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A Culinary Delight; Gaziantep Cuisine – Bulgur Meatballs with Squash and Chickpeas, in Yoghurt & Mint Sauce – Yogurtlu Bulgurlu Kofte, Gaziantep Usulu

Gaziantep Spices; photo source – Gaziantep Mutfagi 

Have you ever been to Gaziantep? Did you ever have a chance to sample its delicious cuisine reflecting a rich culinary heritage? The last time I have been to Gaziantep was a few years ago; the aromas, spices, the red pepper paste, dried peppers and aubergines adorning the markets.. all still fresh in my mind. With my roots going back to Antakya, I am familiar with these wonderful aromas and spices, and now delighted to get know this delicious cuisine a bit better, I hope you will feel the same way too.

Dried peppers, aubergine, okra features often in Gaziantep Cuisine

Gaziantep cuisine reflects a rich culinary heritage of various civilizations dating back to thousands years ago and with the regional flora and fauna, from Central Asia to Anatolia, the Balkans, Europe and Caucasus. During the festivities, the kitchens of Gaziantep produces the delicious and traditional Yuvarlama  -or Yuvalama in local dialect— ,Gaziantep’s favorite dish. On the three-day Bayram Festivities at the end of Ramadan, it is served in every home, rich or poor. Rolling the tiny ground rice dumplings is both easier and more enjoyable when family members and neighbors get together to share the work. The dish is accompanied by rice pilaf with vermicelli. Yuvarlama is a marvelous combination of different flavors and textures.

Yuvarlama or Yuvalama, Gaziantep’s favorite dish. Photo source: Gaziantep Mutfagi 

How about Gaziantep’s world famous baklava? Please have a look at the story of Gaziantep’s melt-in-the-mouth baklava and how it’s made, featured at Gaziantep Mutfagi . Gaziantep is a culinary delight, a feast for all senses, hope you make it there sometime.

Gaziantep’s famous baklava; source: http://www.gaziantepmutfagi.org, by Tuba Satana http://www.tubasatana.com

Now, a little bit of information on Gaziantep, one of the oldest settlements in the world and the sixth largest city of Turkey. Gaziantep, carrying the imprints of Chalcolithic and Neolithic ages, Hittite, Assyrian, Persian civilizations, Alexander the Great, Seleucid, Roman, Byzantine Empires, Islamic, Turkish-Islamic and Ottoman periods, is home to works of art belonging to all of these ages, civilizations, empires and states. Gaziantep is also the gateway of Silk Road opening to Anatolia; the road of tradesmen, wise men, ideas, religions and cultures, starting from China and leading to Europe.

Magnificent ruins of the ancient city of Zeugma, which has stayed buried beneath the pistachio groves for nearly two thousand years.Source: www.zeugmaweb.com

The traditions, rituals are an important part of Gaziantep’s culinary heritage and it is lovely to see that it is still a big part of the daily life in Gaziantep. The richness of traditional culture has given way to the emergence of a rich culinary culture. The events such as birth, marriage and death have important effect on the local culture, and this has caused the occurrence of an oral culture. For instance, among the catering activities carried out during birth events, kuymak (soft and mushy pilaf), which is believed to increase the amount of breast milk, and loğusa şerbeti (lit. puerpera juice); festive dishes such as Yuvarlama and many other special foods and drinks are some examples of the integration of traditional life style and culinary culture.

During my visit to Istanbul last summer, I was delighted to get a copy of the “Gunesin ve Atesin Tadi” – Taste of the Sun and Fire”; cookery book for the Gaziantep Kitchen. Very true to its title, Gaziantep Kitchen reflects a rich culinary heritage, takes its power from its rich soil, seasonal, sun kissed produce. Then, this seasonal produce, whether cooked on charcoal fire or in the bakeries, reflects the wonderful aromas of sun and the heat. This wonderful cookery book, edited by Aylin Oney Tan, contains Gaziantep’s regional recipes written by 5 local food historians. Gaziantep Chamber of Commerce has been a big part of this project and their website, Gaziantep Mutfagi, -Gaziantep Cuisine- is a very  valuable source into this rich, wonderful cuisine.  My heartfelt thanks to Ms Senay Copur from Gaziantep Chamber of Commerce, for letting me share the lovely photos and culinary heritage of Gaziantep. For more information, please visit Gaziantep Mutfagi,  aimed to promote the Gaziantep Cuisine. Also a big thank you the wonderful blog Aintab Sofrasi on Gaziantep Cuisine,  for letting me use their  Gaziantep market image.

