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Turkish Festive Dishes

Delicious Turkish Festive Meals To Share; Mutlu Bayramlar!

Turkish Delights, Lokum galore! An integral part of the festivities in Turkey

Turkish Delights, Lokum galore! An integral part of the festivities in Turkey

Muslims around the world will be celebrating the Feast of Sacrifice, Kurban Bayrami or Eid al-Adha as of 24th September in 2015. I have many happy memories celebrating this special event with the family back in Turkey. This is the time family and friends get together to share their food and charity is at the top of the list. Food is shared with friends, family and contribution to charity and sharing the food with the poor and needy is what makes Kurban Bayrami special. Visiting family and friends is another highlight; we children  would wear our best frocks and visit the elderly to pay our respects (and spoilt with delicious sweets).

As always, food takes the center stage and here are some ideas for you to prepare your festive Kurban Bayrami or Eid al-Adha table. Most of the dishes here can be prepared ahead of time and makes it easy for entertaining for any festivity or gathering.

Soup of the Mountain Pastures with Yoghurt, Whole Grain Rice, Dried Mint and Paprika Flakes -Yayla Corbasi 

Delicious, wholesome yoghurt based soup, Yayla Corbasi

Delicious, wholesome yoghurt based soup, Yayla Corbasi

Soups, “Corba” in Turkish, form a very important part of Turkish diet; almost every dinner, especially in cooler months, start with a soup in Turkish households and Bayram table is no exception. This simple but delicious yoghurt based soup, Yayla Corbasi, originates back to Anatolia’s earliest settlers and nomadic herdsman. It is one of the most popular soups in Turkey, flavored with dried mint and paprika flakes and would make a perfect start to any festive meal.

Baked Icli Kofte – Oruk, Cevizli Biber- Walnut dip, red pepper paste dip, Patlicanli Eksileme- Roasted Eggplant Salad

My mother would start preparing for the Bayram feast from weeks well ahead of time. She would make the Oruk ,baked bulgur shells with walnuts & ground meat, even a month or so ago, as it can keep freezer very well. Cevizli Biber, the Walnut & red pepper paste dip  is one of my favorite mezes of all time; it is very easy to make and very, very more-ish, you just can’t stop eating it.. You can keep the dip covered in the fridge for 3-4 days and it gets better the next day! How about this Roasted Eggplant salad, Patlicanli Eksileme? This is a wonderful, refreshing salad can be served as part of a “mezze” – appetizer- or can accompany grilled meats and vegetables.

Spinach and Cheese Pie- Ispanakli, Peynirli Borek, a winner for all 

Spinach and Cheese Pie, Ispanakli, peynirli borek; a winner for all

Spinach and Cheese Pie, Ispanakli, peynirli borek; a winner for all

Boreks, Stuffed savory pastries has a special place in Turkish cuisine; they are an essential part of the festivities or gatherings. This wonderful spinach and cheese pie has to be one of the most deliciously pleasing and easy borek around. I use the filo pastry sheets for this recipe and it works well. If frozen, you need to defrost them overnight in the fridge and leave at room temperature about 2 hours before using. I combine the feta cheese with mozzarella in this recipe to make it moister. You can serve this pie as an appetizer; they are also delicious at afternoon tea time with cay, tea aside.

Imam Bayildi; Eggplants Cooked in Olive Oil with Onion, Garlic and Tomato

Imam Bayildi; Stuffed eggplants with onions, garlic and tomatoes; simply delicious

Imam Bayildi; Stuffed eggplants with onions, garlic and tomatoes; simply delicious

Imam Bayildi, Eggplants cooked in olive oil with vegetables, would also make a delicious, refreshing vegetarian course at the festive tables. The aubergines are gently poached in this dish with a generous mixture of onions, tomatoes and garlic. This dish is in the category of Vegetables cooked in olive oil, Zeytinyaglis in Turkish cuisine, where the vegetables are poached in olive oil and little water and served either cold or room temperature with a slice of lemon aside.

 A Festive DishMevlubi; Layers of Eggplants, Potatoes, Meat and Rice

A very festive dish, Mevlubi; layers of eggplant, potato and meat cooked with rice

A very festive dish, Mevlubi; layers of eggplant, potato and meat cooked with rice

Another signature dish from my mother’s table, Mevlubi; this special dish makes an appearance in every special occasion on my parent’s table and it is fit for festivities. I love that succulent meat, eggplant, potato all cooked together and their flavor enhance one another. As you can cook ahead of time, this wonderful all in one dish makes an impressive main course and you get to spend more time with your company. For maximum results, please cook on low heat, and let Mevlubi rest for minimum 30 minutes prior serving.

