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Casseroles and Stews

Wholesome, Easy Turkish Food Ideas for Extraordinary Times

Merhaba Dear All,

Indeed extraordinary, uncertain times and I hope this post finds you all well. We are all doing our best, taking precautions, and making every effort to support family, friends and loved ones, in the growing rise  of Covid-19. We have been trying our best to help out especially the elderly and the vulnerable, helping with their food shopping, dropping meals to their door.

Many healthy experts say that one of the most important things we can do now is to boost our immune system with healthy eating. We are lucky as Turkish cuisine follows Mediterranean diet, based on seasonal produce, wholesome grains, legumes, flavouring naturally with olive oil, nuts, natural condiments. Just having a look at this sunny Turkish breakfast lifts my spirits and showcases how healthy Turkish food is. Please remember, there are over 100 healthy, wholesome, easy to make Turkish and Mediterranean recipes at my blog here, with free access to you all, I truly hope it inspires and brings comfort.

I have noted below a few pantry staples I always keep in hand; you can turn them into delicious, wholesome meals without breaking the bank. A dear reader, Sally, yesterday sent me a note, saying You remain by my side in troubled times with your inspirational, happy food”, which made my day. I have included recipe links from my cookery book, Ozlem’s Turkish Table,  at this post, do hope they inspire you too. Please remember, times like this, we may not have an access to all the vegetables and grains but we will make the most of what we have, be creative and substitute when needed.

With this note, Happy coming Mother’s Day to all mothers celebrating, in good health and happiness; we may not be by the side of our dear mothers to protect their well being, but they will all be in our heart and thoughts; I will be drinking my mother’s favourite Turkish coffee for her across the ocean and will send a virtual hug. If you would like to gift my cookery book, signed copies of my cookery book, Ozlem’s Turkish Table, is now 10 % off at this link, and it is delivered worldwide.

Eat a rainbow of vegetables

All health experts say eat colourful fruit and veg to boost immune system; Turkish cuisine is based on seasonal produce and we use a large variety of vegetables in our diet. As it is extraordinary times, please substitute with whatever veg you find in your recipes.

Special mention here for garlic; in ancient times, it was used as a medicine to treat a variety of medical conditions. it is highly nutritious, rich in vitamin C, vitamin B6 and manganese, great, fantastic value ingredient to boost your immune system. Another great pantry staple also worth a mention is canned tomatoes; they are not only great value but (just like fresh, in season ones) are low in calories and packed with vitamin C and fiber. Canned tomatoes (as opposed to fresh) are an excellent source of the antioxidant lycopene, shown to help lower the risk of heart disease and various other ilnesses. Needless to say, we use plenty of garlic and tomatoes in all form in Turkish cuisine.

Baked prawns (or any small chunks of fish) casserole with mushrooms, tomatoes, garlic, peppers – Karides Guvec

Turkish style shrimp casserole with vegetables, Karides Guvec

This is a very popular one pot dish served in fish restaurants at home and combines high nutrition with great taste. You can use small chunks of fish instead of prawns (in that case, please cook the fish in the vegetable sauce for 15 minutes, before further baking with the cheese additional 10 minutes. Always check the sea food packaging for advised cooking times). Or opt out fish and shellfish for a vegetarian option. Here is my recipe link; it is also at Ozlem’s Turkish Table cookery book, page 239.

Baked Turkish Meatballs with vegetables – Firinda Sebzeli Kofte – Great for freezing too!

A wonderful all in one pot dish to please the family – a great one for bulk cooking and freezing in portions. Again, use any veg you can get hold of; I add a can of cooked (and rinsed) chickpeas for extra nutrition and bulk it up too. If preferred, keep it vegetarian without the meatballs, and include cooked chickpeas or beans instead. Here is my recipe link, also at page 179 of Ozlem’s Turkish Table. You can serve with Cacik dip with cucumber and yoghurt – again, very healthy, full of gut friendly bacteria.

