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Ezme; Delicious Spread of Tomatoes, Onions, Peppers and Herbs with Red Pepper Paste

Scrumptious spread of Ezme; makes a great appetizer and goes really well with grilled meat and vegetables.

Have you ever tried the delicious Turkish mezze, Ezme? This tomato based delicious appetizer has a wonderful mixture of sweet, spicy and acidic flavors and it is one of my favorite mezzes served in the kebab houses at home, a very memorable gastronomic experience.

Humble and fresh ingredients like tomatoes, onion, peppers transform to a magical taste with a touch of red pepper paste and extra virgin olive oil.

Ezme is a very typical Turkish mezze, served in kebab houses throughout Turkey. With a touch of hot red pepper paste and extra virgin olive oil, these simple but fresh ingredients like tomatoes, onion, herbs and good olive oil produce this surprisingly complex yet refreshing and a very more-ish mezze. You can make Ezme ahead of time, so it is very entertaining friendly too.

Biber Salcasi; Turkish hot red pepper paste add a lot of flavour to dishes; you can also easily make at home too.

There are quite a few variations for Ezme; my favorite is the way it is done in the Southeast Turkey, where my roots are from.  Biber Salcasi,  Turkish red pepper paste is a major staple in the regions of Gaziantep  and Antakya and a little of this wonderful paste adds such a rich, complex flavor to the Ezme. You can find red pepper paste in Middle Eastern stores, online Turkish market Tulumba.com also carry it. You can also make red pepper paste in your home, easy and delicious. An important trick to Ezme is to rub the red pepper paste and tomato paste to the onions with your hands so that the paste infuses; these also soften the onions and make them more palatable.

 

Ayran; Turkish traditional drink of yoghurt, water, salt and ice. A few fresh mint in Ayran gives a great refreshing taste to it.

You can serve Ezme over crackers or pita bread as an appetizer; it can also accompany kebabs, grilled meats and roasted vegetables beautifully too. Why not try Ayran, delicious Turkish traditional yoghurt drink to accompany this wonderful feast?

Serves 4                                   Preparation time: 15 – 20 minutes

4 medium-sized ripe tomatoes, halved and seeds removed

1 medium onion, finely chopped

2-3 small spicy pointy green peppers –(use less or more depending on how spicy you like)

15ml/1 tbsp red pepper paste (or a little less if you prefer less spicy) – If you can’t get red pepper paste, you can add a touch of spice with 1-2 tsp red pepper flakes

15ml/1 tbsp tomato paste

Juice of half a lemon

Handful of flat leaf parsley, finely chopped

Handful of fresh mint leaves, finely chopped

30ml/ 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Rub the tomato and red pepper paste to the onions so that the flavours blend well; this also softens the onions and make them more palatable.

Combine the red pepper paste and tomato paste with the onions in a bowl. Knead and mix them well with your hands so that the paste infuses to the onions; this also softens the onions and make them more palatable.  If you can’t get red pepper paste, you can add a touch of spice with 1-2 tsp red pepper flakes and infuse them to the  onions with the tomato paste.

Ezme is ready to be enjoyed; though not traditional, I like to add a few walnuts over Ezme when serving, for extra texture and taste.

Stir in the tomatoes, peppers, parsley and mint, combine well. Drizzle the extra virgin olive oil over. Season with salt and ground pepper and give them all a good mix. Cover and keep in the fridge until serving. It would be best if you can let the Ezme sit for an hour or so before serving; this will help the flavors mingle & settle.

You can prepare Ezme ahead of time; it tastes even better the next day!

Ezme is delicious over flat bread, crackers, pitta bread. I like to add a few walnuts over when serving, love the added texture and taste it adds.

Though not traditional, I like to sprinkle a few walnuts around Ezme when serving; I love the added texture and taste walnuts brings to Ezme.

I hope you enjoy making your own Ezme, and that it brings happy memories of your visit to Turkey or inspires for a visit! : )

Afiyet Olsun,

Ozlem

 

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A Culinary Delight; Gaziantep Cuisine – Bulgur Meatballs with Squash and Chickpeas, in Yoghurt & Mint Sauce – Yogurtlu Bulgurlu Kofte, Gaziantep Usulu

Gaziantep Spices; photo source – Gaziantep Mutfagi 

Have you ever been to Gaziantep? Did you ever have a chance to sample its delicious cuisine reflecting a rich culinary heritage? The last time I have been to Gaziantep was a few years ago; the aromas, spices, the red pepper paste, dried peppers and aubergines adorning the markets.. all still fresh in my mind. With my roots going back to Antakya, I am familiar with these wonderful aromas and spices, and now delighted to get know this delicious cuisine a bit better, I hope you will feel the same way too.

