Cookery Classes

I teach Turkish cooking classes in England,Turkey & USA, hope you can join us!,
Find Out More

Recipes    

Turkish cuisine provides healthy, hearty, delicious food for family and friends.
Find out more

Tag Archives | onions

Lamb Kebabs with Pistachios on Flat Bread, served with Roasted Peppers, Onions and Tomatoes – Create Delicious Kebabs in Your Home!

Lamb kebabs with pistachios and roasted vegetables - the ultimate feast for family and friends.

Have you had a chance to try the Kebab Houses – Kebapci – in Turkey? They appear in every corner and the smells, never ending array of mezzes and kebabs coming along are a feast to all senses, a must experience. Here are a few photos from the kebab scene at home, in Turkey, to help set the mood:

An Ocakbasi kebab house in Istanbul, where the ustas, masters prepare succulent kebabs in front of you.

Usta, master of kebab makers, work around the Ocakbasi – an open fire grill – and prepare the melt-in-the mouth kebabs and grilled vegetables in front of you – so tempting!

Piyaz salad of onions, tomatoes with sumac, hummus with pastrami are amongst the delicious mezzes await you at the kebab houses.

As soon as you arrive to the Kebab Houses in Turkey, you are greeted with array of mezzes; Warm hummus with Turkish dried beef sausages or pastrami (dried cured beef) on top,  Piyaz salad of onions, tomatoes, parsley with a sumac dressing , Gavurdagi Salata of tomatoes, onions and walnuts with pomegranate dressing and many more. They are delicious and you need to pace yourself, otherwise you will be full before the main event of kebabs arrives!

Lahmacun ustas at work; wonderful to watch, delicious to eat the end result.

And here is the lahmacun ustas, masters at work; shaping their own dough and topping with ground lamb, onion, tomatoes and herbs. With a squeeze of lemon over the top, this is the ultimate lunch or a gorgeous starter for me. You can make your own lahmacun, Turkish thin pizza with ground lamb, tomatoes and onion topping at home; always a favorite with children and guests.

Scrumptious Iskender Kebab - who can resist?

Iskender Kebab is another specialty offered at the Kebab Houses in Turkey; at the bottom is the freshly baked flat bread, topped with a spread of tomato sauce. Then comes the slices of doner kebab, topped with the melted butter sauce, with plain yoghurt by the side. This kebab is a feast, and one of the most popular in Turkey – who can resist?

Gaziantep Pistachios - Antep Fistigi; for me the best in the world.

Well, if you can’t make it to the Turkish kebab houses at the moment, the kebabs may come to you. They 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. I recently had a go at the lamb kebabs with pistachios in it. Turkey, especially the Gaziantep region grows some of the finest pistachios in the world and they are regarded as “Edible Emeralds”. The pistachios appear in sweet and savory dishes in Gaziantep cuisine from baklavas to kebabs. Please try the Gaziantep pistachios – Antep Fistigi; they are a must purchase whenever I am back home.

Vakkas usta cutting the meat fresh with Zirh knife for the kebabs; photo credit IstanbulEats.com

 In Gaziantep, minced (ground meat) is prepared by chopping it into the size of wheat grains with a special curved bladed knife called Zirh. Hand chopped meat has a lot more flavor than machine minced (ground) meat, because the meat does not lose its texture. Check out how Vakkas Usta cuts the meat fresh for each kebab depending on the customers preferences, at IstanbulEats.

Lamb kebabs with pistachios; easy to recreate in your home, delicious and impressive.

Having pistachio nuts in kebabs is a Southern Turkish specialty; I love the rich nutty flavor the pistachios add to the kebabs. The kebabs are wonderful when chargrilled in the barbecue  in summer time, but equally delicious grilled in the oven. 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. The refreshing Yoghurt and cucumber dip, Cacik, complements the kebab very well.

