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Ancient, Wholesome; Bulgur Pilaf with Freekeh, Eggplant and Meat

Firik or Freekeh is a super food and an ancient grain; I absolutely love its delicious, nutty taste, similar to pearl barley. Freekeh used to feature a lot at my grandmother’s table in Antakya, ancient Antioch, when I was a child. Cooked with bulgur and fresh butter, it always tasted so heavenly and the mesmerizing smells always greeted us. Freekeh is a real treat by itself and pairs with bulgur, vegetables, chickpeas and meat beautifully.

Ancient firik or freekeh; a delicious and healthy grain, pairs with bulgur and vegetables so well.

Ancient firik or freekeh; a delicious and healthy grain, pairs with bulgur and vegetables so well.

Firik, (as in Turkish) or Freekeh (sometimes spelled frikeh)  or farik is a cereal  food made from green drum wheat that goes through a roasting process in its production.  Firik is a popular and ancient grain used Middle Eastern & Southern Turkish cuisine and also popular in Levantine, Egyptian, Arabian Peninsula and North African cuisine. The wheat is harvested while the grains are yellow and the seeds are still soft; it is then piled and sun-dried. The piles are then carefully set on fire so only the straw and chaff burn and not the seeds. It is the high moisture content of the seeds that prevents them from burning. The now roasted wheat undergoes further thrashing and sun-drying to make the flavor, texture, and color uniform. It is this thrashing or rubbing process of the grains that gives this food its name, farīk or “rubbed.” The seeds are now cracked into smaller pieces so they look like a green bulgur.

Antakya - Antioch's ancient Long Market - Uzun Carsi, with abundance of grains, spices and more

Antakya – Antioch’s ancient Long Market – Uzun Carsi, with abundance of grains, spices and more

This delicious, ancient grain freekeh is a similar food made from barley and it is also mentioned in the Bible. Freekeh is also considered as a superfood, as in the category of the healthy grains such as quinoa and farro. Freekeh has at least four times as much fiber  as some other comparable grains, consisting mostly of insoluble fiber. It also has a low glycemic index so is suitable for managing diabetes. You can get freekeh in Middle Eastern or specialty food stores abroad, though it is widely available in Turkey. Bulgur is now widely available in supermarkets, so great to see.

Freekeh with bulgur, eggplants and meat - Firikli Bulgur Pilavi; a delicious & healthy meal.

Freekeh with bulgur, eggplants and meat – Firikli Bulgur Pilavi; a delicious & healthy meal.

I cooked my firik, freekeh here with bulgur, onions, eggplants (aubergine) and chunks of meat. The delicious nutty texture of the grains worked so well with the vegetables. Addition of any meat of your choice is lovely though just with the grains and vegetables itself, this meal would be a delicious vegetarian feast. Chickpeas would go well in this dish too. Turkish hot pepper paste, biber salcasi, gives a wonderful, rich flavor to this dish; you can make your own red pepper paste too, here is my recipe  if you like to make your own. You can also add some heat and flavor with the Turkish red pepper flakes, pul biber.

This recipe and many more authentic, wholesome, delicious Turkish recipes are included at my cookery book, Ozlem’s Turkish TableSigned copies (now 10 % off) as well as ebook options are available at this link, hardback signed copies are delivered worldwide.

Serves 6

Preparation time: 25 minutes                  Cooking time: 30 -35 minutes

350gr/12oz/2 cups coarse bulgur, rinsed and drained

225gr/8oz/ generous 1 cup firik or freekeh, rinsed and drained

1 large eggplant (aubergine), diced

2 medium onions, finely diced

450gr/ 1 lb. small chunks of beef, chicken or lamb (optional)

15 ml/ 1 tbsp. Turkish red pepper paste (biber salcasi)

15 ml/1 tbsp. tomato puree

60ml/2 fl. oz./ ¼ cup olive oil

2 pints/ 5 cups hot water

Salt and ground black pepper to taste


Red pepper flakes, pul biber to serve

Cacik dip of diced cucumbers, plain yoghurt and dried mint  to serve

Layer the eggplant pieces on a tray and sprinkle salt over them, leave them aside for 15 minutes (salt will help the moisture and bitter juices come out of the eggplant).

