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Turkish cuisine provides healthy, hearty, delicious food for family and friends.
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Regional Signature Dishes; Mains, Sides and Desserts

Zucchini Stuffed with ground meat and chickpeas -Nohutlu Sih-el Mahsi

This is a wonderful dish from Antakya (Antioch), where my roots are from, and an exciting way to cook zucchini. It is also known as Sih-el Mahsi, originates from Syria and higlights the Arabic influence on Antakya cuisine. Traditionally, the locals in Antakya would stuff the zucchini as a whole and they would lightly brown them before cooking with the sauce. I prefer cutting the zucchini in half and lengthways and baking them; healthy, delicious and pretty to have on the plate. You can prepare this dish ahead of time and the leftovers freeze beautifully. Please save the flesh of the zucchini that you scooped out. They are delicious cooked in bulgur pilaf with zucchini.

I also made a vegetarian version of this wonderful dish, using mushrooms in the filling instead of meat, it was so delicious too. Here is my recipe link

Stuffed courgettes, Antakya style, image by Sian Irvine, from Ozlem’s Turkish Table cookery book

I am passionate about healthy, delicious Turkish cuisine with a rich culinary heritage. My cookery book, Ozlem’s Turkish Table, Recipes from My Homeland, focuses on southern Turkish cuisine with authentic, regional recipes like this one, from my hometown Antakya. I hope to pass the legacy of this rich culinary heritage to the next generation with my book; Signed copies of Ozlem’s Turkish Table cookery book now 25 % OFF, available at this link, for a limited period and delivered worldwide, including US and Canada.

How wonderful to share the food with friends and family. Living abroad and changing locations often, cooking and sharing food have been my salvation and a wonderful way of meeting new folks, making new friends. I hope you enjoy the recipes with friends and family and give yourself and everyone the gift of good food.

Serves 4-6
Preparation time: 20 minutes Cooking time: 50-55 minutes

3 chunky zucchini/courgette
250gr/9oz ground (minced) lean beef or lamb
1 onion, finely chopped
3-4 cloves of garlic, crushed and finely chopped
200gr/7oz (1/2 can of) chopped tomatoes
200gr/7oz (1/2 can of) cooked chickpeas, rinsed

30ml/2 tbsp. pomegranate molasses, nar eksisi
30ml/2tablespoons olive oil
120ml/4fl oz/ 1/2 cup water
15ml/1tablespoon tomato paste
5ml/1teaspoon dried mint
5ml/1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Salt and ground black pepper to taste

To serve:
120ml/8fl oz plain yoghurt
1-2 garlic cloves, crushed with salt and finely chopped

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

Cut the zucchini in half and then in lengthways. Using a dessert spoon, carefully scoop out some of the flesh to create a cavity that is large enough to stuff (Please save the flesh of the zucchini that you scooped out. They are delicious cooked in bulgur pilaf).

Mix 1 tbsp. water with the pomegranate molasses and wash the inside of the courgettes with this mixture. Add the leftover of this delicious juice to filling mixture.

Heat the oil in a heavy pan. Stir in the onions and garlic and cook until light golden. Add the ground (minced) meat and sauté for a few minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in the chopped tomatoes, left over pomegranate molasses sauce and the cooked chickpeas, mix well. Add the red pepper flakes and the dried mint, combine well. The filling is ready.

Place the zucchini in a greased baking tray. Take a spoonful of the filling and stuff the zucchini quarters. Take care not to over fill them. Dilute the tomato paste with the water and pour on the tray. Cover and bake in the oven for about 30 minutes. After this, uncover and bake for a further 10-15 minutes for a lightly browned finish.

In a bowl, mix the plain yoghurt and the garlic. Serve the stuffed zucchini hot, with the garlic yoghurt by the side. You can make a wonderful bulgur pilaf with zucchini using the flesh of the zucchini we scooped out; it complements this zucchini dish very nicely.

Afiyet Olsun,


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Walnut and Red Pepper Paste Dip, Muhammara or Cevizli Biber

This is one of my favorite mezes of all time; it is very easy to make and very, very more-ish, you just can’t stop eating them. It is one of my mother’s recipes from her historic hometown Antakya (Antioch) and whenever I make it, I feel like I am home.

Image from Ozlem’s Turkish Table cookery book, by Sian Irvine Photography

Meze feast from Ozlem’s Turkish Table cookery book; image by Sian Irvine Photography

Tahini bread or pita bread would go really well with this delicious dip/spread. You can keep the dip covered in the fridge for 3-4 days. Middle Eastern stores or specialty stores usually carry the red pepper paste. If you can’t find it, there is a recipe for red pepper paste, biber salcasi.


This delicious dip and over 90 authentic Turkish recipes are included at my cookery book, Ozlem’s Turkish Table. Signed copies now 10 % Off at this link and delivered worldwide. If you live in the US, Canada or Mexico, you can order here with reduced shipping rates.

