ferry, vapur, to visit our dear, elderly aunt with the children. I love traveling with the traditional ferries, vapur; it is nostalgic, offers spectacular views and a wonderful way to be a part of the local life. The ferry itself promises a lot of fun and excitement to us all. Children loved looking at to the sights with the ferry’s telescope – only 1 TL -

The traditional ferries, vapur, is an ideal way to cross the Bosphorus

The traditional ferries, vapur, is an ideal way to cross the Bosphorus

My son trying the telescope at the ferry

My son trying the telescope at the ferry

Of course, one can also have a delightful glass of cay and Simit, sesame encrusted bread rings to nibble while on the ferry – again, served with a wonderful smile.

Simit and a glass of cay at the ferry, vapur - one of my favorite rituals

Simit and a glass of cay at the ferry, vapur – one of my favorite rituals

Hagia Sophia and the Topkapi Palace, over the Bosphorus

Hagia Sophia and the Topkapi Palace, over the Bosphorus

Once in Kadikoy, we decided we need more Simit; so popped in the local bakery to get some more, along with some white cheese, beyaz peynir and tomatoes for the afternoon tea at our Meskure Hala, our dear aunt.

Freshly baked Simit at the local bakery, firin

Freshly baked Simit at the local bakery, firin

The following day started with a visit to Besiktas; I love Besiktas Carsisi; it’s market, small scale shops, fish monger and endless eatries. It has a village feel where folks greet one another, get their daily bread from the bakery, firin, the Turkish coffee and nuts from the local kuruyemisci; the list goes on and on. I got lost for words at Simit Molasi Cafe – Sigara Boregi; pastry rolls with cheese and parsley for us. And more simit, if one desires more.

Sigara boregi, cheese rolls with filo pastry and Simit, sesame encrusted Turkish bread rings galore at Simit Molasi, Besiktas

Sigara boregi, cheese rolls with filo pastry and Simit, sesame encrusted Turkish bread rings galore at Simit Molasi, Besiktas

Next stop is Ortakoy;  lovely to see the restoration at the Ortakoy Mosque is compiled – looks fascinating.

Ortakoy Mosque, Istanbul

Ortakoy Mosque, Istanbul

If you’re after a really good quality Turkish delight, have a look at Yeni Ugur Helvacisi in Ortakoy; I loved their new Turkish delight with pomegranates, they are packed with flavor. If you fancy making your own Turkish Delight, here is my home made Turkish Delight recipe.

Freshly ground Turkish coffee at Meraklilar Kuruyemiscisi, Ortakoy - Istanbul

Freshly ground Turkish coffee at Meraklilar Kuruyemiscisi, Ortakoy – Istanbul

Last stop, freshly ground Turkish coffee at Meraklilar Kuruyemiscisi, Ortakoy; smells heavenly. Hope you enjoy yours, Turkish coffee really is more than a drink – afiyet olsun!

 A delightful visit to Burgazada, Burgaz Island

It’s our last day in Istanbul before we depart for Bodrum and we took the ferry to Burgazada, one of the Princes’ islands  near to Istanbul. Children got very excited with the prospect of getting on the ferry again and riding bicycle in the Island. We had a special purpose of this visit too, as we arranged to meet up with dear Mark and Jolee from the wonderful blog Senior Dogs Abroad. Mark and Jolee live in Istanbul and blog about the life in Turkey as well as world affairs, they’re a pleasure to follow, a delightful company.

Charming horse carriages at Burgazada

Charming horse carriages at Burgazada

No vehicles are allowed in the island except the horse carriages and bicycles, which makes the islands even more inviting; a breath of fresh air.

Friday is the Market day, Pazar in Burgazada and I am grateful that the Senior Dogs kindly guided us to the right direction! Fresh, breathtaking produce galore; one can easily spend a day there, just wonderful.

Market day in Burgazada; fresh produce in abundance

Market day in Burgazada; fresh produce in abundance

Sivri biber, green pointy peppers and eggplant, patlican at Burgazada.

Sivri biber, green pointy peppers and eggplant, patlican at Burgazada.

Preserved vine leaves, ready for stuffing, so inviting – presented with a wonderful smile.

Vine leaves, sold at Burgazada, ready for stuffing

Vine leaves, sold at Burgazada, ready for stuffing

Time to say farewell and see you soon, many thanks to Mark and Jolee for having us at Burgazada!

Visiting dear friends at Burgazada

Visiting dear friends at Burgazada

With best wishes to all; hope to be in touch from Bodrum!

Ozlem

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Baklava, Revani, Kunefe and More; Desserts for the End of Ramadan

The end of Ramadan is celebrated with a three-day Ramazan Bayrami or Seker Bayrami in Turkey (also named Eid al-Fitr in the Islamic World, Festival of Fast-Breaking) starting on Monday, 28th July 2014. There is a wonderful excitement in my parent’s home in Istanbul, as the holy month of Ramadan is now reaching to its end soon. My mother has been fasting and we all look forward to being together this year to celebrate the end of Ramadan in Istanbul.