Layer the eggplant pieces on a tray and sprinkle salt over them (salt will help the moisture and bitter juices come out of the eggplant).

First prepare the eggplants (aubergines). Peel the eggplants lengthways in stripes using a vegetable peeler or a small sharp knife. Cut the eggplant in quarters and then slice into bite size pieces. Layer the eggplant pieces on a tray and sprinkle salt over them, leave them aside for 15 minutes (salt will help the moisture and bitter juices come out of the eggplant). After 15 minutes, dry the eggplants with kitchen or paper towel thoroughly.

Heat the 2 tbsp. olive oil in a heavy pan and sauté the onions until soft and they begin to color. Add the pieces of meat, stir and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Toss in the diced eggplants and the remaining 2 tbsp. olive oil. Stir and sauté over medium heat for 3-4 minutes, until they start to color and soften. Then stir in the red pepper paste and tomato paste and combine well with the vegetables and the meat. Season with salt and ground black pepper.

Bulgur pilaf with freekeh, eggplants and meat; firikli bulgur pilavi

Bulgur pilaf with freekeh, eggplants and meat; firikli bulgur pilavi

 Now add the bulgur and freekeh to the pan and mix well. Pour in the hot water, stir and bring it to the boil. Cover, reduce the heat and simmer on low to medium heat for about 20 minutes or until all the water has been absorbed. Turn off the heat, cover the pan with a clean kitchen towel and place the lid on firmly. Rest the pilaf for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Cacik dip with yoghurt, cucumber and dried mint; delicious and refreshing

Cacik dip with yoghurt, cucumber and dried mint; delicious and refreshing

Serve the bulgur and frekeeh pilaf hot with Turkish red pepper flakes, pul biber sprinkled over, if you like. Refreshing Cacik Dip of diced cucumbers and dried mint with yoghurt complements this bulgur & freekeh pilaf very well.

Ancient St Peter's Church, Antakya, Antioch where early Christians congregated.

Ancient St Peter’s Church, Antakya, Antioch where early Christians congregated.

I hope you enjoy this delicious, ancient food, packed with goodness; Afiyet Olsun,


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Turkish Bean Stew with Chicken; Tavuklu Kuru Fasulye and more

Pulse, beans and legumes  are very popular at home as wholesome meals and  mezzes – such as this  Warm hummus with red pepper flakes infused olive  oil made from chickpeas, tahini, cumin and extra virgin olive oil. Have you ever had hummus served warm? That’s the way we enjoy hummus especially in southern Turkey, warming the hummus brings out the wonderful flavors of tahini, cumin and olive oil, and it is just delicious.

This bean salad with tomatoes, olives, red onion slices and olives is wonderful for lunch or a side dish for grilled meat.

How about this delicious and substantial Turkish bean salad with eggs, olives, onions, and tomatoes; Fasulye Piyazi, for lunch ? We like to serve this salad along with grilled meatballs at home, such a delicious, healthy treat.

Kuru Fasulye; one of the most traditional Turkish dishes, wholesome and so delicious.

This week, I wanted to share our delicious traditional bean stew, Kuru Fasulye.  This bean stew  is very popular at Turkish homes as well as in our traditional restaurants, lokantas. Traditional lokantas in Turkey are also called Esnaf Lokantasi; as the workers used to come to these restaurants for their lunch break- is a wonderful concept.

Fehmi Lokantasi in Kadikoy; delicious, precooked meals all lined up – so many choices!

Have ever been to the vibrant and ever so colorful Kadikoy district in Istanbul? The market is wonderful with the fresh produce and friendly lokantas around.  This is Fehmi Lokantasi in Kadikoy, with mouthwatering displays of ready to eat stews, rice, vegetables cooked in olive oil and many more.

Delicious displays of casseroles, fresh beans cooked in olive oil and many more at Fehmi Lokantasi.

