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Baked Zucchini (courgette) halves with vegetables and chickpeas (garbanzo beans) -Nohutlu Kabak Dolmasi

I previously made the delicious stuffed zucchini halves with ground meat, vegetables and chickpeas or garbanzo beans, inspired by my home town, Antioch’s (Antakya) cuisine. I was asked for a vegetarian version of this dish during my Turkish cookery class past Saturday and there came this delicious dish. The meaty mushrooms, onions, peppers made a scrumptious filling and worked so well with chickpeas. With a touch of heat by the Turkish hot pepper paste, biber salcasi & Turkish red pepper flakes and the refreshing dried mint, we had an at least equally delicious vegetarian stuffed zucchini that we all very much enjoyed.

Stuffed zucchini with onions, mushrooms, pepper and chickpeas, in tomato sauce

Stuffed zucchini with onions, mushrooms, pepper and chickpeas, in tomato sauce

I also used a little pomegranate molasses, nar eksisi, to add a delicious sweet & sour taste to the zucchini halves. Pomegranate molasses is used a lot especially in Southern Turkish cuisine in salad dressings like in this Gavurdagi Salad of tomatoes, onions and walnuts or in bulgur wheat salad, kisir; a little bit of it adds a great punch.

You can prepare this healthy dish ahead of time and the leftovers freeze beautifully. Please save the flesh of the zucchini or courgettes that you scooped out. They are delicious & wholesome cooked with onions, tomatoes & dried mint in this bulgur pilaf .

Serves 4-6

Preparation time: 20 minutes                                                Cooking time: 50-55 minutes

3 chunky zucchini/courgette

200gr/7oz chestnut mushrooms, wiped clean and finely chopped

1 green bell pepper, finely chopped

1 onion, finely chopped

3 cloves of garlic, crushed and finely chopped

200gr/7oz (1/2 can of) chopped tomatoes

200gr/7oz (1/2 can of) cooked chickpeas, rinsed

15ml/1 tbsp. pomegranate molasses, nar eksisi (optional)

30ml/2tablespoons olive oil

240ml/8fl oz./ 1cup water

15ml/1 tbsp. tomato paste

5 ml / 1 tsp. Turkish red pepper paste – optional-

10ml/2 tsp. dried mint

5ml/1 tsp. red pepper flakes

Salt and ground black pepper to taste

To serve:

120ml/8fl oz. plain yoghurt

1-2 garlic cloves, crushed with salt and finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 180 C/350 F/Gas 4

carefully scoop out some of the flesh to create a cavity that is large enough to stuff

Carefully scoop out some of the flesh to create a cavity that is large enough to stuff

Cut the zucchini in half and then in lengthways. Using a dessert spoon, carefully scoop out some of the flesh to create a cavity that is large enough to stuff the filling (Please save the flesh of the zucchini that you scooped out. They are delicious cooked in bulgur pilaf). Mix 2 tbsp. water with the pomegranate molasses (if using) and wash the inside of the courgettes with this mixture; this adds a delicious sweet & sour taste to the zucchini.

Chickpeas (garbanzo beans) combined with vegetables make a delicious filling

Chickpeas (garbanzo beans) combined with vegetables make a delicious filling

Heat the oil in a heavy pan. Stir in the onions and garlic and cook until light golden. Add the mushrooms, bell pepper and hot pepper paste (if using). Season with salt and pepper and sauté for about 5 minutes. Stir in the chopped tomatoes and the cooked chickpeas, mix well. Add the red pepper flakes and the dried mint, combine well. Cover and cook for another 10 minutes. Turn the heat off; the filling is ready.

Take a spoonful of the filling and stuff the zucchini halves.

Take a spoonful of the filling and stuff the zucchini halves.

