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Tag Archives | yoghurt

Ancient, Wholesome; Bulgur Pilaf with Freekeh, Eggplant and Meat

Firik or Freekeh is a super food and an ancient grain; I absolutely love its delicious, nutty taste, similar to pearl barley. Freekeh used to feature a lot at my grandmother’s table in Antakya, ancient Antioch, when I was a child. Cooked with bulgur and fresh butter, it always tasted so heavenly and the mesmerizing smells always greeted us. Freekeh is a real treat by itself and pairs with bulgur, vegetables, chickpeas and meat beautifully.

Ancient firik or freekeh; a delicious and healthy grain, pairs with bulgur and vegetables so well.

Ancient firik or freekeh; a delicious and healthy grain, pairs with bulgur and vegetables so well.

Firik, (as in Turkish) or Freekeh (sometimes spelled frikeh)  or farik is a cereal  food made from green wheat that goes through a roasting process in its production.  Firik is a popular and ancient grain used Middle Eastern & Southern Turkish cuisine and also popular in Levantine, Egyptian, Arabian Peninsula and North African cuisine. The wheat is harvested while the grains are yellow and the seeds are still soft; it is then piled and sun-dried. The piles are then carefully set on fire so only the straw and chaff burn and not the seeds. It is the high moisture content of the seeds that prevents them from burning. The now roasted wheat undergoes further thrashing and sun-drying to make the flavor, texture, and color uniform. It is this thrashing or rubbing process of the grains that gives this food its name, farīk or “rubbed.” The seeds are now cracked into smaller pieces so they look like a green bulgur.

Antakya - Antioch's ancient Long Market - Uzun Carsi, with abundance of grains, spices and more

Antakya – Antioch’s ancient Long Market – Uzun Carsi, with abundance of grains, spices and more

This delicious, ancient grain freekeh is a similar food made from barley and it is also mentioned in the Bible. Freekeh is also considered as a superfood, as in the category of the healthy grains such as quinoa and farro. Freekeh has at least four times as much fiber  as some other comparable grains, consisting mostly of insoluble fiber. It also has a low glycemic index so is suitable for managing diabetes. You can get freekeh in Middle Eastern or specialty food stores abroad, though it is widely available in Turkey. Bulgur is now widely available in supermarkets, so great to see.

Freekeh with bulgur, eggplants and meat - Firikli Bulgur Pilavi; a delicious & healthy meal.

Freekeh with bulgur, eggplants and meat – Firikli Bulgur Pilavi; a delicious & healthy meal.

I cooked my firik, freekeh here with bulgur, onions, eggplants (aubergine) and chunks of meat. The delicious nutty texture of the grains worked so well with the vegetables. Addition of any meat of your choice is lovely though just with the grains and vegetables itself, this meal would be a delicious vegetarian feast. Chickpeas would go well in this dish too. Turkish hot pepper paste, biber salcasi, gives a wonderful, rich flavor to this dish; you can make your own red pepper paste too, here is my recipe  if you like to make your own. You can also add some heat and flavor with the Turkish red pepper flakes, pul biber.

Serves 6

Preparation time: 25 minutes                  Cooking time: 30 -35 minutes

350gr/12oz/2 cups coarse bulgur, rinsed and drained

225gr/8oz/ generous 1 cup firik or freekeh, rinsed and drained

1 large eggplant (aubergine), diced

2 medium onions, finely diced

450gr/ 1 lb. small chunks of beef, chicken or lamb (optional)

15 ml/ 1 tbsp. Turkish red pepper paste (biber salcasi)

15 ml/1 tbsp. tomato puree

60ml/2 fl. oz./ ¼ cup olive oil

2 pints/ 5 cups hot water

Salt and ground black pepper to taste

 

Red pepper flakes, pul biber to serve

Cacik dip of diced cucumbers, plain yoghurt and dried mint  to serve

Layer the eggplant pieces on a tray and sprinkle salt over them, leave them aside for 15 minutes (salt will help the moisture and bitter juices come out of the eggplant).

