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Lamb Kebabs with Pistachios on Flat Bread, served with Roasted Peppers, Onions and Tomatoes – Create Delicious Kebabs in Your Home!

Image from Ozlem’s Turkish Table cookery book, by Sian Irvine Food Photography

Have you had a chance to try the Kebab Houses – Kebapci – in Turkey? They appear in every corner and the smells, never ending array of mezzes and kebabs coming along are a feast to all senses, a must experience. Here are a few photos from the kebab scene at home, in Turkey, to help set the mood:

An Ocakbasi kebab house in Istanbul, where the ustas, masters prepare succulent kebabs in front of you.

Usta, master of kebab makers, work around the Ocakbasi – an open fire grill – and prepare the melt-in-the mouth kebabs and grilled vegetables in front of you – so tempting!

Piyaz salad of onions, tomatoes with sumac, hummus with pastrami are amongst the delicious mezzes await you at the kebab houses.

As soon as you arrive to the Kebab Houses in Turkey, you are greeted with array of mezzes; Warm hummus with Turkish dried beef sausages or pastrami (dried cured beef) on top,  Piyaz salad of onions, tomatoes, parsley with a sumac dressing , Gavurdagi Salata of tomatoes, onions and walnuts with pomegranate dressing and many more. They are delicious and you need to pace yourself, otherwise you will be full before the main event of kebabs arrives!

Lahmacun ustas at work; wonderful to watch, delicious to eat the end result.

And here is the lahmacun ustas, masters at work; shaping their own dough and topping with ground lamb, onion, tomatoes and herbs. With a squeeze of lemon over the top, this is the ultimate lunch or a gorgeous starter for me. You can make your own lahmacun, Turkish thin pizza with ground lamb, tomatoes and onion topping at home; always a favorite with children and guests.

Scrumptious Iskender Kebab – who can resist?

Iskender Kebab is another specialty offered at the Kebab Houses in Turkey; at the bottom is the freshly baked flat bread, topped with a spread of tomato sauce. Then comes the slices of doner kebab, topped with the melted butter sauce, with plain yoghurt by the side. This kebab is a feast, and one of the most popular in Turkey – who can resist?

Vakkas usta cutting the meat fresh with Zirh knife for the kebabs; photo credit

 In Gaziantep, minced (ground meat) is prepared by chopping it into the size of wheat grains with a special curved bladed knife called Zirh. Hand chopped meat has a lot more flavor than machine minced (ground) meat, because the meat does not lose its texture. Check out how Vakkas Usta cuts the meat fresh for each kebab depending on the customers preferences, at IstanbulEats.

Lamb kebabs with pistachios; easy to recreate in your home, delicious and impressive.

Having pistachio nuts in kebabs is a Southern Turkish specialty; I love the rich nutty flavor the pistachios add to the kebabs. The kebabs are wonderful when chargrilled in the barbecue  in summer time, but equally delicious grilled in the oven. With flat breads as the base and roasted vegetables by the side, this succulent kebab is a real crowd pleaser, and can make any day special. The refreshing Yoghurt and cucumber dip, Cacik, complements the kebab very well.

I am passionate about healthy, delicious Turkish cuisine; this recipe and over 90 healthy, authentic Turkish recipes are included at my cookery book, Ozlem’s Turkish Table, Recipes from My Homeland. Signed copies are now 30 % off and delivered worldwide including USA, if you like to get a signed copy.

Afiyet Olsun,


 Serves 4

Preparation time: 35 minutes                           Cooking time: 50 minutes

For the kebabs:

500 gr/1 ¼ lb/ 2 ¼ cups ground lamb (or a ground meat of your choice, or a mixture)

1 medium onion, finely chopped

4 garlic cloves, crushed and finely chopped

60ml/4 tbsp pistachios, shelled

1 bunch of flat leaf parsley, finely chopped

5ml/1 tsp red pepper or paprika flakes; kirmizi biber

5ml/ 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Salt to taste

A bowl of water with a drizzle of olive oil to help shape the kebabs

For the roasted vegetables:

3 colorful bell peppers, deseeded and cut in thick slices lengthways and a few chilli peppers deseeded, OR 10-12 sweet and chilli small, colorful peppers, cut in half lengthways and deseeded

4 medium tomatoes, halved and cut in chunky slices

1 medium onion, halved and cut in chunky slices

45ml/ 3 tbsp olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 large flat bread; pide, or 4 pitta bread, sliced lengthways

Yoghurt and cucumber dip with dried mint, Cacik (give link) to serve

Preheat the oven to 200 C/ 400 F

Peppers, onions and tomatoes, ready to go in the oven.

