I was back home, Istanbul, recently and as always it felt so good. As I get older, I find every opportunity to reconnect with my homeland is precious; seeing family and friends and soaking up the fascinating Istanbul.
Food of course, took the central stage and we gathered with family and friends over Turkish breakfast, sipping our Turkish coffee mid morning with my mother and my sister, and nice long dinners indulging in the delicious Turkish cuisine, especially the mezze feast.
I love our mezzes and I can just live on them for my dinner happily. Beautifully flavored with olive oil, lemon juice, spices, pomegranate molasses and nuts, they are not only delicious but very wholesome and easy to make. Below are some of my favorite mezzes; they are refreshing, delicious and you would be surprised to see how easy they are. I hope they inspire you to recreate some scrumptious mezzes at home.
Kisir; Spicy Bulgur Wheat Salad with Pomegranate Molasses
Kisir is a specialty in the southeast of Turkey, from where the country’s spicier dishes hail. It is offered as a welcome to the guests in the homes of Antakya, where my roots are from, and in Gaziantep. Kisir is generally made with nar eksisi (sour pomegranate molasses) instead of lemon juice – though it is common to use lemon juice for Kisir at northwest Turkey. It can be rolled into balls and served nestling in crunchy lettuce leaves. This dish is perfect for buffets or as part of a barbecue spread. It really is a “bowl of health and goodness” with fresh vegetables, bulgur – packed with fiber and pomegranate sauce, full of antioxidants.
This wonderful, refreshing can be prepared a couple of days in advance and can be stored in the fridge for 3-4 days. As a matter of fact, it tastes even better a day or two later it’s made! Here’s my Kisir recipe, hope you enjoy it.
Patlicanli Eksileme; Smoked eggplant salad with vegetables, parsley and dried mint
This is a wonderful, refreshing salad from southern Turkey, Antakya, and one of my favorites, featuring Turkey’s beloved eggplant, aubergine or “patlican”. Traditionally, the eggplant here is cooked over an open fire, which gives a delicious, smoky flavor. This dish can be served as part of a “mezze” – appetizer- or can accompany grilled meats. The dried mint really adds a wonderful flavor to this salad, most refreshing.
Lambs lettuce salad with garlic yoghurt; Yogurtlu semizotu salatasi
This lovely, refreshing salad is very easy and quick to make and makes a wonderful appetizer, meze or a side dish served with grilled meats, poultry and pasta. At home in the restaurants, this salad is served as part of a meze spread with warm pita bread, lovely feta cheese, hummus and olives. This combination also makes a wonderful and healthy lunch alternative. Watercress can replace the lamb lettuce well.
Oruk, baked icli kofte, a version of kibbeh; bulgur balls with walnut and ground meat filling
Oruk, or (Sam Orugu as they are also referred) the baked oval bulgur balls with delicious ground meat and walnuts filling, is a very popular dish at my hometown, Antakya (Antioch). It is a very special mezze that turns up at my mother’s table at every festive event and family gatherings. Antakya’s Oruk is a version of the delicious Kibbeh, which is considered to be the national dish of Lebanon. If you are an oruk, icli kofte or kibbeh fan, I hope you would give it a go and make these delicious treats at home. Yes, it does take a bit of a time & effort, but it is totally worth it; a very rewarding, satisfying experience and makes any day special. The leftovers also freeze beautifully.
Home made Turkish round flat bread, Pide Ekmek
Bread, ekmek is a major staple in Turkish cuisine and appears generously at breakfast, lunch and dinner and no mezze is complete without flat breads. Pide bread, Turkish flat bread is easy to cook at home; this version of pide has a crispy crust but soft in texture, great to serve with mezzes. Here’s my Pide bread recipe, hope you enjoy it.
I do hope these delicious mezzes inspire you to enjoy with family and friends, Afiyet Olsun!
I confess my mouth was watering just looking at the photos! Everything is so yummy looking, or rather I mean they ARE so yummy because we’ve tried almost all of them, thank you very much. What a nice posting about wonderful thoughts and memories of Istanbul. Ailene selamlar ve sevgilerimizle, xoxo J ve M
Sevgili Jolee’cigim, many thanks for your kind note! Everything was really yummy as always back home and pleasure to share here, glad you enjoyed it. Enjoy these delicious mezzes at home, bizden de size cok selam ve sevgiler, Ozlem xxx
I’m being very lazy at home cooking wise this month but you have inspired me to get back to the kitchen
Merhaba Back to Bodrum, lovely to get your note and that the post inspired : ) Enjoy Bodrum for us, cok sevgiler, Ozlem x
So thrilled to see some of my favorites in there, Ozlem, especially the all-time loved pomegranate bulgur:) So true, as we get older every opportunity to connect with loved ones is precious, glad got to head back home. Hugs, Peri.
Many thanks dear Peri, such a pleasure to have your company here; love your gorgeous food and feel the same, every opportunity is precious to connect with home and loved ones and we can do that through food. With love, Ozlem xx
Thank you for these recipes , i also feel inspired to get back in to the kitchen. I love istanbul so much and miss the beautiful food x
Merhaba dear Kayls, lovely to get your note, many thanks. Food is really a gateway for us and I hope the recipes bring happy memories back to you, I miss Istanbul and family too and I am grateful to all your company here to share this wonderful heritage. Cok selamlar, Ozlem
Oh, great to see this. I was at Ozlem’s course in Weybridge, an absolutely joyful event, bringing Turkish history, flavors and spirit to my heart. Thank you Ozlem for your shining and your sincere presentations.
So lovely to get your note dear Brenda, means a lot to me : ) Always happy to share Turkish cuisine, glad you enjoyed the post and look forward to having you and George around our table soon. Much love, Ozlem xx
Wow. Amazing! I really miss Turkish Food. I hope I will be able to prepare one soon. 🙂
Thank you! I hope you enjoy recreating these delicious mezzes, my best wishes, Ozlem
I was only two when my parents (US NAVY) lived in Ankara. I have tons of fun stories and I even have a Turkish friend, here in Vermont. I do have a great Turkish cookbook dated 1952, called TURKISH RECIPES. Selected and Tested by the Cooking Group of the Turkish American Women’s Cultural Society. I cook from it often.
Thanks for being there to support.
Merhaba dear Susan,
So lovely to hear from you – delighted that you have fond memories of your time in Ankara – I was born in Ankara and lived there for 7 years, very happy memories there. I hope with Turkish food, you can keep these memories alive, the Turkish cookbook you have sounds like a real treasure. I do hope my recipes here inspire you too.
Also just to let you know that hardback copies of my cookery book, Ozlem’s Turkish Table, Recipes from My Homeland, is now on sale via Milk Street online store in the US – you can see details here if you like. https://store.177milkstreet.com/products/ozlem-s-turkish-table-cookbook-by-ozlem-warren
Many thanks and afiyet olsun,