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Olive Salad with Pomegranate Molasses and Za-atar; Zeytin Ufeleme

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Here are some wonderful photos of a typical Turkish fruit and vegetable market, Pazar. Getting the fresh veg and fruit from the markets are a big part of Turkish cooking and this is our local market walking distance to my parents’ home in Istanbul. The abundance of different types of fruit and vegetables, wonderful displays of fruits, nuts, olives, cheese and spices are simply mesmerising, and the vegetables available at that time would dictate the meals of the day. Wonderful to watch the market and wonderful to pick your fruit and veg; I can spend a whole day there!

Zeytin Ufeleme – Olive Salad with vegetables, pomegranate molasses and zahtar (za’atar)

Zeytin Ufeleme – Olive Salad with vegetables, pomegranate molasses and zahtar (za’atar)

Zeytin Ufeleme – Olive Salad with vegetables, pomegranate molasses and zahtar (za’atar)

We Turks eat olives throughout the day; the Turkish breakfast starts with olive, cheese, sliced tomato and cucumber accompanied with bread. We also enjoy olives as a meze for lunch or in the evening. Olive trees are grown all across the Aegean and Mediterranean coast of Turkey, in colorful shades of black, green, brown and black; they are absolutely to die for!

This very simple yet delicious meze features my home town Antakya’s pomegranate molasses as a dressing. We would enjoy it as part of our Turkish brunch at the weekends or in the evening as a meze. To make a fruit molasses, the juice is extracted from the fruit before it is boiled and reduced to create a dark, fruity syrup. It is rich, tangy and full of flavor. Most middle eastern and specialty shops carry pomegranate molasses; here’s my home made pomegranate molasses recipe, if you’d like to make at home. If you can’t find it, you can substitute with a sharp balsamic vinegar or lemon juice.  The fresh herb zahter or za’atar, zahtar, is also commonly added to this salad in Antakya region. Fresh Zahtar looks more like summer savory, or a crossing of marjoram, oregano and thyme, and adds a wonderful, pungent flavor to the salads.

I am passionate about healthy, delicious Turkish cuisine; our recipes are packed with fresh produce, beautifully flavoured with olive oil and natural condiments, as in this lovely salad. My cookery book Ozlem’s Turkish Table, Recipes from My Homeland, showcases over 90 authentic Turkish recipes like this salad, signed copies are available to order at this link, if you’d like.

Serves 4     Preparation time: 15 minutes

1/5 of an onion or 1 green (spring) onion, finely chopped
A handful of flat leaf parsley, finely chopped

2 tbsp chopped fresh zahtar (za’atar), if available or 1 tbsp. dried za’atar
90 ml/ 6 tablespoon green and black olives, pitted
2 medium tomatoes, finely diced
45 ml/ 3 tablespoons olive oil
15 ml/1tablespoons pomegranate molasses (or balsamic vinegar)
Salt and ground black pepper

Pita bread serve

Place the diced onions in a bowl and sprinkle with a little salt. Work the salt in onions with your hands – this will soften the onions and make it more palatable. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Add salt and pepper to taste and toss thoroughly.

Serve with slices of pita bread by the side.

Afiyet Olsun,

Ozlem

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Bulgur and Lentil Patties – Mercimekli Bulgurlu Kofte

This is a delicious and healthy vegan recipe that you can serve as an appetizer; it would be a great party dish to accompany roasted vegetables and meat too. You can serve it wrapped in lettuce leaves, and it is delicious with a squeeze of lemon juice over. Turkish hot pepper paste, biber salcasi, adds a wonderful depth of flavour – you can make your own if you like, here is my Turkish hot pepper paste, biber salcasi recipe. Fine bulgur works best in this recipe – if you can only get coarse bulgur, you can pulse it a few times in food processor to make it fine – These patties would keep well in the fridge, covered, for 2-3 days.

Potato and bulgur patties with pomegranate molasses, from my cookery book, Ozlem’s Turkish Table – image credit: Sian Irvine Food Photography

We love patties with bulgur; another version this is Potato and bulgur patties, Patatesli, bulgurlu kofte. Another delicious, moist vegan patties, at my cookery book, Ozlem’s Turkish Table. Signed copies of my cookery book is available at this link and delivered worldwide, including the US.

We lived in the southeast part of Turkey, in a town called Elazig for 8 years during my childhood. It is an amazing part of the world, next door to the fascinating Mount Ararat (the highest mountain in Turkey, where Noah’s Ark is believed to have landed and a cradle of early civilization dating back to the early bronze age. I remember the locals being very warm and friendly; happy to share their food and open their doors to new comers. This recipe is from Southeast part of Turkey (and there are many regional variations), one of the local specialties Mum learned from the locals and passed to us. I hope you enjoy it and make it there one day.

Serves 4-6

200g/7oz red lentils, rinsed
115g/4oz fine bulgur
1 medium onion, finely chopped
15ml /1 tablespoon red pepper paste or chili paste

15ml/1 tablespoon double concentrated tomato paste

375ml/13fl oz hot water (for the red lentils)
195ml/7fl oz hot water (for fine bulgur)

4 spring onions, finely chopped

Small bunch of flat leaf parsley, finely chopped

30ml/2 tablespoons olive oil
15 ml / 1 tablespoon ground cumin

5ml/ 1 teaspoon pul biber or red pepper flakes (optional)
1 1/2 teaspoon salt (use less if you wish) and ground black pepper to taste

Small bowl of cold water with a drizzle of olive oil  to shape the patties

Small lettuce leaves to serve

Wedges of lemon to serve

Place the rinsed red lentils in a saucepan and add the hot water. Bring it to boil, half covered. Then lower the heat and let the lentils simmer for about 15 minutes. Stir occasionally so that the lentils won’t stick to the bottom of the pan. Cook until all the moisture is absorbed, then turn the heat off.

Transfer the cooked lentils on a large mixing bowl. Stir in the fine bulgur, its hot water, combine well with a spoon. Cover and let the mixture sit and absorb the water for about 15 minutes until all the moisture is absorbed and the mixture is of dry consistency. Mix well occasionally to blend the flavors.

Sauté the onions in olive oil over medium heat for about 10 minutes, until they turn to a golden color. Stir in the tomato paste and red pepper paste, combine well. Turn the heat off and let it cool for a couple of minutes.

Combine the sautéed onions with the lentil and bulgur mixture in a large bowl. Stir in the ground cumin, pul biber (or red pepper flakes, if using), salt and ground black pepper (the mixture needs a good seasoning, so I suggest 1 – 1 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt flakes here). Knead the mixture well with your hands.

Then stir in the chopped spring onions and parsley. Wet your hands over the cold water with drizzle of olive oil and knead the mixture for another couple of minutes with your hands, until all combined well.

Take about a walnut size of the mixture into your hands and with wet hands, shape it as finger patties. Place them on a wide serving plate, over lettuce leaves.

Serve the Lentil and bulgur patties, Mercimekli bulgurlu kofte, with wedges of lemon by the side.

Afiyet Olsun,

Ozlem

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