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Gozleme; Anatolian Flat breads stuffed with Spinach and Cheese

“Can we learn how to make gozleme (Anatolian stuffed flat breads) at the next class?” asked one of my regular Turkish cooking class  participants, few months ago. I greatly enjoy their requests, enthusiasm to learn more and have a go at them; that’s all I could hope for from the classes. “Sure, why not!” was reply; I was excited and my heart was set on tackling the much loved gozleme, Turkish flat breads with stuffing, the proper way. During my recent visit to Turkey, I got myself a proper non-stick oval gozleme pan to have a go at these delicious treats.

Local ladies preparing Gozleme at Hanimeli Restaurant, near Sirince - Turkey

Local ladies preparing Gozleme at Hanimeli Restaurant, near Sirince – Turkey

Having said that, the prospect of preparing Gozleme from scratch; preparing the dough and opening, stretching the dough as thin as sheets of paper was a little daunting at first. I call myself a cook more than a baker and greatly admire local ladies making it so effortlessly at home, in Turkey. Could I tackle it, I wondered. Thank goodness the sheer excitement of having a go at gozleme weighed much higher and I am so glad I tried. The sheets stretched beautifully and gozleme tasted heavenly. I owe a big thank you to David for the inspiration and that precious request!

Gozleme is traditionally prepared on giant non-stick round pan

Gozleme is traditionally prepared on giant non-stick round pan

We Turks love these stuffed flat breads, gozleme. Turks were originated from Central Asia, where they drifted towards Anatolia gradually and made their home. They have been making these stuffed flat breads since then. Gozleme is a much loved Turkish street food and a special part of the delicious Turkish breakfast.  These popular snacks are cooked quickly on a hot griddle and can be filled with various fillings. Some of my favorite fillings are mashed potatoes, cheese and parsley; spinach and cheese, and ground meat and onions. And they go down very well with a glass of cay, Turkish tea or ayran, traditional Turkish yoghurt drink.

My Ispanakli & Peynirli Gozleme - Anatolian Flat breads with cheese, onion and spinach, indeed easier than you think!

My Ispanakli & Peynirli Gozleme – Anatolian Flat breads with cheese, onion and spinach, indeed easier than you think!

Have you ever had or made gozleme? What is your favorite filling? I would love to hear from you. As you will see here, making gozleme is much easier than you think and it is very rewarding. All you need is  a little encouragement and perhaps “a request” that you can’t resist, as was in my case; I hope you can give it a go.

In the filling in this recipe I added a little Turkish red pepper paste, biber salcasi to the filling for a spicier version; it flavored the spinach and onion really well. If you would like a milder taste, simply omit the red pepper paste (or the pepper flakes).

Makes about 5 Gozleme

1lb./ 16 oz. / 3 cups plain flour

8g / 1 sachet instant dried yeast

Pinch of salt

45 ml/ 3 tbsp. olive oil

30 ml / 2 tbsp. plain natural yoghurt (preferably whole milk)

260 ml/ 9 fl. oz. / 1/5 cups warm water (150 ml/ 5 fl. oz. warm water to be mixed with the yeast)

For the filling:

200gr/7 oz. baby spinach leaves

1 onion, finely chopped
5ml/1 teaspoon Turkish red pepper flakes or 2 tsp. Turkish red pepper paste (optional)
230gr/8oz feta cheese

15ml/1 tbsp. olive oil

Non-stick pan or griddle to cook the Gozleme

Combine about 150 ml/ 5 fl. oz. warm water, yeast and salt in a small bowl, stir and cover. Stand in a warm place for 5 minutes or until bubbles form on the surface.

Divide the gozleme dough into  balls, cover with a damp cloth and leave them to rest for 30 minutes,

Divide the gozleme dough into balls, cover with a damp cloth and leave them to rest for 30 minutes.

Sift the flour into a large bowl. Make a well in the middle and pour in the yeast, water & salt mixture, olive oil, yoghurt and the remaining warm water (about 110 ml/ 4 fl. oz./ ½ cup) . Using your hand, draw in the flour from the sides and work the mixture into a dough. Knead thoroughly to form a soft dough. Divide the dough into 5  pieces, knead them and roll into balls. Place the balls on a floured surface, cover with a damp cloth and leave them to rest for about 30 minutes, or until the dough doubles in size.

