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Turkish Festive Dishes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ozlem

Baklava with Walnuts and Pistachios

Home made baklava; delicious, easy and lighter

Home made baklava; delicious, easy and lighter

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

Gullac

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

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

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

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

Kunefe; Kadayifi; a very festive dessert

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

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

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

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

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

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

Revani; Semolina Sponge Cake with Syrup

Revani; a deliciously moist semolina sponge cake in syrup

Revani; a deliciously moist semolina sponge cake in syrup

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

Kaymakli Ekmek Kadayifi; Turkish Bread Pudding in Syrup

Ekmek Kadayifi; Turkish bread pudding soaked in syrup

Ekmek Kadayifi; Turkish bread pudding soaked in syrup

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

 Afiyet Olsun,

Ozlem

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Baked Tahini Halva with Pine Nuts; Firinda Tahin Helvasi

Sweet and flaky tahini &and honey based halva or helva, a real treat

Sweet and flaky tahini &and honey based halva or helva, a real treat

Weather is turning cooler for most us and we look out for delicious, comfort food.  Tahini and honey based helva or halva, is a delicious treat enjoyed in Turkey; I especially love the baked tahini halva served in kebab houses and restaurants at home, such a heavenly taste.

Helva, the Turkish name, derives from the Arabic ‘halva’ meaning ‘sweet confection’. Halva is a very popular candy in Turkey, Armenia, Eastern Europe and the Middle East served in cafes and kebab houses. Halva is made primarily with honey and tahini and there are many variations of it.  In the old days they would grind oily sesame seeds into a paste (tahini) and then mix it with hot honey.  Nowadays prepared tahini is widely available in Middle Eastern stores abroad and at online stores like Best Turkish Food. Aside from the plain version of this sweet and flaky sesame based confection, there are many popular variations of Halva including chocolate and pistachio. The Turkish food store in North Cheam (address: 565-567 London Road, SM3 9AG, North Cheam) in the U.K. also carries Halva in packs.

This nut-butter-based Halva is made from tahini/tahin (sesame paste) or other nut butters e.g. sunflower seed butter with primary ingredients of nut butter, glucose and sugar or honey. This halva has a dry, crumbly texture and keeps in the fridge well for a long time. You can slice the halva and have with crackers or toasted slice of bread; the taste is just wonderful.

Baked tahini halva or helva with sauteed pine nuts, firinda tahin helvasi

Baked tahini halva or helva with sauteed pine nuts, firinda tahin helvasi

I was inspired by dear fellow blogger, Claudia for this delicious recipe and slightly adapted with the addition of pine nuts. Please check her wonderful blog, A Seasonal Cook in Turkey, where Claudia uses the seasonal produce in Turkey for her delicious recipes.

Here I chose to bake the tahini halva in the oven with sautéed pine nuts over the top. This dessert takes only minutes to make and it is so delicious; great for sharing with friends and family. The sautéed pine nuts add a lovely additional flavor and texture; I hope you enjoy it.

Serves 6

350g  precooked helva/halva– plain or with nuts

juice of half a lemon

100ml/4fl oz. whole milk

For sautéed pine nuts:

30ml/2 tbsp. pine nuts and drizzle of light olive oil

Ground cinnamon to serve

Plain crackers to serve

Preheat oven to 200C/400F

Mash the helva with a fork and then add the other ingredients, for a loose hummus consistency.

Mash the helva with a fork and then add the other ingredients, for a loose hummus consistency.

Mash the helva with a fork and then add the other ingredients. If you like, use an electric hand mixer to reach a smooth consistency which should become like ‘a loose hummus’. Pour into a large baking dish or 6 individual or small ovenproof dishes. Sprinkle with cinnamon and place in the hot oven for about 5 –  10 minutes, depending on how deep you filled the ramekins.

Sauteed pine nuts add a lovely texture and taste to the halva.

Sauteed pine nuts add a lovely texture and taste to the halva.

In the meantime, sauté the pine nuts in a drizzle of light olive oil for a few minutes in a pan, until they are golden.

