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Roasts and Kebaps

Tray Kebab, Antakya Style – Tepsi Kebabi

Antakya’s tray bake kebab; Tepsi Kebabi – photo credit: Sian Irvine Food Photography

Our extended family are coming over to visit us; I am over the moon (and on a roll for cooking!). For our first night dinner, I thought of making Antakya’s famous tray kebab, which holds special memories for all of us. Having spent many happy childhood holidays at our hometown Antakya (Antioch), I still have vivid memories of watching my grandma and mum preparing this kebab on great big round baking trays. Then with older cousins, we grandchildren used to toddle off to Antakya’s ancient winding roads, to our local bakery for this feast to be baked. We would be back in an hour or so to pick up this delicious kebab, whose smells would fill the whole bakery, happy days. 

Traditionally, locals wouldn’t put slices of potato around the kebab, though mum would, and my dad loved it, so it is in. Mum cleverly divides the kebab into wedges and inserts the potatoes along these edges. This not only helps the meat cook evenly in less time, but also the potatoes soak up all the delicious juice, just wonderful.

You can cook this kebab ahead of time and can freeze the leftovers successfully.

My cookery book Ozlem’s Turkish Table, Recipes from My Homeland focuses on my roots, southern Turkish cuisine and includes many authentic, delicious Turkish recipes. You can get a signed copy of Ozlem’s Turkish Table, now 20 % Off at this link, as well as this beautiful apron can be ordered here.

If you live in the US, Canada and Mexico, there is now reduced rates of shipping for the hardback copies of Ozlem’s Turkish Table at this link.

Thank you and Afiyet Olsun,


Serves 6-8
Preparation time: 35 minutes Cooking time: 45 minutes

For the meat mixture:
1kg/2 1/4lb ground beef or lamb (or combination)
2 medium onions, finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, crushed and finely chopped
1/2 red pointy (or bell) pepper, finely chopped
1 bunch of flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
10ml/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
5ml/1 teaspoon ground cumin
Salt and ground black pepper to taste

1 medium potato, quartered and thinly sliced
1 tomato, cut into wedges
1/2 red pointy (or bell) pepper, sliced coarsely
1/2 green bell pepper, sliced coarsely

For the tomato sauce:
15ml/1tablespoon tomato paste
8fl oz/1 cup water
15ml/1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and ground pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F

In a large bowl, mix the onion, garlic, red peppers, parsley, cumin and red pepper flakes. Season with salt and pepper and knead well with your hands for a few minutes, until all the ingredients combined and spices blended in. Add the ground meat to the mixture and again with using your hands, knead well until all combined thoroughly.

Grease a round baking tray with a little olive oil and spread the meat mixture onto the tray. With using your hands, press the meat and spread evenly and thinly (height about 1/2″), retaining the round shape. Make sure the spread goes around the edges; once cooked, the meat will shrink an inch or two.

Slice the spreaded meat mixture into wedges. Place the sliced potatoes at these edges. Spread the slices of red pointy (or bell) peppers, green bell peppers and tomatoes over the top of each wedge of the meat mixture. Season well with salt and ground black pepper.

Mix the tomato paste, water and olive oil in a small bowl, season with salt and ground pepper. Pour this mixture over the vegetables and kebab. Bake in the preheated oven for about 40-45 minutes until the meat and vegetables cooked well.

Serve with plain rice and some plain yoghurt, if you like.

Afiyet Olsun!


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Tender chunks of chicken breast wrapped in eggplant (aubergine) slices -Patlıcanlı İslim kebabı

Tender pieces of chicken wrapped in eggplant slices; Islim Kebabi; a special treat.

Tender pieces of chicken wrapped in eggplant slices; Islim Kebabi; a special treat.

This elegant Ottoman dish is a wonderful melt-in-your-mouth experience of soft eggplant slices, tender chicken pieces and a sturdy tomato sauce, featuring Turks’ beloved eggplant (aubergine), patlican. Traditionally chunks of lamb or beef are used, and I made this version with chicken breast. Marinating the chicken as below really makes the meat tenderer and add a lot of flavor.

Wrapping the chicken in strips of lightly fried eggplant may take a little time to prepare but it is absolutely worth it and the result is impressive and very tasty. You can also bake this dish a day in advance and keep in the fridge, which makes it a great entertaining feast. Any leftovers can also be kept in the freezer.

Another version of this delicious dish, Baked aubergine and chicken kebab, is at my cookery book, Ozlem’s Turkish Table, and chicken is marinated in yoghurt, spices and olive oil there too.