Grease a baking tray with 1 tbsp. olive oil and place the scooped zucchini. Take a spoonful of the filling and stuff the zucchini halves, taking care not to over fill them. Dilute the tomato paste with the water and pour on the tray. Cover and bake in the oven for about 25-30 minutes. After this, uncover and bake for a further 10 minutes for a lightly brown finish.

While the zucchini halves are baking, prepare your garlic yoghurt. In a bowl, mix the plain yoghurt with the chopped garlic. Serve the stuffed zucchini hot, with the garlic yoghurt by the side. You can make this wonderful bulgur pilaf using the flesh of the zucchini we scooped out; they complement each very nicely and you get a complete meal.

Baked zucchini halves with vegetables & chickpeas; great with garlic yoghurt aside

Baked zucchini halves with vegetables & chickpeas; great with garlic yoghurt aside

Afiyet Olsun,

Ozlem

Istanbul is Calling!

Turkish tea, Cay, Simit and Istanbul's Bosphorus; a heavenly combination

Turkish tea, Cay, Simit and Istanbul’s Bosphorus; a heavenly combination

Indeed Istanbul is calling and I can hardly wait! I will be in Istanbul next week, the city that makes my heart beats fast, a feast to all senses. Greatly looking forward to seeing family, friends and feeling the beat of this fascinating city.

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

The very atmospheric Spice Market, Misir Carsisi, Istanbul – feast to all senses

I also very much look forward to sharing delicious Turkish cuisine with food lovers at my Turkish cookery class on Wednesday, 19th February at the Istanbul Culinary Institute. I will be in touch soon with delicious memories from home!

With my best wishes, Selamlar,

Ozlem

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A refreshingly delicious Baked Chicken with Summer Vegetables, Chickpeas, Lemon Pepper & touch of Zahtar

Tangy, refreshing lemon, packed with goodness.

Tangy, refreshing lemon, packed with goodness.

I am a huge lemon fan; love its refreshing, tangy flavor and lemon is a welcome addition to most of the dishes I enjoy. My dear friend Hande knows my soft spot for lemons and she made us a delicious chicken course using this lemon pepper blend while we stayed with them in Houston. It was my first time to try this blend and I greatly enjoyed it.

Lemon pepper spice blend; delicious on fish, poultry and vegetables.

Lemon pepper spice blend; delicious on fish, poultry and vegetables.

Lemon pepper blend consists of good sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, lemon peel, garlic and onion. It is wonderful on fish and equally as good on chicken, turkey and vegetables. The spice store Penzeys  have it; alternatively, you can also make your own.

Baked chicken with summer vegetables and lemon pepper; a delicious main course you can prepare ahead of time.

Baked chicken with summer vegetables and lemon pepper; a delicious main course you can prepare ahead of time.

Hande kindly gave me some extra lemon pepper seasoning and we recently made this delicious baked chicken with summer vegetables. Runner beans, or string beans or taze fasulye are in season until about October and they are delicious in this dish. Peppers, zucchini, tomato all worked well here with the tangy lemon pepper. I also added some cooked chickpeas here, as commonly used in Southern Turkish cooking, like in this stuffed zucchini/courgettes with ground meat, tomatoes, onions and chickpeas recipe. It turned out to be a wholesome, delicious meal, (late) summer on a plate. An easy, wonderful casserole you can prepare ahead of time and leftovers freeze very well.

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas mark 4

Serves 2-4

Preparation time: 35 minutes                   Cooking time: 45 minutes

450 gr./1lb chicken breast, cut into small chunks

175gr/6oz. runner beans (or string beans)

2 small zucchini (courgette), cut in half and sliced

2 onions, chopped coarsely

4-6 garlic cloves, diced

3 small bell peppers (green, yellow and red), deseeded and cut into chunks

400gr/14oz. -1 can of chopped tomatoes

400gr/14oz; 1 can of cooked chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed

30ml/2 tbsp. olive oil

240ml/8 fl. oz. /1 cup water

To marinate the chicken:

Juice of 1 lemon

15ml/1 tbsp. lemon pepper seasoning (*)

15ml/1 tbsp. olive oil

(*) To make your own lemon pepper seasoning:

Zest of 1 lemon

10ml/ 2 tsp. sea salt (you can have if you prefer)

5ml/1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

 To serve:

Turkish red pepper flakes/ Pul Biber

Plain rice

To make your own lemon pepper; combine the lemon zest with sea salt and freshly ground pepper, ready to season the chicken (I didn’t add garlic and onion to this blend, as I used plenty onions and garlic at the chicken bake).