Baked tahini helva with pine nuts, firinda tahin helvasi

Baked tahini helva with pine nuts, firinda tahin helvasi

Once the halva is baked, sprinkle the sautéed pine nuts over the halva and serve hot, with plain crackers by the side.

A heavenly taste of baked tahini halva with pine nuts, firinda tahin helvasi

A heavenly taste of baked tahini halva with pine nuts, firinda tahin helvasi

 

Afiyet Olsun,

Ozlem

 

 

 

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Candied Pumpkin Dessert with Walnuts, Turkish Style; Kabak Tatlisi

Turkish candied pumpkin dessert, Kabak Tatlisi; so easy and scrumptious

Turkish candied pumpkin dessert, Kabak Tatlisi; so easy and scrumptious

We all have pumpkins in our minds at this time of the year; I love its natural sweetness and comforting, luscious flavor. This scrumptious candied pumpkin dessert is popular in Turkey and it is so very easy to make. Pumpkin is baked here in its very own juice with sugar and the result is an exquisite dessert with the full flavor of pumpkin, also fancy enough to share with family and friends.

This lovely light dessert, Kabak Tatlisi, is wonderful served with crushed walnuts. In Turkey, it is also served with our thick clotted cream, kaymak. If you can’t get kaymak, clotted cream also complements this dessert well. You can also add a few cloves or cinnamon sticks to its juice before baking, if you’d like to spice up this dessert.

Luscious candied pumpkin dessert, Kabak Tatlisi; great for entertaining

Luscious candied pumpkin dessert, Kabak Tatlisi; great for entertaining

I hope you can give this delicious, glistening pumpkin dessert a try; it may also be a lovely addition for your holiday entertaining and a pleasant surprise for Halloween, if you are celebrating.

Serves 6 – 8

1kg/2 ¼ lb. pumpkin flesh, peeled, deseeded and cut into chunky cubes or rectangular blocks (about 3” long)

250gr/9 oz. / 1 ½ cup sugar

225gr/1 cup crushed walnuts to serve

Turkish clotted cream, Kaymak or clotted cream to serve (optional)

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F

Sprinkle sugar over the pumpkin pieces evenly.

Sprinkle sugar over the pumpkin pieces evenly.

Line the bottom of a large baking dish with the prepared pumpkin pieces and sprinkle sugar over them evenly. Then layer the rest of the pumpkin chunks and pour the remaining sugar evenly over them. Cover the dish and let it rest overnight.

Let the sugar coated pupmkin pieces rest overnight; even after 30 minutes, you notice the juices coming up.

Let the sugar coated pumpkin pieces rest overnight; even after 30 minutes, you notice the juices coming up.

The next day, you will notice that the pumpkin has released all its juices and that the pieces are nearly covered with all that wonderful juice. This liquid is all you need to bake the pumpkin, no need to add any extra water.

Baked, candied pumpkin, utterly delicious.

Baked, candied pumpkin, utterly delicious.

Bake the pumpkin in the preheated oven, uncovered. Every 20 minutes, spoon the syrup in the baking dish over the pumpkin pieces so that they all absorb the syrup and start glistening. After 45 minutes of baking, check the sweetness of the pumpkin; if you like it sweeter, you can sprinkle a few more tablespoonful of sugar. Also, after 45 minutes of baking, turn the pumpkin pieces around so that all pieces keep moist with the juice. Bake for about an 1 hour to 1 ¼ hours in total, until all the syrup is absorbed and the pumpkin pieces are cooked and candied.

Luscious candied pumpkin dessert with crushed walnuts; Cevizli Kabak Tatlisi

Luscious candied pumpkin dessert with crushed walnuts; Cevizli Kabak Tatlisi

Let the pumpkin dessert cool down. Decorate the candied pumpkin pieces with crushed walnuts just before serving; you can serve this delicious dessert as this way or also with Turkish thick clotted cream, kaymak or regular clotted cream aside.

Afiyet Olsun,

Ozlem

 

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