Aubergine, lentils and peppers cooked in olive oil – Mercimekli Mualla

We love aubergine / eggplant or as we call it, patlican, in Turkey. This delicious recipe is from my southern Turkish roots, from Antakya- dried mint, healthy olive oil, flavours lentils and veg so beautifully here. You can prep ahead of time and once cooked, it can be kept in the fridge for a good 2-3 days. It is also vegan and gluten free. Here’s my recipe link (also at page 151 of Ozlem’s Turkish Table) . You can make another version using courgette/ zucchini, equally delicious and wholesome, with my recipe here

Power of legumes (beans, chickpeas, lentils), bulgur, whole grains

Legumes, whole grains, bulgur are an important part of Turkish diet and I am a huge fan of them. They are packed with goodness, convenient and great value. At times like this, always keep dried or canned version of legumes. I also love the nutty flavour of bulgur; it is wholesome and so versatile. Here are some ideas for you to turn them into delicious, nutritious meals:

Spicy bulgur and lentil soup – Ezo Gelin Corbasi

Spicy bulgur and lentil soup, Ezo Gelin Corbasi

One of our favourite soups of all times; such a tasty, wholesome, fantastic value soup, so easy to make. Make a big batch as it freezes very well, here is my recipe link (also at page 47 of Ozlem’s Turkish Table).  If you like to make it gluten free, use quinoa instead of bulgur – my recipe link is here for this gluten free version

Turkish bean salad with sumac spiced onions, tomatoes, olives – Fasulye Piyazi

This traditional beans salad, Fasulye Piyazi, is a meal in itself and turns the humble beans into an exciting and vibrant salad. Canned cannelini beans would work well here. You can flavour your red onions with the tangy sumac here and add a little heat with pul biber, Turkish red pepper flakes – so good, easy and wholesome. Here is my recipe link (also at page 90 of Ozlem’s Turkish Table)

Bulgur wheat salad with pomegranate molasses  – Kisir

Fun baking with children – try this delicious Gozleme!

With children now off school, you may enjoy making this delicious Gozleme, Anatolian flat breads with fillings with them. Any veg in hand can make a filling – left over mashed potato, sauteed leeks, mushrooms, peppers.. etc. Great activity with kids, learning a new skill and very satisfying, here is my recipe link here (also at Ozlem’s Turkish Table, page 113)

Flavouring through spices, naturally

You can add so much flavour to your dishes, naturally, through spices, they have a lot of health benefits too. For instance, it is the warm, pungent cumin simply transforms hummus, when combined with tahini. You can also prepare a red pepper flakes infused olive oil and drizzle over hummus – it is a delicious, wholesome dip you can easily make at home, using a can of precooked chickpeas, my recipe is here if you like.

How about this Leafy greens with onions, peppers and pine nuts, an inspiration from my home town, Antakya? Any greens would work – kale, Swiss chard, spinach all work. A sprinkle of pul biber, Turkish red pepper flakes adds a delicious heat to this lovely recipe. You can make it a substantial meal with adding bulgur to it (and hot water). My recipe is at this link here if you’d like to give a go (also at page 153 of Ozlem’s Turkish Table)

Dried fruit and nuts

Baked dried apricots with walnuts, from Ozlem’s Turkish Table

We consume a lot of nuts – almonds, pistachios, hazelnuts and more – and dried fruit (dried apricots, figs etc) in Turkish cuisine. They are packed with nutrition, goodness and make a wholesome snack. If you’d like a healthy dessert, why not try this Baked dried apricots with walnuts; it is so easy to make, healthy and delicious. My recipe link is here (also at page 271 of Ozlem’s Turkish Table)

 

Finishing off here with my favourite drink, as well as my mother’s, Turkish coffee, Turk kahvesi, more than a drink for us, as it always evokes special memories.  Even if we are away from one another, staying at our homes, love of good food and sharing connects us all and brings happy memories. The rituals of Turkish coffee, that is staying in the moment, slowing down and enjoying every sip thinking of loved ones, is very suitable for the current times. May you enjoy yours and hope it brings comfort.

My very best wishes to you all, please stay well and Afiyet Olsun,

Ozlem

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Cabbage with bulgur, ground meat,spices; Bulgurlu Lahana Kapuska

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Cabbage with bulgur, ground meat and spices -Bulgurlu Lahana Kapuska

One of the joys of making stuffed cabbage rolls, Lahana Sarma, is the prospect of enjoying the equally delicious Lahana Kapuska; Cabbage with bulgur, ground meat and spices. Lahana Kapuska, almost a sort of deconstructed cabbage rolls, is not only easy to make but also a great way to use up the left over cabbage parts when making stuffed cabbage rolls.

Kapuska is a popular hearty stew and has many versions in Turkey. The name Kapuska is actually derived from the Russian language for cabbage and has many versions throughout Russia and Eastern Europe (Kapusta for instance is a wonderful cabbage based dish enjoyed in Poland). In Turkey, there are many versions of Kapuska with ground meat, chunks of meat, rice or bulgur. In Southern Turkey, we like to make Kapuska with bulgur, ground meat, onions, flavored with red pepper paste, dried mint and red pepper flakes. It is such a comforting and wholesome meal served with plain yoghurt; very easy too. For a vegetarian version, simply omit the meat.

