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A Slice of England

Exclusive recipe from my new cookery book SEBZE – Turkish Şakşuka

Merhaba dear All,

It’s not long now for the worldwide publication of my new cookery book, SEBZE, Vegetarian recipes from my Turkish kitchen in April 2024 and I am giddy with excitement to share this special book with you all. You can pre-order your copy here, and we would greatly appreciated, as pre-orders help new books greatly.

There are 85 scrumptious vegetarian Turkish recipes in SEBZE. We have a rich and diverse regional cuisine, which I have researched extensively. SEBZE includes lesser-known regional specialties along with popular Turkish recipes and a few of my own creations. Many of the recipes complement one another and leftovers can be repurposed for other delicious meals with ease. There are plenty, easy one pot recipes, as well as recipes that suit gluten-free and plant-based diets too.

I wanted to share with you dear readers, an exclusive recipe from my new cookery book, SEBZE, Turkish Şakşuka; Baked Aubergines, Courgettes, Peppers with Tomato Sauce.

You might know Shakshuka (meaning ‘all mixed up’) as a popular dish in the Middle East of eggs cooked in tomato sauce, peppers, herbs and sometimes onions. For us Turks, though, the name and dish Şakşuka refers to this delicious, summery meze of aubergines (eggplant) and peppers cooked in olive oil, served with a tomato-based sauce. Vegetables are traditionally shallow-fried in olive oil for this recipe, although for a lighter and equally tasty option, I prefer to bake them in the oven. I added courgettes (zucchini) here too, following my mother’s recipe.

I suggest to serve this with the nutty Muhammara  and Kekikli, Pul Biberli Fırın Patates, my Baked potato chips with pul biber and oregano, both from SEBZE; they complement Şakşuka like a dream.

Turkish Şakşuka; Baked Aubergines, Courgettes, Peppers with Tomato Sauce

Prepare ahead: You can prepare Şakşuka a day ahead and keep covered in the refrigerator.

 Serves 2–3

 1 large aubergine (eggplant), partially peeled in stripes and trimmed

1 medium courgette (zucchini), cut into 1 cm (½ in) slices

1 red (bell) pepper, deseeded and cut into 3 cm (1 in) chunks

2–3 chillies or Turkish sivri biber, deseeded and sliced in half lengthways

4 tablespoons olive oil

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

flatbreads, to serve

For the tomato sauce

1 tablespoon olive oil

3 garlic cloves, crushed with salt and finely chopped

400 g (14 oz) tin chopped tomatoes

2 teaspoons Turkish red pepper paste (biber salçası, see page xx for homemade) (or double concentrated tomato paste, for a milder flavour)

½ teaspoon pul biber or red pepper flakes (optional)

small handful of flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For the garlicky yoghurt sauce

200 g (7 oz/generous ¾ cup) thick and creamy plain yoghurt (or plant-based alternative)

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 200°C fan/220°C/425°F/gas 7.

Cut the peeled aubergine in half lengthways, then cut each half into 1 cm (½ in) slices. Place them on a large tray, sprinkle with salt and set aside for 10 minutes. Salt will help the moisture come out of the aubergines. Dry thoroughly with paper towels.

On a large baking tray, arrange the aubergine slices with the sliced courgette, pepper and chillies on the tray in one layer. Coat with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Rub the seasoning and oil into the vegetables with your hands. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes. Remove the tray from the oven, remove the pepper strips and place on a large serving plate. Turn the aubergine and courgette slices and bake for a further 10 minutes until charred at edges and cooked through. Place alongside the peppers on the serving plate.

While the vegetables are baking, make the tomato sauce. Heat the olive oil in a wide pan over a medium heat, add the garlic and sauté for a minute, then add the chopped tomatoes and the pepper paste (or double concentrated tomato paste) and mix well. Cook for 3–4 minutes until the sauce thickens. Stir in the pul biber (if using) and the parsley. Season with salt and pepper to taste and remove from the heat.

For the yoghurt sauce, beat the yoghurt with the garlic and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Spoon the tomato sauce over the top of the cooked vegetables. Serve with the yoghurt sauce on the side, accompanied by flatbreads to mop up the tasty sauce.

Ozlem at Meric Ciftligi – Altinouzu, Antakya, from SEBZE. Image credit Sam A Harris

SEBZE  is a recipe collection built with convenience and flavour in mind, inspired by my homeland’s rich and diverse culinary heritage. I hope you will embark on a culinary journey to my homeland, to discover a selection of delightful, achievable vegetarian recipes, with stunning food and location photography.