In a bowl, combine the lemon pepper, lemon juice and olive oil and rub this mixture to the chicken pieces, mix well. Cover and keep in the fridge for at least 30 minutes or so that the flavors can blend.

Summer on a plate; runner beans, peppers, tomatoes, zucchini taste delicious in this chicken casserole.

Summer on a plate; runner beans, peppers, tomatoes, zucchini taste delicious in this chicken casserole.

While the chicken is marinating, prepare your vegetables. Top and tail the beans and pull away any strings and cut into 3-4 pieces. I also like to cut them in half into thin strips. Combine the rest of the vegetables in a baking dish, stir in the olive oil and season with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Place the marinated chicken in a heavy pan and sauté for 3-5 minutes to seal their juice. Turn the heat off.

Stir in the sautéed chicken to the vegetables mix and add the chopped tomatoes and water. Give them all a good mix. Bake in the pre-heated oven, uncovered for about 35 minutes.

About 35 minutes later, stir in the rinsed, cooked chickpeas to the mixture, combine well. Bake for another 10 minutes or so, until the chicken and vegetables starting to turn nicely golden brown on top.

Chicken casserole with summer vegetables, chickpeas and lemon pepper; a delicious and wholesome main course

Chicken casserole with summer vegetables, chickpeas and lemon pepper; a delicious and wholesome main course

If you like a little heat like we do, sprinkle some Turkish red pepper flakes, pul biber on the finished dish, just before you serve.

Here is my plate! This baked chicken with vegetables make a delicious, complete meal with plain rice and natural yoghurt by the side.

Here is my plate! This baked chicken with vegetables make a delicious, complete meal with plain rice and natural yoghurt by the side.

You can serve your baked chicken with summer vegetables with plain rice and natural plain yoghurt aside. Cacik, the cucumber yoghurt dip with mint  would also be a delicious accompaniment.

Aromatic Zahtar blend of sumac, wild oregano, sesame seeds and more;  it adds a lot of flavor to vegetables, meat and poultry.

Aromatic Zahtar blend of sumac, wild oregano, sesame seeds and more; it adds a lot of flavor to vegetables, meat and poultry.

Recently, we also enjoyed this chicken and vegetables bake with the aromatic zahtar sprinkled over too. Za’atar is an exotic blend of herbs, spices and nuts, widely used in Southern Turkish as well as Middle Eastern cooking. At my home town, Antakya, zahtar blend is a rich mixture of dried zahter, sesame seeds, crushed cooked chickpeas, cumin, nigella seeds, sea salt, sumac and many more. It has a lovely, pungent, nutty taste and flavors salads, meat, and vegetables beautifully. Here is more information on zahtar and how to make your zahtar blend at home.

Afiyet Olsun,

Ozlem

 

 

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An Emotional, Poignant Moment at Dardanelles, Gallipoli ; Anzac Day

Have you ever tried hummus warmed up? In Turkey, especially in the South, hummus is served warm with sautéed Turkish sucuk (sausage) – or pastirma (pastrami) or with sautéed pine nuts over the top. I strongly suggest you to try hummus this way, as I feel you may be pleasantly surprised and maybe converted to eat hummus warm as many of my friends have done.

Warm hummus with sauteed Pastrami (Pastirma, Turkish dried cured beef) - the flavors complement each other so beautifully.

