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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

 

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Baked haddock with tomatoes, red onion, peppers, capers and bay leaves, in olive oil

A fisherman is getting ready for the catch of the day, the Bosphorus, Istanbul

Do you like fish? How do you like your fish cooked? We have a delicious and easy all-in-one-tray baked fish with vegetables this week. Fish is generally grilled or lightly fried in Turkey. “Balik & Ekmek”, is one of the most popular street foods at home, where the fisherman shallow fries the catch of the day at his boat and serves in our traditional white loaf, ekmek, with a slice of lemon by the side. A first bite of that fish sandwich, especially if you are by the Bosphorus or anywhere by the coast, is just heavenly.

A fisherman by Golden Horn, Istanbul, grilling the catch of the day for "Balik & Ekmek"

Regarded as a symbol of fertility, fish is very much enjoyed at home, especially at the coastal regions. Turkey is bounded by the sea on three sides – the Mediterranean, Aegean and the Black Sea. With the Sea of Marmara, the Bosphorus and Dardanelles at northwest, Turkey has over 7,000km (4,350 miles) of coastline. The plentiful fishing waters provide daily catches of bluefish, red and grey mullet, swordfish, sea bass, tuna, bonito, turbot, plaice, mackerel, sardines, anchovies and many more. In most of the coastal regions, fish is bought very fresh, straight off the boats at the daily fish market, still swimming around in the buckets or beautifully arranged on ice.

It is the palamut or bonito, as well as lufer (blue fish) season in Turkey at the moment; please check out A Seasonal Cook in Turkey’s lovely post on these seasonal fish in Turkey.

We Turks also like baking the fish with vegetables; the wonderful juices of the vegetables and lemon juice make a refreshing, delicious sauce. We very much enjoyed this baked haddock with red onions, peppers, tomatoes cooked in olive oil, with bay leaves and capers recently; the flesh has been succulent and moist, and delicately flavored with bay leaves. I added a handful of capers for an extra zing, the flavors complemented each other beautifully. As the fish is baked with vegetables together, you have a delicious, healthy meal ready in about 45 minutes, a precious extra bonus!

Baked haddock with vegetables and capers, cooked in olive oil; delicious, healthy and so easy.

This baked fish and vegetables dish is also delicious made with a variety of fish, such as bonito, trout, salmon, sea bass or mackerel. The squeeze of lemon to the finished dish gives an extra zing and a refreshing flavor.

How about finishing the meal with a sweet note? These caramelized dried apricots with walnuts stuffing may just fit the bill : )

This recipe is adapted from The Complete Book of Turkish Cooking by Ghillie Basan, one of my favorite Turkish cookery authors.

Baked haddock with tomatoes, red onion, peppers, capers and bay leaves

Preparation time: 15-20 minutes                                     Cooking time: 40-45 minutes

4 fillets of haddock –or any filleted fish of your choice

4 tomatoes, sliced

1 red onion, cut in half lengthways and sliced

1 green and 1 red bell pepper, seeded, cut in half lengthways and sliced (you can also use chillies for a spicy flavor)

1 bunch flat leaf parsley, leaves chopped

4 dried bay leaves (or 6-8 fresh bay leaves)

2 tbsp capers in jar, its juice drained and rinsed

4-5 tbsp olive oil

Sea Salt and ground black pepper to taste

I lemon, cut into wedges to serve

 

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

Arrange the vegetables and the bay leaves in between the fish fillets.

Place the fish in a shallow ovenproof dish and sprinkle them with sea salt and ground black pepper. Arrange the onions, tomatoes and peppers over and around the fish. Tuck the bay leaves around the fish and pour over the olive oil. Cover the dish with foil and place it in the oven for 30 minutes.

Stir in the capers and the parsley, give a gentle mix.

Remove the foil and stir in the capers and the parsley, give a gentle mix. Place the dish back to the oven for a further 10-15 minutes for the fish to brown slightly.

Baked fish with vegetables now ready to eat; all you need is a squeeze of lemon over!

Serve hot with wedges of lemon squeezed over the fish and garnish each plate with the vegetables and bay leaves.

Afiyet Olsun,

Ozlem

 

 

 

 

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Gluten-free and Delicious; Pasta with anchovies, garlic, capers and parsley, in tomato sauce

A typical Pazar -Market - in Istanbul; healthy and delicious foods like beans seeds and nuts in their natural, unprocessed form have a big part in Turkish cuisine.

My good friend Gillian needed to switch to a gluten-free diet recently and thanks to her, I have been learning a lot more about gluten-free products and how they can help with those suffering from coeliac disease (or celiac disease as known in North America) and auto-immune conditions. Good news is that she is feeling much better and moreover, finding exciting ways to incorporate gluten-free ingredients to her diet. BBC Food has some wonderful information challenges on gluten-free diet, gluten-free ingredients and substitutions as well as wonderful recipes to spice up gluten-free ingredients, if you would like to check out.