The Blue Mosque Istanbul; a special place to visit during and end of Ramadan

The Blue Mosque, Istanbul; a special place to visit during and end of Ramadan

Ramadan is a time of spiritual reflection, improvement, charity, as well as increased devotion and worship. I love seeing family and friends visiting each other, elderly eagerly waiting for the young ones to pay a visit; little ones equally eagerly waiting for their sweet treats. Ramadan is also a wonderful opportunity to give back to the community, share what you have and visit one another. A wonderful time when feelings of tolerance and charity are foremost in people’s minds.

Baklava, is one of the ultimate treats of end of Ramadan gatherings

Baklava, is one of the ultimate treats of end of Ramadan gatherings

Serving and sharing desserts when visiting friends and family is a special highlight for the end of Ramadan, Ramazan Bayrami activities. My mother plans what she will be preparing for the family and guests ahead of time. Below are some of the special desserts being prepared for Ramazan Bayrami in our family. I hope they may inspire to recreate for your family and friends for any special occasion.

Ramazan Bayraminiz kutlu olsun, Eid Mubarak if you’re celebrating and best wishes for the summer,

Ozlem

Baklava with Walnuts and Pistachios

Home made baklava; delicious, easy and lighter

Home made baklava; delicious, easy and lighter

An Ottoman legacy, baklava is regarded as one of the greatest creations from the pastry chefs at the Topkapi Palace. Generally, baklava is enjoyed as a mid-morning sweet snack with a cup of Turkish coffee, or as a mid-afternoon treat with a glass of tea or after lunch or dinner. Baklava is also one of the favorite desserts marking the end of Ramadan. The real thing shouldn’t be very sweet and heavy; on the contrary it should be light enough to tempt you to eat a small plateful. Here is my home made baklava recipe; my version is lighter and fragrant with lemon, hope you enjoy it.

Gullac

Delicious and light Gullac dessert is ideal for warm summer days.

Delicious and light Gullac dessert is ideal for warm summer days.

One of our favorite dessert for this time of the year is the traditional dessert, Gullac. This lovely, light dessert is prepared with Gullac wafers which is made with corn starch and wheat flour. You can find Gullac wafers at specialty or Middle Eastern stores, or at Turkish online shops like Tulumba.com outside Turkey.

Güllaç dessert contains walnuts or almonds between the layers which are soaked in milk. It is a light and wonderful dessert for warm summer days. You can decorate Gullac with pomegranate seeds in winter or dried fruits like apricots in summer; crushed pistachios are also wonderful over gullac. Here is my Gullac recipe.

Kunefe; Kadayifi; a very festive dessert

Kunefe, Kadayifi - a glorious dessert that would make any day special.

Kunefe, Kadayifi – a glorious dessert that would make any day special.

This glorious syrup soaked, cheese filled pastry strands, Kunefe, Kadayifi, is one of the signature dishes of my hometown, Antakya and it appears on our table in almost every special occasion.

The Master at work in Long Market, Antakya. The dough is pushed through a sieve to form delicate strands, called Tel Kadayif.

The Master at work in Long Market, Antakya. The dough is pushed through a sieve to form delicate strands, called Tel Kadayif.

Tel kadayif is a dough, pushed through a sieve to form delicate strands, which looks like vermicelli and when soaked in butter and baked, resembles golden shredded wheat. It is the basis for many desserts but this is the most impressive. The hot cheese should ooze out giving an interesting contrast to the syrup soaked, crunchy casing. Any unsalted cheese which melts easily can be used – fresh mozzarella works well. I also like to add a little clotted cream; my mother would add the wonderfully thick cream we get in Turkey, called Kaymak. Kunefe can be baked in one big pan or smaller ones as individual portions and it instantly makes any day special. Here is my Kunefe recipe, if you’d like to give it a go.

Revani; Semolina Sponge Cake with Syrup

Revani; a deliciously moist semolina sponge cake in syrup

Revani; a deliciously moist semolina sponge cake in syrup

Revani has been a popular dessert with us Turks since the Ottoman Period; it is believed that the name Revani is given when the Ottomans conquered the city of Yerevan in today’s Armenia. Revani has many versions and been enjoyed in various cuisines especially in the Eastern Mediterranean countries, as well as in Turkey. I have seen the addition of rose water, orange flower water and orange zest to Revani, all sounds delicious. We love semolina’s grainy, nutty texture, the goodness from yoghurt and the refreshing lemony flavor in Revani. Here’s my Revani recipe; it is lighter but still packed with a lot of flavor.

Kaymakli Ekmek Kadayifi; Turkish Bread Pudding in Syrup

Ekmek Kadayifi; Turkish bread pudding soaked in syrup

Ekmek Kadayifi; Turkish bread pudding soaked in syrup

Ekmek Kadayifi, a specialty from Antakya, is a delicious and very popular dessert in Turkey, made with the special (dehydrated) bread soaked in syrup. Topped with the thick Turkish clotted cream, kaymak, it is a heavenly and a very satisfying dessert. Unfortunately it is difficult get this dehydrated bread abroad. Middle Eastern shops, Turkish shops and online Turkish stores may carry them, worth checking. I have also seen crumpets being used as an alternative to this dehydrated bread abroad. If using crumpets, you’ll need to adjust the syrup quantity. Here is my Ekmek Kadayifi recipe.