 First roast your vegetables. Place the onion, peppers and tomatoes in a baking tray. Drizzle the olive oil over, season with salt and pepper. Give them all a good mix to make sure all the vegetables are coated with olive oil and the seasoning. Bake in the oven for 35 – 40 minutes, giving them a mix half way. I like to roast the vegetables rather than grilling, to save and enjoy all the wonderful juices of them over the flat bread.

Pistachios add a rich, nutty taste to the lamb kebabs.

While the vegetables are roasting, prepare the kebabs. First have a bowl of water, drizzled with olive oil ready aside, to knead and help shape the kebabs into the skewers. Pulse the shelled pistachios in a food processor a few times, until it is grainy. Place the ground lamb in a bowl, stir in the pistachios, chopped onions, garlic and parsley. Season with salt and ground pepper, add the red pepper / paprika flakes. Wet your hands in the water & olive oil mixture and knead well to a smooth paste. Cover and rest for about 10-15 minutes or until the vegetables are roasted in the oven.

Roasted vegetables ready to complement the kebabs – make sure to save the juices to drizzle over the flat bread.

Once the vegetables chargrilled, take the tray out of the oven, cover  and set aside (you may need to warm the vegetables before serving).

Put the grill into its highest setting and start shaping the kebabs. With the bowl of water & olive oil mixture by your side, take a handful of the meat mixture, and press it around grilling skewer into a shape of a flat sausage. Wet your hands with the water & olive oil mixture; this will help shaping the meat into the skewers, keep the meat moist and intact.

Place the sliced flat bread on a tray under the kebabs, when they are half way cooked.

As soon as the kebabs are shaped, cook them under the grill/broiler for about 4 minutes or until they are golden and cooked through that side. Then place the sliced flat bread or pitta bread on a tray and put the tray under the grill, at the bottom of the kebabs. Turn the kebabs and cook for a further 3-4 minutes or until they are golden on the other side too. In the meantime, the flat breads will capture all the wonderful juices of the kebab.

Also at this stage place the roasted vegetables back to the oven to keep warm.

Lamb kebabs with pistachios and roasted vegetables, ready to enjoy.

Once the kebabs are cooked, prepare your serving tray. Put the grilled, warm flat bread slices side by side on the tray. Place the kebab skewers in the middle and the roasted vegetables at each side, making sure their wonderful juice also make it to the tray. Serve this delicious kebab with the Yoghurt and cucumber dip, Cacik, by the side.

 Afiyet Olsun,



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Milk Pudding with Mastic Gum; Damla sakizli muhallebi

Milk pudding with mastic gum; the rhubarb compote goes really well with it.

End of Ramadan is always celebrated with wonderful sweet treats at home.  My dear cousin, Nihal, made us this delicious milk pudding with mastic gum, as part of these festivities in Istanbul back in August. Delicious, light and fragrant, this milk pudding has been a favorite treat for us  all.

Chewy, fragrant mastic gum adds a wonderful flavor to the puddings.

In Turkey mastic gum is used in milky desserts, ice cream (a very delicious experience), and, naturally, chewing gum. Originally liquid, mastic gum is sold as hard small translucent lumps and melted in hot milk while making dessert. It can also be grounded with mortar and pestle. As it has a strong flavor, only one or two small lumps will be enough for your cooking.

Turkish ice cream with mastic gum is a delicious experience

Mastic is a resin obtained from the mastic tree. In pharmacies and Nature shops it is called “Arabic gum” and “Yemen gum”. In Greece it is known as the “tears of Chios,” being traditionally produced on that Greek island. When chewed, the resin softens and becomes a bright white and opaque gum. The flavor is bitter at first, but after chewing releases a refreshing, slightly piney or cedar flavor. It contains antioxidants, and also has antibacterial and antifungal properties, and apparently also good for your gums and teeth.  You can get mastic gum at TulumbaAmazon as well as at Middle Eastern Stores.

