Gozleme; Anatolian Flat breads stuffed with Spinach, Onion and Feta Cheese – So Delicious and Easier than You Think!
“Can we learn how to make gozleme (Anatolian stuffed flat breads) at the next class?” asked one of my regular Turkish cooking class participants, few months ago. I greatly enjoy their requests, enthusiasm to learn more and have a go at them; that’s all I could hope for from the classes. “Sure, why not!” was reply; I was excited and my heart was set on tackling the much loved gozleme, Turkish flat breads with stuffing, the proper way. During my recent visit to Turkey, I got myself a proper non-stick oval gozleme pan to have a go at these delicious treats.
Having said that, the prospect of preparing Gozleme from scratch; preparing the dough and opening, stretching the dough as thin as sheets of paper was a little daunting at first. I call myself a cook more than a baker and greatly admire local ladies making it so effortlessly at home, in Turkey. Could I tackle it, I wondered. Thank goodness the sheer excitement of having a go at gozleme weighed much higher and I am so glad I tried. The sheets stretched beautifully and gozleme tasted heavenly. I owe a big thank you to David for the inspiration and that precious request!
We Turks love these stuffed flat breads, gozleme. Turks were originated from Central Asia, where they drifted towards Anatolia gradually and made their home. They have been making these stuffed flat breads since then. Gozleme is a much loved Turkish street food and a special part of the delicious Turkish breakfast. These popular snacks are cooked quickly on a hot griddle and can be filled with various fillings. Some of my favorite fillings are mashed potatoes, cheese and parsley; spinach and cheese, and ground meat and onions. And they go down very well with a glass of cay, Turkish tea or ayran, traditional Turkish yoghurt drink.
Have you ever had or made gozleme? What is your favorite filling? I would love to hear from you. As you will see here, making gozleme is much easier than you think and it is very rewarding. All you need is a little encouragement and perhaps “a request” that you can’t resist, as was in my case; I hope you can give it a go.
In the filling in this recipe I added a little Turkish red pepper paste, biber salcasi to the filling for a spicier version; it flavored the spinach and onion really well. If you would like a milder taste, simply omit the red pepper paste (or the pepper flakes).
Makes about 5 Gozleme
3 cups plain flour
8g sachet instant dried yeast
Pinch of salt
3 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. plain natural yoghurt (preferably whole milk)
1 ¼ cups water
For the filling:
200gr/7 oz. baby spinach leaves
1 onion, finely chopped
5ml/1 teaspoon Turkish red pepper flakes or 2 tsp. Turkish red pepper paste (optional)
230gr/8oz feta cheese
15ml/1 tbsp. olive oil
Non-stick pan or griddle to cook the Gozleme
Combine about 300 ml warm water, yeast and salt in a small bowl, stir and cover. Stand in a warm place for 5 minutes or until bubbles form on the surface.
Sift the flour into a large bowl. Make a well in the middle and pour in the yeast mixture, olive oil, yoghurt and the water. Using your hand, draw in the flour from the sides and work the mixture into a dough. Knead thoroughly to form a soft dough. Divide the dough into 5 pieces, knead them and roll into balls. Place the balls on a floured surface, cover with a damp cloth and leave them to rest for about 30 minutes, or until the dough doubles in size.
Meanwhile, prepare the filling. Chop the washed spinach leaves roughly. Knead the onions, spinach, olive oil and if you are using, red pepper paste (or red pepper flakes) with your hands for a few minute or so – that will soften the onions and blend the flavors well -. Stir in the feta cheese and combine well.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out each of the balls of the dough with a rolling pin into thin, flat rounds, about 40cm/16in diameter. Sprinkle a little flour as you roll the dough so that the dough won’t stick. Roll until you achieve a thin sheet of a flat round.
Fold the left and right sides of the dough in a way for the edges to meet in the middle. Spread about 2 ½ tablespoon filling into the middle part of this flat sheet. Then fold the top and bottom edges over the filling, making sure all the filling is safely covered. Press edges together well to seal. Repeat the same procedure for the rest of the dough balls.
Heat a griddle or a non-stick pan, and brush one side of the gozleme with a little olive oil and place on the pan to cook for about 2 -3 minutes, or until golden brown. Brush the uncooked side with a little olive oil and then flip it over. Cook for another 2-3 minutes, until golden brown.
Brush both cooked sides of gozleme with a little olive oil -this will keep the gozleme moist. Cook the rest of the gozleme the same way.
You can either roll the Gozleme to serve, or you can cut in halves or quarters. Ayran Turkish yoghurt drink or Turkish tea, cay would go really well next to Gozleme.