Gunesin ve Atesin Tadi Cookery Book; a great resource on Gaziantep Cuisine.

Stews with yoghurt has a special place in Gaziantep kitchen; one of the richest regional cuisines in Turkey, with the use of yoghurt in their dishes. I recently had a go and re-created Gaziantep’s Stew with bulgur meatballs, in yoghurt and mint sauce – Yogurtlu, bulgurlu kofte -. The traditional recipe also has lamb in it, in my version I omitted the extra meat and added the seasonal squash to  the dish – It is also common to add seasonal vegetables to these yoghurt based stews in Gaziantep kitchen. The chickpeas worked really well in the stew too; not only very healthy, but brought a different texture and wonderful flavor. The dish turned out to be a very satisfying  and substantial meal yet surprisingly light, just as described.

Bulgur meatballs with squash and chickpeas in yoghurt and mint sauce, my variation of Gaziantep’s delicious yogurtlu, bulgurlu kofte.

This recipe calls for fine bulgur wheat. If you can’t get the fine bulgur, perhaps you may blitz the coarse bulgur a couple of times to get the finer version. My bulgur meatballs weren’t as tiny as the traditional ones – and I greatly admire skillful locals making those gorgeous chickpea sized balls in almost no time-, but still very tasty and impressed the family. Next time, I look forward to trying this dish with the chunks of lamb in it. I hope you can give a go to this satisfying, delicious dish.

Bulgur meatballs with squash and chickpeas, in yoghurt & mint sauce

Serves 8-10

1 cup dried chickpeas (or 1 can of 400 gr/14 oz chickpeas, drained and rinsed)

1 squash, cut in small chunks

3 cups strained yogurt –( thick and creamy yoghurt, brand Fage works well)

1 egg

1 teaspoon salt

For the bulgur meatballs:

4 cups fine bulgur

600 g lean minced (ground) meat

1 onion, finely chopped

1 egg

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground red pepper flakes

¼ teaspoon black pepper

For the dried mint sauce:

1  tablespoon dried mint

2 tablespoons butter

 If you are using dried chickpeas, soak them in plenty of cold water overnight. Drain the chickpeas, put them in a pan with plenty of cold water. Bring to the boil, then lower the heat and partially cover the pan. Simmer the chickpeas for about 45 minutes or until tender. Drain the chickpeas in a colander and set them aside.  If you are using a can of cooked chickpeas, simply drain its juice and wash the chickpeas in a colander, leave them aside.

Bulgur meatballs mixture; if you can’t get the fine bulgur, you may blitz the coarse bulgur a couple of times to get the finer version.

To make the bulgur meatballs, combine the chopped onion, bulgur, salt, black pepper, red pepper flakes and 1 cup of water and put through the food processor twice. Add the ground meat to the mixture and put through the food processor again (it is also possible to knead the mixture by hand, but that requires extra time and effort). Add the egg to the mixture and knead by hand until it is as smooth as bread dough. Prepare the bulgur balls by dipping your hand in water, taking a tiny lump of dough the size of a chickpea and rolling into a ball.

Traditionally, these bulgur meatballs are made to the size of a chickpea – I greatly admire locals making those tiny balls in almost no time – mine came out bigger than that, though still very tasty.

Pour half a liter of water into a heavy pan and bring to the boil. Balance a strainer on top of the pan and place the bulgur balls inside. Cover with a lid and steam for 15 minutes. Remove and place in a large shallow dish to cool.

 Beat the egg and the strained yogurt in a saucepan, place over a low heat and stir constantly in the same direction

To prepare the yoghurt sauce, add 5-6 cups of water and bring to the boil and stir in the chunks of squash, season with salt and pepper. Cook the squash for 15-20 minutes, until it starts to get tender. Beat the egg and the strained yogurt (brand Fage works well as it is) in a saucepan, place over a low heat and stir constantly in the same direction. Occasionally add a tablespoonful of the hot water and once the yogurt comes to the boil, combine it with the hot water in the pan.

Just before serving add the bulgur balls and the chickpeas to the mixture and heat through. Do not add the balls before this stage or they will soften and lose their flavor. Check the seasoning and add salt and ground black pepper to your taste.

Bulgur meatballs with squash and chickpeas, in yoghurt & mint sauce; a very satisfying, delicious meal yet surprisingly light.