Warm hummus with sauteed Pastrami (Pastirma, Turkish dried cured beef) – the flavors complement each other so beautifully.

Please adjust the recipe according to your taste, as some like it garlicky, some with more tahini and others may prefer it more lemony. In my recent Turkish cooking class, I added the sautéed pastrami, pastirma, over warm hummus, as it is served in traditional kebab houses in Turkey. Pastirma is a dried cured beef coated with spices and has a delicious, rich flavor. The  hummus and the spice coated pastrami has complemented each other so beautifully here. If you can’t get Turkish pastrami, you can use the Italian pastrami or your favorite cured meat or grilled meat.

Warm hummus with red pepper flakes infused olive oil - a delicious vegetarian dip.

Warm hummus with red pepper flakes infused olive oil – a delicious vegetarian dip.

This warm hummus would make a wonderful appetizer to share with friends and family and goes so well with grilled vegetables or meat by the side. For a vegetarian option, you can serve the warm hummus with red pepper flakes infused olive oil, this one is so delicious too. Both these options may also be wonderful addition for the Mother’s Day spread, if you are celebrating. Pita bread is the perfect accompaniment – hope you enjoy it.

Serves 4-6

Preparation time – 15 minutes (add 1 hour if used dried chickpeas and soaking overnight)

225gr/8oz dried chickpeas or garbanzo beans, soaked in water overnight or for at least 6 hours or equivalent amount of precooked chickpeas in can

5ml /1 teaspoon salt – please adjust according to your taste-
60ml/4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
30ml/2 tablespoons water
2 garlic cloves, crushed – optional-
Juice of 1 lemon
30ml/2 tablespoon tahini (sesame paste)
5ml/1 teaspoon ground cumin

To serve:
30ml/2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
110gr/4oz Turkish Pastirma, chopped in 1″ strips (or your choice of any Pastrami or sausage)

Slices of pita bread to serve

If using dried chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drain the chickpeas and transfer them to a pan with plenty of cold water. Bring to boil and boil for a few minutes. Then lower the heat and partially cover the pan, Simmer the chickpeas for 1 hour, until they are soft and easy to mash.

If precooked chickpeas are used, drain the juice and give them a little wash in a colander. Put the precooked (or cooked) chickpeas in a food processor and blitz them together with the extra virgin olive oil, water, lemon juice, garlic and tahini. If it appears thick and difficult to blend, add a little more olive oil or water. Season with salt and mix in the cumin and red pepper flakes (if desired). Process until you achieve a soft, smooth paste. Refrigerate until required.

Warm hummus with sauteed pastrami; makes a delicious appetizer and goes well with grilled vegetables and meat.

Warm hummus with sauteed pastrami; makes a delicious appetizer and goes well with grilled vegetables and meat.

Just before serving, add a splash of olive oil and heat the hummus in a pan for a couple of minutes. In a separate pan, sauté the strips of pastrami in olive oil. Place the warm hummus in a plate with the sautéed meat over the top, scattering some ground cumin and red pepper flakes over. Serve immediately with slices of pita or flat bread by the side.

We all enjoyed the warm hummus as part of our Turkish cookery class at Istanbul Culinary Institute.

We all enjoyed the warm hummus as part of our Turkish cookery class at the Istanbul Culinary Institute.

Afiyet Olsun,

Ozlem 

Strolling Through the Battlefields of Gallipoli – Dardanelles

Driving towards Canakkale, we saw bountiful fig trees, just beautiful.

Driving towards Canakkale, we saw bountiful fig trees, just beautiful.

Our culinary and cultural tour to Turkey  has almost come to an end; going to Gallipoli  and visiting the battlefields  near the Dardanelles has been a highlight to many folks and did provide a reflective, emotional moment.

Ferry trip from Canakkale to Gallipoli, Gelibolu.

Ferry trip from Canakkale to Gallipoli, Gelibolu.