Knead the onions, spinach, olive oil and if you are using, red pepper paste first with your hands; that will soften the onions and blend the flavors well.

Knead the onions, spinach, olive oil and if you are using, red pepper paste first with your hands; that will soften the onions and blend the flavors well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Stir in the feta cheese to the spinach mixture and combine well.

Stir in the feta cheese to the spinach mixture and combine well.

 

Meanwhile, prepare the filling. Chop the washed spinach leaves roughly. Knead the onions, spinach, olive oil and if you are using, red pepper paste (or red pepper flakes) with your hands for a few minute or so – that will soften the onions and blend the flavors well -. Stir in the feta cheese and combine well.

Roll the gozleme dough with a rolling pin until you achieve a thin sheet of a flat round.

Roll the gozleme dough with a rolling pin until you achieve a thin sheet of a flat round.

 On a lightly floured surface, roll out each of the balls of the dough with a rolling pin into thin, flat rounds, about 40cm/16in diameter. Sprinkle a little flour as you roll the dough so that the dough won’t stick. Roll until you achieve a thin sheet of a flat round.

Fold the left and right sides of the dough in a way for the edges to meet in the middle and  spread the filling in the middle.

Fold the left and right sides of the dough in a way for the edges to meet in the middle and spread the filling in the middle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then fold the top and bottom edges over the filling, making sure all the filling is safely covered.

Then fold the top and bottom edges over the filling, making sure all the filling is safely covered.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fold the left and right sides of the dough in a way for the edges to meet in the middle.  Spread about 2 ½ tablespoon filling into the middle part of this flat sheet. Then fold the top and bottom edges over the filling, making sure all the filling is safely covered. Press edges together well to seal. Repeat the same procedure for the rest of the dough balls.

Brush one side of the gozleme with a little olive oil and place on the pan to cook for about 2 -3 minutes, or until golden brown.

Brush one side of the gozleme with a little olive oil and place on the pan to cook for about 2 -3 minutes, or until golden brown.

Heat a griddle or a non-stick pan, and brush one side of the gozleme with a little olive oil and place on the pan to cook for about 2 -3 minutes, or until golden brown. Brush the uncooked side with a little olive oil and then flip it over. Cook for another 2-3 minutes, until golden brown.

Cook the gozleme for about 2 -3 minutes on a non-stick pan, or until golden brown.

Cook the gozleme for about 2 -3 minutes on a non-stick pan, or until golden brown.

Brush both cooked sides of gozleme with a little olive oil -this will keep the gozleme moist. Cook the rest of the gozleme the same way.

My Ispanakli & Peynirli Gozleme - Anatolian Flat breads with cheese, onion and spinach, indeed easier than you think!

My Ispanakli & Peynirli Gozleme – Turkish Flat breads with cheese, onion and spinach stuffing; they are indeed easier than you think!

You can either roll the Gozleme to serve, or you can cut in halves or quarters. Ayran Turkish yoghurt drink or  Turkish tea, cay would go really well next to Gozleme.

Afiyet Olsun,

Ozlem

 

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Simply delicious Aegean flavors;Eggplants, tomatoes, onions, peppers cooked in olive oil & Fascinating Didyma

Kusadasi Bay, Turkey

Kusadasi Bay, Turkey

The Aegean cost of Turkey has a special place in my heart. Perhaps it is the many happy childhood holidays we spent in local resorts in Ayvalik, Gumuldur and Cesme, where many Turkish families have summer houses. As soon as the schools close, we all would dream about the coast, swimming at the turquoise Aegean, playing for hours at the golden sandy beaches and the next ice cream – a piece of heaven.

