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Ozlem’s culinary and cultural trip photos to Turkey

My Fascinating Turkey 2015 Tours; Can’t wait to get on road again

Ephesus - Izmir, Turkey

Ephesus – Izmir, Turkey

I have recently watched this wonderful video on the beautiful Izmir region; Ephesus, the turquoise Aegean Sea, inviting Turkish food, friendly locals to welcome you; video said “life is worth exploration; so much to experience, see, taste…” How very true. This has been the basis of my culinary and cultural tours to Turkey; a fascinating land with warm people, so worth exploring.

Fascinating Istanbul, Turkey

Fascinating Istanbul, Turkey

Sultanahmet Koftecisi, Istanbul - a fine example of Turkish hospitality

Sultanahmet Koftecisi, Istanbul – a fine example of Turkish hospitality

I have been organizing and hosting small scale Culinary and Cultural Tours to Turkey for 8 years, aiming to show my homeland from a local’s perspective. This is the land I belong and love; a special land packed with history, traditions, beautiful landscape, fabulous Turkish food and wonderful, friendly locals.

Fragrant Turkish spices galore at the Spice Market, Istanbul

Fragrant Turkish spices galore at the Spice Market, Istanbul

Turkish Breakfast, delicious, healthy; a feast to all senses

Turkish Breakfast, delicious, healthy; a feast to all senses

Here, I am delighted to present you my 2 upcoming Fascinating Turkey Culinary & Cultural Tours to Turkey. First one from Saturday, May 23rd 2015 through Saturday, May 30th 2015, second one from Saturday, October 24th through Saturday 31st October 2015. We have a very exciting itinerary, covering off the beaten track sights, experiencing foodie heaven markets like the Kadikoy Market in Istanbul, private boat tour along the Bosphorus, Whirling dervish shows, exploring old and new parts of Istanbul to give you a real feel of this fascinating city. And food, the glorious Turkish food; starting from my favorite meal of the day Turkish breakfast, every meal will be authentic and memorable. We will learn all about Turkish spices, Turkish coffee, Turkish Delight and stock up the finest examples of them at the Spice Market, Istanbul.

Bountiful seasonal produce at Besiktas Pazari, Istanbul

Bountiful seasonal produce at Besiktas Pazari, Istanbul

Locals making Gozleme, Turkish flatbreads with fillings

Locals making Gozleme, Turkish flatbreads with fillings

During our tour, we will have 3 Turkish cooking classes to explore regional cuisines – in Istanbul, Cappadocia and at the charming village Sirince, to learn about the hearty Anatolian cuisine and the Aegean cuisine, using region’s wonderful olive oil and fresh produce. In Cappadocia, we will be treated to a special local Turkish cookery class by the village ladies in a traditional Cappadocian home, an experience I greatly look forward to.

Stunning fairy chimneys at Cappadocia, over the hot air baloon; photo credit National Geographic

Stunning fairy chimneys at Cappadocia, over the hot air baloon; photo credit National Geographic

Cappadocia Region, the land of fairy chimneys will be a special highlight. Exploring Goreme Underground City, optional Hot air balloon over the fairy chimneys, visiting a local Turkish Ceramic Art Shop to learn how the world famous tiles and ceramics made and watch masters working and many more – all to look forward to.

Cooking delicious Aegean flavors at our Turkish cooking class in Sirince, Turkey

Cooking delicious Aegean flavors at our Turkish cooking class in Sirince, Turkey

And then beautiful Izmir region to follow; charming Sirince Village for our hands on Turkish cookery class, learn about the delicious and healthy Aegean cuisine; visits to the fascinating, ancient Greco –Roman city, Ephesus and Virgin Mary’s house.

Here is my Fascinating Turkey 2015; Culinary & Cultural Tour Brochure with the Registration Form. The tour is limited to 15 participants only and the registration started. Please kindly Contact me if you have any questions or would like to sign up for our tour.

Beautiful Pergamum, Bergama - Turkey, with spring blossoms - Turkey

Beautiful Pergamum, Bergama – Turkey, with spring blossoms – Turkey

The Willie Nelson song sums it all up for me –“On the road again; just can’t wait to get on the road again!” I really can’t wait and I hope you can join us too.