Kapuska with bulgur, cabbage, red pepper paste and ground meat, Southern Turkish Style

Kapuska with bulgur, cabbage, red pepper paste and ground meat, Southern Turkish Style

Turkish hot red pepper paste, Biber Salcasi, is a rich, delicious paste of juicy, spicy red peppers and we use it often in Southern Turkish cookery. You can make your own red pepper paste at home with my recipe if you’d like. If you prefer a milder taste, you can replace the red pepper paste with tomato paste in the recipe and sprinkle red pepper flakes to your taste.

This delicious Kapuska recipe, along with many regional and popular Turkish recipes are included at my cookery book, Ozlem’s Turkish Table, available to order at this link.

I hope you enjoy my Kapuska recipe with bulgur. Afiyet Olsun,

Ozlem

4.6 from 5 reviews
Cabbage with bulgur, ground meat,spices; Bulgurlu Lahana Kapuska
 
Kapuska is a popular hearty stew and has many versions in Turkey. In Southern Turkey, we like to make Kapuska with bulgur, ground meat, onions, flavored with red pepper paste, dried mint and red pepper flakes. It is such a comforting and wholesome meal served with plain yoghurt; very easy too. For a vegetarian version, simply omit the meat.
Author:
Recipe type: Turkish style Cabbage Stew with bulgur
Cuisine: Southern Turkish Cuisine
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • ½ head of medium cabbage or left over cabbage leaves from cabbage rolls - 700 gr, washed and coarsely chopped (remove the hard stalk in the middle)
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 225gr/ 8 oz. / 1 cup coarse bulgur
  • 225 gr / 8 oz. ground (minced) beef or lamb
  • 1 tbsp. red pepper paste (optional; you can use additional 1 tbsp. tomato paste if not using red pepper paste)
  • 1 tbsp. double concentrated tomato paste
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • 10 ml / 2 tsp. dried mint
  • 5 ml / 1 tsp. red pepper flakes (or more, if you like spicier)
  • 16 fl. oz. / 2 cups hot water
  • 30 ml / 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • Salt and ground black pepper to taste
  • Plain yoghurt to serve
Instructions
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large pan and stir in the ground (minced) meat. Sauté for 2-3 minutes over medium heat.
  2. Add the onions and coarsely chopped cabbage to the pan and sauté for another 4 -5 minutes (their volume will shrink as they cook).
  3. Stir in the bulgur, tomato paste, red pepper paste and water. Combine well.
  4. Add the lemon juice, red pepper flakes and dried mint and season with salt and ground black pepper.
  5. Bring to the boil then cover and cook over low heat for 15 - 20 minutes or until all cooked.
  6. Serve hot, with sprinkles of dried mint and red pepper flakes over top and a dollop of plain yoghurt by the side.
  7. Afiyet Olsun.
Notes
For the vegetarian version of Kapuska, simply omit the meat.

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Rolled Cabbage Leaves with Bulgur filling; Bulgurlu Lahana Sarma

Rolled cabbage leaves with bulgur, ground meat, onion and spices; Bulgurlu Lahana Sarmasi

Rolled cabbage leaves with bulgur, ground meat, onion and spices; Bulgurlu Lahana Sarmasi

We love stuffed vegetables, dolmas in Turkish cuisine and I have a soft spot for this delicious stuffed cabbage leaves with bulgur, onions and ground meat, Bulgurlu Lahana Sarmasi, Antakya style (“Dolma” is the term used for stuffed vegetables, as in peppers, aubergines, tomatoes and “Sarma” is the term used for rolled leaves in Turkish cuisine). Bulgur is flavored here with the dried mint (the star spice here), cumin and red pepper flakes, along with onion and parsley. It makes a delicious filling even without the meat; so by all means omit the meat for a vegetarian version. I remember as a child so eagerly waiting for this delicious sarma to cook; mother would ask whether we would like to do a “quality check” of the rolls from the pot and we tuck in at that very minute, happy days.

Tip for separating the cabbage leaves; try to get a large cabbage with big, straight leaves. Trim the bottom root and place the cabbage as whole in a large pan with boiling water and simmer for 8 minutes. The leaves will start to peel off without breaking. Please save the hard stalk or the hard middle part of the cabbage leaves; they are delicious in Lahana Kapuska; cabbage cooked with rice, onions, ground meat and spices, a sort of deconstructed rolled cabbage leaves – my recipe link is here.