 Serves 4

Preparation time: 35 minutes                           Cooking time: 50 minutes

For the kebabs:

500 gr/1 ¼ lb/ 2 ¼ cups ground lamb (or a ground meat of your choice, or a mixture)

1 medium onion, finely chopped

4 garlic cloves, crushed and finely chopped

60ml/4 tbsp pistachios, shelled

1 bunch of flat leaf parsley, finely chopped

5ml/1 tsp red pepper or paprika flakes; kirmizi biber

5ml/ 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Salt to taste

A bowl of water with a drizzle of olive oil to help shape the kebabs

For the roasted vegetables:

3 colorful bell peppers, deseeded and cut in thick slices lengthways and a few chilli peppers deseeded, OR 10-12 sweet and chilli small, colorful peppers, cut in half lengthways and deseeded

4 medium tomatoes, halved and cut in chunky slices

1 medium onion, halved and cut in chunky slices

45ml/ 3 tbsp olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

 

1 large flat bread; pide, or 4 pitta bread, sliced lengthways

Yoghurt and cucumber dip with dried mint, Cacik (give link) to serve

Preheat the oven to 200 C/ 400 F

Peppers, onions and tomatoes, ready to go in the oven.

 First roast your vegetables. Place the onion, peppers and tomatoes in a baking tray. Drizzle the olive oil over, season with salt and pepper. Give them all a good mix to make sure all the vegetables are coated with olive oil and the seasoning. Bake in the oven for 35 – 40 minutes, giving them a mix half way. I like to roast the vegetables rather than grilling, to save and enjoy all the wonderful juices of them over the flat bread.

Pistachios add a rich, nutty taste to the lamb kebabs.

While the vegetables are roasting, prepare the kebabs. First have a bowl of water, drizzled with olive oil ready aside, to knead and help shape the kebabs into the skewers. Pulse the shelled pistachios in a food processor a few times, until it is grainy. Place the ground lamb in a bowl, stir in the pistachios, chopped onions, garlic and parsley. Season with salt and ground pepper, add the red pepper / paprika flakes. Wet your hands in the water & olive oil mixture and knead well to a smooth paste. Cover and rest for about 10-15 minutes or until the vegetables are roasted in the oven.

Roasted vegetables ready to complement the kebabs - make sure to save the juices to drizzle over the flat bread.

Once the vegetables chargrilled, take the tray out of the oven, cover  and set aside (you may need to warm the vegetables before serving).

Put the grill into its highest setting and start shaping the kebabs. With the bowl of water & olive oil mixture by your side, take a handful of the meat mixture, and press it around grilling skewer into a shape of a flat sausage. Wet your hands with the water & olive oil mixture; this will help shaping the meat into the skewers, keep the meat moist and intact.

Place the sliced flat bread on a tray under the kebabs, when they are half way cooked.

As soon as the kebabs are shaped, cook them under the grill/broiler for about 4 minutes or until they are golden and cooked through that side. Then place the sliced flat bread or pitta bread on a tray and put the tray under the grill, at the bottom of the kebabs. Turn the kebabs and cook for a further 3-4 minutes or until they are golden on the other side too. In the meantime, the flat breads will capture all the wonderful juices of the kebab.

Also at this stage place the roasted vegetables back to the oven to keep warm.

Lamb kebabs with pistachios and roasted vegetables, ready to enjoy.

Once the kebabs are cooked, prepare your serving tray. Put the grilled, warm flat bread slices side by side on the tray. Place the kebab skewers in the middle and the roasted vegetables at each side, making sure their wonderful juice also make it to the tray. Serve this delicious kebab with the Yoghurt and cucumber dip, Cacik, by the side.

Wishing You All Joy, Peace & Health and Afiyet Olsun,

Ozlem

 

Continue Reading

My Mother's Arab Kebab; from Historic Antakya (Antioch)

Arab Kebab- or Arap Kebabi, as we say in Turkish – is a juicy, delicious specialty made in the homes in Antakya, Southern part of Turkey, where my roots are from. This kebab is also so easy to make; I remember my mother making in almost no time, with delicious aromas coming from the kitchen, and how we used to dip our potato and bulgur patties to its delicious sauce.  Antakya  is a city rich in history and traditions; I greatly admire that folks from different religions and backgrounds live and trade happily there over many centuries. This kebab is a heritage passed from the Arab community living in Antakya region.

