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Tag Archives | Antioch

A Very Festive dessert; Syrup Soaked, Cheese Filled Pastry Strands – Kunefe

Glorious syrup soaked, cheese filled pastry strands, Kunefe, a centerpiece for special occasions.

This glorious syrup soaked, cheese filled pastry strands, Kunefe, is one of the signature dishes of my hometown, Antakya, and it was one of the highlights at my Turkish cooking class last Saturday, on October 20th.

Proudly showing and sharing the kunefe at my Turkish cooking class on October 20th – many thanks to dear Nadia for the photo!:)

I spent many happy holidays in Antakya in my childhood; I can still remember getting the freshly baked Tel Kadayif (the pastry strands) from the local bakery, watching the delicate strands forming from the huge sieve from Long Market (Uzun Carsi) in Antakya. And the golden memories of my grandmother cooking Kunefe in her stone oven in her garden, and, we, her grandchildren excitedly waiting for any leftovers of the butter soaked pastry strands is still vivid in my memory, glorious days.

The Master at work in Long Market, Antakya. The dough is pushed through a sieve to form delicate strands, called Tel Kadayif.

Tel kadayif is a dough, pushed through a sieve to form delicate strands, which looks like vermicelli and when soaked in butter and baked, resembles golden shredded wheat. It is the basis for many desserts but this is the most impressive. The hot cheese should ooze out giving an interesting contrast to the syrup soaked, crunchy casing. Any unsalted cheese which melts easily can be used – fresh mozzarella works well. I also like to add a little clotted cream; my mother would add the wonderfully thick cream we get in Turkey, called Kaymak.  Kunefe can be baked in one big pan or smaller ones as individual portions.

Kunefe can also be baked in individual portions, like Sultan Sofrasi in Antakya does wonderfully.

You can get Kadayif, packs of pale strands that look like vermicelli- in Middle Eastern stores (like the Turkish Food Market in Cheam, Surrey – England), online Turkish supermarket Tulumba also carries it.

This festive dessert is easy to make, looks impressive and so delicious, great for entertaining and celebrations. This year starting on October 25th, Muslims around the world will be celebrating the Feast of Sacrifice, Eid al-Adha and I am sure Kunefe will be a part of the festivities in many homes.

Baklava is another very festive dessert and easy to make at home.

Here are also other festive dishes like baklava and other festive desserts  if you would like some more inspirations.

Syrup Soaked, Cheese Filled Pastry Strands – Kunefe

Serves 6

Preparation time: 20 minutes             Cooking time: 45-50 minutes

225gr/8oz ready-prepared kadayif pastry, thawed if frozen

115gr/4oz melted butter

350gr/12oz fresh mozzarella, sliced (dil peyniri in Turkey or  the white kunefelik peynir in southern Turkey works great if you can get)

2-3 tbsp kaymak or clotted cream – optional-

For the syrup:

225gr/8oz sugar

120ml/4fl oz water

Juice of 1/2 small lemon – about 2 tbsp (you can use less, if you prefer)

1-2 tbsp crushed pistachios for garnish (optional)

Preheat oven to 180C/350 F

First make the syrup. Place the sugar and water in a pan and simmer over a low heat until the sugar is dissolved. Add the lemon juice, reduce the heat through and simmer for about 10 minutes, until it coats the back of the spoon. Then remove from the heat and leave the syrup to cool. The syrup needs to be cool when poured over the cheese filled pastry strands.

Using some of the melted butter, grease a large baking tray.

Soak the pastry strands well in the melted butter to prevent it burning during baking.

Soak the pastry strands well in the melted butter. Use more butter if necessary, as it is important that it is well soaked in order to prevent it burning during the baking time. Divide the pastry strands in two. Spread half of the strands in the base of the baking pan, press it down with your fingers.

Spread or crumble the slices of the fresh mozzarella cheese and the clotted cream (if used) over the top of the pastry and cover with the remainder of the pastry, pressing down firmly.

Cover with the remainder of the pastry over the cheese spread, pressing down firmly.

 

Once you spread the remainder of the pastry over the cheese and pressed down firmly, it is ready to be baked.

Bake the pastry in the preheated oven for 35-40 minutes or until the strands are a deep golden color.

Cut the hot, baked pastry strands into portions and pour the prepared cool syrup over it. Serve immediately whilst still hot and the cheese is gooey. You can decorate with a sprinkling of ground pistachio nuts over the top if you like.

