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Tag Archives | Hospitality

Sautéed Carrots in Garlic Yoghurt Sarimsakli, Havuclu Yogurt

Sauteed carrots in olive oil with garlic yoghurt; a delicious, healthy mezze as a dip or by the side of grilled vegetables and meat.

Yoghurt has a special place in Turkish cuisine; some of the finest yoghurt in the world is made in Turkey and is included in some way at most family meal times such as in soups like in Yayla Corbasi, mezzes, marinations for the meat and more. Praised for its health-giving qualities, yoghurt is rich in calcium, phosphorus and B vitamins and has earned a reputation as one of the most valuable health foods. I love Pinar’s Strained Yoghurt, Suzme Yoghurt, which works very well in this recipe. The mild & sweet sautéed carrots go really well with the garlicky yoghurt and make a wonderful dip or a delicious accompaniment to grilled meat and vegetables. You can prepare this mezze ahead of time and keep the left overs in the fridge for the next day.

Serves 4                                   Preparation time: 15 – 20 minutes

3-4 medium carrots, grated

2-3 cloves of garlic, crushed in sea salt

450gr/16 oz. / 2 cups natural plain yoghurt – whole milk yoghurt recommended-

30ml/2 tbsp. olive oil

Handful of flat leaf parsley, finely chopped

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to serve


Sauteeing carrots in olive oil soften them and bring out their natural sweetness.

Heat the olive oil in a wide heavy pan and sauté the grated carrots for 3 -4 minutes, until they are about to soften up, but still a little crunchy. Turn the heat off and leave them to cool aside.

Combine the sautéed carrots into the garlicy yoghurt bowl.

In the meantime, crush the garlic clove in sea salt and stir them into the bowl of yoghurt. When cooled, combine the sautéed carrots into the yoghurt bowl and give a good mix. Stir in the chopped parsley and mix well.

Sauteed carrots in garlic yoghurt; healthy and so delicious as a dip or as an accompaniment to main courses.

My cookery book, Ozlem’s Turkish Table, Recipes from My Homeland is packed with these wholesome, delicious recipes; Signed copies NOW 30 % OFF at this link, with prompt (worldwide) delivery, including the US – I am told it makes a beautiful gift too.

Turkish Cookery Book

You can serve this wonderful mezze with slices of flat bread, pitta bread or crackers, or with sliced vegetables like celery, broccoli, cawliflower to dip in. It also complements grilled meat and vegetables beautifully.

Afiyet Olsun,


Ready to be back home; Istanbul Here We Come ! : )

Mevlubi; upside down rice with sauteed eggplants, potato and meat; a very special dish from Antakya.

“Ozlem’cigim, Mevlubi’yi hazirlamaya basladim, size dort gozle bekliyoruz” in English, “My dear Ozlem, I am getting the Mevlubi ready, so look forward to seeing you all” says my dear mother warmly over the phone. Mevlubi is a special Antakya style dish, consisting of delicious layers of sautéed aubergine (eggplant), potato, onions, meat and rice, all cooked together, then turned upside down. It looks like one very impressive savory cake, and once it is on the table, you know it is a special occasion and you are there for a treat. Food has always been the focal point in Turkish culture; and cooking for family and friends have been our way of telling them that they are special, that we care for them.

My dear parents, my source of inspiration

What makes a place special for you? In these days, I am full of excitement of going back home, and reflecting on the reasons why my home land, Turkey, is so special for me. Sure, there are the family and friends, that you long to see and they look forward to seeing you. Now that I have my own small children, I cherish every opportunity to go back home, get them know their roots and reconnect, so very special.

The Dolmabahce Palace with its impressive garden is another wonderful site to see in Istanbul.

 Then there are all the amazing sites like the Topkapi Palace, Hagia Sophia and more await you; they were there centuries ago, still intact and take your breath away, enrich your soul.

Children of Antakya; sweet, shy, curious but above all very eager to help.

But then there is the spontaneous, unconditional kindness, generosity from the heart that welcomes you at home. Like, while we were in Antakya,  these local children, a little shy, but also curious,  eagerly wanting to show us around and tell the story of the St Peter’s Church.

Hospitality is a big part of Turkish Culture; complimentary food and drink is offered to you all around Turkey.

 Or this vendor selling pine nuts and regional honey in Pergamom, offering us to sample the pine nuts– along with the complimentary cay, Turkish tea!-. Or the abundance of cay offering, as a sign of hospitality, wherever you are; in banks, visiting homes, shops, everywhere!: )

A friendly smile welcomes you in cafes and restaurants, like at the wonderful cafe of Istanbul Culinary Institute.

It is this generosity from the heart, hospitality that really makes home special for me. Don’t get me wrong; there are plenty of things I greatly wish that would  improve at home – starting from the traffic!- but when I look back, it is this happy memories, time well spent with family and friends, the kindness of people stays with me. That’s all I remember.

Overlooking to the Topkapi Palace from the Sea of Marmara, what a magnificent view.

