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Pilafs and Rice

Turkish style roast chicken with rice and currants stuffing – Ic Pilavli Firin Tavuk

My dear belated dad Orhan, absolutely loved his roast chicken, Firin Tavuk, with our traditional rice with currants (kus uzumu) stuffing, Ic Pilav. I have recreated this special recipe recently, and we greatly enjoyed it with friends. I used Jamie Oliver’s roast chicken recipe as a base and adapted to my Turkish style roast with our additions.

Towards to end of the roasting, we traditionally glaze the chicken with a mixture of tomato paste, yoghurt and olive oil; this gives a lovely colour and taste to the chicken.  The rice that we use to stuff the chicken is partially cooked – you can prep this ahead of time.

I hope you enjoy my mother’s roast chicken recipe, firin tavuk, which would appear at special family meals as well as at New Year’s Eve on our table. If you wish, you can stuff your turkey with this fragrant rice this way too. Muhammara, my mother’s walnut and red pepper paste dip, as well as zingy Shepherd’s Salad always accompanied our roast, if you like to include at your festive table – both recipes are included at my cookery table, Ozlem’s Turkish Table, as well as the Ic Pilav, Herby rice with pine nuts, currants, with addition of lamb liver (just omit lamb liver for a vegetarian option). My baked beetroot salad with pomegranate molasses also makes a lovely accompaniment to this festive dish. If you live in the USA, Canada or Mexico, there is now lower shipping rates for hardback copies of Ozlem’s Turkish Table at this link.

My very best wishes to you all for the festive season, Afiyet Olsun,

Ozlem

Turkish style roast chicken with rice and currants stuffing – Ic Pilavli Firin Tavuk
 
