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Tag Archives | Antakya Cuisine

Tray Kebab, Antakya Style – Tepsi Kebabi

Antakya's tray kebab with roasted vegetables, a delicious all-in-one meal

Antakya’s tray kebab with roasted vegetables, a delicious all-in-one meal

My parents are coming over from Istanbul 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. I am delighted to be able to go back to Antakya, as part of my Grand Turkey tour this summer, and look forward to sharing some wonderful photos with you all.

Traditionally, locals wouldn’t put slices of potato around the kebab, though mum would, and my dad loves 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.

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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Bulgur Pilaf with green lentils, served with caramelized onions -Mercimekli Bulgur Pilavi

Bulgur pilaff with lentils, over sauteed onion rings; delicious and wholesome

Bulgur pilaff with lentils, over sauteed onion rings; delicious and wholesome

This wonderful, traditional pilaf is from my hometown Antioch (Antakya), and it is served with caramelized onions over the top. The sweetness of the caramelized onions complements the lentils and bulgur really well. I like to serve it with spicy pickled peppers or a green salad with a sharp lemon juice and olive oil dressing, they complement the pilaf wonderfully. Easy, healthy and delicious, this pilaf can be kept in fridge for 2-3 days.

Variation: I had some chestnut mushrooms that needed using the other day. So I sautéed the slices of the mushrooms with some crushed garlic, and then added a handful of chopped parsley. Seasoned with salt and pepper and added a juice of 1/2 lemon to the mixture for a nice tangy finish. I served the bulgur and green lentils pilaf with this sautéed mushrooms, it was delightful. Just another idea for serving.

Serves 6-8
Preparation time: 15 minutes Cooking time: 35 minutes

225gr/8oz/1 cup green lentils
350gr/12oz bulgur wheat, rinsed
15ml/1 tablespoon mild olive oil
750ml/ 1/4 pints/3cups hot water
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
To serve:
1 onion, halved and thinly sliced
45ml/3 tablespoons mild olive oil
Pickled green and red peppers

Boil the green lentils in a heavy pan with plenty of hot water for about 15 minutes. Drain the water and set the green lentils aside.

Combine the half cooked green lentils and rinsed the bulgur wheat in a heavy pan. Pour in the hot water and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste and stir to combine thoroughly. Bring to boil for 1-2 minutes, and then reduce the heat. Cover and simmer until all the liquid has been completely absorbed (about 15 minutes).

While the pilaf is cooking, heat the olive oil in a pan and stir in the onion slices. Over a medium heat, cook the onion slices for about 10-15 minutes until they start to get caramelized, stir occasionally. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve the bulgur and green lentils pilaf with the caramelized onion slices over the top. Spicy pickled peppers or a green salad with a sharp lemon juice and olive oil dressing would go really well with the pilaf.  Cacik dip of yoghurt with cucumbers and garlic is also lovely with this wholesome meal.

Afiyet Olsun!

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


Mevlubi; upside down rice with layers of sauteed eggplant, potatoes and meat; a specialty from Antakya, Turkey.

I made my mother’s signature dish, Mevlubi to enjoy with friends over the weekend. 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. 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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