 

Afiyet Olsun & Mutlu Bayramlar !

Ozlem

Gorgeous autumn colors in Wisley Gardens, England.

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My Mother’s Arab Kebab; from Historic Antakya (Antioch)

Arab Kebab- or Arap Kebabi, as we say in Turkish – is a juicy, delicious specialty made in the homes in Antakya, Southern part of Turkey, where my roots are from. This kebab is also so easy to make; I remember my mother making in almost no time, with delicious aromas coming from the kitchen, and how we used to dip our potato and bulgur patties to its delicious sauce.  Antakya  is a city rich in history and traditions; I greatly admire that folks from different religions and backgrounds live and trade happily there over many centuries. This kebab is a heritage passed from the Arab community living in Antakya region.

Juicy, delicious Arab Kebab; make sure to cook a few potatoes in its delicious sauce and make potato&bulgur patties; they go so well with this kebab.

There is abundance of onion in this kebab, which makes it so delicious (and healthy too). I love the natural sweetness the onions bring out to the dish. There are no eggplants (aubergines) in the traditional Arab Kebab, though I like to add on my version. Again, the sweet, almost meaty texture of the eggplant goes so well in the kebab – you can simply take the eggplant out for the traditional Arab Kebab. We also like to add red pepper paste to this kebab, for a richer, spicier flavor. You can make your own red pepper paste; here is my recipe if you would like to have a go.

Ozlem’s Turkish Table Cookery Book – on its way!

My cookery book, Ozlem’s Turkish Table, Recipes from My Homeland is available to order at this link, and includes this recipe and many other wholesome, authentic Turkish recipes, if you’d like to get one.

Turkish red pepper paste – Biber Salcasi; an essential ingredient especially for the Southern Turkish Cooking.

The potato & bulgur patties with onion and parsley go so well with Arab Kebab. We like to add a few potatoes to the kebab to cook, so that they can soak up this wonderful sauce. We then use these deliciously flavored cooked potatoes in our bulgur & potato patties. Dipping the patties to the sauce of Arab Kebab is just heavenly.

These potato and bulgur patties are also wonderful when dipped into olive oil and pomegranate sauce.

You can make the Arab Kebab ahead of time and give a gentle heat just before serving.  The left overs can also be frozen successfully.

Serves 4-6

Preparation time: 30 minutes             Cooking time: 35 – 40 minutes

 

500 gr/1 1/4 lb/ 2 cups lean ground beef or lamb

3-4 medium onions, finely chopped

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 medium size eggplant, finely diced

1 green bell (or pointy) pepper, finely chopped

400gr/14oz can of good quality chopped tomatoes

15ml/1 tbsp red pepper paste – optional-

30ml/ 2 tbsp olive oil

12oz/ 1 1/2 cup hot water

1 bunch flat leaf parsley, finely chopped

5-10ml/1-2 tsp red pepper flakes

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

3-4 medium potatoes skinned and halved (to be used for the potato & bulgur patties)

 

Sprinkle salt over the eggplants; salt will help the moisture to come out of them.

Cut each eggplant length wise and then about 3-4 in cubes, lay them on a wide flat tray and generously season with salt. This will help the moisture to come out of the eggplants. Leave for about 15 minutes. Drain the water that came out of the eggplants and squeeze them with a paper towel to extract the excess water.

Heat the oil in a large wide pan and sauté the onions for a couple of minutes until they start to soften. Stir in the ground meat and sauté for another couple of minutes. Add the eggplants, garlic, green pepper and cook for further 4-5 minutes. Add the diced tomatoes, red pepper paste and the hot water, giving a good stir. Stir in the potatoes to the mixture. Season with salt, ground black pepper and red pepper flakes, combine well.

Arab Kebab has a wonderful sauce to dip the bulgur & potato patties or your bread in.

Cover the pan and gently simmer for about 30 minutes, until all the ingredients cooked and the sauce thickened. Stir in the chopped parsley and combine well, the Arab Kebab is ready. The end result should have a good amount of juice/liquid, as we would like to dip the potato & bulgur patties this sauce. Take the cooked potatoes out to be used in the potato & bulgur patties.

Arab Kebab with onions, garlic, peppers, aubergines in rich tomato sauce; enjoy!