Trays of precooked – and gently heated – stews, rice, vegetables cooked in olive oil, stuffed vegetables and many more – are displayed in a buffet style in traditional lokantas. This is slowly cooked “fast food”; all you need to do is to pick up your tray and point to the Chef, Asci, which dishes you would like to try – they are ever so inviting, I usually end up having small portions of a few to share!-.

Good news is, you can recreate many of these stews and casseroles at home too. I  love this bean stew with chicken and vegetables, as it is so easy, delicious and nutritious. If you are using dried beans, you need to soak them overnight. But if you don’t have time for this, please have a go and use the precooked haricot beans instead. They still work great and you will be preparing a wholesome, delicious meal in no time.

Turkish Bean stew with spicy sausages, sucuklu kuru fasulye

This bean stew is also wonderful when cooked with Turkish spicy sausage, sucuk. You can use any spicy sausage you like or for a vegetarian option, simply omit the meat.

Turkish Bean Stew with Chicken, Onion, Peppers in Tomato Sauce – Tavuklu Kuru Fasulye

Serves 4

Preparation time: 15 minutes                           Cooking time: 35 minutes (add 30 minutes cooking time if dried beans are used)

2 cups / 340 gr Cannellini dried white beans or

14oz/1 can of pre-cooked cannellini (or haricot) beans, rinsed

1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped

1 green (pointy) or bell pepper, finely chopped

Handful of parsley, coarsely chopped

15ml/1 tablespoon olive oil

8oz / 225 gr chicken breast (or your choice of meat), cut in small chunks

14oz/ 400 gr can of chopped tomatoes

300ml/ 1 ¼ cups water

1/2 tablespoon red pepper paste (optional)

1 teaspoon sea salt flakes

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Precooked dried beans are perfectly fine to use in the stew; and you will still be making a wholesome meal.

If you are using dried beans, soak them in plenty of water overnight. Next day, drain the water and boil the dried beans in fresh water for about 30 minutes, partially covered, until they are tender but not mushy. Drain the water and set the cooked beans aside.

If you are using precooked white beans, simply drain the juice and rinse the beans under cold water. Set them aside.

In a heavy pan, sauté the onion with the olive oil until soft. Add the meat and sauté for another minute or so. Stir in the green peppers, chopped tomatoes and the red pepper paste (if using) and mix well. Cover and simmer on low heat for 20 minutes. Then stir in the cooked beans and the water, mixing gently so that the beans won’t break. Season with salt, black pepper and red pepper flakes. Cover and cook in medium heat for. about 10 minutes. Stir in the parsley and combine well.

Delicious Kuru Fasulye; wonderful with plain rice by the side.

Serve hot with plain rice by the side. You can cook this stew ahead of time, even a day in advance. It freezes very well too. Traditionally; some locals also like to have a quarter of sliced raw onion by the side. A few pickles – tursu, as we say in Turkish- as well as Cacik dip –of yoghurt, cucumbers and dried mint– complements this bean stew well.

Cacik dip of plain yoghurt, cucumbers and dried mint complements the bean stew well.


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

Dried pulses like chickpeas, beans and lentils are a big part of Turkish cuisine and we eat these staples almost daily; they are delicious, nutritious and easy to prepare. Beans, which were established in the early history of Anatolia, are wholesome and nutritious. They are a great source of source of protein, vitamin B1 and dietary fiber. I love beans and included many beans based salads, dips and mains at my Turkish cookery book, Ozlem’s Turkish Table, Recipes from My Homeland, signed copies available to order at this link.

Have you ever tried Esnaf Lokantasi – open buffet style traditional Turkish restaurants – in Turkey? What is your favorite slowly cooked “fast food” there? If you haven’t tried this yet, I hope you have a go; healthy, nutritious and so delicious treats will be waiting for you – and please enjoy the sites along the journey 🙂

Kiz Kulesi, Maiden Tower, Istanbul. Try traveling by ferries – vapur – in Istanbul to enjoy wonderful sites like this.