From my kitchen to yours – Afiyet Olsun, as we say in Turkish – may you be happy and healthy with this food and enjoy your copy of SEBZE.

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Olympics – London 2012; Indeed “inspires a generation” and Men’s Cycling Road Race by our street!

Have you watched the London 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony? What a glorious, breathtaking, welcoming event it was.  It always fascinates me how this wonderful event bring people, nations all over the world together, celebrates diversity,  inspires fair game, hope and friendship. If you haven’t had a chance to watch, please tune in BBC’s iplayer Olympic Ceremonies – London 2012 Online – you won’t be disappointed!  One of my favorite parts has been the Queen’s appearance with James Bond, where two of them made their way by helicopter to the Olympic Stadium – please check out Queen and Bond unite for London 2012 Olympics video ; unforgettable, we will be watching again and again.

Weybridge, Surrey dresssed up for the Men’s Cycle Race

Here in Surrey, England, we have been very lucky to watch and cheer for the Men’s Road Race Cyclists, passing through our door step. We lined up with thousands of other folks cheering for the racers, an incredible, unforgettable atmosphere; here are some photos from our street in Weybridge during the race:

One of the many bicycles decorated for the race!

Cheers for Team GB's Mark Cavendish!

We are all lined up waiting for the racers!


And here they are!


... and gone in a flash!

And here are the wonderful game makers of volunteers, who helped the games happen, posing with a happy relief after the race

I know many folks are getting together to watch the games and share a delicious bite. Here are some ideas for you to spice up your London 2012 get -togethers;

Zucchini fritters with feta and dill; delicious, a real crowd pleaser; you can prepare ahead of time and enjoy with friends and family.

Zucchini fritters with feta and dill; wonderful with garlic yoghurt by the side

Puff pastry pockets with cheese, potato and parsley; you can serve these delicious treats as a starter or you can enjoy them for lunch with salad or with afternoon tea.

Puff pastry with cheese and potato, delicious treats

Like sports and music, love of food brings people together and celebrates diversity. I feel very lucky to get to know many wonderful bloggers all around the world. Here I wanted to share and celebrate  some wonderful recipes showcasing the cuisines of some of my favorite bloggers – these may be a wonderful addition to your Olympic Games party spread too :

Peri’s Spice Ladle’s grilled south-indian-style lamb chops with yellow daal – what a wonderful way to spice up the BBQ!

Cuisine de Provence’s Tian of sun kissed vegetables would be perfect aside to some BBQ’d lambchops 🙂

How about Kalofagas’ delicious mouthfulls of ouzo-cured salmon? Very tempting, and so refreshing with slices of cucumbers!

I love My Italian Kitchen’s Mediterranean inspired salads, and this summer salad would go so well with the Games!

Last but not least, Phil’s delicious and seriously addictive Cake-meringue pie would be a wonderful finish for an Olympic feast!

London 2012's wonderful slogan; "inspire a generation"

One of the slogans of London 2012 has been “Inspire a generation”; I loved the fact that during the Opening Ceremony, the cauldron consisting of 204 petals (one for each competing nation or territory) were lit by seven young athletes chosen by British Olympic champions. What a lovely way to inspire and empower the future generation. London 2012 has had a very promising start and I am sure it will be an inspiration for a generation to come.

 London is buzzing with excitement again. Hope you enjoy London 2012!


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Victoria Sponge Cake with Berries and Lemon Curd & Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee

The Market at the Covent Garden, dressed for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee

It is an exciting time to be in Britain. London will be hosting the 2012 Summer Olympic Games,  we are all counting down the days. But before that, it is the Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee, that gets us all excited at the moment.  We have been celebrating this remarkable occasion with street parties (apparently over 10,000 all around Britain), and today over 1,000 boats have been on River Thames for the Diamond Jubilee Thames River Pageant to mark this special occasion, just spectacular.

The Tower Bridge, London. It is a rare sight to see the bridge open up, which we witnessed a few years ago. The Tower bridge is now decorated with blue, red and white lights for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee

We were in London yesterday, to soak up this amazing celebratory atmosphere, and I hope these few photos coming up would do justice  to visualise the city, dressed to celebrate.

To join in the celebrations, I made BBC Food’s Victoria Sponge Cake with Berries and Lemon Curd, (adapted from Simon Rimmer’s recipe). Being a lemon fan, I enjoyed the addition of the lemon curd in this recipe. The curd’s zingy taste worked really well with the fresh berries and the mascarpone filling.