Warm Hummus with Sauteed Pastrami (Pastirma) And an Emotional & Poignant Moment at Dardanelles, Gallipoli
Have you ever tried hummus warmed up? In Turkey, especially in the South, hummus is served warm with sautéed Turkish sucuk (sausage) – or pastirma (pastrami) or with sautéed pine nuts over the top. I strongly suggest you to try hummus this way, as I feel you may be pleasantly surprised and maybe converted to eat hummus warm as many of my friends have done.
Please adjust the recipe according to your taste, as some like it garlicky, some with more tahini and others may prefer it more lemony. In my recent Turkish cooking class, I added the sautéed pastrami, pastirma, over warm hummus, as it is served in traditional kebab houses in Turkey. Pastirma is a dried cured beef coated with spices and has a delicious, rich flavor. The hummus and the spice coated pastrami has complemented each other so beautifully here. If you can’t get Turkish pastrami, you can use the Italian pastrami or your favorite cured meat or grilled meat.
This warm hummus would make a wonderful appetizer to share with friends and family and goes so well with grilled vegetables or meat by the side. For a vegetarian option, you can serve the warm hummus with red pepper flakes infused olive oil, this one is so delicious too. Both these options may also be wonderful addition for the Mother’s Day spread, if you are celebrating. Pita bread is the perfect accompaniment – hope you enjoy it.
Preparation time – 15 minutes (add 1 hour if used dried chickpeas and soaking overnight)
225gr/8oz dried chickpeas or garbanzo beans, soaked in water overnight or for at least 6 hours or equivalent amount of precooked chickpeas in can
5ml /1 teaspoon salt – please adjust according to your taste-
60ml/4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
30ml/2 tablespoons water
2 garlic cloves, crushed – optional-
Juice of 1 lemon
30ml/2 tablespoon tahini (sesame paste)
5ml/1 teaspoon ground cumin
30ml/2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
110gr/4oz Turkish Pastirma, chopped in 1″ strips (or your choice of any Pastrami or sausage)
Slices of pita bread to serve
If using dried chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drain the chickpeas and transfer them to a pan with plenty of cold water. Bring to boil and boil for a few minutes. Then lower the heat and partially cover the pan, Simmer the chickpeas for 1 hour, until they are soft and easy to mash.
If precooked chickpeas are used, drain the juice and give them a little wash in a colander. Put the precooked (or cooked) chickpeas in a food processor and blitz them together with the extra virgin olive oil, water, lemon juice, garlic and tahini. If it appears thick and difficult to blend, add a little more olive oil or water. Season with salt and mix in the cumin and red pepper flakes (if desired). Process until you achieve a soft, smooth paste. Refrigerate until required.
Just before serving, add a splash of olive oil and heat the hummus in a pan for a couple of minutes. In a separate pan, sauté the strips of pastrami in olive oil. Place the warm hummus in a plate with the sautéed meat over the top, scattering some ground cumin and red pepper flakes over. Serve immediately with slices of pita or flat bread by the side.
Strolling Through the Battlefields of Gallipoli – Dardanelles
Our culinary and cultural tour to Turkey has almost come to an end; going to Gallipoli and visiting the battlefields near the Dardanelles has been a highlight to many folks and did provide a reflective, emotional moment.
Gallipoli, Gelibolu is a peninsula in North-west Turkey, close to Istanbul. The Gallipoli Peninsula is the site of extensive First World War battlefields and memorials on the north bank of the Dardanelles Strait. You can take the ferry from Canakkale to go to Gallipoli like we did, it is easy and convenient.
While on the ferry, all of a sudden we saw a group of locals gathered at the deck, singing Canakkale Turkusu, Gallipoli Folk Song whole heartedly. I remembered singing this folk song as a child, it was a surreal and an emotional moment, we all joined in.
The impressive Gallipoli Kabatepe Museum (or Gallipoli War Museum) was recently opened and so well worth a visit. It has 11 gallery rooms, each equipped with advanced high-tech simulation equipment and the technology allows visitors to choose their presentation language and interact with the display. The centre houses an extensive collection of historic items relating to the renowned World War I campaign and we have been told that the simulations are so real.
Gallipoli Kabatepe Museum hosts numerous relics from the campaign including weapons, uniforms, ammunition, letters written by soldiers to their families, photographs, and private belongings such as shaving tools, cocoa tins and cutlery. A very poignant and emotional moment to view and get so near to each piece.
