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Regional Signature Dishes; Mains, Sides and Desserts

Home Style Iskender Kebab in Tomato Sauce, Pita Bread and Yoghurt

Home Style Iskender Kebab in tomato sauce with pita bread and yoghurt

I have long wanted to recreate the delicious Iskender Kebab, Iskender Kebabi at home; thin slices of lamb or beef in tomato based sauce, served over pide bread with yoghurt and grilled vegetables by the side. It is one of the most delicious kebabs you can have in Turkey and it is a joy to be able to recreate at home.

Traditional doner maker in Istanbul, making chicken (tavuk) doner

Doner maker, donerci, in Istanbul, making chicken (tavuk) doner on a vertical rotisserie

Living abroad, Iskender Kebab is one of the special treats I dearly miss. This delicious kebab is a specialty of Bursa region in Turkey and I remember many foodie trips I made to Bursa to enjoy the genuine Iskender Kebap. Iskender Kebab is made with doner kebab, which requires a vertical rotisserie where layers of thinly sliced lamb, beef, veal – or chicken – stacked together. Traditionally, minced meat is used to stick the slices of the meat.

Home made Iskender Kebab; easier than you think and most delicious.

Home made Iskender Kebab; easier than you think and most delicious.

I don’t have a vertical rotisserie but managed to make a very close by Iskender Kebab at home, greatly enjoyed by family and friends. Thin slices of rib eye steak or lamb or beef tenderloin work very well here. Marinating the meat in onion juice, olive oil and spices is really worth the effort to tenderize the meat and add a lot of flavor. With pide bread, pide ekmek as a base, delicious tomato sauce poured over the meat, grilled tomatoes, peppers and yoghurt by the side, home style Iskender Kebab makes a very special meal to share with family and friends. My thanks goes to the brilliant book Anatolia; Adventures in Turkish Cooking, for the inspiration to have a go at making Iskender Kebab at home.

Home style Iskender Kebab; delicious over pita bread with yoghurt and grilled vegetables aside.

Home style Iskender Kebab; delicious over pita bread with yoghurt and grilled vegetables aside.

I hope you enjoy making Iskender Kebab at home with my recipe, it is easier than you think and most delicious. My best wishes to you all for the festive season and the New Year, in good health and happiness.

Afiyet Olsun,

Ozlem

4.8 from 10 reviews
Home Style Iskender Kebap in Tomato Sauce, Pita Bread and Yoghurt
 
Iskender Kebab is one of the most popular kebabs at home and a specialty of Bursa region. You can make this delicious Iskender Kebap at home; thin slices of lamb or beef in tomato based sauce, served over pide bread with yoghurt and grilled vegetables by the side. It is easier than you think and most delicious, afiyet olsun!
Author:
Recipe type: Turkish Style Kebabs to make at home
Cuisine: Turkish
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • For the meat marinate:
  • 2 lbs. rib eye steak or lamb or beef tenderloin
  • 2 large onions, grated
  • 45 ml / 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 10 ml/ 2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 10 ml/ 2 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • For the tomato sauce:
  • 30 ml / 2 tbsp. concentrated tomato paste
  • 15 ml/ 1 tbsp. red pepper paste (optional; you can use extra 1 tbsp. tomato paste and red pepper flakes to your taste instead too)
  • 30 ml/ 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 16 fl oz. / 2 cups water
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 3 medium tomatoes, cut into wedges
  • 2 green pointy or bell peppers, deseeded and sliced
  • Thinly sliced pide ekmek or plain pita bread – 6 pieces, to serve
  • 500 gr / 2 cups plain yoghurt to serve
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 180 C / 350 F
  2. Prepare the meat marination a day ahead of time of cooking.
  3. Grate the onions or place them in a food processor and process until liquid. Squeeze all the onion juice into a non-metallic bowl and discard any remaining onion pulp.
  4. Slice the meat thinly (you can ask your butcher to this for you too) and then pound each slice with the back of a wooden spoon (or with a meat tenderizer). We aim to achieve the slices about 5 cm (2”) x 4 cm (1.5”) in size.
  5. Combine the onion juice, oregano, red pepper flakes, olive oil, salt and freshly ground pepper in a large bowl. Stir in the meat slices and coat each piece with this marination. Cover the bowl with a cling film and marinate overnight in the fridge.
  6. To make the tomato sauce, pour in the olive oil in a sauce pan over the medium heat. Stir in the tomato paste, red pepper paste (if using) and red pepper flakes. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and combine well. Add the water then bring to the boil. Then gently simmer for 10 minutes.
  7. Slice the pide or pita bread in 3 cm x 3 cm (about 1”) squares and place on a tray. Warm in the oven for 5 minutes.
  8. Drizzle a little olive oil on a skillet and cook the meat slices on high heat; for about 2 minutes each side (take care not to overcook). Also sauté the sliced tomatoes and peppers at the other side of the skillet, until they start to charcoal at edges.
  9. Once everything is cooked, plate your Iskender Kebap. Place the warm pide / pita bread slices on each plate. Spread the cooked slices of the meat over the pide bread and pour over the tomato sauce. Place the sautéed tomatoes and peppers at one side and a dollop of plain yoghurt at the other side. Serve immediately. This recipe serves 4 -6 generously.
  10. Afiyet Olsun.

