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


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,


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Bulgur and Lentil Patties – Mercimekli Bulgur Kofte

Bulgur and lentil patties, mercimekli, bulgurlu kofte; wholesome - try next to pomegranate molasses & olive oil dipping sauce, delicious.

Bulgur and lentil patties, mercimekli, bulgurlu kofte; wholesome – try next to pomegranate molasses & olive oil dipping sauce, delicious.

This is a delicious and healthy vegetarian 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 when dipped in a mixture of extra virgin olive oil & pomegranate molasses (sharp balsamic vinegar would be a good replacement if you cannot find pomegranate molasses). Middle Eastern and most specialty food stores carry pomegranate molasses and the online Turkish stores Tulumba and Best Turkish Food carries a wide range of Turkish ingredients.  For the Turkish hot pepper paste, biber salcasi, you can make your own if you like, here is my Turkish hot pepper paste recipe.

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!

You can also add a few finely chopped green onions (spring onions) and a handful of chopped parsley to the bulgur & lentil patties mixture before shaping into balls, they go well together.

Serves 4-6

Preparation time: 20 minutes Cooking time: 35 – 40 minutes

175 gr/6 oz/ 3/4 cup red lentils
225 gr/8 oz/ generous 1 cup coarse bulgur wheat
1 medium onion, finely chopped
15 ml / 1 tablespoon red pepper paste or chili paste (if not available, replace with 10 ml / 2 teaspoon tomato paste and 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes)

15ml/1 tablespoon olive oil
10 ml / 2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
30 ml / 2 tablespoon olive oil
240 ml / 8 fl oz/ 1 cup hot water (for lentils)
120 ml / 4 fl oz / 1/2 cup hot water (for bulgur)

Small bowl of water to shape the balls

For the dipping sauce:
120 ml / 4 fl oz / 1/2 cup pomegranate molasses
30 ml / 2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Small lettuce leaves to serve

Place the 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 10 minutes. Turn the heat off. Add the bulgur, its hot water, red pepper paste, olive oil, salt and cumin, mix well. 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 (when turning the heat off, the bulgur will become softer though retaining its “al dente”,  texture with a bite). Mix well occasionally to blend the flavors.

Sauté the onions in olive oil and cook on a medium heat for about 10 minutes, until they turn a golden color. 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. Take about a walnut size of the mixture into your hands and with wet hands, shape it as patties. Place them on a wide serving tray with lettuce leaves by the side to wrap.

For the dipping sauce; mix the pomegranate molasses and the extra virgin olive oil, place in a small dipping bowl.

Serve the bulgur and lentil patties with the lettuce leaves and the dipping sauce by the side.

Afiyet Olsun,


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