We then drove up to the Ariburnu Cemetery, at the beautiful Ariburnu Beach. The Ariburnu Cemetery is situated on the north edge of ANZAC Cove by the shore where the Anzacs first landed on 25 April 1915. We were told that 253 Allied soldiers rest in the cemetery; it was very emotional visiting the graves. It is such a peaceful spot and may all those souls rest in peace.
Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the extraordinary leader and founder of today’s Turkey, wrote a tribute to the ANZACs who lost their lives at Gallipoli. This wonderful tribute inscribed in English on the monolith are the famous words Mustafa Kemal Ataturk delivered in 1934 to the first Australians, New Zealanders and the British to visit the Gallipoli battlefields. I absolutely loved and embraced it:
Those heroes that shed their blood
And lost their lives…
You are now lying in the soil of a friendly Country.
Therefore rest in peace.
There is no difference between the Johnnies
And the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side
Here in this country of ours…
You, the mothers,
Who sent their sons front far away countries
Wipe away your tears,
Your sons are now lying in our bosom
And are in peace
After having lost their lives on this land
They have become our sons as well
Just as we have been reflecting on what we’ve seen on Ariburnu Cemetery, our dear driver, Mehmet Bey excited came forward to show the wild greens he just picked up by the side road’ “Ozlem Hanim” he said “ these are the best Sarmasik (Wild Ivy) you can get. I will sauté with garlic and crack my eggs into it tonight, delicious!” Being from the Aegean region, I know how much Mehmet Bey loves the fresh, wild greens – food managed to bring similes to face again.
And off we set towards Istanbul, looking forward to the buzz of the city and that baklava class..
Pomegranate juice, the frothiest of Ayran (Turkish yoghurt drink), Meatballs with potatoes and peppers and More – Fascinating Pergamum and Its Culinary Delights
“Time to stop for cay – Turkish tea- and refreshments!”, announced our tour guide on our way to the ancient Pergamum or Pergamon, near by the city of Bergama in Turkey. As much as I looked forward to going back to Pergamum, this announcement was music to our ears, as every stop we had in Turkey produced delicious treats. We stopped at a modest local cafe by the side of the motorway and indulged in these freshly baked simits, pastries filled with spinach and cheese; we divided the pastries between us happily and washed down with a glass of cay. Each stop has been full of delicious gastronomic experiences during our tour and the journey to Pergamum was no exception, providing a lot of culinary delights.
Have you ever had freshly squeezed pomegranate juice? Right by the entrance of Pergamum, lined delicious food and drink stalls, and we shared a glass – so refreshing and punchy, packed with goodness and flavour.
Pomegranates feature often in Turkish cuisine. We use the thick & delicious pomegranate molasses sauce in Bulgur wheat salad, Kisir, a specialty in the southeast of Turkey, from where the country’s spicier dishes hail. Kisir is offered as a welcome to the guests in the homes of Antakya, where my roots are from, and in Gaziantep. It can be rolled into balls and served nestling in crunchy lettuce leaves. This dish is perfect for buffets or as part of a barbecue spread. It really is a “bowl of health and goodness” with fresh vegetables, bulgur – packed with fiber – and pomegranate sauce, full of antioxidants. This delicious vegetarian salad tastes even better the next day!
Some of the folks couldn’t resist the wonderfully thick Turkish ice cream, “Maras Dondurmasi”. As the name says, it is a specialty from the Maras region in Southeast Turkey; very tasty and thick that you can actually slice with a knife and eat with your fork.
But above all, it was our lunch stop at the local eatery, Altin Kepce (translated as “Golden Ladle” in English) in Bergama that stole our hearts. A small, family owned restaurant tucked in at the side road, where locals, traders, villagers congregate for lunch; it is buzzing and their freshly prepared, generous food ever delicious. Some enjoyed the Kuru Fasulye- Turkish dried beans casserole with vegetables, and some tried the Zeytinyagli Patlican - Eggplants cooked in olive oil with vegetables or their famous koftes, meatballs.
I opted for a mixed plate of eggplants cooked in olive oil and the Turkish meatballs with potatoes and peppers, it was a delicious feast with the frothiest of Ayran, Turkish yoghurt drink.
Here is my recipe for the popular meatball and vegetable casserole (not only with the children but with the adults too!) that can either be cooked on the stove top or baked in the oven. It makes a complete and hearty main course served with plain white rice or a slice of crusty bread. This is Izmir Kofte my way, as I like to add some more vegetables. You can add as much red pepper flakes as you would like for a spicier flavor.