I hope you keep on making happy memories wherever your destination is and I look forward to be in touch from Istanbul soon!

Happy Travels, Iyi Yolculuklar,



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Glorious South Coast of Turkey – Kalkan, Fethiye, Oludeniz and more- & Its Wonderful People

Turquoise Med amongst olive trees; ever so inviting.

Have you ever been to the south coast of Turkey? Being a native of Turkey, I have spent many happy childhood holidays at the west and south coast of  Turkey – beautiful turquoise sea, sun kissed sandy beaches, watermelon (favorite childhood fruit!) and delicious food to indulge; always looked forward to the holidays.

Lovely view and local plants from our friendly hotel, Ekinhan, Kalkan.

During the last 15 years or so, we have been a regular to the south coast of Turkey; Fethiye, Oludeniz, Kalkan, Marmaris and many more wonderful locations. The ever so inviting Mediterranean, olive trees, wonderful food and its people never disappointed us; always energizing, always inspiring and relaxing. Please check out the wonderful blog on Fethiye and surroundings, Turkey’s For Life ; I am sure you will be inspired by these amazing locations.

Fisherman and boats getting ready for the daily catch in Kalkan

We have been going back to Kalkan during the last 8 years, on and off. Apart from its quaint village and wonderful bays, it is the local, friendly people drawn us to this wonderful part of the world.

The quaint village of Kalkan, getting ready for the day

Wonderful pottery, locally made in Kalkan and Fethiye region.

Kalkan also have a vibrant, inspiring art scene; wonderful art galleries, artisan local pottery shops all so worth stopping by. I loved reading Turkish Travel Blog’s Kalkan – Inspiration on my solo holiday– do please check out her post on the art scene and inspirations Kalkan provided to many.

How about its people? I think wherever you go, it is the people, the locals you come across that make the difference. We have been lucky enough to meet and make friends with wonderful locals at the region – and always so nice to find them again there next time we visit!

Take our friend Coskun. He is a native of Kalkan, born and bred, has been in tourism industry for years already. He studies Tourism at University in Antalya, has worked in many different resorts so far. But it is in Kalkan he feels he is happier and belongs to. Always so friendly, can’t do enough for you kind of person, always with a smile – we do hope to see him next time we are there:)!

How about dear Buket? Another lovely local from Fethiye, with a big heart and smile.  Buket is not only a wonderful complementary therapist  but a very talented painter – another tribute to the art scene of the region-  Her optimism, zest for life is infectious.

One of Buket's lovely paintings, what a wonderful sunflower, isn't it?

And we do love the food in the region; surrounded by the wonderful olive trees, you are spoilt with the delicious olive oil, freshest fruit and vegetables. Here are a few samples of what we enjoyed;

Greek salad with a twist; using Turkish white cheese and olive oil this time.


Turkish flat bread with cheese and tomato; our regular lunch in Kalkan, so delicious.

The pide is baked freshly there in front of you with various toppings, so delicious and you can easily recreate at your home.  Here is my version of this delicious flat bread with cheese and tomato and various toppings, do hope you can have a go sometime.

My version of flatbreads with cheese&tomato, cheese&spinach and ground meat fillings

I wanted this post a little heartfelt tribute to the wonderful south coast of Turkey that has always called us back and filled us with inspirations and happiness. I truly hope you can make it there sometime – if so, please have a dive in to the turquoise Mediterranean for me too: )

Happy travels to you all!


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Let’s Explore My Homeland; Fascinating Istanbul and Breathtaking Land of Turkey

It’s that time of the year, and we have holidays, travels, exploring the exotic and perhaps the unknown in our mind and hearts. I have the travel bug in me again, as I will be departing for Istanbul in August. But before that, I wanted to share an exciting itinerary with you; our 2013 Fascinating Istanbul and Grand Turkey Tour Brochure, from March 29th to April 8th 2013.

Grand entrance of the Dolmabahce Palace, Istanbul

I was born and bred in Turkey, lived and travelled in my homeland extensively over 30 years. No doubt, I love my homeland, and it is a joy to share all the treasures of Turkey through my blog. While I was teaching Turkish Cooking Classes at Central Market Cooking School in Austin, Texas, folks coming to my classes expressed an interest to see Turkey from a local’s perspective. Now, thanks to them (especially to dear Pam Wood, for the initiation) once a year, I team up with Four Seasons Tours, organize and host a culinary and cultural tour to Turkey.

We are having a hands-on experience on carpet making at Nakkas Rugs

So, what do we do in our tours? My foremost aim with the tour is to show my homeland, through a local’s perspective; the places we Turks go for a delicious bite to eat; the markets we shop for the best spices, baklavas; the sites and many more. With our highly knowledgeable guide Kaan Gulcur, we visit some of the finest and most fascinating sites in Turkey. Here is a taster of what happens in our tour:

Fascinating Hagia Sophia, as seen from the grounds of the Blue Mosque


The fascinating entrance of Hagia Sophia, Istanbul

I lived in Istanbul over 15 years; it is a city where old and new exists together, it is old but not tired, ancient, yet alive. Here is the breathtaking Hagia Sophia; a pioneer of architecture and once the largest church in the world prior to the St Peter’s in Rome. I must have visited Hagia Sophia over 15 times, it still amazes me.