Serves 4-6
Preparation time: 45 minutes
Cooking time: 45 minutes (+20 minutes for the eggplants)

3 long aubergine/eggplants (dark purple Holland eggplants)
Canola oil for shallow frying
1 medium tomato, halved and sliced
1 green bell pepper, halved and sliced lengthways
30ml/2 tablespoons olive oil to saute the chicken breasts

For marinating the chicken:
385gr/13 1/2oz chicken breast, cut in small chunks
1 onion, finely chopped
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
30ml/2 tablespoon natural plain yoghurt
15ml/1 tablespoon olive oil
10ml/2 teaspoon tomato paste
5-10ml/1-2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste

For the tomato sauce:
1 medium carrot, coarsely chopped
1 onion, coarsley chopped
Left over green bell pepper, coarsely chopped
15ml/1 tablespoon tomato paste
8fl oz/1 cup water
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 180C/350 F

First marinate the chicken. In a large bowl, combine the chicken pieces with the marination ingredients listed above and mix well. Cover and keep in the fridge at least for 30 minutes. This marination adds a wonderful flavor to the chicken and make the chicken breast tenderer. You can also prepare this marination a day in advance and keep in the fridge, covered.

Using a vegetable peeler, peel the eggplants (aubergines) length ways in stripes like a zebra. Slice the eggplants length ways, about ½ inch thick. Sprinkle some salt over them and leave for about 15 minutes. Squeeze out their moisture with paper towel. Then shallow fry them in the canola oil for 2-3 minutes until golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on the paper towel to absorb the excess oil.

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and add the marinated chicken breast. Sauté for about 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and black pepper and take out the meat to cool off.

On a board or a plate, place one eggplant slice horizontally and the other slice vertically on top of each other and place the meat mixture in the middle. Fold over the slices to wrap the meat mixture and place eggplant package seamside down, in a greased baking tray. Lay a small slice of tomato on top and then the green pepper and fasten the structure with a cocktail stick. Repeat with the rest of the eggplant slices. (If an eggplant slice is not long enough to do the duo wrap, you can place chicken pieces in the middle of one slice and roll like a cigar.)

Place the sliced carrots, onions and left over green peppers amongst the eggplant packages in the tray. Mix the tomato paste with water, season with salt and pepper. Pour this sauce around the eggplant packages and bake them in the oven for about 35 minutes. Please check towards the end if more water is needed and add some to the baking tray.

Serve the eggplant packages and the vegetables hot with plain rice by the side. Cucumber, garlic and yoghurt dip, Cacik, also would complement this delicious dish well.

Afiyet Olsun,


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Roast Chicken with Vegetables – Firinda Sebzeli Tavuk

I like the way my mother cooks roast chicken. She first half cooks the chicken in plenty of water with vegetables, and gets a lovely stock. This also makes the chicken really tender and moist. (The stock is saved to make soup or rice later, using the left over chicken roast.) She then roasts the marinated chicken and vegetables together. This way, you make the most of the chicken and the stock, creating multiple, wonderful family meals. Please use free range (naturally reared) chicken if you can, as it really justifies the extra cost.

Serves 3-4
Preparation time: 30 minutes Cooking time: 70-75 minutes

1.5kg/3lb whole chicken, preferably free-range
500gr/12oz baby potatoes
6-7 medium carrots, cut in chunks
2 onions, quartered
6 cloves of garlic
2 bay leaves
1small bunch of flat leaf parsley
Salt and ground black pepper to taste

Chicken marination ingredients:
Yoghurt is often used in Turkish cooking, and it is wonderful in marinating the meat, makes it tender and moist.

15ml/1 tablespoon tomato paste
15ml/1 tablespoon plain natural yoghurt
30 ml/2 tablespoons olive oil
5 ml/1 teaspoon cumin
5ml/1 teaspoon Turkish (or chili) red pepper flakes
Salt and ground black pepper

Put the chicken into a deep pan with the onions, garlic, bay leaves and the parsley. Season with salt and ground black pepper. Pour enough hot water to just cover the chicken and bring to boil. Then lower the heat, cover the pan and simmer for about 20 minutes. Then add the carrots and the potatoes, cover and cook for another 10 minutes.

Place the chicken and the vegetables on a roasting tray (drain the juices), and let it cool for a few minutes. (Save the stock to make soup or rice later). Preheat the oven to 180 C/ 350 F.

Combine the marination ingredients and 1 tbsp olive oil in a bowl and mix well. Coat the chicken all over with this marination. Coat the vegetables with the remaining olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast the chicken with vegetables for about 40 minutes. The skin of the chicken and the vegetables will get nice and crispy.

Test the doneness by sticking a skewer deep into the thickest part of the thigh and see if the juices run clear. If the juices are pink, it means the chicken is under done. So allow another 10-15 minutes cooking time and test again.

Once cooked, let the chicken rest for 5-10 minutes before carving. Cucumber and yoghurt dip with mint, Cacik (under “Mezes and Appetizers”) goes well with the roast chicken and vegetables.

Afiyet Olsun!

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