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Turkish Street Food

Simit; Sesame-Encrusted Turkish Bread Rings

Simit is indeed the quintessential Turkish food; these sesame-encrusted bread rings must be the most popular snack at home. You can have simit for breakfast with a cup of cay (tea), sliced cucumber, tomatoes, feta cheese and olives. You can enjoy them for a mid morning or afternoon snack with cheese or simply plain. Turks prefer savory accompaniments to simit, though I must say it is also lovely over some butter and jam. Their flavor and deeply satisfying texture are quite unlike anything else.

Traditional simit stall (simitci) in Istanbul

There are mobile simit stalls everywhere, especially in Istanbul (Istanbullus pride themselves as to have the genuine article). Recently, there are also Simit Houses opened all around the country, where you can enjoy simit with various fillings; cheese, olive paste, sucuk (Turkish spicy sausages made from dried cured beef). A magnificent revival of this all time favorite street food.

 When I saw the Simit recipe at Leanne Kitchen’s delightful book  Turkey; Recipes and tales from the road, I was over the moon. No one bothers making simit at home, as it is so widely available and so good. But living abroad, you don’t mind tackling to make it and would be surprised to see how easy to make them. This simit recipe is adapted from Leanne Kitchen’s version and based on Australian cup measurement (1 US cup in volume equals about 0.95 Australian cup measurement) . I hope you enjoy them at least as much as we did.

We love savoury pastries in Turkish cuisine;  variety of boreks, gozleme, pogaca, flatbreads with various fillings, pide and regional specialty pastries are all included at my cookery book (though please kindly note that simit is not at my current book), Ozlem’s Turkish Table, Recipes from My Homeland. Signed copies are available at this link, and it is delivered worldwide including USA, we hope it would bring joy for home cooking.

Makes 8

Prep time: 40 minutes (+1 hr for the dough to rise) Baking time:15-18 minutes

1 pinch sugar

15ml/3 teaspoons dried yeast

500gr (1lb 2oz/3 1/4 cups (Australian) or generous 4 US cups) plain flour

1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt

125ml (4 fl oz/1/2 cup) pekmez (molasses like syrup, see note)

155g/5 1/2oz golden sesame seeds


Combine the sugar and 60 ml (2fl oz/ 1/4 cup) lukewarm water in a small bowl, then sprinkle over the yeast. Set aside for about 8 minutes, or until foamy, then add another 310 ml (10 3/4 fl oz/ 1 1/4 cups) lukewarm water.

 Combine the flour and salt in a bowl, then add the yeast mixture and stir to form a coarse dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface ( a little bit of extra flour on the surface will help the dough to come together) and knead for 6-7 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic. Roll the dough into a ball and place in a lightly oiled bowl, turning to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm, draught-free place for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 220 C (425 F/Gas 7) and line a large size baking tray with baking paper. Knock back the dough on a lightly floured work surface and divide it into 8 even sized pieces. Combine the pekmez with 60 ml/2fl oz water in a large bowl. Place the sesame seeds on a large plate. Working with one piece of dough at a time, use your hands to roll the dough out to make 60 cm (24″) long ropes. Fold in half so two ends align, then lift off the board and use your hands to twist each rectangle into a two stranded “rope”. Place back on the work surface and join the ends together to make a circle, pressing the ends firmly together to seal. Repeat with the remaining dough to make 8 rope circles.

Dip each ring, first into the pekmez mixture, immersing completely to coat, then drain well and toss in the sesame seeds, turning gently to coat. Transfer to the prepared tray and set aside at room temperature for about 20 minutes, to puff slightly. Bake in the oven for 15-18 minutes, or until deep golden and cooked through. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Simit are best eaten on the day of making but will keep, frozen in an airtight container, for up to 1 month.

 Note: Pekmez is a molasses-like syrup made from the juice and must of certain fruits, usually grapes or figs. It is available from Middle Eastern and Turkish grocery stores.

 Afiyet Olsun,


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A Delicious Cheese and Parsley Tray Pastry; Peynirli Tepsi Boregi

This wonderful pie has to be the most popular and loved pastry in Turkey. It has been cooked at homes often, and you can eat almost in every café or restaurant at home. I use the fillo pastry sheets for this recipe and it works well (traditionally, we use the fresh paper thin pastry sheets called yufka and it is wonderful, if you can find it). If frozen, you need to defrost the fillo pastry overnight in the fridge and leave at room temperature about 2 hours before using. I like to combine the feta cheese with mozzarella in this recipe to make it moister.
At home, boreks, savory pastries are a very popular snack with ladies’ tea time gatherings and immensely popular with children. This Tepsi Boregi is also a popular street food at Turkey, and sold in pastry shops and street stalls. It also makes a wonderful lunch or appetizer with a little green salad by the side.

Serves 6-8
Preparation time – 25 minutes Cooking time – 35 minutes

150gr/7oz feta cheese, mashed with a fork
115 gr / 4oz shredded mozzarella
2 eggs, beaten
120ml/4fl oz/1/2 cup milk
15ml/1 tablespoon olive oil
24 sheets of fillo pastry (24cmx25cm/about 9″x10″)
1 bunch of flat leaf parsley, finely chopped

For the egg&milk; mixture:
2 eggs, beaten
120ml/4fl oz/1/2 cup milk
30ml/2tablespoons olive oil

Preheat oven to 180c/350 F/gas mark 4

In a bowl, mix the feta cheese, shredded mozzarella, parsley and two of the beaten eggs. In a separate bowl, mix the remaining eggs, olive oil and milk (for the egg&milk; mixture).