Fig trees at the Ephesus

Fig trees at the Ephesus

Spring in the air at the Aegean region, Turkey

Spring in the air at the Aegean region, Turkey

 

I don’t have the chance to go back to the Aegean as often as I like and every opportunity is very welcome. Once a year, I host and organise a Culinary & Cultural tour to Turkey, aiming to show my homeland from a local’s perspective – I greatly look forward to these trips and enjoy every minute of sharing this special land with folks. It has been delightful to be back to the breathtaking Aegean region again this April. Spring has been in full bloom; artichoke fields everywhere; the silver, beautiful olive trees welcomes you along the way; fig trees surprise you at the Ephesus – such a beautiful, bountiful region. During our tour, we always enjoy the local cuisine and learn how to cook delicious Turkish food together. This time, we again stopped by the lovely Bizimev Hanimeli to cook  and enjoy delicious Aegean flavors with Hatice Hanim.

Hatice Hanim and family, at Bizimev Hanimeli

Hatice Hanim and family, at Bizimev Hanimeli

I have met Hatice Hanim a few years ago; always with a smile at her face, she has been sharing her love of Turkish cuisine and feeding a remarkable crowd everyday at their Bizimev Hanimeli Restaurant, as well as teaching the local cuisine to enthusiasts like us. It is a real family affair; her husband, son, daughter, daughter-in-law all involved running this wonderful business. I love the fact  that they grow all their fresh produce, herbs, vegetables and fruits  in their beautiful garden and make their own olive oil. It is very remarkable that they grew their business all by themselves with a lot of hard work and maintained the same friendly service and the offer of high quality, consistent, delicious food. When I asked Hatice Hanim what kept her going in tough times, she smiled and said;If you respect your land, the nature, treat your helpers, family well and keep your spirits up, you find a way at the end. Hard work with a kind heart opens the doors for you; always believe in yourself.” How true; her words sealed in my mind.

Cooking together at Hanimeli, near Sirince, Turkey

Cooking together at Hanimeli, near Sirince, Turkey

We prepared a delicous 4 course meal with Hatice Hanim, in just over 1 hour – look forward to sharing all these recipes in the coming weeks- .Using their fresh produce from the garden and the olive oil, we made this wonderful Zeytinyagli Patlican; Eggplants, onions, garlic and tomatoes cooked in olive oil; simple, seasonal ingredients produced such a delicious, memorable taste. We like to eat Zeytinyaglis, Vegetables Cooked in Olive Oil in room temperature. It is also delicious when served cold. I hope you enjoy it and can have a go sometime.

Zeytinyagli Patlican; Eggplants cooked in olive oil with vegetables

Zeytinyagli Patlican; Eggplants cooked in olive oil with vegetables

Zeytinyagli Patlican; Eggplants, Onions, Garlic, Peppers and Tomatoes Cooked in Olive Oil

Serves 4

3-4 small Holland (dark purple) eggplants/aubergines

2 medium onions, halved and chopped in thin slices

1 green pointy pepper, coarsely chopped

1 red pointy pepper, coarsely chopped

3-4 medium tomatoes, halved and sliced

5-6 garlic cloves, quartered

3 medium tomatoes, skinned and chopped finely or 14oz/400 gr Italian chopped tomatoes

45ml/3 tablespoon olive oil

Handful of flat leaf parsley

Salt and ground black pepper to taste

Drizzle of extra virgin olive oil to serve – optional

Using a vegetable peeler, peel the eggplants in zebra stripes. Cut each eggplant in half length wise and then about 1/2 inch thick slices. 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.

Layer the sliced onions, garlic, pepper and eggplants one at a time.

Layer the sliced onions, garlic, pepper and eggplants one at a time.

Pour the olive oil in a heavy pan and spread the half of the sliced onions and garlic. Then spread half of the sliced peppers and a layer of sliced eggplants over them.

Repeat the layering with the remaining vegetables

Repeat the layering with the remaining vegetables

Repeat the same layering procedure for the 2nd half of onions, garlic, peppers and eggplants, and pour over the diced tomatoes. If you have any remaining eggplant slices left, layer them over the top.

Add the sliced tomatoes and a handful of parsley over the top.

Add the sliced tomatoes and a handful of parsley over the top.