I got some lovely rhubarb from my veg&fruit box and made a rhubarb compost to go with the pudding. Rhubarb’s sweet and sour taste really complemented the pudding.  Any berry or plum compote would also go well with this pudding.

Have you ever used mastic gum in your cooking? I would love to hear your experience and hope you enjoy this one!


Serves 4                               Cooking time: 30 minutes

70gr /2.6oz unsalted butter

3 tbsp plain flour

3 tbsp sugar – you can add a little more if you like it sweeter-

700ml/1 ½ pints whole milk – you can use semi skimmed if you like, though it works best with whole milk-

2 small pieces of mastic gum

1 tbsp finely crushed pistachios to decorate


Stir well so that the mastic gum dissolves in hot milk.

Bring the milk to the boil in a heavy pan.  Reduce the heat, stir in the sugar and the mastic gum. Stir constantly until the mastic gum dissolves. Take it off the heat.

Stir the mixture constantly, always in the same direction, to avoid lumps forming.

Melt the butter in a heavy pan and stir in the flour, combine well.  Add a cup of hot milk mixture to the flour and stir constantly,  always in the same direction, to avoid lumps forming . When the mixture thickens add another cup of the hot milk mixture, stir until it thickens. Repeat this process until the hot milk is finished and the mixture thickened.

Pour the pudding into individual bowls and leave to cool. Once cool, place the bowls in the fridge to be chilled.

Rhubarb Compote

This is a very easy and versatile rhubarb compote. It is wonderful served with the milk pudding, ice cream or yoghurt. I must say, I even love eating the compote just alone too!

Trim and cut the rhubarbs into 2-3 cm chunks and mix with the sugar and water.

Simply mix your  rhubarb (6 sticks would serve generously for 4-6 people), trimmed and cut into 2-3cm chunks, with 1/2 cup of sugar and ¾ cup water in a heavy pan. Cook them over a medium heat for about 10-15 minutes, until they are soft. Leave a side to cool.

You can layer the rhubarb compote over the chilled milk pudding bowls. Sprinkle the crushed pistachio nuts over them, they are ready for your enjoyment.


Afiyet Olsun!




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Pistachio Cake with Lemon Glaze – Fistikli, limonlu kek

Pistachio & almond cake with a lemon glaze

Pistachio & almond cake with a lemon glaze

This delicious cake is originally from the River Cafe cookbook, and the authors run the wonderful Italian restaurant, River Cafe in London. The cake combines my favorite ingredients; pistachio, lemon, vanilla bean and almonds, which are commonly used in Turkish cooking too. It is a wonderfully rich cake, a real treat with tea or coffee. 

prep time: 25 minutes bake time: 50 minutes

100 gr/2 sticks unsalted butter, plus additional for greasing pan, at room temperature
1 lemon, preferably Meyer lemon
1 vanilla bean
6 1/2oz/1 cup sugar
60gr/2oz slivered almonds
90gr/3oz shelled unsalted pistachios
4 large eggs, at room temperature
60gr/2oz all-purpose flour
50gr/1 3/4oz shelled unsalted pistachios
45gr/1 1/2oz sugar
Juice of 1 lemon

Preheat the oven to 170C/325F

Grease bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan with some butter and line bottom with a circle of parchment paper.

With a zester, grate the lemon peel (reserve lemon). With the tip of a sharp paring knife, split the vanilla bean down the center and scrape out the seeds. In a food processor, pulse the sugar with the peel and vanilla bean. Transfer to a bowl. In the same processor bowl, pulse the almonds and pistachios until finely ground, but do not let go to paste.

With an electric mixer, beat the butter and lemon-vanilla sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides the bowl between each addition. Beat in the lemon-vanilla sugar, then with a spatula fold in the flour and the nuts. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and shake to even it, but do not worry about smoothing the top. Bake until a skewer comes out clean, about 50 minutes. Set on a rack to cool for 10 minutes, then loosen edges of cake with a kitchen knife and remove sides of pan. Invert cake and remove bottom of pan and peel off parchment paper, then invert right side up on a serving plate.

For glaze, squeeze juice from reserved lemon. Roughly chop pistachios by hand. In a very small pot, bring the lemon juice to a boil with the sugar and cook until syrupy. Stir in the pistachios and pour over the cake. Cut into wedges to serve.

Afiyet Olsun,


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