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Katmer; Turkish crunchy pancakes with pistachio and clotted cream

Katmer; Turkish crunchy pancakes with pistachios and clotted cream

Katmer; Turkish crunchy pancakes with pistachios and clotted cream

This delicious and easy to make Turkish crunchy pancakes with pistachios and clotted cream, Katmer, hails from Gaziantep, one of the must visit gastronomic regions in Turkey. The crunchy, flaky Katmer is traditionally the first meal eaten by the bride and groom after their wedding night in Gaziantep. It tastes absolutely heavenly with Gaziantep’s world famous pistachios and the thick Turkish clotted cream, kaymak.

and place little dabs of the clotted cream, mascarpone cheese or Turkish kaymak, all around the filo sheet.

Place little dabs of the clotted cream, mascarpone cheese or Turkish kaymak, all around the filo sheet.

My version of Katmer here uses filo pastry sheets (you can use the fresh, paper thin Turkish yufka pastry sheets in Turkey) and thick clotted cream instead of kaymak, as it is not easy to find kaymak abroad (mascarpone cheese also gave good results). The substitution worked well in Katmer and made a lovely, light dessert with with fresh fruit by the side. You can serve Katmer as part of breakfast, dessert or as a tea time treat.

Katmer, Turkish crunchy pancakes with pistachios and clotted cream, a specialty of Gaziantep.

Katmer, Turkish crunchy pancakes with pistachios and clotted cream, a specialty of Gaziantep.

I hope you enjoy Katmer, Afiyet Olsun,
Ozlem

5.0 from 1 reviews
Katmer; Turkish crunchy pancakes with pistachio and clotted cream
 
This delicious and easy to make Turkish crunchy pancakes with pistachios and clotted cream, Katmer, hails from Gaziantep, one of the must visit gastronomic regions in Turkey. It is delicious as part of breakfast, tea time treat or a light dessert with fresh fruit aside.
Author:
Recipe type: Turkish regional desserts
Cuisine: Turkish
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 4 sheets of filo pastry, thawed (each sheet about 30 cm x 27 cm – 11 in x 12 in)
  • 30 ml / 2 tbsp. melted unsalted butter
  • 55 gr / 2 oz. clotted cream, Turkish kaymak or mascarpone cheese
  • 60 gr / 4 tbsp. finely crushed, unsalted pistachios
  • 30 ml / 2 tbsp. sugar (brown sugar works well too)
  • Honey and fresh fruit to serve (optional)
Instructions
  1. Take the filo sheets out of the fridge 30 minutes prior using to bring to room temperature. If filo sheets are frozen, it is best to thaw in the fridge overnight and take out 1 hour prior using to bring to room temperature. Alternatively, you can take out the frozen filo sheets 2 hours prior using to bring to room temperature.
  2. Place two filo sheets on top of another on a dry surface (keep the rest of the filo sheets under damp towel so that they won’t dry out).
  3. Leave a margin of about 4 cm (1.5 in) around the edges and place little dabs of the clotted cream, mascarpone cheese or Turkish kaymak, all around the filo sheet.
  4. Sprinkle the finely crushed pistachios and sugar evenly over the cream.
  5. Place the remaining 2 filo sheets on top. Brush the edges of the top filo sheet with 1 tbsp. of melted butter. Wet your hands and fold over each side of the pasty (about 2 cm / 1 in) to make a parcel. Seal the edges with your wet hands and the brushed melted butter.
  6. Coat the remaining 1 tbsp. melted butter around a large, non-stick frying pan, over medium heat.
  7. Place the filo parcel into the pan (with the wrapped edges down) and cook for 2 minutes, as it will get golden.
  8. Turn the pancake over gently (large spatulas help) and cook for another 1,5 minutes or until golden.
  9. Serve katmer warm, drizzled with a little honey (if you wish) and crushed pistachios over. Bowl of fresh fruit aside complements katmer beautifully too.
 

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Rolled Cabbage Leaves with Bulgur filling; Bulgurlu Lahana Sarma

Rolled cabbage leaves with bulgur, ground meat, onion and spices; Bulgurlu Lahana Sarmasi

Rolled cabbage leaves with bulgur, ground meat, onion and spices; Bulgurlu Lahana Sarmasi

We love stuffed vegetables, dolmas in Turkish cuisine and I have a soft spot for this delicious stuffed cabbage leaves with bulgur, onions and ground meat, Bulgurlu Lahana Sarmasi, Antakya style (“Dolma” is the term used for stuffed vegetables, as in peppers, aubergines, tomatoes and “Sarma” is the term used for rolled leaves in Turkish cuisine). Bulgur is flavored here with the dried mint (the star spice here), cumin and red pepper flakes, along with onion and parsley. It makes a delicious filling even without the meat; so by all means omit the meat for a vegetarian version. I remember as a child so eagerly waiting for this delicious sarma to cook; mother would ask whether we would like to do a “quality check” of the rolls from the pot and we tuck in at that very minute, happy days.

