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Nuria's Pesto Sauce

Welcome to the new look of Ozlem’s Turkish Table – or as we say in Turkish, Hosgeldiniz! I hope you like the new, fresh look of the blog! All the previous recipes are still here, and there is lots of useful info on Turkish cuisine, ingredients and many more. There is a link for our exciting Grand Turkey Tour in April (registration continues, please check out for more info), and photos of my previous Turkey tours to give you ideas. I am also excited to start the Turkish cooking classes in Surrey, England (and look forward to visiting the Central Market Cooking Schools in the US), and I will post info on cooking classes here. My huge thanks to Bella (from Highwire Creative, ) for her invaluable help to transform the site, and answering all my questions, big and small!:) My heartfelt thanks to all friends and family for their support; I hope this blog may inspire you to create some wonderful recipes and it helps you to explore fascinating places; as always, your comments and questions are always welcome!

I share Turkish and Mediterranean recipes thru my blog, and this time, I wanted to share a very special pesto recipe. My family loves pesto sauce, and we especially enjoy dear Nuria’s version a lot; she very kindly let me share the recipe with you all. Nuria likes to roast the pine nuts in pesto; she blends some of the pine nuts into the mixture and leaves some as whole over the sauce. This gives a variety of texture in the sauce and I love the smoky flavor of it.

Photo of Nuria's Pesto Sauce

Nuria’s Pesto Sauce

You can keep the pesto sauce in the fridge, sealed with a lid, for good 3-4 days. The fresh pesto sauce is great on pasta, grilled fish and roasted vegetables. Pesto sauce is easy to make and it tastes so much nicer and fresher when you make from scratch, hope you may give it a go.

Serves 2-3 people

(Makes about 4fl oz/125 ml / 1/2 cup pesto sauce)

Preparation time:15-20 minutes

45gr/1 1/2oz /1 1/2 cups fresh basil leaves

4 tablespoon pine nuts (3 tablespoon to blend, 1 tablespoon to stay as whole)

1-2 cloves of garlic

3fl oz/80ml/1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

125gr/1/4lb parmesan (parmegiano reggiano) cheese, cut in small chunks

Sea salt to taste

Juice of 1/2 lemon – optional-

Dry roast the pine nuts in a small pan for 3-5 minutes, until they turn golden. Make sure to keep an eye on the pine nuts and stir frequently, as they can burn quickly. Remove from the heat.

In a food processor or blender, process the basil, 3 tablespoons of roasted pine nuts, parmesan, garlic and sea salt (about 1/2 teaspoon), for a few seconds, until they all blend and still a little coarse (I like the coarser texture of the mixture rather than smooth). Then with the motor running, pour in the olive oil in a slow, steady stream, until all blends into a thick sauce. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the juice of lemon (if you like a little tangy taste to it). Taste and adjust the seasoning. Place the remaining roasted pine nuts over the sauce.

Enjoy the pesto sauce over grilled fish, roasted vegetables or over your favorite pasta.

Afiyet Olsun!


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Homemade red Pepper Paste – Biber Salçası

Summer is the time, where juicy, meaty, red peppers are turned into our flavour packed biber salçası, pepper paste  in southern Turkey. It is a fundamental ingredient in southern Turkish cuisine. In my hometown of Antakya, village women cook huge batches of freshly picked spicy and mild red peppers and spread them out on top of their cloth covered terraces to dry under the hot summer sun, until the peppers dehydrate and turn into this robust, flavour-packed condiment.  I am unable to sun dry my peppers as I live abroad, so I make my own version of red pepper paste at home, cooking them over stove top. It takes a bit of time to make but really is worth it. The homemade version is fragrant, delicious – not as intense as the commercial ones but packed with flavour; fantastic even spread over bread.  Add more chilies if you like it spicier, it also freezes well.

I use pepper paste in so many ways, in the way I use tomato paste; it adds  richess, enhances and adds depth of flavour to sauces, salads such as Spicy bulgur wheat salad, Kisir, marinades, dips such as Muhammara.

Here is how I make red pepper paste. It is also at my cookery book, Ozlem’s Turkish Table, signed copies available here

Makes 90ml/3fl oz pepper paste

3 long, large red peppers or bell peppers, cleaned, deseeded, cut into 4cmx4cm chunks
1 red chilli pepper, deseeded, finely chopped (use a few more if you like spicier)
240ml/8fl oz water
2 tsp sea salt
2 tbsp olive oil

Place peppers in a wide pan and add the water. Cook over a medium heat, stirring often for about 35 minutes or until the peppers are cooked – gently press down and turn around as you stir, they will start to break apart and soften and the liquid has almost evaporated. Turn the heat off and allow the peppers to cool.

Place the cooked peppers in a food processor and process until the mixture is almost a smooth purée (I like the texture of small bits of peppers in it). Return the puréed peppers to the pan. Season with salt and cook over low heat for 20-25 minutes, stirring continuously so the purée doesn’t burn and the juices will have evaporated. The purée will shrink half of its size and turn into a soft paste. Turn the heat off.

Spoon the paste into a small sterilized glass jar while still warm, top with olive oil and seal.  When cool, keep your prepared paste in the fridge and use within two weeks.

Afiyet Olsun.

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