Afiyet Olsun,


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Pastry triangles with leeks, onions & cheese – and more delicious brunch ideas

Fresh and dried fruits are amongst the breakfast spread in Turkey

Life evolves around food in Turkey, and it all starts with breakfast. Our traditional breakfast includes fresh and dried fruit, wonderful olives, feta and cheddar cheese, eggs done in different ways, pastries and many more. We also like to have sliced tomatoes, cucumbers, as well as dried fruits and nuts with yoghurt and honey. In rural parts of Anatolia, this hearty lentil soup may well be the main event for breakfast. Although now, with the modern pace of life we mostly turn to cereal boxes during the weekdays, it is at the weekends that we indulge ourselves to a delicious brunch, Turkish style.

Olives, dried fruit, nuts, grains and honey are also a part of Turkish brunch

My sister and family have been visiting us during the Easter break, and we enjoyed one of these delicious brunch moments. Here is the part of the brunch spread we had and I wanted to share. This delicious pastry with leeks, onions and cheese (you can omit cheese if preferred) is very easy to make and the sweetness of onions and leeks really work well with a touch of heat from the red pepper flakes. I like to add some grated mozzarella cheese to the mixture; for a stronger flavor you may enjoy adding strong cheddar cheese or some grated parmesan. I used ready rolled short crust pastry; you may also use ready puff pastry.

Pastry triangles with leeks, onions and cheese

There are more ideas in this post for a delicious brunch or lunch. They all tempt us at home to gather around the table, slow down and enjoy a delicious bite together – I very much hope you enjoy yours too.

Serves 6 – 8

Preparation time: 20 minutes               Cooking time: 20-25 minutes

1 large or 2 medium leeks, finely sliced

1 medium onion, finely chopped

400gr/14oz short crust pastry *, ready rolled

125gr/4oz grated mozzarella (or a cheese of your choice)

5ml/1tsp red pepper flakes (or more if you like!)

10ml/1tbsp olive oil

1 egg, beaten

10ml/1tbsp nigella seeds

* Thawing the pastry: If the ready pastry is frozen, take it out 2 hours before using to bring it to the room temperature. If the pastry is in the fridge, it needs to stay at the room temperature for 60 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F


Sauted onions and leeks with red pepper flakes

Heat the olive oil in a heavy pan and sauté leeks and onions for about 8 minutes, until they soften. Season with salt and pepper, sprinkle the red pepper flakes. Mix well and set aside to cool.

Once cool, add the grated cheese to the mixture and combine well.

Place a spoonful of the mixture in the middle of the pastry squares

Fold over the pastry to form triangles and press the edges firmly to seal.

Place the triangle pastries in the greased baking tray. Brush the pastries with the egg mixture and sprinkle the nigella seeds over them. Bake in the oven for about 20-25 minutes, until they turn golden brown.

Baked leek, cheese and onion pastry triangles

This pastry is delicious as a hot snack and goes down very well with this refreshing crumbled feta cheese with tomatoes, cucumbers and spring onion salad.

Crumbled feta cheese, tomatoes, cucumbers and spring onion salad with olive oil dressing

No Turkish brunch is complete without eggs, and how would you like yours? Here is the ever popular fried eggs with Turkish spicy sausages, sucuk (made of dried cured beef with garlic, cumin and red pepper flakes).

Ultimate Turkish breakfast; eggs with spicy Turkish sausages, sliced tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, sesame coated pastry rings, simit and Turkish tea - cay

If you rather prefer a vegetarian version, here is the Turkish style delicious and healthy eggs with spinach and onion.

I hope all these inspire you to knock up something delicious for brunch next time.

Afiyet Olsun,


MarkeTurk; Online Turkish Supermarket

 I have just come across another wonderful source to get Turkish ingredients in the UK. MarkeTurk, the online Turkish Supermarket, is an excellent source to get extensive Turkish ingredients including spices, legumes, red pepper paste, dairy products, pastries, fruit and vegetable and many more.

They offer a quality and reliable service; if you place your order before 4pm you get your shopping delivered to your door step the same day at the time slot you choose.

If ordering from the US, the Turkish online store offers a great variety of  Turkish ingredients and food items.


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