Have you ever tried this kebab or any variation of it? I would love to hear from you 🙂

Afiyet Olsun,
Ozlem

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Stuffed Peppers and Zucchini (Courgettes) with Bulgur, Ground Meat and Spices; Antakya (Antioch) Style – Kabak ve Biber Dolmasi, Antakya Usulu

Stuffed peppers and zucchini with bulgur, ground meat & onion

Stuffed peppers and zucchini with bulgur, ground meat & onion

Some of the food we eat has the power to transport us to our childhood, have a special link to bond us with those precious memories. These stuffed peppers and courgettes (zucchini) have such power on me; they are the delicious gateways to take me back home, right to my mother’s as well as my grandmother’s kitchen in the ancient city of Antioch, Antakya.

My Grandmother’s 450 year old house in ancient Antioch; we used to gather around a big table in the courtyard for wonderful feasts

Preparing the dolma is quite a grand ritual at home; cousins, sisters, whoever available, gather around a big table; filled with trays of vegetables and stuffing. Some prepare the vegetables, scooping the flesh out, some make the filling, and some do the stuffing. These all happen, of course, with constant flow of Turkish coffee and tea (cay) and catching up! We would then eagerly wait for the dolma to be cooked; then me and my sister would eat the dolma with a dollop of plain yoghurt on top. We used to call them our “savory ice cream”; I am now trying this trick on my children:)

My mother rolling the stuffed vine leaves; we would all help preparing the vine leaves, removing stalks, or making Turkish coffee!

We Turks love stuffing vegetables. The word dolma is used for the vegetables like aubergines, peppers, courgettes that are stuffed. Fruits such as apples, quince and plums can be stuffed too. We also stuff vine leaves (that is called sarma, here is the link for the recipe) and cabbage leaves (lahana sarma, here is the link for that recipe), either with an aromatic rice, pine nuts and currants or with ground meat, rice, herbs and spices.

Stuffed peppers with aromatic rice and herb filling

This recipe comes from the ancient town of Antakya, Antioch, where my roots are from. This is the region where bulgur, red pepper paste, pomegranate molasses and spices like red pepper flakes, cumin, and mint are used frequently. All these add such rich, wonderful flavor to the dishes, and very healthy too. I used bulgur instead of the traditional rice for stuffing, like we do in Antakya. Bulgur’s nutty, wonderful flavor adds another dimension to the dish, with bonus of bulgur’s many health benefits. In Antakya, once the flesh of the vegetables taken out, they are given a little wash with pomegranate molasses & little water. The tangy and sweet flavor of the molasses adds to the richness of the flavor. You can use a good balsamic vinegar if you can’t get hold of pomegranate molasses.

 I hope you enjoy this delicious, satisfying dolma packed with flavor and memories and have a chance to visit the fascinating Antioch sometime.

 Serves 6-8

Preparation time: 40 minutes               Cooking time: 40-45 minutes

3 medium size courgettes (zucchini)

3 medium size bell peppers

30ml/2tbsp pomegranate molasses or good balsamic vinegar, mixed with 1tbsp water

3 small tomatoes, cut in half (to cap the dolmas)

6-8 cloves of garlic, crushed

For the filling:

110gr/4oz/ 1/2 cup ground beef/lamb or ground turkey

115gr/4oz/generous 1/2 cup coarse bulgur wheat

1 medium onion, finely chopped or grated

Handful of flat leaf parsley, finely chopped

10ml/1tbsp olive oil

10ml/1 tbsp concentrated tomato paste or red pepper paste

5ml/1 tsp red pepper flakes/chilli flakes

5ml/1tsp ground cumin

5ml/1tsp dried mint

Salt and ground black pepper to taste

Bowl of plain (natural yoghurt) or cucumber, yoghurt dip, cacik  to serve

Stuffing ingredients all together

Put the ground meat in a large bowl and stir in the rest of the filling ingredients. Season and knead, until all blended well. The filling is ready.

Stuffing ingredients, after mixing

Now, let’s prepare the vegetables. Cut the stalk ends of the peppers and save them aside (we will need them to cap the stuffed peppers later). Scoop out the seeds of the peppers.

Scoop out the seeds of the peppers to prepare for stuffing

Cut the courgettes in half. Scoop out the flesh of the courgettes with the help of a long coffee spoon (in Antakya, we use a long and thin scooping device made just for that purpose). Carefully remove some of the flesh to create a cavity that is large enough to stuff. Take care to leave the bottom of the courgettes intact.