Ayran – A refreshing tradional yoghurt drink
Have you ever tried our traditional drink Ayran? Ayran is a mixture of plain natural yoghurt (preferably whole milk), water and a pinch of salt blended together, similar to buttermilk. To make ayran, blend 2 cups of plain yoghurt with 1 cup water with a pinch of salt, for about 20 seconds. You will see a nice thick foam and bubbles formed at the top. Serve in water glasses with a few ice cubes in them. You may also add a few fresh mint leaves for a refreshing taste. Ayran is a popular drink at home, especially with kebabs and casseroles, and it would go well with this casserole too.
Our feast at Altin Kepce – Bergama ended with the delicious, met-in-the-mouth Kemalpasa dessert. The dessert takes its name from the name from the town of Kemalpasa, part of the city of Bursa. And the town takes its name from the founder of Republic of Turkey, the great leader Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. This dessert contains a special cheese produced in this town, though you can substitute with a mild, unsalted white cheese like mozarella. You can buy the precooked cookies of the Kemalpasa dessert sold in packages all around Turkey and all you need to do is to prepare the sherbet to soak them in. Apparently this dessert has such a significant role in the life of the town that there is even a Kemalpasa dessert festival on September 14th. Zerrin from Give Recipe has a fabulous Kemalpasa recipe, if you would like to have a go.
Pergamum in spring, covered by daisies
We finally made it to Pergamum in a beautiful spring day. Built on a conical hill rising 1,000 feet above the surrounding valley, Pergamum (also spelled Pergamon, from the Greek for “citadel”) was an important capital city in ancient times. Its modern successor is the Turkish city of Bergama and this magnificent site over looks to Bergama. Bergama has an important archaeological significance, as the city not only hosts Pergamum’s acropolis but also Asklepion, both of which are both listed among the top 100 historical sites on the Mediterranean.
Most of the buildings and monuments in Pergamum date to the time of Eumenes II (197-159 BC), including the famed library, the terrace of the spectacularly sited hillside theater, the main palace, the Altar of Zeus, and the propylaeum of the Temple of Athena. In the early Christian era, Pergamum’s church was a major center of Christianity and was one of the Seven Churches of Revelation.
While you are in Bergama area, it is also worth visiting The Asklepion; a famed ancient medical center built in honor of Asklepios, the god of healing. It was also the world’s first psychiatric hospital. The treatments included psychotherapy, massage, herbal remedies, mud and bathing treatments, the interpretation of dreams, and the drinking of water.
I was told the next bloom in Pergamum will be poppies; no doubt they will look stunning next to these fascinating sites – maybe you can catch that one?
I hope the food, recipes or sites here inspires and you enjoyed the read.
Afiyet Olsun & Iyi Yolculuklar,
Rice with Lamb (or Beef) and Onions; Etli Pilav, The Aegean Way; and Spring time in Ephesus – popular with children and cats too!:)
Rice, pilaff form a very important part of Turkish cuisine; we Turks like to have rice, bulgur wheat or pulses for at least one meal every day. Pilav or pilaffs are enjoyed as an accompaniment to stews and casseroles like to this Kuru Fasulye, dried beans stew with chicken in tomato sauce or are served as the main course, like this popular Turkish street food Nohutlu Pilav – Rice with chickpeas (and chicken) . The cooking of rice is regarded as an art (and traditionally an important test for the bride-to-be to master before marriage!); the grains must be soft but still have a bite to them.
One of the dishes we made at our Aegean style Turkish cooking class at Hanimeli, near Sirince was this very delicious & impressive Etli Pilav – Rice cooked with chunks of meat and onions. It is common to incorporate meat and vegetables into the rice and flavors change in different regions, with the use of different spices. It has been very interesting to see how Etli Pilav is made at the Aegean region and compare it with the Mevlubi – rice with marinated meat, eggpplant, onions and potatoes cooked in Southern Turkey, more fragrant and richer with the use of spices and red pepper paste, biber salcasi.
We greatly enjoyed this delicately flavored Etli Pilav, the Aegean style; the marriage of sauteed onions and meat was so delicious cooked with rice.
Rice with Chunks of Meat and Onion – Etli Pilav
Preparation time : 15 minutes Cooking time: 35-40 minutes
350gr/12oz/1 ¾ cups long grain or wholegrain basmati rice, rinsed and drained
450gr/1 lb. beef or lamb, cut in small chunks
2 medium onions, quartered and sliced thinly
30ml/2 tablespoon butter
1lt/4 cups of the meat’s cooking liquid reserved
15ml/1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
Non-stick pan works best for this dish
Place the meat in a heavy pan, pour in the water (enough to cover the meat and some more) and cover. Cook for about 20 minutes or until tender at low to medium heat. Season with salt and ground black pepper and make sure to reserve and keep the cooking liquid.