Layer the eggplant pieces on a tray and sprinkle salt over them (salt will help the moisture and bitter juices come out of the eggplant).

First prepare the eggplants (aubergines). Peel the eggplants lengthways in stripes using a vegetable peeler or a small sharp knife. Cut the eggplant in quarters and then slice into bite size pieces. Layer the eggplant pieces on a tray and sprinkle salt over them, leave them aside for 15 minutes (salt will help the moisture and bitter juices come out of the eggplant). After 15 minutes, dry the eggplants with kitchen or paper towel thoroughly.

Heat the 2 tbsp. olive oil in a heavy pan and sauté the onions until soft and they begin to color. Add the pieces of meat, stir and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Toss in the diced eggplants and the remaining 2 tbsp. olive oil. Stir and sauté over medium heat for 3-4 minutes, until they start to color and soften. Then stir in the red pepper paste and tomato paste and combine well with the vegetables and the meat. Season with salt and ground black pepper.

Bulgur pilaf with freekeh, eggplants and meat; firikli bulgur pilavi

Bulgur pilaf with freekeh, eggplants and meat; firikli bulgur pilavi

 Now add the bulgur and freekeh to the pan and mix well. Pour in the hot water, stir and bring it to the boil. Cover, reduce the heat and simmer on low to medium heat for about 20 minutes or until all the water has been absorbed. Turn off the heat, cover the pan with a clean kitchen towel and place the lid on firmly. Rest the pilaf for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Cacik dip with yoghurt, cucumber and dried mint; delicious and refreshing

Cacik dip with yoghurt, cucumber and dried mint; delicious and refreshing

Serve the bulgur and frekeeh pilaf hot with Turkish red pepper flakes, pul biber sprinkled over, if you like. Refreshing Cacik Dip of diced cucumbers and dried mint with yoghurt complements this bulgur & freekeh pilaf very well.

Ancient St Peter's Church, Antakya, Antioch where early Christians congregated.

Ancient St Peter’s Church, Antakya, Antioch where early Christians congregated.

I hope you enjoy this delicious, ancient food, packed with goodness; Afiyet Olsun,

Ozlem

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Homemade Pogaca; Turkish savory pastry with cheese and parsley

Scrumptious pogacas, savory pastry with cheese, olives and vavious fillings, displayed at a bakery in Istanbul

Scrumptious pogacas, savory pastry with cheese, olives and various fillings, displayed at a bakery in Istanbul

Delicious pogacas and pastries; a favorite Turkish breakfast or tea time treat

Delicious pogacas and pastries; a favorite Turkish breakfast or tea time treat

These delicious cheesy pogacas (poh-ah-cha) are a favorite breakfast or tea time treat in Turkey and we love them. They are easy to make at home; make your kitchen smell heavenly and they are very popular with children, as well as adults. Bakeries, street stalls sell freshly baked pogacas (plain, with white cheese, olives or with potato & cheese filling) in Turkey and with a glass of cay aside, they make a delicious and affordable breakfast or tea time treat.

My homemade peynirli pogaca, savory pastry with feta and parsley; easy to make and delicious

My homemade peynirli pogaca, savory pastry with cheese and parsley; easy to make and delicious

My children adore pogaca and we made our peynirli pogaca, savory pastry with feta cheese together; they loved getting involved. My pogacas are rather chunky, like the ones you would get in bakeries in Turkey and one is enough per person. You can make smaller ones if you like. They are absolutely delicious straight from the oven, but they also keep well for a few days. The next day (if any left!), you can microwave them for 10 seconds or gently heat under the grill, so delicious. Hope you enjoy them as much as we did!

 Peynirli pogaca; Turkish savory treat with feta; great for breakfast or as a snack.

Peynirli pogaca; Turkish savory treat with white cheese and parsley; great for breakfast or as a snack.