Spread the sliced tomatoes over the very top and place a handful of flat leaf parsley. Season with salt and ground pepper and cover the pan. Start cooking at a medium heat for the first 5-8 minutes, then turn to heat to low and cook for  a further 3o minutes, until all the vegetables are cooked.

Delighted with the outcome :)!

Delighted with the outcome :)!

The vegetables here has been cooked in their own juices over low heat, and each of them just melt in your mouth!  The cooked  eggplants, garlic onions so scrumptious, packed with flavor. Seasonal produce cooked this way are not only healthy, but also very easy and delicious too.

 

Zeytinyagli Patlican; eggplants cooked in olive oil with vegetables

Zeytinyagli Patlican; eggplants cooked in olive oil with vegetables

 

I hope you enjoy this delicious eggplant dish, as you see, delicious food can also be healthy and easy. A few good seasonal produce, some olive oil and fresh herbs can produce wonders. You can drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil over the dish before serving and decorate with sliced peppers if you like.  Traditionally, we like to eat Zeytinyaglis, Vegetables Cooked in Olive Oil, in room temperature or cold.

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It is very rewarding to cook together and share a delicious bite with others. We have a fabulous healthy eating event with my Turkish cookery demonstration on May18th; if you are in the area and would like to join us, please contact me, I would be delighted to have your company.

 Afiyet Olsun, May you be happy and healthy with the food you eat;

Ozlem

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fascinating Didyma and Its  Exquisite Columns

Temple of Apollo, Didyma (Didim), Turkey

Temple of Apollo, Didyma (Didim), Turkey

We made it to the fascinating Didyma, at the Aegean region, Turkey, at a rainy, windy April day and the temple looked even more stunning and dramatic. The huge white-marble temple is simply amazing and so worth seeing. The gigantic Temple of Apollo at Didyma (Didim in Turkish) was among the most famous oracles in the ancient world, equal in importance to the oracular temple at Delphi in Greece. There has been a temple here since very early times, but the older structure was destroyed by Cyrus of Persia in 494 BC. Construction began on the present stupendous structure soon after.

Head of Medusa, Didyma, Turkey

Head of Medusa, Didyma, Turkey

 

Head of Medusa at Didyma – we have been comparing it with the Medusa at the Basilica Cistern, Istanbul.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beautiful base column details at Didyma

Beautiful base column details at Didyma

 

But most of all it was the delicate, exquisite columns of Didyma, that fascinated me.

Originally, 122 enormous Ionic columns surrounded the temple; today only three remain intact. Dating from the 2nd century BC, the columns are 60 feet tall (the height of a six-story building) and have a diameter of 6 feet at the base. Even the stumps of columns that fell are impressive in size and display beautiful carvings at their base, like designs of Daphne leaves.

It's all in the details - beautiful carvings at the marbel columns of Didyma.

It’s all in the details – beautiful carvings at the marbel columns of Didyma.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Make sure to have enough time to walk all the way around the temple to get the full effect. Didyma is well worth visiting, hope you can make it here sometime.

Happy Travels,

Ozlem

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Sautéed Carrots in Olive Oil with Garlic Yoghurt & Parsley; Sarimsakli, Havuclu Yogurt & Istanbul Here We Come! : )

Sauteed carrots in olive oil with garlic yoghurt; a delicious, healthy mezze as a dip or by the side of grilled vegetables and meat.

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 such as in soups like in Yayla Corbasi, mezzes, marinations for the meat and more. Praised for its health-giving qualities, yoghurt is rich in calcium, phosphorus and B vitamins and has earned a reputation as one of the most valuable health foods.

Sauteed carrots in garlic yoghurt went down very well with the roasted vegetables ans pistachio lamb kebabs at my recent Turkish cookery class.

This simple but very delicious Turkish mezze, incorporating yoghurt and sautéed carrots was a big hit at my Turkish cookery class last Saturday; delighted to hear that it has inspired the participants and they look forward to having a go at it.  This delicious mezze is offered at Kebab Houses all around Turkey, and in most lokantas. The mild & sweet sautéed carrots go really well with the garlicky yoghurt and make a wonderful dip or a delicious accompaniment to grilled meat and vegetables. At the class, we served this creamy mezze next to the pistachio lamb kebabs with roasted vegetables; flavors complemented each other really well. You can prepare this mezze ahead of time and keep the left overs in the fridge for the next day.