Juicy, delicious Arab Kebab; make sure to cook a few potatoes in its delicious sauce and make potato&bulgur patties; they go so well with this kebab.

There is abundance of onion in this kebab, which makes it so delicious (and healthy too). I love the natural sweetness the onions bring out to the dish. There are no eggplants (aubergines) in the traditional Arab Kebab, though I like to add on my version. Again, the sweet, almost meaty texture of the eggplant goes so well in the kebab – you can simply take the eggplant out for the traditional Arab Kebab. We also like to add red pepper paste to this kebab, for a richer, spicier flavor. You can find red pepper paste in the Middle Eastern stores or Tulumba.com or Marketurk online stores. You can also make your own red pepper paste; here is my recipe if you would like to have a go.

Turkish red pepper paste – Biber Salcasi; an essential ingredient especially for the Southern Turkish Cooking.

The potato & bulgur patties with onion and parsley go so well with Arab Kebab. We like to add a few potatoes to the kebab to cook, so that they can soak up this wonderful sauce. We then use these deliciously flavored cooked potatoes in our bulgur & potato patties. Dipping the patties to the sauce of Arab Kebab is just heavenly.

These potato and bulgur patties are also wonderful when dipped into olive oil and pomegranate sauce.

You can make the Arab Kebab ahead of time and give a gentle heat just before serving.  The left overs can also be frozen successfully.

Serves 4-6

Preparation time: 30 minutes             Cooking time: 35 – 40 minutes

 

500 gr/1 1/4 lb/ 2 cups lean ground beef or lamb

3-4 medium onions, finely chopped

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 medium size eggplant, finely diced

1 green bell (or pointy) pepper, finely chopped

400gr/14oz can of good quality chopped tomatoes

15ml/1 tbsp red pepper paste – optional-

30ml/ 2 tbsp olive oil

12oz/ 1 1/2 cup hot water

1 bunch flat leaf parsley, finely chopped

5-10ml/1-2 tsp red pepper flakes

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

3-4 medium potatoes skinned and halved (to be used for the potato & bulgur patties)

 

Sprinkle salt over the eggplants; salt will help the moisture to come out of them.

Cut each eggplant length wise and then about 3-4 in cubes, lay them on a wide flat tray and generously season with salt. This will help the moisture to come out of the eggplants. Leave for about 15 minutes. Drain the water that came out of the eggplants and squeeze them with a paper towel to extract the excess water.

Heat the oil in a large wide pan and sauté the onions for a couple of minutes until they start to soften. Stir in the ground meat and sauté for another couple of minutes. Add the eggplants, garlic, green pepper and cook for further 4-5 minutes. Add the diced tomatoes, red pepper paste and the hot water, giving a good stir. Stir in the potatoes to the mixture. Season with salt, ground black pepper and red pepper flakes, combine well.

Arab Kebab has a wonderful sauce to dip the bulgur & potato patties or your bread in.

Cover the pan and gently simmer for about 30 minutes, until all the ingredients cooked and the sauce thickened. Stir in the chopped parsley and combine well, the Arab Kebab is ready. The end result should have a good amount of juice/liquid, as we would like to dip the potato & bulgur patties this sauce. Take the cooked potatoes out to be used in the potato & bulgur patties.

Arab Kebab with onions, garlic, peppers, aubergines in rich tomato sauce; enjoy!

Have you ever tried this kebab or any variation of it? I would love to hear from you 🙂

Afiyet Olsun,
Ozlem

Continue Reading

Stuffed Peppers and Zucchini (Courgettes) with Bulgur, Ground Meat and Spices; Antakya (Antioch) Style – Kabak ve Biber Dolmasi, Antakya Usulu

Stuffed peppers and zucchini with bulgur, ground meat & onion

Stuffed peppers and zucchini with bulgur, ground meat & onion

Some of the food we eat has the power to transport us to our childhood, have a special link to bond us with those precious memories. These stuffed peppers and courgettes (zucchini) have such power on me; they are the delicious gateways to take me back home, right to my mother’s as well as my grandmother’s kitchen in the ancient city of Antioch, Antakya.