 Pistachio Lamb Kebabs on Flat Breads & Sauteed Carrots in Garlic Yoghurt 

 

Pistachio lamb kebabs  are easy to recreate in your home, delicious and look impressive. Children love them as well as the adults, so they are great for entertaining. Having pistachio nuts in kebabs is a Southern Turkish specialty; I love the rich nutty flavor the pistachios add to the kebabs. With flat breads as the base and roasted vegetables by the side, this succulent kebab is a real crowd pleaser, and can make any day special.

Yoghurt has a special place in Turkish cuisine; some of the finest yoghurt in the world is made in Turkey and is included in some way at most family meal times. This simple but very delicious Turkish mezze, Sauteed carrots in garlic yoghut is a favorite with us and complements these pistachio kebabs very well.

Festive Desserts

Baklava with Walnuts and Pistachios; Cevizli, Fistikli Baklava

 Homemade Baklava with walnuts and pistachios

Homemade Baklava with walnuts and pistachios

An Ottoman legacy, baklava is 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 and it is fit for festivities! 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. Hope you enjoy my version of  baklava which is a little less sweet and more fragrant. Using filo pastry sheets, making baklava is much easier than you think.

Kunefe – Kadayifi

Antakya's kunefe; kadayifi

Antakya’s kunefe; kadayifi, a very festive dessert

 This glorious syrup soaked, cheese filled pastry strands, Kunefe, is one of the signature dishes of my hometown, Antakya and a very festive dessert. 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.

Milk Pudding with Mastic Gum; Sakizli Muhallebi

Milk pudding with mastic gum; Sakizli Muhallebi, a light, fragrant pudding

Milk pudding with mastic gum; Sakizli Muhallebi, a light, fragrant pudding

How about this delicious, light and fragrant milk pudding with mastic gum for a sweet treat? In Turkey, mastic gum is used in milky desserts, ice cream (a very delicious experience). Originally liquid, mastic gum is sold as hard small translucent lumps and melted in hot milk while making dessert. Any berry or plum compote would also go well with this pudding. 

Turkish Coffee and Turkish Delight; they go well together

Turkish Coffee and Turkish Delight; they go so well together

As always, Turkish coffee and Turkish delight would be the perfect end for the festive gathering.

Mutlu Bayramlar to all celebrating. I hope these delicious food may inspire and be enjoyed during any festivities, gatherings with family and friends.

Afiyet Olsun,

Ozlem

 

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Asure – Noah's Dessert

Asure; dessert of Noah's Ark; a festive treat

Asure; Noah’s Dessert; a festive treat

This delicious dessert of grains, pulses and dried fruit, referred as Asure or Ashura – Noah’s Dessert-, is most probably one of Turkey’s most famous dessert. According to the legend, Noah made it on the Ark by combining whatever ingredients were left on the ark. It is also the traditional dessert to serve on the 10th day of the Muslim month Muharrem, the first month of the Islamic calendar. Asure is always made in large quantities and shared with friends and neighbors.

Though the ingredients list is pretty rich, I believe whatever grains, pulses and dried fruit you have in your pantry will do. And if you are short of time, why not using good quality pre-cooked chickpeas and beans in cans; I am all up for it if it helps making this wonderful dessert. Adding the pomegranate seeds over the top give a festive touch and make the dessert refreshing too.

Serves 10 – 12

50gr/2oz haricot (navy) beans, soaked overnight (or at least for 6 hours) and drained
50gr/2oz skinned broad (fava) beans soaked overnight (or at least for 6 hours) and drained
50gr/2oz chickpeas (garbanzo beans) soaked overnight (or at least for 6 hours) and drained
115gr/4oz pot barley, with husks removed, and soaked overnight in plenty of water
50gr/2oz rice, washed and drained
115gr/4oz dried apricots
50gr/2oz raisins
50gr/2oz currants
225gr/8oz sugar
30ml/2 tablespoon corn flour (cornstarch) or rice flour
150ml /1/4 pint rose water

To garnish:
2 teaspoons/10 ml cinnamon
4-5 dried figs, sliced
4-5 dried apricots, sliced
15 ml/1 tablespoon sultanas
30 ml/2 tablespoon crushed walnuts
Seeds of 1/2 pomegranate

Cook the beans in separate pans of fresh water until just tender. The haricot beans will require about 50 minutes; the broad beans and chickpeas about 1 hour.