Makes 11 pogacas

Preparation time: 20 min (+1 hour for dough to rise)                  Cooking time: 25- 30 minutes

For the dough:

7gr dry yeast (1 sachet)

425 gr / 3 ¼ cups all-purpose plain flour

5 ml / 1 tsp. salt

3 oz./ 1/3 cup plain (whole milk) yoghurt

1 egg, beaten

4 fl. oz. / ½ cup mild olive oil or sunflower oil

4 fl. oz . / ½ cup warm milk

For the filling:

5.3 oz./ 1 cup Turkish white cheese (or Greek feta cheese, if Turkish white cheese is not available) crumbled

15 gr/ 0.4 oz./½ cup fresh parsley, finely chopped

For the topping:

1 egg, beaten

Sesame seeds and nigella seeds to decorate

Preheat the oven to 180 C/ 350 F

 

Combine the warm milk and dry yeast in a small bowl and mix well. Let it stand for 5 minutes so that it gets foamy.

Let the dough to rise in a warm place for 45-60 minutes

Let the dough to rise in a warm place for 45-60 minutes

In a large bowl, stir in the flour and salt and make a well in the middle. Add the yoghurt, mild olive oil (or sunflower oil) and the beaten egg to the flour mixture, in the middle. Stir in the foamy yeast mixture and knead well with your hands for a few minutes, until the dough comes together. Shape the dough like a ball, place in the large bowl and cover with a cling film. Let it rise in a warm place for 45-60 minutes or until doubled in size.

Crumbled feta cheese and fresh parsley make a delicious filling

Crumbled Turkish white cheese or Greek feta cheese and fresh parsley make a delicious filling

While the dough is rising, prepare your filling. In a medium size bowl, stir in the crumbled Turkish white cheese or Greek feta cheese and chopped parsley and mix well.

Preheat the oven to 180 C/ 350 F and grease a baking tray.

Once the dough has risen, punch down and divide into 11 equal pieces, each about a size of a small tangerine. Roll each piece into a ball, and then flatten into a round flat circle with your fingertips, about 10 cm, 4” in diameter (you can make them smaller if you prefer). Place a spoonful of the filling mixture (take care not to overfill) at one side of the circle dough, leaving a little unfilled dough margin near the edges. Fold the circle to cover the filling to form a half moon shape. Make sure the dough covers the filling and meet the other end. Seal the two ends of the dough, pressing with your fingertips well. Place the stuffed dough on the greased tray and repeat this procedure with the rest of the dough pieces.

Pogacas, decorated with sesame & nigella seeds, ready to bake!

Pogacas, decorated with sesame & nigella seeds, ready to bake!

Place the prepared pogacas, stuffed dough pieces side by side on a greased tray. Brush them with the beaten egg and sprinkle with nigella and sesame seeds. Bake in the preheated oven on the middle rack for about 25 – 30 minutes, until they are golden brown at top.

Peynirli pogaca, Turkish savory pastry with feta & parsley, ready to eat!

Peynirli pogaca, Turkish savory pastry with cheese & parsley, ready to eat!

Serve warm; glass of Cay, Turkish tea goes really well with these delicious pogacas.

My homemade peynirli pogaca, savory pastry with feta and parsley; easy to make and delicious

My homemade peynirli pogaca, savory pastry with cheese and parsley; easy to make and delicious

 

Afiyet olsun,

Ozlem

Asure – Noah’s Dessert 

Asure or Ashura,  delicious dessert of grains, pulses and dried fruit

Asure or Ashura, Noah’s Ark dessert; a special dessert of grains, pulses, dried fruit & pomegranate seeds

This delicious dessert of grains, pulses and dried fruit, referred as Asure or Ashura – Noah’s Dessert-, is most probably one of Turkey’s most famous dessert. According to legend, Noah made this dessert on the ark by combining whatever ingredients were left on the ark. Asure or Ahsura is also the traditional dessert that is served on the 10th day of the Muslim month Muharram, the first month of the Islamic calendar. It is always made in large quantities and shared with friends and neighbors.

Though the ingredients list is pretty rich, I believe whatever grains, pulses and dried fruit you have in your pantry will do. And if you are short of time, why not using good quality pre-cooked chickpeas and beans in cans; I am all up for it if it helps making this wonderful dessert. Adding the pomegranate seeds over the top give a festive touch and make the dessert refreshing too. Here is the link for my Asure recipe, hope you enjoy it.