GallipoliGelibolu is a peninsula in North-west Turkey, close to Istanbul. The Gallipoli Peninsula is the site of extensive First World War battlefields and memorials on the north bank of the Dardanelles Strait. You can take the ferry from Canakkale to go to Gallipoli like we did, it is easy and convenient.

A surprising and emotional moment, hearing the locals singing  Gallipoli folk songs at the ferry.

A surprising and emotional moment, hearing the locals singing Gallipoli folk songs at the ferry.

While on the ferry, all of a sudden we saw a group of locals gathered at the deck, singing Canakkale Turkusu, Gallipoli Folk Song whole heartedly. I remembered singing this folk song as a child, it was a surreal and an emotional moment, we all joined in.

The impressive Gallipoli Kabatepe Museum, well worth visiting

The impressive Gallipoli Kabatepe Museum, well worth visiting

The impressive  Gallipoli Kabatepe Museum (or Gallipoli War Museum) was recently opened and so well worth a visit. It has 11 gallery rooms, each equipped with advanced high-tech simulation equipment and the technology allows visitors to choose their presentation language and interact with the display. The centre houses an extensive collection of historic items relating to the renowned World War I campaign and we have been told that the simulations are so real.

Private belongings of the soldiers neatly preserved and displayed at Gallipoli Kabatepe (War) Museum

Private belongings of the soldiers neatly preserved and displayed at the Gallipoli Kabatepe (War) Museum

Gallipoli Kabatepe Museum hosts numerous relics from the campaign including weapons, uniforms, ammunition, letters written by soldiers to their families, photographs, and private belongings such as shaving tools, cocoa tins and cutlery. A very poignant and emotional moment to view and get so near to each piece.

Ariburnu Cemetery at Ariburnu Beach, Gallipoli

Ariburnu Cemetery at Ariburnu Beach, Gallipoli

We then drove up to the Ariburnu Cemetery, at the beautiful Ariburnu Beach. The Ariburnu Cemetery is situated on the north edge of ANZAC Cove by the shore where the Anzacs first landed on 25 April 1915. We were told that 253 Allied soldiers rest in the cemetery; it was very emotional visiting the graves. It is such a peaceful spot and may all those souls rest in peace.

The Ariburnu Memorial, Ataturk's wonderful epitaph is a stone monolith beside the Ariburnu Cemetery

The Ariburnu Memorial, Ataturk’s wonderful epitaph is a stone monolith beside the Ariburnu Cemetery

Mustafa Kemal Ataturk,  the extraordinary leader and founder of today’s Turkey, wrote a tribute to the ANZACs who  lost their lives at Gallipoli. This wonderful tribute inscribed in English on the monolith are the famous words Mustafa Kemal Ataturk delivered in 1934 to    the first Australians, New Zealanders and the British to visit the Gallipoli battlefields. I absolutely loved and embraced it:

Those heroes that shed their blood
And lost their lives…
You are now lying in the soil of a friendly Country.
Therefore rest in peace.
There is no difference between the Johnnies
And the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side
Here in this country of ours…
You, the mothers,
Who sent their sons front far away countries
Wipe away your tears,
Your sons are now lying in our bosom
And are in peace
After having lost their lives on this land
They have become our sons as well

Our dear driver with his favorite wild ivy hand picked in Gallipoli

Our dear driver with his favorite greens, Sarmasik, Wild Ivy hand picked in Gallipoli

Just as we have been reflecting on what we’ve seen on Ariburnu Cemetery, our dear driver, Mehmet Bey excited came forward to show the wild greens he just picked up by the side road’ “Ozlem Hanim” he said “ these are the best Sarmasik  (Wild Ivy) you can get. I will sauté with garlic and crack my eggs into it tonight, delicious!” Being from the Aegean region, I know how much Mehmet Bey loves the fresh, wild greens – food managed to bring similes to face again.

And off we set towards Istanbul, looking forward to the buzz of the city and that baklava class..

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