Rolled cabbage leaves with bulgur, Southern Turkish Style; dried mint and red pepper flakes flavor the cabbage and bulgur beautifully

Rolled cabbage leaves with bulgur, Southern Turkish Style; dried mint and red pepper flakes flavor the cabbage and bulgur beautifully

Wholesome grain bulgur is widely used in southern Turkish cuisine in mezzes, salads, stuffed vegetables and in bulgur pilaf. Cooked in lemony olive oil sauce, it makes a delicious pairing with cabbage here; all you need is some plain yoghurt aside to enjoy this delicious Bulgurlu Lahana Sarmasi. You can use (1 tbsp.) pomegranate molasses instead of lemon juice in the sauce if you’d like a sharper taste.

My roots go back to ancient Antioch, Antakya and I love sharing Antakya’s delicious, diverse cuisine, along with other healthy, wholesome Turkish recipes, all included at my cookery book, Ozlem’s Turkish Table, Recipes from My Homeland. Signed copies available at this link, if you’d like a copy.

Signed copies of Ozlem’s Turkish Table book, available to order at this link

I hope you enjoy our family favorite; Afiyet Olsun,

Ozlem

4.5 from 2 reviews
Rolled Cabbage Leaves with Bulgur filling; Bulgurlu Lahana Sarma
 
Wholesome grain bulgur pairs with cabbage well and makes a delicious filling with ground meat, spices and onion. I hope you enjoy this Southern Turkish style rolled cabbage leaves with bulgur filling; it is delicious and wholesome. Plain yoghurt by the side complements the cabbage rolls very well. Afiyet Olsun!
Author:
Recipe type: Healthy Mains with bulgur and cabbage
Cuisine: Southern Turkish Cusine
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 200 gr/ 7 oz. / 1 cup coarse bulgur
  • 1 large cabbage (which yields about 20 large to medium cabbage leaves)
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 225 gr/ 8 oz. ground (minced) beef or lamb
  • Small bunch of parsley leaves, finely chopped
  • 30 ml / 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 15 ml / 1 tbsp. dried mint
  • 5 ml/ 1 tsp. cumin
  • 5 ml/ 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • For the sauce:
  • 4 cloves of garlic, crushed with salt and finely chopped
  • 15 ml / 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • Juice of 1 lemon (or 1 tbsp. pomegranate molasses)
  • 500 ml / 1 pint / 2 cups of water
  • 15 ml / 1 tbsp. tomato paste
  • Dried mint and red pepper flakes to serve
  • Plain yoghurt to serve
Instructions
  1. Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil.
  2. Trim the bottom root and place the cabbage as whole in the pan with boiling water and simmer for 8-10 minutes.
  3. Remove the cabbage and leave it to cool. Then take a sharp knife and cut the outer leaves from the main stalk. The rest of the leaves will start to peel off without breaking one by one. Peel off about 20 large to medium leaves for rolling and set them aside (Please save the hard stalk or the hard middle part of the cabbage leaves, that is too small or hard to roll; they are delicious in Lahana Kapuska; cabbage cooked with rice, onions, ground meat and spices, which I will also share in the coming weeks).
  4. For the filling; combine the bulgur, chopped onion, parsley, olive oil, dried mint, cumin, red pepper flakes, salt and freshly ground black pepper in a large bowl. Knead well with your hands for a few minutes. Stir in the ground meat and knead for another minute to combine well.
  5. With a sharp knife, carefully trim and make a V shape cut to remove the thickest part of the stalk from the base of each cabbage leaf. Place 1 to 1 ½ tablespoon of the filling (depending on the size of the leaf) in the middle of the leaf. Fold in the sides and then roll the leaf up tightly. Repeat with the remaining leaves and filling.
  6. Place the rolled leaves tightly in a heavy pan with seam side down, do the second layer too and pack tightly.
  7. For the sauce, mix together the water, olive oil, lemon juice (or 1 tbsp. pomegranate molasses), tomato paste and chopped garlic in a bowl. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper to your taste. Pour this sauce over the rolled cabbage leaves (the water should just about to cover the top of the rolled cabbage leaves). Place a plate on top of the leaves to stop them unraveling during cooking.
  8. Cover the pan and cook on low heat over stove top or burner for 40 – 45 minutes, simmering gently.
  9. Once cabbage rolls are cooked, serve hot, decorated with dried mint and red pepper flakes. Plain yoghurt complements this delicious cabbage rolls with bulgur filling, bulgurlu lahana sarmasi, beautifully. Afiyet Olsun.
Notes
Tip for separating the cabbage leaves; try to get a large cabbage with big, straight leaves. Trim the bottom root and place the cabbage as whole in a large pan with boiling water and simmer for 8 minutes. The leaves will start to peel off without breaking.
 

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