Tip for separating the cabbage leaves; try to get a large cabbage with big, straight leaves. Trim the bottom root and place the cabbage as whole in a large pan with boiling water and simmer for 8 minutes. The leaves will start to peel off without breaking. Please save the hard stalk or the hard middle part of the cabbage leaves; they are delicious in Lahana Kapuska; cabbage cooked with rice, onions, ground meat and spices, which I will also share in the coming weeks (a sort of deconstructed rolled cabbage leaves).

Rolled cabbage leaves with bulgur, Southern Turkish Style; dried mint and red pepper flakes flavor the cabbage and bulgur beautifully

Rolled cabbage leaves with bulgur, Southern Turkish Style; dried mint and red pepper flakes flavor the cabbage and bulgur beautifully

Wholesome grain bulgur is widely used in southern Turkish cuisine in mezzes, salads, stuffed vegetables and in bulgur pilaf. Cooked in lemony olive oil sauce, it makes a delicious pairing with cabbage here; all you need is some plain yoghurt aside to enjoy this delicious Bulgurlu Lahana Sarmasi. You can use (1 tbsp.) pomegranate molasses instead of lemon juice in the sauce if you’d like a sharper taste.

I hope you enjoy our family favorite; Afiyet Olsun,

Ozlem

4.5 from 2 reviews
Rolled Cabbage Leaves with Bulgur filling; Bulgurlu Lahana Sarma
 
Wholesome grain bulgur pairs with cabbage well and makes a delicious filling with ground meat, spices and onion. I hope you enjoy this Southern Turkish style rolled cabbage leaves with bulgur filling; it is delicious and wholesome. Plain yoghurt by the side complements the cabbage rolls very well. Afiyet Olsun!
Author:
Recipe type: Healthy Mains with bulgur and cabbage
Cuisine: Southern Turkish Cusine
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 200 gr/ 7 oz. / 1 cup coarse bulgur
  • 1 large cabbage (which yields about 20 large to medium cabbage leaves)
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 225 gr/ 8 oz. ground (minced) beef or lamb
  • Small bunch of parsley leaves, finely chopped
  • 30 ml / 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 15 ml / 1 tbsp. dried mint
  • 5 ml/ 1 tsp. cumin
  • 5 ml/ 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • For the sauce:
  • 4 cloves of garlic, crushed with salt and finely chopped
  • 15 ml / 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • Juice of 1 lemon (or 1 tbsp. pomegranate molasses)
  • 500 ml / 1 pint / 2 cups of water
  • 15 ml / 1 tbsp. tomato paste
  • Dried mint and red pepper flakes to serve
  • Plain yoghurt to serve
Instructions
  1. Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil.
  2. Trim the bottom root and place the cabbage as whole in the pan with boiling water and simmer for 8-10 minutes.
  3. Remove the cabbage and leave it to cool. Then take a sharp knife and cut the outer leaves from the main stalk. The rest of the leaves will start to peel off without breaking one by one. Peel off about 20 large to medium leaves for rolling and set them aside (Please save the hard stalk or the hard middle part of the cabbage leaves, that is too small or hard to roll; they are delicious in Lahana Kapuska; cabbage cooked with rice, onions, ground meat and spices, which I will also share in the coming weeks).
  4. For the filling; combine the bulgur, chopped onion, parsley, olive oil, dried mint, cumin, red pepper flakes, salt and freshly ground black pepper in a large bowl. Knead well with your hands for a few minutes. Stir in the ground meat and knead for another minute to combine well.
  5. With a sharp knife, carefully trim and make a V shape cut to remove the thickest part of the stalk from the base of each cabbage leaf. Place 1 to 1 ½ tablespoon of the filling (depending on the size of the leaf) in the middle of the leaf. Fold in the sides and then roll the leaf up tightly. Repeat with the remaining leaves and filling.
  6. Place the rolled leaves tightly in a heavy pan with seam side down, do the second layer too and pack tightly.
  7. For the sauce, mix together the water, olive oil, lemon juice (or 1 tbsp. pomegranate molasses), tomato paste and chopped garlic in a bowl. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper to your taste. Pour this sauce over the rolled cabbage leaves (the water should just about to cover the top of the rolled cabbage leaves). Place a plate on top of the leaves to stop them unraveling during cooking.
  8. Cover the pan and cook on low heat over stove top or burner for 40 – 45 minutes, simmering gently.
  9. Once cabbage rolls are cooked, serve hot, decorated with dried mint and red pepper flakes. Plain yoghurt complements this delicious cabbage rolls with bulgur filling, bulgurlu lahana sarmasi, beautifully. Afiyet Olsun.
Notes
Tip for separating the cabbage leaves; try to get a large cabbage with big, straight leaves. Trim the bottom root and place the cabbage as whole in a large pan with boiling water and simmer for 8 minutes. The leaves will start to peel off without breaking.
 

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