Transfer the barley and its soaking water to a large, deep pan and bring to boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 45 minutes, or until the barley is tender, topping up with the water during the cooking time if necessary.

Add the cooked beans, chickpeas and the rice, and bring the liquid to boil again. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, place all the dried fruit in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Leave to soak for 10 minutes, then drain. Add the fruit to the pan with the beans and stir in the sugar. Continue to simmer, stirring from time to time, until the mixture thickens.

Mix the corn flour or rice flour with a little water to form a creamy paste. Add 30ml/2tbsp of the hot liquid from the pan to the paste and add it to the pan, stirring constantly. Add the rose water and continue to simmer the mixture for another 15 minutes, stirring from to time, until the mixture is very thick.

Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl. Shake the bowl to make sure the surface is flat and leave the pudding to cool. Sprinkle the cinnamon over the pudding and arrange the sliced dried figs, apricots, sultanas and walnuts over the top. Sprinkle pomegranate seeds over generously. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Afiyet Olsun,

Ozlem

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Baklava with Pistachios and Walnuts – Fistikli ve Cevizli Baklava

Baklava with pistachios and walnuts, such a delicious treat

Baklava with pistachios and walnuts, such a delicious treat

An Ottoman legacy, baklava is 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. There is no bad time for a good piece of baklava! 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.

This recipe is an adaptation from Ghillie Basan’s The Complete Book of Turkish Cooking, one of my favorite Turkish cookery authors.  My version of baklava is less sweet and more fragrant and lemony, must say really pleased with it. With using filo pastry sheets, baklava is much easier to make than you think. I hope you would give it a go sometime and enjoy this wonderful treat.

Home-made baklava; delicious and easier than you think!

Home-made baklava; delicious and easier than you think!

Serves 12
Preparation time :20 minutes                 Cooking time: 45 – 50 minutes

230 gr/ 8oz / 1 cup melted unsalted butter
440 gr/1 lb. 2 packs of filo pastry sheets – total 24 sheets –
375 gr/ 13 oz. walnuts and unsalted pistachios, finely chopped
10 ml / 2 tsp ground cinnamon

For the syrup:
450 gr/ 2 ¼ cups sugar
420 ml/ 14 fl. oz. / 1 ¾ cup water
Juice of ½ large lemon

30cmx19 cm (12inx7in) baking dish to bake

To serve:
Ground pistachio nuts to sprinkle over the baklavas

Preheat the oven to 160 C/ 325 F / Gas 3

Make the syrup first. Put the sugar into a heavy pan, pour in water and bring to the boil, stirring all the time. When the sugar is dissolved, lower the heat and stir in the lemon juice, them simmer for about 15 minutes, until the syrup thickens. Leave to cool in the pan.

Melt the butter in a small pan and then brush a little over the bottom and sides of the baking pan.

To thaw frozen filo sheets, it is best to place it in the fridge the night before and bring it to room temperature 2 hours before using. If in the fridge, take out the filo pastry sheets 20 minutes prior using, to bring to the room temperature. Place two sheets of filo pastry in the bottom of the greased pan and brush it with melted butter (trim from the edges to fit, if needed). Continue until you have used 12 filo sheets, brushing every two sheets with butter. Ease the sheets into the corners and trim the edges if they flop over the rim of the pan.

Spread the walnuts over the 12th buttered sheet and sprinkle with the cinnamon, and then continue as before with the remaining filo sheets. Brush the top one as well, then, using a sharp knife cut diagonal parallel lines right through all the layers to the bottom to form small diamond shapes.

Bake the baklava into the oven for about 45 minutes or until the top is golden – if it is still pale, increase the temperature for a few minutes at the end.

When the baklava is ready, remove it from the oven and slowly pour the cooled syrup over the piping hot pastry. Return to the oven for 2-3 minutes to soak up the syrup, then take it out and leave to cool.

Once the baklava is cool, lift the diamond shaped pieces out of the pan and arrange them in a serving dish. Serve baklava pieces with ground pistachios over them, always at room temperature.

Note: Baklava should never be stored at the refrigerator, as the fat congeals, pastry absorbs the moisture and it becomes soggy.

Baklava with walnuts and pistachios

Baklava with walnuts and pistachios

Afiyet Olsun,

Ozlem

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