For the dried mint sauce; melt the butter in a small pan. Remove from the heat, add the dried mint and drizzle over the serving dish. Serve immediately.

Afiyet Olsun,

Ozlem

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34 Responses to A Culinary Delight; Gaziantep Cuisine – Bulgur Meatballs with Squash and Chickpeas, in Yoghurt & Mint Sauce – Yogurtlu Bulgurlu Kofte, Gaziantep Usulu

  1. jaz November 7, 2012 at 10:31 pm #

    what a wonderful post! gorgeous bakalava! i used to make my own phyllo when i was in my teens so i could make bakalave. no store bought phyllo back in those days! thanks for the recipe!

    • Ozlem November 7, 2012 at 10:49 pm #

      Merhaba Jaz, so kind of you! That is a real talent to make your own phyllo for baklava, very impressive 🙂 so glad you enjoyed the post, Gaziantep calling big time!

  2. Peri's Spice Ladle November 8, 2012 at 3:42 am #

    What a beautiful ancient and culturally rich city! A must visit when we do get to Turkey someday…lovely post, Ozlem, love the kofte (similar word and concept, kofta, in the Indian cuisine…our unending commonalities:) with bulgur and meat…I’m bookmarking this one to try someday soon:) xxPeri.

    • Ozlem November 8, 2012 at 11:12 am #

      Thanks Peri; Gaziantep is really a feast to all senses, a must place to visit, perhaps one day together?:) Glad you enjoyed the post! Ozlem

  3. Barbara November 8, 2012 at 10:46 am #

    Love the photos and will for sure try out your bulgur meatballs – they look delicious Özlem!

    • Ozlem November 8, 2012 at 11:11 am #

      Thanks a million Barbara -the bulgur balls are really delicious and surprisingly light, glad you will give it a go. Your fennel and cawliflower soup is in my list: )

  4. BacktoBodrum November 8, 2012 at 10:53 am #

    [MARKED AS SPAM BY ANTISPAM BEE | Server IP]
    I’m always on the look out for different recipes and this meatballs , squash and chickpeas ticks all the boxes. I’ll look out for the cookery book.

    • Ozlem November 8, 2012 at 11:19 am #

      Merhaba; many thanks for stopping by, glad you enjoyed the recipe; must say I loved the chickpeas and the squash as much as the bulgur balls in the yoghurt & mint sauce; wonderful textures and flavors, worked really well. The cookery book is a gem, packed with great recipes and info on Gaziantep cuisine.

  5. Alida November 8, 2012 at 11:50 am #

    I am fairly new to Bulgur wheat. I had a couple of times and I liked it. I will follow your recipe next time. Very interesting post with beautiful photographs as usual!

    • Ozlem November 8, 2012 at 8:14 pm #

      Ciao Alida; I like bulgur’s nutty, delicious flavor, not to mention all the healthy benefits, hope you enjoy this recipe – thanks for stopping by!

  6. Turkey's For Life November 8, 2012 at 6:44 pm #

    [MARKED AS SPAM BY ANTISPAM BEE | Server IP]
    Oh, we’re going to try the köfte, definitely. Antakya and Gaziantep are on our 2013 list (in pencil at the moment) and we know who to hassle for tips and advice now before we go. 😉
    Julia

    • Ozlem November 8, 2012 at 8:22 pm #

      Merhaba Julia, so glad you will have a go at the bulgurlu kofte, really delicious, and somehow light and refreshing with the yoghurt and mint sauce. I would be delighted to help out with any tips for Antakya and Gaziantep – and watch it, I may just join you too: )

  7. Claudia November 8, 2012 at 8:12 pm #

    [MARKED AS SPAM BY ANTISPAM BEE | Server IP]
    I agree! What a lovely post, Özlem! You make it all sound just fabulous!! Can’t we all go to Gaziantep together one day?? When you say squash, can we use kabak here in Turkey? You know what type I mean. I love the sound of this dish :))

    • Ozlem November 8, 2012 at 8:21 pm #

      Merhaba Claudia:) Traveling to Gaziantep together sounds like a great idea, I am all up for it -just need to make sure it is within the school holidays! Such a culinary delight, so worth a visit – and more!- Yes, I am sure you can use the balkabak you get in Turkey- it is common to add seasonal veg to the stews. The Gunesin ve Atesin Tadi book is really good, highly recommended.