Grease a rectangular baking dish with a little olive oil. Lay the pastry sheets along its long side and trim or cut if needed, as the size of the sheets vary in each country. Open the sheets only when you are ready to use them and cover the rest with a damp towel so that they don’t dry out.

Lay two sheets in the greased baking dish. Pour a little of the milk-olive oil-water mixture (about 3 tablespoons) all over the sheet. Repeat this layering until you reached the 12th sheet. The pastry may look like swimming in the milky mixture a little, don’t worry, that’s the way it should be. Once cooked, the pastry will absorb all this moisture and you will have a lovely, moist pie.

Spread the cheese filling over the 12th sheet evenly. Continue laying two sheets of fillo, pouring over each the milk mixture, until you reach 24th sheet. Sprinkle the milk mixture on the top of the pie.

Bake the borek or the pie in the oven for about 35 minutes, until the top is golden brown. Serve hot, cut into pieces. This dish can be successfully reheated. A glass of cay (Turkish tea) goes very well with this borek!

Peynirli Tepsi boregi; cheese and parsley tray bake with fillo sheets; it goes so well with Cay, Turkish tea.

Peynirli Tepsi boregi; cheese and parsley tray bake with fillo sheets; it goes so well with Cay, Turkish tea.

Afiyet Olsun,


Important tips: If you would like to cut back on the amount of the eggs, you can omit or decrease them in the cheese filling. 2) Once cooked, if you keep the pie covered with flax or parchment paper, this will keep the pie moist. 3) This pie freezes wonderfully. Once cooled, put the pie in a freezer bag and seal. When you’d like to reheat (at 180C/ 350 F for about 15 minutes), put the pie in a greased baking tray and sprinkle the top with a little milk and water mixture to give some moisture.

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Turkish flat breads with ground lamb and vegetarian filling – Etli ve Sebzeli Pide

Turkish flatbreads with ground meat and vegetarian filling; Kiymali ve Sebzeli Pide

Turkish flatbreads with ground meat and vegetarian filling; Kiymali ve Sebzeli Pide

I couldn’t resist making Turkish flat breads with ground meat and vegetarian fillings, after enjoying them so much at Kalkan. I also discovered a brilliant new cookery book, “Cooking New Istanbul Style” by Refika ( Refika wonderfully experiments new recipes using Turkish ingredients, a really delightful book, where she makes wonderful versions of pides too.

You can also experiment with different vegetables and toppings on your flat bread. Dried cured meats like Turkish pastrami, juicy mushrooms, all go very well. A lovely, crowd pleasing food, Afiyet Olsun!

Serves 4 – 6
Preparation time – 45 minutes (add 1 hour rest for dough if you choose to make it)
Cooking time – 20 minutes

Dough ingredients:
5 ml/ 1 teaspoon active dried yeast
1/2 teaspoon sugar
150 ml/ 2/3 cup lukewarm water
350 gr/3 cups strong white bread flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon mild olive oil

Topping ingredients (for ground lamb filling):
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 medium tomatoes, finely chopped
1 bunch of flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
225 gr / 8 oz ground lean lamb
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon paprika flakes
Juice of 1/2 lemon

Making the dough:
Place the sugar and the yeast in a small bowl with half the lukewarm water. Set aside for about 15 minutes until frothy.

Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl, make a well in the middle and add the creamed yeast and the rest of the lukewarm water. Using your hand, draw in the flour and work with the mixture to dough, adding more water if necessary.

Turn the dough on to a lightly floured surface and knead until it is smooth and elastic. Drip a few drops of olive oil into the base of the bowl and roll the dough in it. This will help the dough not to dry up. Cover the bowl with a damp kitchen towel and leave in a warm place for about 1 hour or until the dough has doubled in size.

Preparing the topping with ground lamb:
Lightly soften the onions in the butter and olive oil. Add the chopped tomato and cook until the liquid has been absorbed. Add salt to taste and set aside to cool. Put the meat in a bowl and add the tomato paste, parsley, paprika flakes, lemon juice, cooked onions and tomato. Season with salt and pepper and work this mixture into a paste with your hands. Cover and keep in the refrigerator until you are ready to use.

Once ready, punch down the risen dough, knead it on a lightly floured surface and divide into 6 pieces. Roll each piece into a thin flat round, stretching the dough with your hands as you roll. Oil the baking sheets and place the dough rounds on them and spread a thin layer of the meat mixture covering the edges too. Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes, until the meat is nicely cooked.

Vegetarian topping option 1) Crushed garlic, tomato, cheese and red pepper topping:
1 medium tomato, halved and sliced
3 garlic cloves, crushed with salt
1 red bell pepper, halved and thinly sliced
Drizzle of olive oil
225 gr/ 8 oz shredded mozzarella cheese

Combine the tomato, garlic and bell peppers in a bowl, drizzle with olive oil, and mix well. Place the stretched dough on a greased tray and spread the mixture on the dough. Add the mozzarella cheese over the top. Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes, until the mixture is nicely cooked.

Vegetarian topping option -2) Spinach, garlic, red pepper flakes and mozzarella topping:
4 garlic cloves, crushed with salt
225 gr / 8 oz spinach leaves, washed
5 ml/ 1 teaspoon red pepper paste or red pepper flakes
225 gr / 8 oz shredded mozzarella
Drizzle of olive oil

In a large bowl, mix the garlic, salt, spinach leaves and red pepper flakes (or the red pepper paste, drizzle a little olive oil over. Place the stretched dough on a greased tray and spread the mixture on the dough. Add the mozzarella cheese over the top. Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes, until the mixture is nicely cooked.

Serve pides immediately with lemon wedges and a leafy salad by the side.

Afiyet Olsun,


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