 Afiyet Olsun,

Ozlem

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Baba ghanoush or Abagannuc; burnt eggplant salad with lemon, olive oil

Baba ghanoush; Abagannuc; burnt eggplant, tomatoes and peppers in garlic, olive oil and pomegranate molasses

Baba ghanoush or Abagannuc; burnt eggplant, tomatoes and peppers in garlic, olive oil and pomegranate molasses

This delicious salad or dip, Abagannuc or Baba ghanoush, is very popular in Antakya and Southern Turkish cuisine and one of our family favorites. It has many variations throughout the Middle East, where tahini maybe added or plain yoghurt and what to include or not include may invite heated debates! No matter how the finishing touch will be, the essence of this salad remains the same; the aubergines are traditionally cooked over open fire or over the burner to get the smoky flavor. The skin of aubergines and peppers burn and their flesh becomes soft, sweet and tender.

Kozmatik from home; a steel base with holes on it, a genius idea to cook/char grill the vegetables without much of a mess!

Kozmatik from home; a steel base with holes on it, a genius idea to cook/char grill the vegetables without much of a mess!

In Turkey, a very simple gadget called “Kozmatik” is used to cook the aubergines over the burner. It has a steel base with holes on it, a genius idea to cook the vegetables without much of a mess!

Leave the peeled eggplant fleshin the colander to drain its bitter juices.

Leave the peeled eggplant fleshin the colander to drain its bitter juices.

You can cook the aubergines a day ahead of time; just add ½ juice of lemon after mashing and combine well, that will help to retain its color. Cover and keep in the fridge until you make the salad. I also added a drizzle of pomegranate molasses as a dressing in this version; the smoky flavor of aubergines and peppers worked really well with pomegranate molasses. When in season, pomegranate seeds would also be lovely over this salad.

Abagannuc or baba ghanoush goes very well as part of a mezze spread or with any grills. I also love this dip on crackers or toasted bread with a nice sharp cheese or feta cheese aside.

Abagannuc or baba ghannoush, a delicious smoky eggplant salad with a drizzle of pomegranate molasses.

Abagannuc or baba ghannoush, a delicious smoky eggplant salad with a drizzle of pomegranate molasses.

I hope you enjoy our version of Abagannuc or baba ghannoush, packed with flavor.

Afiyet Olsun,

Ozlem

Baba ghanoush-Abagannuc; burnt eggplant salad with garlic, olive oil
 
Abagannuc or baba ghanoush is a popular mezze or salad in southern Turkish cuisine, where eggplants are char grilled to get a delicious, smoky flavor. It has different versions throughout the Middle East. We'd like to add a little pomegranate molasses in our version for a tangy, sweet flavor. This salad / dip goes very well as part of a mezze spread or with any grills. I also love this dip on crackers or toasted bread with a nice sharp cheese or feta cheese aside.
Author:
Recipe type: Turkish Mezzes, Salads
Cuisine: Regional Turkish Cuisine
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 2 medium aubergines / eggplants
  • 1 pointy red pepper or bell pepper
  • 3 small, ripe tomatoes
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed with salt and finely chopped
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • 30ml/2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • A drizzle (about 10ml/2 tsp) pomegranate molasses to decorate (optional)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to serve
Instructions
  1. Line the base of your burners with a foil to protect, keeping only the burners exposed.
  2. Place the eggplants or aubergines and pepper directly over the burner on medium heat and roast for about 15 - 20 minutes, turning occasionally. (You can roast the tomatoes on a barbeque or on the oven at 200 C for about 20-25 minutes, as it can get quite messy over the burner.)
  3. If you prefer not to have the smoky flavor, you can also score the aubergines with a knife in few places and bake on a baking tray for 50 – 60 minutes. In this case, turn them around every 20 minutes or so that they would cook evenly. Pepper would need about 35-40 minutes to cook in the oven and chargrill.
  4. If you are cooking over the burner, use metal tongs to turn the aubergines and pepper around so that all sides would cook evenly and the skin is nicely chargrilled. Cook until the skin is burnt and the flesh is soft.
  5. Remove the cooked aubergines, tomatoes and the pepper to a colander to allow them to cool. Once cool, peel and discard their burnt skin and leave them in the colander to drain aubergine’s bitter juices. I like to gently squeeze the aubergine flesh to drain as much water as possible.
  6. Chop the flesh of the aubergine, pepper and tomatoes coarsely and mash them with a fork.
  7. Place the flesh in a bowl and stir in the chopped garlic, lemon juice and the extra virgin olive oil, combine well. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  8. When serving, drizzle with pomegranate molasses over (if you prefer to) and give a gentle mix; its tangy flavor works really well with the smoked aubergine and peppers.
 

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