Serves 4                                   Preparation time: 15 – 20 minutes

3-4 medium carrots, grated

2-3 cloves of garlic, crushed in sea salt

450gr/16 oz. / 2 cups natural plain yoghurt – whole milk yoghurt recommended-

30ml/2 tbsp. olive oil

Handful of flat leaf parsley, finely chopped

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to serve

 

Sauteeing carrots in olive oil soften them and bring out their natural sweetness.

Heat the olive oil in a wide heavy pan and sauté the grated carrots for 3 -4 minutes, until they are about to soften up, but still a little crunchy. Turn the heat off and leave them to cool aside.

Combine the sautéed carrots into the garlicy yoghurt bowl.

In the meantime, crush the garlic clove in sea salt and stir them into the bowl of yoghurt. When cooled, combine the sautéed carrots into the yoghurt bowl and give a good mix. Stir in the chopped parsley and mix well.

Sauteed carrots in garlic yoghurt; healthy and so delicious as a dip or as an accompaniment to main courses.

 

You can serve this wonderful mezze with slices of flat bread, pitta bread or crackers, or with sliced vegetables like celery, broccoli, cawliflower to dip in. It also complements grilled meat and vegetables beautifully.

Afiyet Olsun,

Ozlem

Ready to be back home; Istanbul Here We Come ! : )

Mevlubi; upside down rice with sauteed eggplants, potato and meat; a very special dish from Antakya.

“Ozlem’cigim, Mevlubi’yi hazirlamaya basladim, size dort gozle bekliyoruz” in English, “My dear Ozlem, I am getting the Mevlubi ready, so look forward to seeing you all” says my dear mother warmly over the phone. Mevlubi is a special Antakya style dish, consisting of delicious layers of sautéed aubergine (eggplant), potato, onions, meat and rice, all cooked together, then turned upside down. It looks like one very impressive savory cake, and once it is on the table, you know it is a special occasion and you are there for a treat. Food has always been the focal point in Turkish culture; and cooking for family and friends have been our way of telling them that they are special, that we care for them.

My dear parents, my source of inspiration

What makes a place special for you? In these days, I am full of excitement of going back home, and reflecting on the reasons why my home land, Turkey, is so special for me. Sure, there are the family and friends, that you long to see and they look forward to seeing you. Now that I have my own small children, I cherish every opportunity to go back home, get them know their roots and reconnect, so very special.

The Dolmabahce Palace with its impressive garden is another wonderful site to see in Istanbul.

 Then there are all the amazing sites like the Topkapi Palace, Hagia Sophia and more await you; they were there centuries ago, still intact and take your breath away, enrich your soul.

Children of Antakya; sweet, shy, curious but above all very eager to help.

But then there is the spontaneous, unconditional kindness, generosity from the heart that welcomes you at home. Like, while we were in Antakya,  these local children, a little shy, but also curious,  eagerly wanting to show us around and tell the story of the St Peter’s Church.

Hospitality is a big part of Turkish Culture; complimentary food and drink is offered to you all around Turkey.

 Or this vendor selling pine nuts and regional honey in Pergamom, offering us to sample the pine nuts– along with the complimentary cay, Turkish tea!-. Or the abundance of cay offering, as a sign of hospitality, wherever you are; in banks, visiting homes, shops, everywhere!: )

A friendly smile welcomes you in cafes and restaurants, like at the wonderful cafe of Istanbul Culinary Institute.

It is this generosity from the heart, hospitality that really makes home special for me. Don’t get me wrong; there are plenty of things I greatly wish that would  improve at home – starting from the traffic!- but when I look back, it is this happy memories, time well spent with family and friends, the kindness of people stays with me. That’s all I remember.

Overlooking to the Topkapi Palace from the Sea of Marmara, what a magnificent view.

I hope you keep on making happy memories wherever your destination is and I look forward to be in touch from Istanbul soon!

Happy Travels, Iyi Yolculuklar,

Ozlem

 

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