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Serves 4-6

3-4 slices of white or wholemeal or gluten-free stale bread (about 70 gr)
1/3 yellow onion (or little less), chopped
45ml/3 tablespoons Turkish red pepper paste

1oml/2 teaspoons concentrated tomato paste
225gr/8oz walnuts, shelled
10ml / 2 teaspoons ground cumin
Pinch of Salt
60ml/4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
15ml/1 tablespoon water

To serve:
15ml/1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
5ml/ 1 teaspoon pul biber/ red pepper flakes

5ml/1 teaspoon cumin
Pita bread,  pide bread or crackers to serve

Ground the walnuts with the onion, cumin, salt and red pepper paste and tomato paste in the food processor. Soak the bread into water and squeeze the excess water. Crumble the bread and add to the mixture in the food processor. Add the extra virgin olive oil and water and blend to make a smooth spread. If it appears to be too thick, add a little more olive oil.

Place the spread on a small salad plate or bowl. Pour the extra virgin olive oil all over and sprinkle with red pepper flakes. Serve the spread with pita bread, tahini bread or wide crackers.

Afiyet Olsun,


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Mevlubi; Cevirme Pilav -Upside down rice with meat and eggplants


Mevlubi; Upside down rice with layers of meat and vegetables, from Ozlem’s Turkish Table cookery book; image credit: Sian Irvine Food Photography

I am planning to make my mother’s signature dish Mevlubi again this weekend for our family’s Eid, end of Ramadan celebrations. The recipe comes from Antakya, the Southern part of Turkey, where my roots are from. This special dish makes an appearance in every special occasion on my parent’s table and I have been lucky enough to enjoy it with some of you over the years. As you can cook ahead of time, this wonderful all in one dish makes an impressive main course and you get to spend more time with your company. For maximum results, please cook on low heat, at least 2 hours before serving and let the Mevlubi rest. We may not be all together physically, but through our food, we will capture and remember special memories.

Our Bayram meal a few years ago, Istanbul

My mother’s mevlubi

My cookery book, Ozlem’s Turkish Table focuses on southern Turkish recipes and includes southern Turkish classics such as Mevlubi, as well as many other Turkish classics. Signed copies of Ozlem’s Turkish Table now 30 % Off at this link and delivered worldwide including the US

Signed copies of  Ozlem’s Turkish Table cookery book, available to order here

Afiyet Olsun,


Serves 4 people (generously)

About 500 gr/1 1/4 lb chicken thighs or breasts or pieces of steak or lamb, flattened
2-3 medium potatoes, peeled and sliced as half moon shape
2 small/medium eggplants (aubergines), sliced crossways
1 small onion, cut in half and thinly sliced
350 gr/12 oz/ 1 3/4 cups medium grain rice
900 ml/ 3 3/4 cups hot water
Bowl of warm salted water to wash the rice
1 tablespoon of butter
Sunflower oil for shallow frying
Salt and pepper to taste

For marinating the meat:
15 ml/ 1 tablespoon plain yoghurt
15 ml / 1 tablespoon olive oil
5 ml /1 teaspoon cumin
5 ml / 1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 tablespoon of red pepper paste or
10 ml/ 2 teaspoon tomato paste + 5 ml/ 1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste

Marinate the meat pieces mixing all the marination ingredients above a day in advance, making sure that all meat pieces are well coated. Chicken thighs work better than the chicken breast, bring out more flavor. Cover and keep in the fridge until cooking.

Slice the eggplants (aubergines) in half moon or circle shape, about 2 cm thick. If possible cut the eggplants a day in advance, lay on a tray and sprinkle salt over. Let them dry. Squeeze any water remained on them with paper towel. If you don’t have time, you can slice the eggplants and put them in a bowl of salted cold water for 15 minutes. Then squeeze and dry them with paper towel.

Sauté the eggplants (aubergines), potatoes, onions and the meat (all separately) in the casserole pan you will be cooking with the rice. We shall be using this very same pan to cook our dish. Do shallow frying not deep frying (make sure you have enough oil for eggplants though, since they soak oil a lot). Drain the excess oil by placing them on paper towel. You can do this phase a day in advance and keep all these in the fridge if you’d like.

On the casserole pan, layer the meat pieces to cover the whole surface. Then layer the eggplant slices over the top and then the potatoes slices and the onions evenly.

Soak the rice in warm salted water for 15 minutes, then drain this water and rinse the rice with cold water. Spread the rice over the potato layer evenly. Add hot water over, season with salt and pepper and cover. First start cooking on the medium heat, once it starts bubbling, keep on cooking on the low heat until the rice is cooked and all the water has been absorbed. Then put a tablespoon of butter in the middle of the rice and push down towards the middle. Add two tablespoon of hot water over the rice and cook for another 10-15 minutes on a very low heat. Once the rice is fully cooked, turn the heat off, put a paper towel over and cover with the lid tightly. The rice will keep on cooking with this steam. Make sure you cook the Mevlubi about 2 hours before you serve. That will give  it a chance to rest and all the flavors blend together.

15 minutes before serving, reheat the casserole pan on a very low heat. Once it is hot, turn the casserole pan over a big serving plate or tray gently. With the moisture it has, it should come out like a cake. Non-stick pan work well, steel is good too.

Afiyet Olsun,


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