Happy travels, Iyi Yolculuklar,

Ozlem

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Kiymali Pide; Turkish Flat bread with ground meat and vegetables

Kiymali Pide, Turkish oval flat breads with ground meat, onion, tomato and peppers

Kiymali Pide, Turkish oval flat breads with ground meat, onion, tomato and peppers

This Kiymali Pide, Turkish flat bread with ground meat and vegetables filling, is one of the most popular snacks and our slow cooked “fast food” in Turkey. In Rural Anatolia and at my home town Antakya, locals would prepare the filling and take it to their local bakery, firin, to be baked into delicious flatbreads with this topping over. There are also “Pideci” Turkish flat bread shops that solely bake and serve these flat breads along with piyaz or Coban Salata, Shepherd’s Salad; such delicious flavor combinations.

Traditional bakery, firin in Antakya. Bakers not only bake the bread but also flat breads with toppings that customers would bring.

Traditional bakery, firin in Antakya. Bakers not only bake the bread but also flat breads with toppings that customers would bring.

I am often asked the difference between pide and lahmacun, another national favorite. Lahmacun is also a flat bread with ground meat topping, but it is thinner and in round shape. We like to squeeze lemon over it liberally and roll it like a wrap to eat lahmacun. Pide is oval in shape, thicker and we serve in slices.

Shaping the flat breads; it is easier to spread the filling while the oval flat bread is on the tray.

Shaping the flat breads; it is easier to spread the filling while the oval flat bread is on the tray.

Pide can also be made in various toppings; some favorite toppings are ground meat & onion, Turkish kasar (cheddar) cheese & spinach, cheese and pastrami (Turkish dried beef), cheese and Turkish spicy sauage (sucuk). Sometimes an egg or two can be cracked over pide towards the end of baking too, as in some examples of Karadeniz Pidesi a specialty of a pide prepared in Black Sea region.

Kiymali Pide, Turkish flat breads with meat and vegetables topping, freshly baked

Kiymali Pide, Turkish flat breads with meat and vegetables topping, freshly baked

Making pide is actually much easier than you think – we made it at my recent Turkish cookery class and it was a big hit. I hope you enjoy this delicious Turkish specialty, our version of pizza, packed with flavor and have a chance to recreate at home.

Kiymali Pide, sliced Turkish flat breads with ground meat topping, ready to serve.

Kiymali Pide, sliced Turkish flat breads with ground meat topping, ready to serve.

