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Casserole of Turkish Meatballs with Aubergine, Potatoes, Tomatoes and Peppers – Sebzeli Firin Kofte

There is a concept of “lokanta” restaurants at home, where slowly cooked and ready to eat casseroles of meatballs and vegetables, vegetables cooked in olive oil, stuffed vegetables and many more are displayed on serving trays. The idea is you get a chance to eat freshly cooked  “home style” dinners in a restaurant in no time; you simply pick up your tray and fill in your plate with these scrumptious food and they are very good value too. There is no waiting, and you can have a healthy, delicious meal within 30 minutes. Please check out my previous post Slow Cooked Turkish Fast Food for more delicious, affordable and healthy ways of eating out in Turkey.

Pre-cooked delicious casseroles, pilaffs, vegetables cooked in olive oil; all ready to eat

This week’s recipe is an all-in-one pot popular meatball and vegetable casserole (not only with the children but with the adults too!), one of the many you can experience at lokantas, in Turkey. It is delicious, healthy and you can easily re-create at home. The casserole can either be cooked on the stove top or baked in the oven, and you can bake ahead of time. It makes a complete and hearty main course served with plain rice or with my recent bulgur pilaf with sautéed almonds. I like to add a variety of seasonal vegetables to my meatballs casserole; zucchini (courgettes) and peas work well here too. You can add as much red pepper flakes as you would like for a spicier flavor.

Casserole of Turkish meatballs and vegetables; a favorite for all

I love our hearty and healthy casseroles as well as regional specialties in Turkish cuisine and included them in my cookery book, Ozlem’s Turkish Table too – signed copies are available to order at this link.

Ozlem’s Turkish Table Cookery Book – available to order at this link

I usually double this casserole recipe and freeze half the portion, as it freezes very well.

Serves 4-6

Preparation time – 30 minutes          Cooking time – 40-45 minutes

For the kofte (meatballs):

450 gr /1 lb ground lamb, beef or mixture

1 medium onion, grated

2 slices of stale bread, soaked in water and squeezed dry

1 egg, beaten

1 bunch finely chopped Italian parsley

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground black pepper

A bowl of water for kneading kofte / wetting hands

 And the rest:

450 gr / 1 lb medium potatoes, sliced like thin apple quadrants

1 green, red or yellow bell pepper, deseeded and sliced

1 medium carrot, coarsely sliced

1 aubergine, cut in half lengthways and sliced

4 garlic cloves, finely chopped

400 gr /14 oz (1 can of) chopped tomatoes

1 tablespoon red pepper paste -optional-

1 tablespoon olive oil

240 ml / 1 cup water

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

 

Preheat oven to 180 C / 350 F

 

Ingredients for the Turkish meatballs

Discard the crusts of the bread, soak in the water and squeeze dry. Then crumble them into a large bowl. Add all the kofte, meatballs ingredients except the meat and knead well. This will soften the onions and enable the spices to blend in the mixture evenly. Add the ground meat and knead well again until the mixture resembles soft dough. With wet hands take a piece the size of a large walnut and roll into a large finger shape about 1 inch thick. Continue until all the mixture is used. The meatballs can now be covered and stored in the fridge until required.

Salt helps the moisture to come out of the eggplants; make sure you drain these bitter juices

Using a vegetable peeler, peel the eggplant (aubergine) lengthways in stripes like a zebra. Slice the eggplant lengthways, about ½ inch thick. Then cut each slice into three parts. Sprinkle some salt over them and leave for about 15 minutes. Squeeze out their moisture with paper towel.

Coat the vegetables with olive oil, red pepper paste or with tomato paste and red pepper flakes

In an oven dish, spread the vegetables. I like to coat the vegetables with the red pepper paste, olive oil, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Using your hands, mix the vegetables and make sure they all get this lovely coating (if you like a milder taste, you can replace the red pepper paste with concentrated tomato paste, and add more red pepper flakes for a spicy flavor). Place the meatballs between the vegetables. Add the chopped tomatoes and water, mix well. Bake in the oven for about 40 minutes or until the potatoes are soft and the sauce has thickened.

Baked Turkish meatballs with eggplants, potatoes, tomatoes; an all in one delicious dish

Baked Turkish meatballs with eggplants, potatoes, peppers, tomatoes; an all in one delicious dish

Serve hot, with plain rice or bulgur pilaf with almonds by the side.