  8. Phil in the Kitchen November 8, 2012 at 11:23 pm #

    This is a really interesting recipe – it sounds lovely. Any sort of meatball is fine with me but these sound wonderful. I’m not sure that I’d have the patience to make them really small. I remember being told by a chef in the 1970s that dried mint was a waste of time and I avoided it for years as a result. That was a bad mistake. It’s strange how the flavour is warmer and softer as a result of drying.

    • Ozlem November 9, 2012 at 9:24 am #

      Thanks Phil, my bulgur balls weren’t that tiny either, though still very tasty. For the dried mint, try infusing it with olive oil and drizzle over the yoghurt sauce, it is refreshing and tasty. Glad you enjoyed the post!

  9. The Hungry Mum November 9, 2012 at 2:43 am #

    Wow, I’ve never tried anything like this but it looks incredible~ I love chickpeas 🙂

    • Ozlem November 9, 2012 at 9:22 am #

      Hello, many thanks for stopping by; the bulgur balls are really delicious and surprisingly light, I am with you, love chickpeas- it works so well in this dish:)

  10. keatsthesunshinegirl November 15, 2012 at 9:48 am #

    Just popping by. Returned from a visit to Turkey – a 10 day tour. Wonderful sights with a good guide.

    • Ozlem November 15, 2012 at 12:27 pm #

      thanks for stopping by, glad you enjoyed Turkey!

  11. Allison (Spontaneous Tomato) November 16, 2012 at 2:23 am #

    Ohhh, that final photo of your kofte in the yogurt sauce with squash looks so amazingly delicious!

    I never thought about adding bulgur to meatballs before… Do you think these would work with ground chicken or turkey? (Or does it have to be with red meat?)

    • Ozlem November 16, 2012 at 1:40 pm #

      Hi Alison,
      Many thanks for stopping by – yes, why not, you can use ground chicken or turkey too – ground meat is the traditional way, but by all means to use the type of meat that works for you 🙂

  12. naile November 19, 2012 at 7:19 pm #

    Hi Ozlem,
    I had a look at your blog, you had good work here in this blog. Besides, it is really wonderful to talk about Gaziantep in a blog in English. Only if you visited Gaziantep city,you would know how a rich cuisine gaziantep has in real. I wish you would experience these real good things here in its own place. Someday hope to see you in Gaziantep.

    • Ozlem November 19, 2012 at 9:52 pm #

      Merhaba Naile 🙂

      Many thanks for your kind comment, very kind of you. I so look forward to coming back to Gaziantep, do hope soon; indeed a wonderfully rich culinary heritage you have. It is a pleasure to share in this blog and i am grateful to your blog and your work to inspire us all too 🙂 Hope tp see you in Gaziantep!
      Cok selamlar, sevgiler
      Ozlem

  13. Kathryn August 15, 2013 at 12:03 pm #

    Hi just found your site, lovely photos and recipes. I lived in Gaziantep for a couple of years and I was very lucky that my neighbours gave me several bowls of this to break the monthly fast. Most make it with meat but a couple of them also made it with chicken, I was surprised and queried it asking them if it was traditonal or if it was their own deviation. They both assured me that it was acceptable traditionally. I also helped my neighbours make them and they gladly showed me how to roll the balls to the precise size and so they would not fall apart in the soup. When they made the kofte they used ground rice which gives the kofte a nice smooth texture.

    • Ozlem Warren August 17, 2013 at 3:15 pm #

      Merhanba Kathryn; thank you for stopping by and your kind comment. Gaziantep region and the cuisine always fascinates me; packed with flavour and goodness. And nothing better to experience it first hand, like you have done. I love hearing about the variations of the same dish, and I appreciate you sharing here. The idea of using ground rice in kofte sounds great’ my mother makes it with cracked – kirik pirinc -, which I love too. Will give it a go 🙂 Selamlar, Ozlem

  14. jerome November 6, 2013 at 2:50 pm #

    Ozlem thank you!! this dish was out of this world, and if i may say, i done it justice for a first timer!! plus, I had so much bulgur left, i made som sort of a bulgur cake with it with bananas and sultanas. awesome!! turkish food rocks!!

    • Ozlem Warren November 6, 2013 at 8:29 pm #

      Delighted to read your note Jerome, so glad you enjoyed this traditional dish – folks from Gaziantep would be very proud:) Your bulgur cake with bananas and sultanas sounds inspiring, may have a go at that one – many thanks for stopping by!

  15. Ozlem November 17, 2012 at 5:45 pm #

    Many thanks for the link Natalie, greatly enjoyed your Antep post!

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