In a separate pan (non-stick pan works best), stir in 1 tbsp. butter and olive oil and sauté the onions for 2-3 minutes. Then take out the cooked meat from the other pan and spread them evenly over the onions. Over the meat, stir in and spread the rinsed rice. Add the cooking liquid, the remaining 1 tbsp. butter and salt to taste. Cover and cook on low heat for about 15 minutes or until the rice is cooked and the liquid absorbed.
Once cooked, turned the heat off and place a paper towel over the pan and cover with the lid. Rest the rice for about 10 minutes, this will help all the moisture to be absorbed and rice to settle.
Before serving, turn the rice upside down on a wide serving tray, onions and the meat will appear as layers at the top, looking like a delicious savory cake. The delicious flavors of the cooked meat and onion blend in with the rice and make it very flavorsome.
Season with ground black pepper and serve hot. This dish can be a meal on its own, or you can complement with this Eggplants cooked in olive oil with vegetables, Zeytinyagli Patlican or how about with this refreshing Purslane with garlic yoghurt, Yogurtlu Semizotu?
Hope this inspires for healthy, delicious meals, cooked and enjoyed together. Afiyet Olsun,
Spring time in Ephesus, Turkey – Popular with children and cats too!-
I love to be able to have a chance to cook with locals and enjoy regional Turkish cuisine, exploring the magnificent sites all around Turkey. After our Aegean style Turkish cooking class, we made it to the Ephesus, dating back to 6000 BC, to the Neolithic age. Ephesus, the best preserved Roman city in the Eastern Mediterranean with its Temple of Artemis, is one of the Seven Ancient Wonders of the World. Ephesus had a population of more than 250,000 in the 1st century BC, which served to make it one of the largest cities in the Mediterranean world. Only about 25 % of this magnificent site has been excavated; just imagine its grandeur once more excavation done.
Spring is a great time to visit Ephesus, with mild, pleasant temperatures reaching around 70F. Cats seems to be the residents of Ephesus at the moment, greatly enjoying this fantastic site! It has also been lovely to see children from babies, toddlers to teenagers at Ephesus; seeing is believing and this experience is I am sure to stay with them more than any history book. I remember taking our son to Ephesus when he was about 5 years old; his fascination with the Old Roman Milestone is still vivid in his memories. And how about this little one? He certainly enjoyed strolling around Ephesus!
Ephesus, once, the trade centre of the ancient world, is located on a very fertile valley. Here is the Goddess of Victory, Nike, in Ephesus – next to one of the many fig trees in the region; they are simply everywhere in Ephesus.
Last but not least, the Libary of Celsus at Ephesus; what an impressive piece, still takes my breath away, even if I must have seen it over a dozen of times.
Before I sing off; I forgot to mention a wonderful eatery, Asik Restaurant, at my previous post on Didyma. We had a very delicious and generous Turkish Esnaf Lokanta style buffet lunch at Asik Restaurant, right accross the entrance of Didyma. Perhaps 15-20 different types of home cooked traditional Turkish food from Izmir kofte -meatballs with potato in tomato sauce, bulgur pilaff, stuffed cabbage leaves to eggs cooked with spinach,karniyarik – stuffed eggplants with ground meat and vegetables filling are offer and you feel like you are in heaven. Hasan Bey treated us to a real Turkish hospitality and we re-filled our plates with this generous, delicious food and greatly enjoyed it. Many of these recipes are available at this blog, if you would like to have a go.
My best wishes for exciting, fulfilling travels, Selamlar,
Simply delicious Aegean flavors;Eggplants, tomatoes, onions, peppers cooked in olive oil & Fascinating Didyma
The Aegean cost of Turkey has a special place in my heart. Perhaps it is the many happy childhood holidays we spent in local resorts in Ayvalik, Gumuldur and Cesme, where many Turkish families have summer houses. As soon as the schools close, we all would dream about the coast, swimming at the turquoise Aegean, playing for hours at the golden sandy beaches and the next ice cream – a piece of heaven.
I don’t have the chance to go back to the Aegean as often as I like and every opportunity is very welcome. Once a year, I host and organise a Culinary & Cultural tour to Turkey, aiming to show my homeland from a local’s perspective – I greatly look forward to these trips and enjoy every minute of sharing this special land with folks. It has been delightful to be back to the breathtaking Aegean region again this April. Spring has been in full bloom; artichoke fields everywhere; the silver, beautiful olive trees welcomes you along the way; fig trees surprise you at the Ephesus – such a beautiful, bountiful region. During our tour, we always enjoy the local cuisine and learn how to cook delicious Turkish food together. This time, we again stopped by the lovely Bizimev Hanimeli to cook and enjoy delicious Aegean flavors with Hatice Hanim.