Afiyet Olsun,

Ozlem

5.0 from 5 reviews
Kiymali Pide; Turkish Flat bread with meat, onion and peppers
 
This Kiymali Pide, Turkish flat bread with ground meat and vegetables topping, is one of the most popular snacks and our slow cooked “fast food” in Turkey. In Rural Anatolia and at my home town Antakya, locals would prepare the filling and take it to their local bakery, firin, to be baked as these delicious flat breads with toppings. There are also “Pideci” Turkish flat bread shops that solely bake and serve these flat breads. I hope you enjoy this delicious Turkish specialty, our version of pizza, packed with flavor and have a chance to recreate at home.
Author:
Recipe type: Turkish flat breads with ground meat and vegetable topping; Kiymali Pide
Cuisine: Turkish Cuisine
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • For the dough:
  • 300 gr/ 10½ oz. / + 2 tbsp. all-purpose plain flour
  • 5ml/1 tsp. salt
  • 14 gr/4 tsp. dried yeast (2 packs of 7gr dried yeast)
  • 8 fl. oz. /1 cup warm water
  • 45ml/3 tbsp. olive oil
  • For the topping:
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 400 gr/14 oz. ground beef or ground lamb or mixture
  • ½ green bell pepper or 1 green pointy pepper, finely diced
  • 2 medium tomatoes, deseeded and diced
  • 15 ml/ 1 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 15 ml/ 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • Salt (5 ml/1 tsp. salt is recommended) and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 egg + 15 ml/ 1 tbsp. olive oil to brush the pide
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 180 C/ 350 F
  2. Stir in the dried yeast in a small bowl and pour in ½ cup warm water. Dissolve the yeast in water, mixing with your fingers. Set aside for the yeast mixture to get frothy for 5 minutes.
  3. Combine the flour and salt in a large bowl.
  4. Make a well in the middle and pour in 2 tbsp. olive oil and the yeast mixture.
  5. Pour in the remaining ½ warm water to the flour mixture. Using your hands, draw in the flour from the sides and work the mixture into a dough.
  6. Knead for 3 -5 minutes, until you reach a soft, smooth dough. The dough gets sticky as you knead, so pour the remaining 1 tbsp. olive oil and stir in additional 2 tbsp. flour to help shape into a soft dough.
  7. Place the dough in large bowl and cover with a cling film. Leave it in a warm place for 1 hour; it will be doubled in size.
  8. In the meantime, prepare your filling. Heat 15ml/1tbsp. olive oil in a wide heavy pan and stir in the onions and peppers.
  9. Sauté the onions and peppers for 2-3 minutes over medium heat, until they start to soften. Stir in the tomatoes and sauté for another 2 minutes. Pour in the lemon juice and season with salt and ground black pepper. Turn the heat off.
  10. Place the ground meat in a bowl and combine the cooked vegetables with the ground meat, mix well. The topping is ready.
  11. Once the dough is risen, place the dough on a lightly floured surface. Knead the dough for a minute then divide the dough into two pieces and roll into two balls.
  12. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough balls into 2 oval shapes of 20 cm x 40 cm (about 8”x16”), with ½ cm (0.2”) thickness.
  13. Line a large baking tray with baking paper and place the 2 oval flat bread dough on the tray.
  14. Spread the filling evenly over the 2 flat breads, leaving 2 cm at the edges as a border with no filling (it is easier to spread the filling while the oval flat bread is in the tray).
  15. Fold in the sides to act as border to keep the filling intact. Squeeze the oval dough at each end to make it pointy.
  16. Beat an egg in a small bowl and mix it with 1 tbsp. olive oil. Brush the edges of dough with this mixture.
  17. Bake for 25 - 30 minutes, until the pides are golden brown and crispy at the edges.
  18. Once cool, cut into slices and serve.
 

My Fascinating Turkey 2014; Istanbul, Cappadocia, Bursa, Ankara, Kaymakli and More

October 23rd – November 1st, 2014 – A trip of a lifetime!

Cooking together with locals - in this case, making baklava, a very memorable experience

Cooking together with locals – in this case, making baklava, a very memorable experience

I am utterly excited about our upcoming Fascinating Turkey 2014 Tour with the amazing locations of Istanbul, Cappadocia, Bursa, Ankara, Kaymakli and more!

The Spice Market, Misir Carsisi, Istanbl - feast to all senses.

The Spice Market, Misir Carsisi, Istanbul- feast to all senses.

My homeland Turkey, its history, cuisine and its wonderful people are my passion and I feel very fortunate to be able to share this passion through my cookery classes and in this blog. It was during my cookery classes over 7 years ago at Central Market Cooking School in Texas that the participants kindly showed a keen interest to travel and explore together this amazing land. So big thanks to them, this will be our 7th tour. I aim to show this beautiful land from a local’s perspective; have a chance to enjoy Turkish food as we locals would and be a part of the local scene.

The magnificent Hagia Sophia; no matter how many times I have been there, it still takes my breath away.

The magnificent Hagia Sophia; no matter how many times I have been there, it still takes my breath away.

Fascinating Turkey 2014 itinerary covers the magical city of Istanbul, -“the city of the world’s desire”, as Napoleon once said—with its breathtaking historical sites like Hagia SophiaTopkapi Palace and many more. Spice Market and Grand Bazaar are also the highlights; we will learn about the delicious Turkish cuisine, spices, enjoy Turkish cuisine as the locals would and moreover, will learn how to make it. Cappadocia region is another highlight of the tour, home to fairy chimneys. We will explore this fascinating land of rock formations, the Kaymakli underground city, and visit pottery workshops. We will also have a special cookery class in a village house in Ayvali, Cappadocia and learn how to make Turkish stuffed dumplings, manti, stuffed vine leaves and more – a rare and a very memorable opportunity. Last but not least, we will explore the capital Ankara, home of the Anatolian Civilizations Museum and Gordion, with a stop en route to King Midas’ tomb.  Historic city of Bursa, famous with its silk, textile and  Iskender Kebab is another highlight.Bursa is the birthplace of the Ottoman Empire and recently been included in UNESCO’s World Heritage List; very exciting indeed.