Entrance of Hotel Armada, with their vintage car in front

I have been staying at the Armada Hotel at the heart of Old Istanbul over 15 years. The location is superb and their hospitality and Turkish breakfast overlooking the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia is unforgettable.

The very inviting Turkish Breakfast at the Armada Hotel

Istanbul is a big city with a population of over 12 million, and the Bosporus strait divides the city into two parts. One of the best ways to appreciate both the old and the new parts of Istanbul is to take a boat cruise, like we do at the tour. Try to take a small size boat, where you zig zag at the both sides of the Bosphorus to see the Yalis (wooden, residential summer houses for the Sultan and high official’s at the Ottoman Empire), Palaces, or just simply to witness how the day goes by at the side streets. Local ferries, Vapur, might also be a good and cheap way to explore Istanbul in both sides.

Traditional ferries, Vapur, provide an affordable way to cruise along the Bosphorus, and you can get to see a part of locals’ daily rutine

How can we not visit the Spice Market when in Istanbul?  Spices are an important part of Turkish cuisine, that’s the way we add flavor to our dishes. So a visit to the Spice Market is a must to stock up wonderful spices, Turkish tea, Turkish Delight, nuts and many more. I could spend hours at my favorite spice shop, Malatya Pazari at the Spice Market.

Entrance to the ancient Spice Market, Misir Carsisi

Spices, nuts, dried fruit, tea, Turkish Delight galore at Malatya Pazari, Spice Market

Now comes the Grand Bazaar; renown as the world’s oldest shopping mall, it is so worth seeing for its architecture, colorful shops selling a huge variety from gold to leather, to china and many more. I would be careful to shop there for big items like rugs, as you will most likely to get tourist prices there. But the atmosphere is magical and well worth it.

Ancient Grand Bazaar is well worth a visit even for its magnificent architecture

Baklava is a delicacy that is perfected at the Ottoman Palace kitchens and Gulluoglu Baklava is one of the best places to sample the real thing. We also like to take demo baklava classes there and witness how this delicious treat is made; it is one of the highlights of the tour!

We are having a go at making the delicious baklava wth Gulluoglu experts

Why not have a go and make baklava at home? It is easy to make baklava with fillo pastry sheets at your home, and you can adjust the syrup to your liking. Here is my recipe, you will be amazed with the results.

My home made baklava with walnuts; so easy to make at home, so delicious

Turks are a very hospitable nation and they regard the visitors as “God’s guest” and their door is open to them. Wherever you go , you will be offered tea, Turkish coffee, or like  in this case some pine nuts and local honey by this local village man near Pergamum.

Friendly local nearby Pergamum, offered us his pine nuts and local honey

You will be offered Turkish tea or Turkish coffee wherever you go in Turkey

At the Aegean, a visit Ephesus, provincial capital of Asia Minor for the Roman Empire and one of the seven churches of the Revelations is always a highlight. As one of the best preserved Roman cities, its monumental theater was where St. Paul preached to the Ephesians. Ephesus also boasts one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Temple of Artemis, and the resting place of St. John the Evangelist is in the Church of St. John.

Ephesus and the library, breathtaking site, still intact

Entrance of the Virgin Mary’s House, Ephesus

While we are at the Aegean, we take a hands-on Aegean style Turkish cooking class, where we knock up wonderful casseroles, mousakka,  gozleme  (Anatolian flat breads with various fillings), and delicious salads dressed with the local olive oil. This experience stay with us a long time, and it is always lovely to hear participants making all these wonderful dishes they learned to their family and friends back at home.

Local ladies showing us how to make Gozleme, cheese and vegetables filled traditional pastries

Hatice Hanim and I making the Mousakka, Aegean style


Enjoying the delicious spread we made at the end of our class

Kusadasi is a wonderful port we stay while at the Aegean. Dining out overlooking the turquoise Mediterranean is a real treat.

Gorgeous colors of Kusadasi

View from Kismet Hotel overlooking Kusadasi Bay, so inviting

On the way back to Istanbul, drive towards the Dardanelles to see the battlefields of Gallipoli, view Mount Ida,  the site of the beauty pageant that led to the Trojan War.

It is always a pleasure to share the wonderful treasures of my homeland and this is a tiny little snapshot of what Turkey offers. Participation for our tour is limited to 15 people. If you would like to join us to explore the fascinating land of Turkey, do please contact me, and also view photos from my previous tours. If you can’t, I do hope this post may inspire you to visit Turkey sometime, and give some ideas.  For some additional and fantastic travel posts from Turkey, please also visit Turkish Travel Blog; Natalie’s travels, stories and photos across Turkey are simply mesmerizing.

The entrance to the Dolmabahce Palace through the Bosphorus

Have you ever travelled to Turkey? I would love to hear your experience, please share with us.

Happy Travels to All!






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