I have met Hatice Hanim a few years ago; always with a smile at her face, she has been sharing her love of Turkish cuisine and feeding a remarkable crowd everyday at their Bizimev Hanimeli Restaurant, as well as teaching the local cuisine to enthusiasts like us. It is a real family affair; her husband, son, daughter, daughter-in-law all involved running this wonderful business. I love the fact that they grow all their fresh produce, herbs, vegetables and fruits in their beautiful garden and make their own olive oil. It is very remarkable that they grew their business all by themselves with a lot of hard work and maintained the same friendly service and the offer of high quality, consistent, delicious food. When I asked Hatice Hanim what kept her going in tough times, she smiled and said; “If you respect your land, the nature, treat your helpers, family well and keep your spirits up, you find a way at the end. Hard work with a kind heart opens the doors for you; always believe in yourself.” How true; her words sealed in my mind.
We prepared a delicous 4 course meal with Hatice Hanim, in just over 1 hour – look forward to sharing all these recipes in the coming weeks- .Using their fresh produce from the garden and the olive oil, we made this wonderful Zeytinyagli Patlican; Eggplants, onions, garlic and tomatoes cooked in olive oil; simple, seasonal ingredients produced such a delicious, memorable taste. We like to eat Zeytinyaglis, Vegetables Cooked in Olive Oil in room temperature. It is also delicious when served cold. I hope you enjoy it and can have a go sometime.
Zeytinyagli Patlican; Eggplants, Onions, Garlic, Peppers and Tomatoes Cooked in Olive Oil
3-4 small Holland (dark purple) eggplants/aubergines
2 medium onions, halved and chopped in thin slices
1 green pointy pepper, coarsely chopped
1 red pointy pepper, coarsely chopped
3-4 medium tomatoes, halved and sliced
5-6 garlic cloves, quartered
3 medium tomatoes, skinned and chopped finely or 14oz/400 gr Italian chopped tomatoes
45ml/3 tablespoon olive oil
Handful of flat leaf parsley
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
Drizzle of extra virgin olive oil to serve – optional
Using a vegetable peeler, peel the eggplants in zebra stripes. Cut each eggplant in half length wise and then about 1/2 inch thick slices. Lay them on a wide flat tray and generously season with salt. This will help the moisture to come out of the eggplants. Leave for about 15 minutes. Drain the water that came out of the eggplants and squeeze them with a paper towel to extract the excess water.
Pour the olive oil in a heavy pan and spread the half of the sliced onions and garlic. Then spread half of the sliced peppers and a layer of sliced eggplants over them.
Repeat the same layering procedure for the 2nd half of onions, garlic, peppers and eggplants, and pour over the diced tomatoes. If you have any remaining eggplant slices left, layer them over the top.
Spread the sliced tomatoes over the very top and place a handful of flat leaf parsley. Season with salt and ground pepper and cover the pan. Start cooking at a medium heat for the first 5-8 minutes, then turn to heat to low and cook for a further 3o minutes, until all the vegetables are cooked.
The vegetables here has been cooked in their own juices over low heat, and each of them just melt in your mouth! The cooked eggplants, garlic onions so scrumptious, packed with flavor. Seasonal produce cooked this way are not only healthy, but also very easy and delicious too.
I hope you enjoy this delicious eggplant dish, as you see, delicious food can also be healthy and easy. A few good seasonal produce, some olive oil and fresh herbs can produce wonders. You can drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil over the dish before serving and decorate with sliced peppers if you like. Traditionally, we like to eat Zeytinyaglis, Vegetables Cooked in Olive Oil, in room temperature or cold.
It is very rewarding to cook together and share a delicious bite with others. We have a fabulous healthy eating event with my Turkish cookery demonstration on May18th; if you are in the area and would like to join us, please contact me, I would be delighted to have your company.
Afiyet Olsun, - May you be happy and healthy with the food you eat;
Fascinating Didyma and Its Exquisite Columns
We made it to the fascinating Didyma, at the Aegean region, Turkey, at a rainy, windy April day and the temple looked even more stunning and dramatic. The huge white-marble temple is simply amazing and so worth seeing. The gigantic Temple of Apollo at Didyma (Didim in Turkish) was among the most famous oracles in the ancient world, equal in importance to the oracular temple at Delphi in Greece. There has been a temple here since very early times, but the older structure was destroyed by Cyrus of Persia in 494 BC. Construction began on the present stupendous structure soon after.