Dried peppers, aubergine, okra features often in Gaziantep Cuisine

Gaziantep cuisine reflects a rich culinary heritage of various civilizations dating back to thousands years ago and with the regional flora and fauna, from Central Asia to Anatolia, the Balkans, Europe and Caucasus. During the festivities, the kitchens of Gaziantep produces the delicious and traditional Yuvarlama  -or Yuvalama in local dialect— ,Gaziantep’s favorite dish. On the three-day Bayram Festivities at the end of Ramadan, it is served in every home, rich or poor. Rolling the tiny ground rice dumplings is both easier and more enjoyable when family members and neighbors get together to share the work. The dish is accompanied by rice pilaf with vermicelli. Yuvarlama is a marvelous combination of different flavors and textures.

Yuvarlama or Yuvalama, Gaziantep’s favorite dish. Photo source: Gaziantep Mutfagi 

How about Gaziantep’s world famous baklava? Please have a look at the story of Gaziantep’s melt-in-the-mouth baklava and how it’s made, featured at Gaziantep Mutfagi . Gaziantep is a culinary delight, a feast for all senses, hope you make it there sometime.

Gaziantep’s famous baklava; source: http://www.gaziantepmutfagi.org, by Tuba Satana http://www.tubasatana.com

Now, a little bit of information on Gaziantep, one of the oldest settlements in the world and the sixth largest city of Turkey. Gaziantep, carrying the imprints of Chalcolithic and Neolithic ages, Hittite, Assyrian, Persian civilizations, Alexander the Great, Seleucid, Roman, Byzantine Empires, Islamic, Turkish-Islamic and Ottoman periods, is home to works of art belonging to all of these ages, civilizations, empires and states. Gaziantep is also the gateway of Silk Road opening to Anatolia; the road of tradesmen, wise men, ideas, religions and cultures, starting from China and leading to Europe.

Magnificent ruins of the ancient city of Zeugma, which has stayed buried beneath the pistachio groves for nearly two thousand years.Source: www.zeugmaweb.com

The traditions, rituals are an important part of Gaziantep’s culinary heritage and it is lovely to see that it is still a big part of the daily life in Gaziantep. The richness of traditional culture has given way to the emergence of a rich culinary culture. The events such as birth, marriage and death have important effect on the local culture, and this has caused the occurrence of an oral culture. For instance, among the catering activities carried out during birth events, kuymak (soft and mushy pilaf), which is believed to increase the amount of breast milk, and loğusa şerbeti (lit. puerpera juice); festive dishes such as Yuvarlama and many other special foods and drinks are some examples of the integration of traditional life style and culinary culture.

During my visit to Istanbul last summer, I was delighted to get a copy of the “Gunesin ve Atesin Tadi” – Taste of the Sun and Fire”; cookery book for the Gaziantep Kitchen. Very true to its title, Gaziantep Kitchen reflects a rich culinary heritage, takes its power from its rich soil, seasonal, sun kissed produce. Then, this seasonal produce, whether cooked on charcoal fire or in the bakeries, reflects the wonderful aromas of sun and the heat. This wonderful cookery book, edited by Aylin Oney Tan, contains Gaziantep’s regional recipes written by 5 local food historians. Gaziantep Chamber of Commerce has been a big part of this project and their website, Gaziantep Mutfagi, -Gaziantep Cuisine- is a very  valuable source into this rich, wonderful cuisine.  My heartfelt thanks to Ms Senay Copur from Gaziantep Chamber of Commerce, for letting me share the lovely photos and culinary heritage of Gaziantep. For more information, please visit Gaziantep Mutfagi,  aimed to promote the Gaziantep Cuisine. Also a big thank you the wonderful blog Aintab Sofrasi on Gaziantep Cuisine,  for letting me use their  Gaziantep market image.

Gunesin ve Atesin Tadi Cookery Book; a great resource on Gaziantep Cuisine.

Stews with yoghurt has a special place in Gaziantep kitchen; one of the richest regional cuisines in Turkey, with the use of yoghurt in their dishes. I recently had a go and re-created Gaziantep’s Stew with bulgur meatballs, in yoghurt and mint sauce – Yogurtlu, bulgurlu kofte -. The traditional recipe also has lamb in it, in my version I omitted the extra meat and added the seasonal squash to  the dish – It is also common to add seasonal vegetables to these yoghurt based stews in Gaziantep kitchen. The chickpeas worked really well in the stew too; not only very healthy, but brought a different texture and wonderful flavor. The dish turned out to be a very satisfying  and substantial meal yet surprisingly light, just as described.

Bulgur meatballs with squash and chickpeas in yoghurt and mint sauce, my variation of Gaziantep’s delicious yogurtlu, bulgurlu kofte.

This recipe calls for fine bulgur wheat. If you can’t get the fine bulgur, perhaps you may blitz the coarse bulgur a couple of times to get the finer version. My bulgur meatballs weren’t as tiny as the traditional ones – and I greatly admire skillful locals making those gorgeous chickpea sized balls in almost no time-, but still very tasty and impressed the family. Next time, I look forward to trying this dish with the chunks of lamb in it. I hope you can give a go to this satisfying, delicious dish.