 Bursa's world famous Iskender Kebab; it will be a real treat to enjoy the genuine article in Bursa.

Bursa’s world famous Iskender Kebab; it will be a real treat to enjoy the genuine article in Bursa.

Here is our Fascinating Turkey 2014 Tour Brochure with Istanbul, Cappadocia, Bursa, Ankara, Kaymakli and More; please kindly contact me if you would like to get more information and/or join us.

Best wishes for happy, memorable travels,

Ozlem

 

 

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Baklava 101 from the Masters & Tips to Make the Real Thing at Home

baklava with pistachios, walnuts - even with chocolate!

baklava with pistachios, walnuts – even with chocolate!

Baklava remains as one of the most popular desserts for most of us and we were delighted to have a chance to observe how the real thing is made during our culinary tour in Istanbul, back in April. Our destination was Gulluoglu Baklava in Karakoy, the master of baklava makers since 1800’s.

The irresistable baklava; we will have a go at it during my CM Turkish cooking class

The irresistable baklava; we will have a go at it during my CM Turkish cooking class on 2nd August

What impresses me is the love and passion the Gulluoglu family have for their product and thrive to make each and every baklava an unforgettable experience. “Hear the crack”, says the 6th generation baklava maker Murat, from the Gulluoglu family, as he divides the piece of baklava with his fork while we tour around the production line; “that cracking sound is the sign of freshness, a sign of the finest baklava; a must for us. Good baklava leaves a heavenly taste in your mouth; it shouldn’t be very sweet and heavy; on the contrary it should be light enough to tempt you to eat a small plateful.”

Hundred years of tradition; baklava masters, ustas, perfecting their art.

Hundred years of tradition; baklava masters, ustas, perfecting their art.

Karakoy Gulluoglu runs baklava demonstration sessions at their factory in Karakoy and watching the ustas, masters of baklava in action, is an unforgettable experience. When I say Masters, I mean it; each of the Ustas, Masters, spend 8-10 years at each phase of baklava making to perfect it; rolling the dough; turning the dough into the paper thin sheets of pastry, making the syrup, baking at the right heat..

Clouds of flour worked in baklava dough to make the paper thin sheets of pastry

Clouds of flour worked in baklava dough to make the paper thin sheets of pastry

The very first thing that greets you here is the clouds of flour in the air to make that paper thin sheets of pastry for baklava, all “opened”, stretched by hand with an oklava, rolling pin.

Each sheet of baklava pastry is so thin that you can read the newpaper behind it

Each sheet of baklava pastry is so thin that you can read the newpaper behind it

Once the pastry is paper thin (2mm width), the Ustas, masters, start layering them on a buttered tray. The hand rolled pastry is so thin that you can read the newspaper article behind the pastry sheet.

Paper thin sheets of pastries piled to go on a well buttered tray

Paper thin sheets of pastries piled to go on a well buttered tray

IMG_0725
Emerald colored finest Gaziantep pistachios spread generously on the baklava sheet.

The baklava master layers 20 sheets of pastry ( and sprinkles melted butter on every 4 sheets) then generously spreads finely crushed Gaziantep pistachios – finest and only type used at baklava here-  (or at some cases walnuts) on the 20th layer.

The Usta, master cuts the sheets first horizontally and poured melted butter over them

The Usta, master cuts the sheets first horizontally and poured melted butter over them

Once the next 20 layers of sheets added on top, the master, usta cuts the sheets first horizontally and pours melted butter over them – cutting helps the butter to penetrate every level. He then cuts vertically and splashes another dose of melted butter all around. The baklava is now ready to be baked in the oven at 165 C – 330 F.