Head of Medusa at Didyma – we have been comparing it with the Medusa at the Basilica Cistern, Istanbul.
But most of all it was the delicate, exquisite columns of Didyma, that fascinated me.
Originally, 122 enormous Ionic columns surrounded the temple; today only three remain intact. Dating from the 2nd century BC, the columns are 60 feet tall (the height of a six-story building) and have a diameter of 6 feet at the base. Even the stumps of columns that fell are impressive in size and display beautiful carvings at their base, like designs of Daphne leaves.
Make sure to have enough time to walk all the way around the temple to get the full effect. Didyma is well worth visiting, hope you can make it here sometime.
Istanbul’dan Merhabalar – Greetings from Istanbul!- I am embracing the many, vibrant colors of Istanbul; the Golden Horn, Spice Market, Grand Bazaar and the always vibrant Eminonu. This is the hub of life for many locals along with visitors in Istanbul.
The Eminonu district is the heart of Old Istanbul housing the Spice Market, Grand Bazaar, lot of local small businesses. Yeni Cami – New Mosque is at the center of Eminonu, and the place is always vibrant, buzzing with locals as well as tourists doing their shopping, hopping on and off to the ferry, Vapur, to travel to the Asian side of the city, as well as to the Princes’ Islands. I can just sit and watch the world go by here anytime of the day..
Have you ever had Gaziantep’s Keme Kebab? Keme is a type of a special truffle that’s grown in Gaziantep region between March to June; it is meaty and very delicious. Keme kebab features Gaziantep’s famous truffles with chunks of lamb. Look out for Keme if you are visiting at this period, you can enjoy this delicious kebab in Istanbul too. Gaziantep Cuisine is a culinary delight; here is some more information on the fabulous Gaziantep Cuisine and history.
After a good meal – or to be honest, any time! – a glass of cay – Turkish tea, is in order. Dear Evie from our Culinary tour, soon perfected the art of holding the Turkish tea glass : )
If you like spices, then you are in heaven in the Spice Market, Istanbul. In this ancient food market, you can find a great variety of spices used in Turkish cuisine. Spices feature an important role in Turkish cuisine, as we add a lot of flavor to our dishes through the artful use of spices. I use the pul biber, the Turkish red pepper flakes with almost every savory dish ( and even sometimes in desserts like this Choc0late cake with a touch of red pepper flakes). Cumin is another commonly used fragrant spice, and it is cumin, what makes hummus, taste like hummus. How about the tangy sumac? This fragrant spice adds a delicious, zesty flavor to salads like to this piyaz salad with onions, tomatoes and parsley with sumac.
Spice Market is also the right address to get delicious dried fruit like apricots, figs and many more. Shops even sell dried water melon, lemon and oranges, such wonderful colours and packed with flavor. Turkish dried apricots are one of the world’s best; they are very healthy and makes great snacks. This simple but delicious dessert, baked apricots with walnuts, is very easy to make and tastes wonderful. How about the dried peppers, okra, eggplant and corn? We dry vegetables when they are in season, then use them in stews, as well as stuffing them with aromatic rice in dolmas. They have a rich, delicious taste.
Over 500 years old Grand Bazaar, Kapali Carsi in Istanbul is most probably the ancient shopping mall in the world. It is a popular place to shop for the locals as well as visitors, though you would expect high prices. I like to go to the Grand Bazaar just to admire this magnificent building, the colors, ornate columns, a living history. It is also a good place to get small souvenirs.
Time Out at the Princes’ Islands, Istanbul
As much as I love the city of Istanbul, it is always refreshing to take a little time off and visit the charming, quiter Princes’ Islands. You can take the ferry from many ports in Istanbul (Kadikoy, Besiktas, Karakoy) and within an hour time, you are in the charming Princes’ Islands.
Many locals use the tradional ferry to travel between both sides of Istanbul and going to the islands. I love watching the locals doing their rituals; reading the paper, chatting with friends, doing the puzzle.
You can have a glass or cay, Turkish coffee or other drinks and snacks at the ferry. Sipping a glass of cay is a precious memory and a ritual for many, including me.
You can also sit outside, at the terrace or at the side benches at the ferry; the view is amazing and the reflection is inevitable.
What makes the islands so special is the serenity, relaxation it provides. No cars are allowed at the islands; you can ride on the horse carriages to explore around the islands, you can also rent a bicycle. It is lusciously green, and you appreciate the slower pace of life after the exciting but (can be) tiring Istanbul.