Afiyet Olsun,

Ozlem

 

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Comforting (and gluten-free) Spinach with ground meat, onions & wholegrain basmati rice – Kiymali Ispanak

Comforting & delicious Spinach with ground meat, onions and wholegrain basmati rice - also gluten-free!

Comforting & delicious Spinach with ground meat, onions and wholegrain basmati rice – also gluten-free!

Kiymali Ispanak, Spinach with ground meat, onions and rice is one of my favorite comfort food that I turn to often. Spinach is a much loved vegetable in Turkey and often finds its way in boreks, savory pastries and also enjoyed with eggs. This dish, like other all-in-one pan dishes called “Tencere Yemekleri” in Turkish, is a popular one at home. Spinach, rice and ground meat are cooked together in the pan, with a generous tomato based sauce to dip your bread in. It is very easy to cook, delicious and you have a complete, healthy dish in a short time. This meal is also gluten-free if you use wholegrain basmati rice.

Scrumptious array of home cooked stews, stuffed vegetables, dolmas, koftes and more at traditional lokantas in Turkey

Scrumptious array of home cooked stews, stuffed vegetables, dolmas, koftes and more at traditional lokantas in Turkey

“Tencere Yemekleri” is also popular by the locals, enjoyed at  the traditional, local restaurants called “Esnaf Lokantasi”. Trays of mouthwatering precooked and gently heated bean stews, rice, vegetables cooked in olive oil, stuffed vegetables, spinach with onion and eggs and many more are displayed in a buffet style. This is slowly cooked “fast food”, Turkish style; all you need to do is to pick up your tray and point to the Chef, Asci, which dishes you would like to try. They are ever so inviting, healthy, delicious, great value and a wonderful way to sample some home style Turkish meals. We enjoyed this feast in Asik Restaurant in Didyma during our Culinary & Cultural Turkey tour this year; really a feast to all senses.

Kiymali Ispanak; Spinach with ground meat, onions and rice, a complete, healthy & delicious meal.

Kiymali Ispanak; Spinach with ground meat, onions and rice, a complete, healthy & delicious meal.

I hope you enjoy this favorite comfort food featuring spinach. I like to use all the stems and leaves of the spinach, once washed well. Plain or garlic yoghurt with crusty bread aside go really well with this spinach meal.

Bulgur and potato patties with spring onion; bulgurlu, patatesli kofte

Bulgur and potato patties with spring onion; bulgurlu, patatesli kofte

We also enjoy this potato and bulgur patties, bulgurlu & patatesli kofte, to go with this spinach dish; they are delicious to dip into wonderful sauce of the spinach meal.

Serves  4

750 gr/1lb 10oz fresh spinach, washed and coarsely chopped

2 medium onions, finely chopped

225gr/8oz/1 cup ground beef

4 garlic cloves, finely chopped

90gr/3 ½ oz. / ½ cup wholegrain basmati rice, rinsed and drained

30ml/2 tbsp. tomato paste (or 1 tbsp. double concentrated tomato paste)

30ml/ 2 tbsp. olive oil

750ml/ 1 ¼ pints/3 cups hot water

Salt and ground black pepper to taste

Plain natural yoghurt to serve

Red pepper flakes to serve

Heat the olive oil in a heavy, deep pan. Stir in the onions and cook until golden. Add the ground beef and garlic, stir and cook for a few minutes, until the juice from the meat is evaporated. Add the rinsed rice, tomato paste and the hot water, stir well. Once the mixture starts to bubble, add the chopped spinach and season with salt and ground black pepper. Cover the pan and cook over medium heat for about 25 minutes.

Comforting & delicious Spinach with ground meat, onions and wholegrain basmati rice - also gluten-free!

Comforting Spinach with ground meat, onions and wholegrain basmati rice

You can serve this delicious spinach meal with a dollop of plain yoghurt over the top, sprinkled with red pepper flakes. Fresh, crusty bread aside is ideal to mop up the delicious juices.

Afiyet Olsun,

Ozlem

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