My Grandmother’s 450 year old house in ancient Antioch; we used to gather around a big table in the courtyard for wonderful feasts

Preparing the dolma is quite a grand ritual at home; cousins, sisters, whoever available, gather around a big table; filled with trays of vegetables and stuffing. Some prepare the vegetables, scooping the flesh out, some make the filling, and some do the stuffing. These all happen, of course, with constant flow of Turkish coffee and tea (cay) and catching up! We would then eagerly wait for the dolma to be cooked; then me and my sister would eat the dolma with a dollop of plain yoghurt on top. We used to call them our “savory ice cream”; I am now trying this trick on my children:)

My mother rolling the stuffed vine leaves; we would all help preparing the vine leaves, removing stalks, or making Turkish coffee!

We Turks love stuffing vegetables. The word dolma is used for the vegetables like aubergines, peppers, courgettes that are stuffed. Fruits such as apples, quince and plums can be stuffed too. We also stuff vine leaves (that is called sarma, here is the link for the recipe) and cabbage leaves (lahana sarma, here is the link for that recipe), either with an aromatic rice, pine nuts and currants or with ground meat, rice, herbs and spices.

Stuffed peppers with aromatic rice and herb filling

This recipe comes from the ancient town of Antakya, Antioch, where my roots are from. This is the region where bulgur, red pepper paste, pomegranate molasses and spices like red pepper flakes, cumin, and mint are used frequently. All these add such rich, wonderful flavor to the dishes, and very healthy too. I used bulgur instead of the traditional rice for stuffing, like we do in Antakya. Bulgur’s nutty, wonderful flavor adds another dimension to the dish, with bonus of bulgur’s many health benefits. In Antakya, once the flesh of the vegetables taken out, they are given a little wash with pomegranate molasses & little water. The tangy and sweet flavor of the molasses adds to the richness of the flavor. You can use a good balsamic vinegar if you can’t get hold of pomegranate molasses.

 I hope you enjoy this delicious, satisfying dolma packed with flavor and memories and have a chance to visit the fascinating Antioch sometime.

 Serves 6-8

Preparation time: 40 minutes               Cooking time: 40-45 minutes

3 medium size courgettes (zucchini)

3 medium size bell peppers

30ml/2tbsp pomegranate molasses or good balsamic vinegar, mixed with 1tbsp water

3 small tomatoes, cut in half (to cap the dolmas)

6-8 cloves of garlic, crushed

For the filling:

110gr/4oz/ 1/2 cup ground beef/lamb or ground turkey

115gr/4oz/generous 1/2 cup coarse bulgur wheat

1 medium onion, finely chopped or grated

Handful of flat leaf parsley, finely chopped

10ml/1tbsp olive oil

10ml/1 tbsp concentrated tomato paste or red pepper paste

5ml/1 tsp red pepper flakes/chilli flakes

5ml/1tsp ground cumin

5ml/1tsp dried mint

Salt and ground black pepper to taste

Bowl of plain (natural yoghurt) or cucumber, yoghurt dip, cacik  to serve

Stuffing ingredients all together

Put the ground meat in a large bowl and stir in the rest of the filling ingredients. Season and knead, until all blended well. The filling is ready.

Stuffing ingredients, after mixing

Now, let’s prepare the vegetables. Cut the stalk ends of the peppers and save them aside (we will need them to cap the stuffed peppers later). Scoop out the seeds of the peppers.

Scoop out the seeds of the peppers to prepare for stuffing

Cut the courgettes in half. Scoop out the flesh of the courgettes with the help of a long coffee spoon (in Antakya, we use a long and thin scooping device made just for that purpose). Carefully remove some of the flesh to create a cavity that is large enough to stuff. Take care to leave the bottom of the courgettes intact.

Taking the flesh out of the courgettes (zucchini); long coffee spoon would work here

I Iike to save the flesh of the courgettes, as they go very well in the bulgur, tomato and courgette recipe. You can keep them in a sealed freezer bag in the freezer up to 3 months.