Gluten-free pasta; a blend of corn flour and rice flour

A gluten-free diet is a diet that excludes the protein gluten. Gluten is found in grains such as wheat, barley, rye and triticale (a cross between wheat and rye). Though it is nice to know that many healthy and delicious foods like beans, seeds, nuts in their natural, unprocessed form, fresh eggs, fresh meats, fish and poultry (not breaded, batter-coated or marinated), fruits and vegetables and most dairy products are naturally gluten-free.

Having coastline to the Aegean, Mediterranean and Black Sea, Turkey has wonderful variety of fish

Turkish cuisine is based on using fresh, seasonal fruit and vegetables, plenty of fish, nuts and legumes. I am delighted to see that most ingredients we use in Turkish cuisine are gluten-free and suitable for those in need of delicious gluten-free recipes. Try our wonderful Appetizers and Mezzes, like this wonderful warm hummus with red pepper paste infused olive oil, or vegetables cooked in olive oil like this Artichokes cooked in olive oil with peas,carrots and almonds, for exciting ways to enjoy gluten- free diet.

Mercimekli Mualla - Lentils, aubergine, onion, garlic and peppers cooked in olive oil; a delicious gluten-free dish

Mercimekli Mualla - Lentils, aubergine, onion, garlic and peppers cooked in olive oil; a delicious gluten-free dish

How about lentils? They are an integral part of Turkish cuisine and their protein packed nutrition add to a healthful diet. For a delicious, gluten-free treat, try this Mercimekli Mualla, eggplant, tomato & green lentils cooked in olive oil. This tasty, versatile dish can be a wonderful side to grilled meat and fish or a meal on its own.

As for the grains; couscous, bulgur wheat and semolina are not gluten-free, and we use especially bulgur quiet a lot in Turkish cuisine. However, you can use quinoa, in the place of couscous or bulgur wheat for salads and side dishes. Try making my spicy bulgur wheat salad with vegetables,kisir, with quinoa, for a delicious, gluten-free alternative.

Delicious Coconut-flavored Tilapia Fish and Potatoes Curry by Peri's Spice Ladle

Indian cuisine is also a great source for delicious and easy gluten-free recipes. Please also check out the wonderful blog Peri’s Spice Ladle; Peri has a delicious Coconut flavored tilapia fish and potato curry this week, so worth trying.

Here is a delicious and easy gluten-free pasta recipe, inspired by my friend Gillian’s wonderful sauce to go with it. It was my first time trying gluten-free pasta (a blend of corn flour and rice flour); we were impressed by it and the sauce of anchovies, capers, garlic and tomato gave it a really nice punchy flavor. I like to add a tablespoon of capers for extra zing, if you like the flavor too. My husband didn’t realize it was gluten-free pasta until I mentioned at the end! 🙂

Hope this recipe and other Turkish recipes here in this blog may help you to enjoy a gluten-free diet.

Gluten-free and Delicious; Pasta with anchovies, garlic, capers and parsley, in tomato sauce

Gluten-free pasta with anchovies, capers, tomatoes and garlic in tomato sauce

Serves 2

Preparation time: 10 minutes                           Cooking time: 15 minutes

250gr gluten-free pasta (or enough for 2 people)

30gr/ 1 canned anchovy fillets in olive oil – coarsely chopped

1tbsp capers, rinsed

3-4 cloves of garlic, crushed and finely chopped

14oz/1 can of Italian whole or cherry tomatoes, crushed in your hand (this works really well in the sauce, but if you rather prefer to use chopped tomatoes, that works too)

15ml/1tbsp olive oil

Handful of flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil in a heavy pan and sauté the garlic for a minute or two. Add the crushed tomatoes in can (along with about 2 tbsp of water to get all the juices in the can) to the pan; give them a good mix and cook for a further two minutes. Stir in the capers and anchovies, combine well. Season with salt (if needed; as anchovies and capers are already quite salty) and black pepper and simmer on low heat for about 5-8 minutes.

Anchovies and capers go well with garlic and tomatoes in the sauce

While the sauce is simmering, place the gluten-free pasta in a saucepan of boiling water, add a little salt and a dash of olive oil. Stir occasionally and boil for about 10 minutes, until “al dente”. Towards the end of the cooking, take 2 tablespoons of the pasta’s cooking liquid and add to the pasta sauce, along with the parsley, mix well. Once pasta is cooked, drain the water and mix the pasta with the sauce.

Afiyet Olsun (means in Turkish; “may you be happy and healthy with the food you eat”),

Ozlem

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