Have you ever tried our traditional drink Ayran? Ayran is a mixture of plain natural yoghurt, water and a pinch of salt blended together. To make ayran, blend 2 cups of plain yoghurt with 3/4 cup water with a pinch of salt, for about 20 seconds. You will see a nice thick foam and bubbles formed at the top. Serve in water glasses with a few ice cubes in them. Ayran is a popular drink at home, especially with kebabs and casseroles, and it would go well with this casserole too.

Wonderfully foamy and bubbly Ayran; our traditional drink with kebabs and casseroles.

Have you ever tried Ayran? Have you had any experience at eating in lokantas in Turkey?  I would love to hear from you, please share with us, thank you.

Afiyet Olsun!

Ozlem

 

 

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Give Bulgur a Chance and Create Delicious, Satisfying Meals

If you have been following this blog for a while, you must have noticed that bulgur wheat is often used in Turkish cuisine. In addition to its great health benefits, (like it’s wholegrain and high in fiber), I love its delicious, nutty taste and that it is so easy to create a variety of delicious meals with it in no time.

Kisir; Bulgur Wheat Salad with vegetables, olive oil and pomegranate molasses - tastes even better the next day!

Bulgur wheat unlike cracked wheat, is a grain made from the cooked wheat berries which have the bran removed, and are then dried and pounded. There are two varieties generally available, fine and coarse. The coarse type is used for pilaff and fine bulgur is used in salads. Take this wonderful Bulgur wheat salad with vegetables, olive oil and pomegranate molasses, Kisir. It is ‘a bowl of health’, refreshing and taste even better the next day!

Stuffed Zucchini (Courgettes), and Peppers with Bulgur, Southern Turkish Style

How about stuffing vegetables with bulgur? A popular way to enjoy Bulgur, especially at the Middle and Southern part of Turkey, a delicious and satisfying meal with some plain yoghurt by the side.

Potato and Bulgur patties with pomegranate molasses, a wonderful appetizer

Bulgur also features quite a lot in Turkish appetizers. These Potato and Bulgur patties are one of my favorite mezzes; they are scrumptious dipped on pomegranate molasses (or good balsamic vinegar).

Spicy Lentil and Bulgur soup with dried mint and vegetables

Bulgur can be a part of hearty, delicious soups too, like this Spicy Bulgur and Lentil Soup. It is common for this soup to be enjoyed as part of breakfast in Anatolia, central part of Turkey.

Bulgur is healthy, delicious, affordable and now widely available. I hope you can give bulgur a chance, you won’t be disappointed. If you are already enjoying bulgur, I wonder what your favorite bulgur recipe is, would you share with us?

Here is a new, delicious recipe featuring bulgur; it has been a great hit at my recent Cooking Class, I hope you enjoy it too.

Bulgur Wheat Pilaf with Sautéed Almonds

In Central Anatolia, bulgur wheat is eaten far more than the rice. We like to add vegetables and sometimes nuts to bulgur, like in this recipe. Sautéed almonds give a lovely texture and flavor to bulgur. This pilaff can be a meal by itself, why not serving with Shepherd’s Salad of cucumbers, tomatoes and peppers, drizzled with olive oil?

Bulgur Wheat with sauteed almonds

 

Serves 4-6

Preparation time: 10 minutes            Cooking time: 20 minutes (+10 min resting)

350gr/12oz bulgur wheat, rinsed and drained

75gr/3oz/3/4 cup blanched or flaked almonds

600ml/1 pint/2 1/2 cup hot water

30ml/2 tablespoon olive oil

Salt and ground black pepper to taste

Handful of fresh herbs (like parsley or coriander), chopped to serve

Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a heavy pan and stir in the bulgur, tossing it thoroughly. Pour in the hot water, season with salt and pepper and combine well. Bring to the boil for 1-2 minutes, then reduce the heat and cover the pan. Simmer for about 15 minutes or until all the liquid has been completely absorbed.

Turn the heat off, cover the pan with a paper or tea towel and place the lid on top. Leave to steam for a further 10-15 minutes.

A nuts stall in Levent Market, Pazar - Istanbul. Nuts have an important part in Turkish cuisine (and it is OK to have a little siesta in hot summers day!)

 

Sauteed almonds

In the meantime, heat the rest of the oil in a small pan and stir in the almonds. Gently sauté the almonds for 3-4 minutes, until they are golden (take care, as they can burn quickly).

Stir in the sautéed almonds to the bulgur pilaff, mix well. Serve hot with chopped parsley, coriander, or dill on top. You can also enjoy this dish with Shepherd’s Salad of cucumber, tomatoes and peppers, with a drizzle of olive oil.

Ideally, I would love to eat my bulgur overlooking to fascinating Istanbul; if we can’t be there for the moment, hopefully the photo may provide some ambiance.