Bulgur meatballs with squash and chickpeas, in yoghurt & mint sauce

Serves 8-10

1 cup dried chickpeas (or 1 can of 400 gr/14 oz chickpeas, drained and rinsed)

1 squash, cut in small chunks

3 cups strained yogurt –( thick and creamy yoghurt, brand Fage works well)

1 egg

1 teaspoon salt

For the bulgur meatballs:

4 cups fine bulgur

600 g lean minced (ground) meat

1 onion, finely chopped

1 egg

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground red pepper flakes

¼ teaspoon black pepper

For the dried mint sauce:

1  tablespoon dried mint

2 tablespoons butter

 If you are using dried chickpeas, soak them in plenty of cold water overnight. Drain the chickpeas, put them in a pan with plenty of cold water. Bring to the boil, then lower the heat and partially cover the pan. Simmer the chickpeas for about 45 minutes or until tender. Drain the chickpeas in a colander and set them aside.  If you are using a can of cooked chickpeas, simply drain its juice and wash the chickpeas in a colander, leave them aside.

Bulgur meatballs mixture; if you can’t get the fine bulgur, you may blitz the coarse bulgur a couple of times to get the finer version.

To make the bulgur meatballs, combine the chopped onion, bulgur, salt, black pepper, red pepper flakes and 1 cup of water and put through the food processor twice. Add the ground meat to the mixture and put through the food processor again (it is also possible to knead the mixture by hand, but that requires extra time and effort). Add the egg to the mixture and knead by hand until it is as smooth as bread dough. Prepare the bulgur balls by dipping your hand in water, taking a tiny lump of dough the size of a chickpea and rolling into a ball.

Traditionally, these bulgur meatballs are made to the size of a chickpea – I greatly admire locals making those tiny balls in almost no time – mine came out bigger than that, though still very tasty.

Pour half a liter of water into a heavy pan and bring to the boil. Balance a strainer on top of the pan and place the bulgur balls inside. Cover with a lid and steam for 15 minutes. Remove and place in a large shallow dish to cool.

 Beat the egg and the strained yogurt in a saucepan, place over a low heat and stir constantly in the same direction

To prepare the yoghurt sauce, add 5-6 cups of water and bring to the boil and stir in the chunks of squash, season with salt and pepper. Cook the squash for 15-20 minutes, until it starts to get tender. Beat the egg and the strained yogurt (brand Fage works well as it is) in a saucepan, place over a low heat and stir constantly in the same direction. Occasionally add a tablespoonful of the hot water and once the yogurt comes to the boil, combine it with the hot water in the pan.

Just before serving add the bulgur balls and the chickpeas to the mixture and heat through. Do not add the balls before this stage or they will soften and lose their flavor. Check the seasoning and add salt and ground black pepper to your taste.

Bulgur meatballs with squash and chickpeas, in yoghurt & mint sauce; a very satisfying, delicious meal yet surprisingly light.

For the dried mint sauce; melt the butter in a small pan. Remove from the heat, add the dried mint and drizzle over the serving dish. Serve immediately.

Afiyet Olsun,

Ozlem

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Bulgur Wheat Pilaf with Zucchini, Tomatoes and Onions – Kabakli As


Kabakli as; bulgur pilaf with zucchini and dried mint, wholesome and delicious

Kabakli as; bulgur pilaf with zucchini and dried mint, wholesome and delicious

This very easy and tasty bulgur rice makes use of the flesh of the zucchini (courgettes) that was scooped out to make the stuffed zucchini. That way, not only you get to use every bit of zucchini, but also you get a very delicious and wholesome dish in no time. This is a meal by itself, served with some garlic yoghurt, dried mint and cucumbers, Cacik, if you like.

Good, wholesome food doesn’t need to be expensive or difficult, as this wonderful dish shows.

Serves 4-6
Preparation time: 10 minutes Cooking time: 20 minutes (+10 min resting)

Flesh of 3 zucchini (courgettes)
1 onion, finely chopped
350gr/12oz bulgur wheat, rinsed and drained
400gr/14oz (1 can of) chopped tomatoes
600ml/1 pint/2 1/2 cup hot water
30ml/2 tablespoon olive oil
5ml/1 teaspoon dried mint
5ml/1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Salt and ground black pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a heavy pan and stir in the zucchini and the onions. Cook until the onions softened. Add the bulgur wheat, tossing it thoroughly. Stir in the chopped tomatoes and pour in the hot water. Season with salt and pepper to taste and stir to combine thoroughly. Bring to boil for a minute, then reduce the heat, cover and simmer for about 10-15 minutes, until all the liquid has been completely absorbed.

Turn off the heat, cover the pan with a clean dish towel and press the lid on top. Leave to steam for about 10 minutes. Stir in the dried mint and red pepper flakes then mix with a large spoon.

You can simply enjoy this dish with cucumber, garlic and yoghurt (Cacik) and with the stuffed zucchini with ground meat and chickpeas if you like.

Afiyet Olsun!

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