My dear belated dad Orhan, absolutely loved his roast chicken, Firin Tavuk, with our traditional rice with currants (kus uzumu) stuffing, Ic Pilav. I have recreated this special recipe recently, and we greatly enjoyed it with friends. I used Jamie Oliver’s roast chicken recipe as a base and adapted to my Turkish style roast with our additions. Towards to end of the roasting, we traditionally glaze the chicken with a mixture of tomato paste, yoghurt and olive oil; this gives a lovely colour and taste to the chicken. The rice that we use to stuff the chicken is partially cooked – you can prep this ahead of time.
Author:
Recipe type: Turkish style roast chicken
Cuisine: Turkish cuisine
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • For the roast chicken:
  • 1.9kg/4lb 5oz free range chicken
  • 650g/1lb 6oz carrots
  • 2 medium onions
  • 1 bulb of garlic
  • 1 lemon, cut in half
  • 60ml/4tbsp olive oil
  • Handful of sprigs of fresh thyme and rosemary
  • For the 2nd stage chicken marinade:
  • 10ml/2tsp double concentrated tomato paste
  • 15ml/1tbsp whole milk yoghurt
  • 15ml/1tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and ground black pepper to taste
  • For the Rice pilaf with chestnuts, pine nuts and currants:
  • 170g/6oz cooked chestnuts, chopped into small bite size pieces
  • 30ml/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 15ml/1 tablespoon butter
  • 30ml/2 tablespoons currants
  • 45ml/3 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 10ml/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon (add a little more if you like cinnamon)
  • 350g/12oz long grain rice, rinsed and drained
  • 750ml/1¼ pints hot water (500ml hot water for partial cooking first)
  • 1 small bunch of flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 small bunch of dill, finely chopped
  • Sea salt and ground black pepper
  • Wedges of lemon to serve
  • For the roast potatoes:
  • 1.5kg/3lb 5oz Maris Piper potatoes
  • 45ml/3tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. First prepare your fragrant rice. We will be partially cooking the rice to stuff into the chicken. Soak the currants in warm water for about 15 minutes. Then drain and set aside.
  2. Heat the butter and the olive oil in a heavy, medium size pan over a medium heat. Stir in the onion and cook for about 4-5 minutes, until softened. Stir in the currants, cinnamon and the rinsed rice, combine well for a minute. Season with salt and ground black pepper. Pour in the 500ml hot water and bring to the boil. Then lower the heat, cover the pan and simmer gently for 7- 8 minutes or until all the liquid have been absorbed. Our partially cooked rice with currants is ready. You can make your partially cooked rice a day ahead of time and keep covered in the fridge.
  3. Remove the chicken from the fridge 30 minutes before cooking and bring to the room temperature. Preheat the fan oven to 200C/400F.
  4. Wash and coarsely chop the vegetables, there is no need to peel the carrots. Break the garlic bulb into cloves and leave them unpeeled. Spread the prepared vegetables on a large bowl, drizzle 30ml/2tbsp olive oil, season with sea salt and pepper and sprigs of rosemary and thyme. Rub and combine all with the vegetables. Leave this bowl aside – to be combined with the chicken later.
  5. Place the chicken on a large roasting tray. Drizzle the chicken with 30ml/2tbsp olive oil and season well with sea salt and ground black pepper and rub all round the bird.
  6. Place half of the lemon inside the chicken’s cavity. Then carefully spoon 270g/9oz of partially cooked rice inside the chicken’s cavity. Take care not to over stuff, so the rice won’t get mushy. Insert the other half of the lemon to close chicken’s cavity. Roast for 1 hour at preheated fan oven at 200C/400F.
  7. Now is the time to prepare your roast potatoes, if you plan to have them. Make sure to get them into the oven for the last 45 minutes of cooking. Peel the potatoes and quarter the large ones and cut the medium ones in half, so they are all roughly even size. Place them on a large pot, sprinkle over salt. Cover with hot water and par boil for 7 -8 minutes. Then drain in a colander and leave to steal dry for 2 -3 minutes.
  8. After 1 hour of roasting, take the chicken out of the oven and spread your prepared vegetables around the chicken to roast together another 30 minutes.
  9. Place the potatoes into a large tray, drizzle with 45ml/3tbsp olive oil and season with sea salt and ground black pepper. Coat and combine well and roast in the oven for 40-45 minutes, timing with the roast chicken.
  10. Now prepare your Turkish style marinade to coat the chicken, for the 2nd stage of marinade; in a small bowl, combine 2 tsp tomato paste, 1tbsp olive oil and 1tbsp whole milk yoghurt, season with sea salt and black pepper, combine well. After the 1 hour 30 minutes of chicken being roasted, take the chicken tray out and brush this marinade all over the chicken. Return the chicken tray back to the oven for a further 15 minutes of roasting; by the end of this period, the vegetables around the chicken should be nicely roasted and the marinate will give a lovely colour to the chicken, as well as taste. When the chicken is cooked (to check, cut into the chicken; if the juices run clear, then the chicken is fully cooked) take the tray out of the oven and transfer the chicken to a board to rest for 10 minutes or so. Cover the chicken and roasted vegetables with foil to keep warm.
  11. While the chicken is in the oven for the final stage, finish your partially cooked festive rice. On a medium to large pot, drizzle 1 tbsp olive oil and stir in the pine nuts; stir and sauté for 2 minutes over medium heat - as they begin to turn golden, stir in the chopped chestnuts and partially cooked rice and combine well. Pour in the remaining 250ml / 9fl oz hot water over, season with salt and black pepper, combine well. Then lower the heat, cover the pan and simmer gently 5-6 minutes or until all the liquid have been absorbed. Turn off the heat; cover the pan with a clean kitchen towel and place the lid back on tightly. Leave to steam for 10 minutes. Just before serving, stir in the chopped parsley and dill and combine gently.
  12. Place your festive Ic Pilav on a large serving plate, and your roast potatoes on another serving place. Serve your Turkish style roast, Firin Tavuk, with vegetables around. Muhammara, my mother’s walnut and red pepper paste dip, as well as zingy Shepherd Salad always accompanied our roast, if you like to include at your festive table too.
 

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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 drum 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.

This recipe and many more authentic, wholesome, delicious Turkish recipes are included at my cookery book, Ozlem’s Turkish TableSigned copies (now 10 % off) as well as ebook options are available at this link, hardback signed copies are delivered worldwide.