We also had a go at baklava with clotted cream and pistachios; kaymakli, fistikli bohca baklava

We also had a go at baklava with clotted cream and pistachios; kaymakli, fistikli  gelin bohcasi

We also had a go at baklava pockets with clotted cream and pistachios; kaymakli, fistikli  gelin bohcasi, another amazing treat.

Having a go at fistikli gelin bohcasi; baklava pockets with thick clotted cream, kaymak, and pistachios

Having a go at fistikli gelin bohcasi; baklava pockets with thick clotted cream, kaymak, and pistachios

While baklava was baked in the oven, the syrup is prepared, consisting of pure cane sugar, lemon juice and water. In Turkey,  there is no honey added in to the baklava syrup.

In the traditional baklava syrup in Turkey, there are pure cane sugar, lemon juice and water – no honey in it-

In the traditional baklava syrup in Turkey, there are pure cane sugar, lemon juice and water – no honey in it-

Once cooked, the hot syrup is poured over the relatively cooler baklava, and then baklava tray goes back to the oven for another 5 minutes or so to soak up the syrup. After this, the baklava is rested at a cool area.

Syrup poured on baklava; now ready to go back to the oven again
Syrup poured on baklava; now ready to go back to the oven again

 And here is the real thing; wonderful, melt in the mouth delicious baklava. It is so light that you feel like eating ta plateful! I hope you get a chance to try the baklava in Turkey.

Fistikli ve cevizli baklava; baklava with pistachios and walnuts - what a treat

Fistikli ve cevizli baklava; baklava with pistachios and walnuts – what a treat

History of Baklava – Baklava Parade during the Ottomans

There are many theories as to the origin of baklava; but there is one thing for sure, that baklava was perfected at the Topkapi Palace Kitchens during the Ottoman Period and it was the Sultans’ favorite dessert. The importance of baklava at the Palace was not only because it was accepted as the token of wealth and sophistication ( as in the mansion houses) but also because it was a State tradition. The baklava parade that started at the end of the 17th century or at the beginning of the 18th century is example of this tradition.
When soldiers were getting their trimonthly pay from the Sultan, they were offered a big feast and on the 15th day of Ramadan they were treated to baklava. On the 15th day of Ramadan when the Sultan visited Hırka-i Serif (the cloak of Prophet Mohammed kept in Topkapı Palace) as a Caliph , baklava from the palace was sent to the Sultan’s Janissary soldiers. It was one tray of baklava for ten soldiers. The delivery of baklava to the soldiers and carrying the baklava to the barracks had then became an imposing parade.

Round tray baklava, cut in triangular slices

Round tray baklava, cut in triangular slices

Testing the Baklava

Here are some of the tests the masters, ustas at Gulluoglu carries out for a perfect baklava:

Hearing Test 
When you place a fork into a baklava you should hear a rustling sound. This means that the thin layers of dough are really thin and baklava is well cooked. The thinner the layers of dough the better the baklava.
Smelling test
When you lift to your mouth, you must smell the butter and the nut or peanut used as a filling. A good baklava should have fine ingredients.
Tasting test 
You can feel the good baklava in your mouth. Good baklava leaves a heavenly taste in your mouth and does not hurt the stomach.

My home made baklava with walnuts; delicious and easier than you think

My home made baklava with walnuts; delicious and easier than you think

I hope all these inspire you; would you like to have a go at making baklava at home? I make it with filo pastry sheets; it is easier than you think and very satisfying. My version is a little less sweeter and fragrant with a touch of lemon taste, here is the recipe  if you would like to have a go. 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. I think this version achieves that.

Enjoying boreks and baklavas in Gulluoglu Karakoy, Istanbul

Enjoying boreks and baklavas in Gulluoglu Karakoy, Istanbul

I will be demonstrating how to make baklava at my next Turkish Cookery class, at Central Market Cooking School, Austin – Texas on 2nd August.

The Blue Mosque, Sultanahmet Camii, Istanbul
The Blue Mosque, Sultanahmet Camii, Istanbul

9th July marks the start of the holy month of Ramadan this year; best wishes to all observing Ramadan; Ramazaniniz Mubarek Olsun. Baklava is one of the traditional desserts enjoyed during Ramadan, I hope you enjoy this special treat and have a chance to make it at home.

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