Victoria Sponge Cake with Lemon Curd and Fresh Berries

For the Victoria sponge

175g/6oz butter, plus extra for greasing

175g/6oz sugar (I used unrefined golden caster sugar)

lemon, zest and juice

3 free-range eggs

175g/6oz self-raising flour

For the filling

225g/8oz mascarpone

50ml/2fl oz double cream

50g/2oz icing sugar, plus extra for dusting

225g/8oz strawberries, sliced

For the lemon curd:

4 unwaxed lemons, zest and juice

200g/7oz unrefined caster sugar

100g/3½oz unsalted butter, cut into cubes

3 free-range eggs, plus 1 free-range egg yolk

Raspberries and blueberries to decorate the cake

You’ll need 2 x 22.5cm/9in greased and lined cake tins.

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6.

Grease and line the cake tins.

Cream the butter and sugar together in a bowl until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, lemon zest and juice until well combined, then fold in the flour.

Spoon the mixture into the cake tin and bake in the oven for 20 minutes, or until the top is golden-brown and springy to the touch and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Remove the cakes from the oven and remove from the tins once cool.

The lemon zest adds a wonderful tangy flavour to the cake

While the cake is baking, make the lemon curd; put the lemon zest and juice, the sugar and the butter into a heatproof bowl. Sit the bowl over a pan of gently simmering water, making sure the water is not touching the bottom of the bowl. Stir the mixture every now and again until all of the butter has melted.

It is easy to make lemon curd and it adds a wonderful zesty twist to the sponge cake.

Lightly whisk the eggs and egg yolk and stir them into the lemon mixture. Whisk until all of the ingredients are well combined, then leave to cook for 10-13 minutes, stirring every now and again, until the mixture is creamy and thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Remove the lemon curd from the heat and set aside to cool, stirring occasionally as it cools. Once cooled, you can spoon the lemon curd into sterilised jars and seal.

For the filling, beat the mascarpone, sugar and cream together until well combined.

Spread the lemon curd onto one of the cakes. Cover with the strawberries, then the mascarpone filling. Place the other cake on top and dust with icing sugar, then decorate with raspberries and blueberries.

Now back to the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Celebrations; London is a great walking city and walking is one of the best ways to appreciate wonderful sites. We started our walk from the Covent Garden, where the market has been decorated with lots of flags.

Friendly Pimms lady, preparing refreshing drinks at Covent Garden

At the side streets of Covent Garden, we discovered a charming, and one of the best coffee makers in town, The Monmouth Coffee, definetely worth stopping by.

A gem find in Covent Garden; we will be back to Monmouth for more great coffee and pastries

The Sofra Restaurant in Covent Garden also offers genuine Turkish hospitality and wonderful mezzes and Turkish delights for a delicious stop.

Sofra Restaurant in Covent Garden; a delicious stop for Turkish food

From the Covent Garden, we walked to the Trafalgar Square, passing by the National Gallery (which houses the national collection of Western European paintings from the 13th to the 19th centuries. It is on show 361 days a year, free of charge.)

View of Big Ben from the Trafalgar Square

View of Big Ben from the Trafalgar Square

We kept walking from the Trafalgar Square, straight to the Mall, which looked very atmospheric with giant flags at both side. The end of the Mall takes you to the entrance of the Buckingham Palace,  the official London residence of the Queen.

The stage has set up in front of the Buckingham Palace for the Diamond Jubilee Concert

A giant stage has been built for a star-studded concert,  set against the spectacular backdrop of Buckingham Palace to celebrate Her Majesty the Queen’s 60 year reign. The concert will be broadcasted live on Monday, June 4th on BBC1, starting at 7.30pm local time.

And here are a few more photos from our neighborhood Diamond Jubilee Street party;

“Prince Harry” was again at the center of attention


Baker Street was full of flags, food stalls, amusements for the children

Tanju Bey (Mr Tanju) is happily grilling kebabs for the crowd

I greatly admire the Queen. On her 21st birthday, the then Princess Elizabeth made a pledge to the Commonwealth: “I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service..”. 65 years on, the Queen still continues to honor that pledge, by exemplifying sense of duty, compassion, kindness, tolerance, selflessness and respect for all. So admirable, so well worth celebrating.

It is indeed an exciting time to be in Britain.

Long live the Queen!



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