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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Rice with Lamb (or Beef) and Onions; Etli Pilav, The Aegean Way; and Spring time in Ephesus – popular with children and cats too!:)

Rice, pilaff form a very important part of Turkish cuisine; we Turks like to have rice, bulgur wheat or pulses for at least one meal every day. Pilav or pilaffs are enjoyed as an accompaniment to stews and casseroles like to this Kuru Fasulye, dried beans stew with chicken in tomato sauce or are served as the main course, like this popular Turkish street food Nohutlu Pilav – Rice with chickpeas (and chicken) . The cooking of rice is regarded as an art (and traditionally an important test for the bride-to-be to master before marriage!); the grains must be soft but still have a bite to them.

Etli Pilav - Rice with onions and chunks of meat; a delicious meal on its own.

Etli Pilav – Rice with onions and chunks of meat; a delicious meal on its own.

One of the dishes we made at our Aegean style Turkish cooking class at Hanimeli, near Sirince was this very delicious & impressive Etli Pilav – Rice cooked with chunks of meat and onions. It is common to incorporate meat and vegetables into the rice and flavors change in different regions, with the use of different spices. It has been very interesting to see  how Etli Pilav is made at the Aegean region and compare it with the Mevlubi – rice with marinated meat, eggpplant, onions and potatoes cooked in Southern Turkey, more fragrant and richer with the use of spices and red pepper paste, biber salcasi.

Mevlubi; Upside down rice with marinated meat, eggplants, onions and potato; Southern Turkish way

Mevlubi; Upside down rice with marinated meat, eggplants, onions and potato; the  Southern Turkish way

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We greatly enjoyed this delicately flavored Etli Pilav, the Aegean style; the marriage of sauteed onions and meat was so delicious cooked with rice.

Rice with Chunks of Meat and Onion – Etli Pilav

Serves 4-6

Preparation time : 15 minutes                         Cooking time: 35-40 minutes

350gr/12oz/1 ¾ cups long grain or wholegrain basmati rice, rinsed and drained

450gr/1 lb. beef or lamb, cut in small chunks

2 medium onions, quartered and sliced thinly

30ml/2 tablespoon butter

1lt/4 cups of the meat’s cooking liquid reserved

15ml/1 tablespoon olive oil

Salt and ground black pepper to taste

Non-stick pan works best for this dish

Make sure to reserve the cooking liquid of the meat for the rice.

Make sure to reserve the cooking liquid of the meat for the rice.

 

Place the meat in a heavy pan, pour in the water (enough to cover the meat and some more) and cover. Cook for about 20 minutes or until tender at low to medium heat. Season with salt and ground black pepper and make sure to reserve and keep the cooking liquid.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Spread the cooked meat evenly over the onions, then stir in the rice and the cooking liquid over.

In a separate pan (non-stick pan works best), stir in 1 tbsp. butter and olive oil and sauté the onions for 2-3 minutes. Then take out the cooked meat from the other pan and spread them evenly over the onions. Over the meat, stir in and spread the rinsed rice. Add the cooking liquid, the remaining 1 tbsp. butter and salt to taste. Cover and cook on low heat for about 15 minutes or until the rice is cooked and the liquid absorbed.

Once cooked, turned the heat off and place a paper towel over the pan and cover with the lid. Rest the rice for about 10 minutes, this will help all the moisture to be absorbed and rice to settle.

Hanimeli's staff is getting ready to turn the rice upside down!

Hanimeli’s staff is getting ready to turn the rice upside down!

Before serving, turn the rice upside down on a wide serving tray, onions and the meat will appear as layers at the top, looking like a delicious savory cake. The delicious flavors of the cooked meat and onion blend in with the rice and make it very flavorsome.

Etli Pilav; Upside down rice with onions and meat.

Etli Pilav; Upside down rice with onions and meat.

 

 

 

 

Season with ground black pepper and serve hot. This dish can be a meal on its own, or you can complement with this Eggplants cooked in olive oil with vegetables, Zeytinyagli Patlican or how about with this refreshing Purslane with garlic yoghurt, Yogurtlu Semizotu?

