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Author Archive | Ozlem Warren

Bulgur Wheat Pilaf with Vegetables – Sebzeli Bulgur Pilavi

Bulgur wheat pilaf with onions, tomatoes and peppers

Bulgur wheat pilaf with onions, tomatoes and peppers

My cousin asked me recently what to feed his 15 month old baby. Our children have been eating mainly what we have been eating (with the condition of compromising from the seasoning and adding more salt and spices on our own plate), we have been lucky. And that’s what I have suggested to him. Turkish food provides a healthy and balanced diet to the children too and this bulgur pilaf with vegetables would be a healthy and delicious option to give to them – my children enjoy it greatly!

Often confused with cracked wheat, bulgur wheat is a grain made from cooked whole wheat berries, which have had the bran removed, and is then dried in the sun and crushed. As it has already been cooked, it requires little cooking to reconstitute itself. It is available coarsely and finely ground. For pilaf, the coarser type is used, to create a nutty and delicious dish, which is a meal in itself and served with yoghurt. Bulgur has been a major staple in many rural areas in Turkey; during the Ottoman Period, the rice was a very precious commodity that only the rich could afford. This made the bulgur a very popular option and healthy one too. It is reach in fiber and provides good source of protein.

Serves 6
Preparation time: 15 minutes Cooking time: about 20-25 minutes

350 gr/ 12 oz/ 2 cups of coarse organic bulgur wheat, rinsed and drained
2 medium onions, finely chopped
1 green bell pepper, diced
15 ml / 1 tablespoon olive oil
30 ml / 2 tablespoons butter
400 gr /14 oz can of chopped tomatoes
600 ml / 1 pint / 2 1/2 cup hot vegetable or chicken stock or water
1 teaspoon salt – please adjust to your taste –
freshly ground black pepper
chopped parsley for garnish – optional-

Rinse the bulgur under cold running water, drain and set a side.

Sauté the chopped onions in olive oil and butter until soft. Add the green bell pepper and chopped tomatoes, cook for another minute. Add the stock (or water) and bring to boil.

Add the bulgur, salt and ground pepper and stir once. Cover and cook over a low heat until the bulgur has absorbed all the stock and stem holes are visible on the surface. It is important not to stir the pilaf during this time. Remove the pan from the heat. Cover the pan with a cloth or absorbent kitchen paper and the lid over the top. The bulgur will continue cooking in the steam and the cloth will absorb any excess moisture. Leave to stand covered, for at least 15 minutes before serving.

Delicious and wholesome bulgur wheat with onions, tomatoes and peppers

Delicious and wholesome bulgur wheat with onions, tomatoes and peppers

Fluff up the pilaf with a fork and serve hot, garnished with a sprinkling of chopped parsley if you would like.

Afiyet Olsun,

Ozlem

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Yoghurt Dip with Cucumber and Garlic – Ozlem’s Cacik Dip

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

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

This wonderful, easy to prepare refreshing dip appears often on our table. The cool cucumber, yoghurt and mint combination goes very well served by the side of grilled meats, vegetables and casseroles.

Some of the finest yoghurt in the world is made in Turkey. Yogurt is an important feature of the Turkish diet, and is included in some way at most family meal times. Traditional Cacik is not so much a meze but more a chilled yoghurt soup with water and ice cubes added. Made in the traditional way, it is easy to whisk up, and served in a small bowl alongside hot meal dishes, to refresh and cleanse the palette. If you wish, exclude the water and the ice to create a great cooling dip, as I prefer to do here.

I am passionate about healthy, delicious Turkish cuisine; over 90 authentic Turkish recipes are included at my cookery book, Ozlem’s Turkish Table, Recipes from My Homeland. Signed copies now 30 % off for a limited time here and delivered worldwide including the US.

Serves 4
Preparation time: 10 minutes

225 gr / 8 oz / 1 cup of natural, creamy plain yoghurt
1 garlic cloves, crushed with salt
About 100 gr / 3 1/2 oz cucumber, finely chopped
1 teaspoon dried mint
salt to taste
fresh mint leaves to garnish

Combine the yoghurt and garlic and beat until smooth. Stir in chopped cucumber and mint. Add salt to taste, cover and refrigerate until required. Add fresh mint leaves for garnish when serving.

Note: 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. The bacteria in live yoghurt are known to stimulate friendly bacteria in the gut easing gastrointestinal problems and aiding digestion.

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Baked Chicken Casserole with Vegetables; Firinda Sebzeli Tavuk

Baked Chicken Casserole with Vegetables, Sebzeli firin tavuk

Baked Chicken Casserole with Vegetables, Sebzeli firin tavuk

In Turkey, we use a lot of fresh vegetables – usage of frozen vegetable and fruit is minimal. With this abundance, you can create endless casseroles with adding meat or keeping it vegetarian.

This recipe appears a lot in our home; it is so easy to make, healthy and very delicious too. You can add or replace your favorite vegetables of the season; peas, eggplants and zucchini work well too. I like to double the recipe and freeze the half, as it freezes so well. You can make it a complete meal with plain rice a side and a dollop of plain yoghurt.

Please remember; Turkish cooking is all about using fresh produce and flavoring the dishes with artful use of spices. It is wonderfully amazing to see that you can have healthy food without compromising the taste, thanks to the spices. Make your casserole as fiery as you would like with more red pepper flakes! Afiyet Olsun!

Serves 4 – 6

Preparation time: 35 minutes  Cooking time: 40-45 minutes

450 gr/1 lb chicken breasts(cut in chunks) and thighs
2 onions, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, crushed
450 gr/1 lb potatoes, cut in half and sliced
1 green bell pepper, seeded and sliced
1 medium carrot, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon red pepper paste (or tomato paste)
45 ml/3 tablespoons olive oil
400 gr/14 oz can chopped tomato
240 ml/8 oz/1 cup water
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon (or more!) red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste

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

In your casserole dish marinate the vegetables with olive oil, chopped tomatoes, red pepper paste (or tomato paste), salt, pepper, oregano and red pepper flakes. Make sure all the vegetables are well coated with the olive oil, paste and spices using your hands.

Add the meat and blend well with the marinated vegetables. You can add a little more pinch of salt if you like. Cover and let the flavors blend for about 15 minutes in the fridge.

Add the water to the marination, mix well. Bake in the oven uncovered. Half way through baking (after about 20 minutes), take the casserole out of the oven and give a gentle mix; this will give a chance for the vegetables and the meat to golden brown evenly. Put the casserole back in the oven and cook for further 20 minutes or until nicely golden brown on top.

Serve warm with plain rice and a dollop of natural plain yoghurt by the side.

Tips: You can marinate the meat with the vegetables in the morning or even a day in advance; cover and leave it in the fridge for the flavors to blend even more.

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