Give a little wash to the peppers and zucchini with pomegranate molasses and water mix

Mix the water with the pomegranate molasses (or balsamic vinegar) and wash the inside of the peppers and courgettes with this mixture. Add the left overs of this delicious juice to filling mixture, mix well.

Take spoonfuls of the filling mixture and pack it into the vegetables. Take care not to overfill to the top, as bulgur will need a little space to expand. Place the stalk ends and the halved tomatoes as lids. Place the stuffed vegetables upright, packed tightly, in a heavy pan. Pour a couple of cups of water to the pan, until it covers the half of vegetables. Stir in the cloves of garlic and cover. Bring the liquid to the boil, then reduce the heat and cook gently for about 40 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.

Cap the stuffed peppers and zucchini with the pepper stalks and halved tomatoes

Serve hot with plain natural yoghurt or Cacik; yoghurt and cucumber dip.

Stuffed peppers and zucchini; they go so well with plain yoghurt by the side

Afiyet Olsun!

Snapshot from home, Turkey: Ancient city of Antioch, Antakya 

Here is a new section in the blog! Whenever I can, I would like to give a little snapshot of fascinating places in Turkey that I have visited. Food and travel complement one another so well, and I hope this part could bring the places alive and inspire you to visit sometime.

Ancient Antioch, Antakya; cradle of many civilizations

Here, I would like to introduce my beloved, ancient home town Antakya, located in the southern part of Turkey.  Antakya was one of the three biggest cities of the Roman Empire and the capital of the east.  Antakya was founded in B.C. 4 by the Syrian King, Seleukos, and he named the city after his father, Antiochos.  Over the centuries, the city was under Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman and French rule.  As of 1939, Antakya became a part of the Republic of Turkey.

One of the many grand mosaics at the Antakya Mosaic Museum

Antakya Mosaic Museum is the world’s 2nd biggest mosaic museum in terms of the richness, quality and the size of the mosaics.  The mosaics you’ll see there are from the Roman and the Byzantine periods, and they are simply fascinating.  The museum also hosts magnificent sculptures; the most important of them is the 3 meter high figure of Apollo.

Friendly children of Antakya, guiding us towards the Church of St Peter

St Pierre Church (Church of St Peter) is another fascinating sight. St Peter’s Church, built in a cave, on the skirts of Habib Neccar Mountain in Antakya, is known as one of the first places that the early Christians gathered.  St Petrus, one of the followers of Jesus (A.D. 29- 30), came to Antakya and used this “cave” to expand Christianity. St PierreChurch is regarded as the first church of Christianity outside Jerusalem.  Due to its importance, Pope Paul 6th declaredSt Pierre Church a pilgrimage for Christians.  Every year on June 29th, Remembrance of St Petrus ceremonies take place in Antakya, with the participation of thousands of Christians from around the world.

Church of St Peter, Antakya

Another wonderful visit in Antakya is the Long Market, Uzun Carsi, city’s ancient market. This is the place I visited many times as a child, to get our daily bread, yoghurt, cheese and vegetables, when we used to visit my Grandma. The smells and colors are simply mesmerizing. Antakya’s cuisine has an incredible richness of fresh herbs and spices, packed with flavor.  A type of wild oregano, zahter, cumin and red pepper flakes are used very commonly.  The red pepper paste, biber salcasi, is one of the landmarks of Antakya too.  The richness of this red pepper paste adds a wonderful flavor to casseroles and meat dishes.  Another specialty food item worth mentioning is the nar eksisi, the syrup made from concentrated sour pomegranate juice.  This incredibly rich, concentrated flavor is a must for many traditional salads and meze spreads.

 

The Long Market (Uzun Carsi) in Antakya, packed with mesmerising spices, olive oil based soaps and many more

Hand carved wooden spoons in the Long Market; I use them everyday!

This is the Tunel of Vespasion, in the village of Kapisuyu, Antakya. It was built as a water channel in the 2nd century. Another fascinating visit.

The Tunnel of Vespasion, Antakya – Hatay

There are many more photos of my travels to Turkey here, if you would like to have a look.

Happy travels to you all!

 

 

 

Continue Reading