Joy of Cooking together; our feast is ready.

Joy of Cooking together; our feast is ready.

 

 

 

 

Etli Pilav - Rice with onions and meat-; Zeytinyagli Patlican - Eggplants with vegetables cooked in olive oil and many more at our Aegean style cooking class in Turkey

Etli Pilav – Rice with onions and meat-; Zeytinyagli Patlican – Eggplants with vegetables cooked in olive oil and many more at our Aegean style cooking class in Turkey

Hope this inspires for healthy, delicious meals, cooked and enjoyed together.  Afiyet Olsun,

 Ozlem

Spring time in Ephesus, Turkey – Popular with children and cats too!-

The Curete Street, "The citizens of the city" - the main street of the Ephesus, Turkey.

The Curete Street, “The citizens of the city” – the main street of the Ephesus, Turkey.

 I love to be able to have a chance to cook with locals and enjoy regional Turkish cuisine,  exploring the magnificent sites all around Turkey. After our Aegean style Turkish cooking class, we made it to the Ephesus, dating back to 6000 BC, to the Neolithic age. Ephesus, the best preserved Roman city in the Eastern Mediterranean with its Temple of Artemis, is one of the Seven Ancient Wonders of the World.  Ephesus had a population of more than 250,000 in the 1st century BC, which served to make it one of the largest cities in the Mediterranean world. Only about 25 % of this magnificent site has been excavated; just imagine its grandeur once more excavation done.

Ephesus and the lovely cats ; )

Ephesus and the lovely cats : )

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Spring is a great time to visit Ephesus, with mild, pleasant temperatures reaching around 70F. Cats seems to be the residents of Ephesus at the moment, greatly enjoying this fantastic site! It has also been lovely to see children from babies, toddlers to teenagers at Ephesus; seeing is believing and this experience is I am sure to stay with them more than any history book. I remember taking our son to Ephesus when he was about 5 years old; his fascination with the Old Roman Milestone is still vivid in his memories. And how about this little one? He certainly enjoyed strolling around Ephesus!

Children love exploring Ephesus too!

Children love exploring Ephesus too!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Ephesus, once, the trade centre of the ancient world, is located on a very fertile valley. Here is the Goddess of Victory, Nike, in Ephesus – next to one of the many fig trees in the region; they are simply everywhere in Ephesus.

Nike; the Goddess of Victory, at Ephesus - Turkey

Nike; the Goddess of Victory, at Ephesus – Turkey

Last but not least, the Libary of Celsus at Ephesus; what an impressive piece, still takes my breath away, even if I must have seen it over a dozen of times.

Celsus Library, Ephesus - Turkey

Celsus Library, Ephesus – Turkey

 

Up close at the Library of Celsus, Ephesus - Turkey

Up close at the Library of Celsus, Ephesus – Turkey

Before I sing off; I forgot to mention a wonderful eatery, Asik Restaurant, at my previous post on Didyma. We had a very delicious and generous Turkish Esnaf Lokanta style buffet lunch at Asik Restaurant, right accross the entrance of Didyma. Perhaps 15-20 different types of home cooked traditional Turkish food from Izmir kofte -meatballs with potato in tomato sauce, bulgur pilaff, stuffed cabbage leaves to  eggs cooked with spinach,karniyarik – stuffed eggplants with ground meat and vegetables filling are offer and  you feel like you are in heaven. Hasan Bey treated us to a real Turkish hospitality and we re-filled our plates with this generous, delicious food and greatly enjoyed it. Many of these recipes are available at this blog, if you would like to have a go.

Zeytinyaglis, stews, stuffed cabbage, koftes and more; a delicious and generous Turkish buffet spread at Asik Restaurant, Didyma.

Zeytinyaglis, stews, stuffed cabbage, koftes and more; a delicious and generous Turkish buffet spread at Asik Restaurant, Didyma.

My best wishes for exciting, fulfilling travels, Selamlar,

Ozlem

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