Imagine being by the Bosphorus, Istanbul over looking the Topkapi Palace and floating ferries, Vapur

Afiyet Olsun!

Ozlem

 

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Baby Artichokes Poached in Olive Oil with Peas, Carrots and Almonds – Zeytinyagli Enginar

Vegetable Market in Istanbul – Sali Pazari, Istanbul

Turkish cuisine is very much based on using fresh, seasonal ingredients. A daily trip to Pazar, fresh fruit and vegetable market is a ritual, most Turks do daily at home. Rather than having a recipe in mind, we go to the Market, Pazar, to see which vegetables are seasonal and freshly available in the market and then decide what we will be cooking accordingly.

 Very inviting sweet and spicy peppers at the Cheam Market, England

I had one of these moments when we went to the Turkish Market in Cheam last week. It so wonderful to see great displays of different kinds of peppers (red pointy ones, slim long and spicy green peppers, small spicy peppers and small, less meaty green bell peppers which are great for stuffing), slim aubergines, vine tomatoes and.. baby artichokes.

Baby artichokes at Cheam Market; they are a real treat. Until ready to use, fresh artichokes should be treated like flowers and put in a jug of water.

I rarely can get baby artichokes at my local market, so seeing it was a real treat and the menu for that day is decided; poached baby artichokes in olive oil. We Turks love to poach especially the big, meaty globe artichokes in olive oil with vegetables, dressed with lemon juice and dill. This style of cooking in Turkish cuisine is called “vegetables cooked in olive oil”,  and we enjoy them at room temperature or cold. Dressed with olive oil and lemon juice,they are not only very healthy but a joy to eat during summer time and can be kept in fridge 2-3 days.

I adapted this recipe from one of my favourite cookery author Ghillie Basan’s Complete Book of Turkish Cooking Book. Ghillie added blanched almonds to hers, a brilliant idea for added texture and flavour, worked really well in mine too. This dish would be a wonderful starter, a light lunch or a side dish and you will be creating a healthy, delicious dish using a few fresh ingredients – I hope you can give it a go sometime.

Artichokes in olive oil, Em tennis, almond bulgur, lokum first p 015

Baby artichokes poached in olive oil with peas, carrots and almonds

Serves 4

Preparation time: 25 minutes              Cooking time: 30 minutes

4 large globe artichokes or 10-12 baby artichokes

1 small cooked carrot,diced

90gr/3oz fresh peas (or frozen if you can’t get fresh peas)

75gr/3oz blanched or flaked almonds

Juice of 1 lemon

30ml/2 tablespoons olive oil

5m/teaspoon granulated sugar

15ml/1 tablespoon fresh dill,chopped

Salt to taste

Wedges of lemon to serve

Cut off the stalks and pull off all the leaves of the artichokes

First let’s prepare the artichokes. Cut off the stalks and pull off all the leaves. Dig out the hairy choke from the middle with a spoon (you don’t need to do this stage with baby artichokes). Then cut away any hard bits with a sharp knife and trim into a neat cup shape. Rub the cups – called bottoms – with a mixture of lemon juice and a little salt to prevent them from coloring (tip: until ready to use, fresh artichokes should be treated like flowers and put in a jug of water).

Rub the artichoke cups with a mixture of lemon juice and a little salt to prevent them from colouring.

Heat the olive oil in a heavy pan and stir in the artichokes in lemon sauce and the diced carrots. Pour 100ml/4fl oz/1/2cup water over the vegetables, combine well. Cover the pan and poach the vegetables gently for about 25 minutes. Then add the fresh or frozen peas, sugar and almonds, combine well. Cover again and continue to cook gently for another 5 minutes, until the artichokes are tender.

Toss in the dill, season with salt and turn off the heat. Leave to cool the artichokes in the pan.

Serve this delicious course at room temperature with wedges of lemon by the side.

Baby artichokes poached in olive oil; a refreshing, delicious and healthy course

You can enjoy this refreshing vegetable course as a starter or by the side of grilled meat, fish or pasta.

Afiyet Olsun!

Friendly lady at the bakery, filling us with delicious breads and pastries

And a few more photos to share from the Cheam Market; the bakery is always a big hit with fresh flat breads, sesame seeded pastries, ekmek, Turkish loaf of bread and many more.

Simit, sesame coated bread rings are a big part of Turkish breakfast

Simit is the quintessential Turkish food; these sesame-encrusted bread rings are the most popular snack at home, and they are easy to make too, here  is the recipe, if you’d like to have a go.

Wishing you all a good week ahead, filled with delicious food to share!

Ozlem

 

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