Taking the flesh out of the courgettes (zucchini); long coffee spoon would work here

I Iike to save the flesh of the courgettes, as they go very well in the bulgur, tomato and courgette recipe. You can keep them in a sealed freezer bag in the freezer up to 3 months.

Give a little wash to the peppers and zucchini with pomegranate molasses and water mix

Mix the water with the pomegranate molasses (or balsamic vinegar) and wash the inside of the peppers and courgettes with this mixture. Add the left overs of this delicious juice to filling mixture, mix well.

Take spoonfuls of the filling mixture and pack it into the vegetables. Take care not to overfill to the top, as bulgur will need a little space to expand. Place the stalk ends and the halved tomatoes as lids. Place the stuffed vegetables upright, packed tightly, in a heavy pan. Pour a couple of cups of water to the pan, until it covers the half of vegetables. Stir in the cloves of garlic and cover. Bring the liquid to the boil, then reduce the heat and cook gently for about 40 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.

Cap the stuffed peppers and zucchini with the pepper stalks and halved tomatoes

Serve hot with plain natural yoghurt or Cacik; yoghurt and cucumber dip.

Stuffed peppers and zucchini; they go so well with plain yoghurt by the side

Afiyet Olsun!

Snapshot from home, Turkey: Ancient city of Antioch, Antakya 

Here is a new section in the blog! Whenever I can, I would like to give a little snapshot of fascinating places in Turkey that I have visited. Food and travel complement one another so well, and I hope this part could bring the places alive and inspire you to visit sometime.

Ancient Antioch, Antakya; cradle of many civilizations

Here, I would like to introduce my beloved, ancient home town Antakya, located in the southern part of Turkey.  Antakya was one of the three biggest cities of the Roman Empire and the capital of the east.  Antakya was founded in B.C. 4 by the Syrian King, Seleukos, and he named the city after his father, Antiochos.  Over the centuries, the city was under Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman and French rule.  As of 1939, Antakya became a part of the Republic of Turkey.

One of the many grand mosaics at the Antakya Mosaic Museum

Antakya Mosaic Museum is the world’s 2nd biggest mosaic museum in terms of the richness, quality and the size of the mosaics.  The mosaics you’ll see there are from the Roman and the Byzantine periods, and they are simply fascinating.  The museum also hosts magnificent sculptures; the most important of them is the 3 meter high figure of Apollo.

Friendly children of Antakya, guiding us towards the Church of St Peter

St Pierre Church (Church of St Peter) is another fascinating sight. St Peter’s Church, built in a cave, on the skirts of Habib Neccar Mountain in Antakya, is known as one of the first places that the early Christians gathered.  St Petrus, one of the followers of Jesus (A.D. 29- 30), came to Antakya and used this “cave” to expand Christianity. St PierreChurch is regarded as the first church of Christianity outside Jerusalem.  Due to its importance, Pope Paul 6th declaredSt Pierre Church a pilgrimage for Christians.  Every year on June 29th, Remembrance of St Petrus ceremonies take place in Antakya, with the participation of thousands of Christians from around the world.

Church of St Peter, Antakya

Another wonderful visit in Antakya is the Long Market, Uzun Carsi, city’s ancient market. This is the place I visited many times as a child, to get our daily bread, yoghurt, cheese and vegetables, when we used to visit my Grandma. The smells and colors are simply mesmerizing. Antakya’s cuisine has an incredible richness of fresh herbs and spices, packed with flavor.  A type of wild oregano, zahter, cumin and red pepper flakes are used very commonly.  The red pepper paste, biber salcasi, is one of the landmarks of Antakya too.  The richness of this red pepper paste adds a wonderful flavor to casseroles and meat dishes.  Another specialty food item worth mentioning is the nar eksisi, the syrup made from concentrated sour pomegranate juice.  This incredibly rich, concentrated flavor is a must for many traditional salads and meze spreads.

 

The Long Market (Uzun Carsi) in Antakya, packed with mesmerising spices, olive oil based soaps and many more

Hand carved wooden spoons in the Long Market; I use them everyday!

This is the Tunel of Vespasion, in the village of Kapisuyu, Antakya. It was built as a water channel in the 2nd century. Another fascinating visit.

The Tunnel of Vespasion, Antakya – Hatay

There are many more photos of my travels to Turkey here, if you would like to have a look.

Happy travels to you all!

 

 

 

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