Heybeli Island is one my favorite islands and The Halki Seminary is located at top offers magnificent views. You can take the horse carriage to reach here.
It has been a real pleasure to explore the islands during our culinary & cultural tour with our enthusiastic travelers like Evie, Mary and Natalie. Natalie and Mary are over 80 years old; we all admired their enthusiasm, thirst for Istanbul and zest for life.
I like to eat sea food, especially the street food while in the islands. You can enjoy midye dolma – mussels stuffed with aromatic rice, the fried calamari or freshly fried mussles in most of the cafes. They are fresh, delicious and good value.
Have you ever tried kokoreç ? It is a dish of the Balkans and Anatolia, consisting mainly of lamb and goat intestines, as well as including sweetbread, hearts, lungs or kidneys. Kokorec is usually roasted on a horizontal skewer over a charcoal, gas, or electrical burner and it is seasoned with red pepper flakes, salt and oregano. It is certainly an acquired taste but once done properly, it is delicious. Kokorec is enjoyed widely in Turkey, you can have kokorec in the Princes’ Islands too.
After a wonderful relaxing day at the Princes’ Islands, we got on the ferry again and departed for Istanbul. Seagulls racing with the ferry, the wind behind and the afternoon sun on us, we recharged our batteries for more adventures in Turkey.
Our ferry came nearby to the Maiden Tower, Kiz Kulesi, what a sight I thought, what a beautiful country.. One of those moments that you seal in your memory and have felt very grateful to be here, for this very moment.
Now full of new excitement again to hit the road; Ephesus, Didyma, Dardanelles, Gallipoli, all await to be explored, and shared. I hope you enjoyed what you have seen & read, and I hope you can make it to this wonderful land sometime.
Istanbul’dan Selamlar – Greetings from Istanbul,
Istanbul’dan Merhaba! – Greetings to you all from Istanbul! There are so many things to share from home, especially at this time of the year with a lovely balmy spring air. Here are a few snapshots from Istanbul, I hope you enjoy them.
Istanbul welcomed us with a lovely spring air and gorgeous tulips dotted all around the city; their colors are simply mesmerising. Apparently the Municipality in Istanbul planted 2 million tulip bulbs, they are a feast to the eye.
The Ottomans had an immense fondness for the tulips; as a matter of fact, there was the Tulip Period when Ottoman Empire have begun to orient itself towards Europe and the elite, high-class society of the Ottomans enjoyed tulips in their courtyards, gardens and in various occasions. Tulips defined nobility and privilege, both in terms of goods and leisure time. Continuing this heritage, you can enjoy the many varieties of tulips in in Istanbul in spring.
One of the things that warmly welcomes you at home is a glass of cay – Turkish tea (you can see the influence of the Tulip era even at the shape of the Turkish traditional tea glasses) – with a warm smile from the locals, that is a wonderful welcome. I gratefully accepted Armada’s “Hosgeldiniz” cay : )
How about apple tea, elma cayi? On the contrary of belief, it It is not a traditional Turkish drink, you wouldn’t see a Turk drinking apple tea at home. It is widely offered at cafes around Sultanahmet, Old Istanbul and still a refreshing, pleasant drink – and goes down very well sitting outside in a nice spring day over looking Old Istanbul!
Have you had your shoes polished while in Turkey? It is a great, friendly experience – with a top notch service- and value for money; my husband saves his shoes to be polished at home. On this traditional stalls, experts like Mehmet here cleans and polishes your shoe up to the standards of brand new! If you are in Sultanahmet area, look out for him, as his spot offers the fascinating view of Hagia Sophia.
And soon we were hungry. Sultanahmet Koftecisi has been making delicious Turkish meatballs served with the bean salad with onions, lettuce, shredded carrots and pickled peppers, for over 90 years. It is a locals hub and popular with tourists too. We enjoyed this quick, delicious and healthy lunch.
Fasulye Piyazi, the bean salad with onions, tomatoes, using the canellini beans is a delicious, healthy salad that you can make in minutes. I use the pre-cooked canellini beans and add a boiled egg to it; the salad itself makes a wonderful, healthy lunch and it is a great accompaniment to grilled meatballs and any grilled meat too. Here is my recipe for the bean salad, if you would like to try.
If you haven’t already been to the Istanbul Archaeological Museum, I highly recommend it. Tucked away behind the Topkapi Palace, the magnificient museum is divided into three buildings; the Archaeology Museum, the Museum of Ancient Orient and the Tiled Kiosk. The museum hosts the Palace collections, formed druing the 19th century by the archaelogist Osman Hamdi.