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Tag Archives | Turkish culture

Spring in Istanbul; Tulips, Spectacular Chora Museum, Glorious Turkish Food and More

Gorgeous tulips greet you everywhere in Istanbul in spring

Gorgeous tulips greet you everywhere in Istanbul in spring

Istanbul’dan Merhaba! – Greetings to you all from Istanbul! There are so many things to share from home, especially at this time of the year with a lovely balmy spring air. Here are a few snapshots from Istanbul, I hope you enjoy them.

Istanbul welcomed us with a lovely spring air and gorgeous tulips dotted all around the city; their colors are simply mesmerising.  Apparently the Municipality in Istanbul planted 2 million tulip bulbs, they are a feast to the eye.

Spring is a wonderful time to enjoy the tulips, lale, in Istanbul

Spring is a wonderful time to enjoy the tulips, lale, in Istanbul

The Ottomans had an immense fondness for the tulips; as a matter of fact, there was  the Tulip Period  when  Ottoman Empire  have begun to orient itself towards Europe and the elite, high-class society of the Ottomans enjoyed tulips in their courtyards, gardens and in various occasions. Tulips defined nobility and privilege, both in terms of goods and leisure time. Continuing this heritage, you can enjoy the many varieties of tulips in in Istanbul in spring.

Turkish tea, cay - with a smile; a very warm welcome

Turkish tea, cay – with a smile; a very warm welcome

Cay, most probably the most popular Turkish drink

Cay, most probably the most popular Turkish drink

One of the things that warmly welcomes you at home is a glass of cay – Turkish tea (you can see the influence of the Tulip era even at the shape of the Turkish traditional tea glasses) – with a warm smile from the locals, that is a wonderful welcome. I gratefully accepted Armada’s “Hosgeldiniz” cay : )

Apple tea, elma cayi - not traditinally a Turkish drink but still very pleasant

Apple tea, elma cayi – not traditinally a Turkish drink but still very pleasant

How about apple tea, elma cayi? On the contrary of belief, it It is not a traditional Turkish drink, you wouldn’t see a Turk drinking apple tea at home. It is widely offered at cafes around Sultanahmet, Old Istanbul and still a refreshing, pleasant drink – and goes down very well sitting outside in a nice spring day over looking Old Istanbul!

Shoe-shine with a view, over looking the Hagia Sophia

Shoe-shine with a view, over looking the Hagia Sophia

Have you had your shoes polished while in Turkey? It is a great, friendly experience – with a top notch service- and value for money; my husband saves his shoes to be polished at home. On this traditional stalls, experts like Mehmet here cleans and polishes your shoe up to the standards of brand new! If you are in Sultanahmet area, look out for him, as his spot offers the fascinating view of Hagia Sophia.

Sultanahmet Koftecisi is a delicious, quick stop for Turkish style meatballs and bean salad

Sultanahmet Koftecisi is a delicious, quick stop for Turkish style meatballs and bean salad

And soon we were hungry. Sultanahmet Koftecisi has been making delicious Turkish meatballs served with the bean salad with onions, lettuce, shredded carrots and pickled peppers, for over 90 years. It is a locals hub and popular with tourists too. We enjoyed this quick, delicious and healthy lunch.

Turkish meatballs, piyaz salad with beans and ayran - make a delicious lunch

Turkish meatballs, piyaz salad with beans and ayran – make a delicious lunch

Fasulye Piyazi, the bean salad with onions, tomatoes, using the canellini beans is a delicious, healthy salad that you can make in minutes. I use the pre-cooked canellini beans and add a boiled egg to it; the salad itself makes a wonderful, healthy lunch and it is a great accompaniment to grilled meatballs and any grilled meat too. Here is my recipe for the bean salad, if you would like to try.

Bean salad with onions, tomatoes, olives and boiled eggs - Fasulye piyazl

Bean salad with onions, tomatoes, olives and boiled eggs – Fasulye piyazi

If you haven’t already been to the Istanbul Archaeological Museum, I highly recommend it. Tucked away behind the Topkapi Palace, the magnificient museum is divided into three buildings; the Archaeology Museum, the Museum of Ancient Orient and the Tiled Kiosk. The museum hosts the Palace collections, formed druing the 19th century by the archaelogist Osman Hamdi.

Archaeology Museum in Istanbul is a must see

Archaeology Museum in Istanbul is a must see


Sarcophagus of Mourning Women - Mid 6th century BC
Sarcophagus of Mourning Women – Mid 6th century BC, Archaeology Museum, Istanbul
Sipping Turkish coffee and taking it all in at the Archaeology Museum, Istanbul

Sipping Turkish coffee and taking it all in at the Archaeology Museum, Istanbul

Hagia Sophia, The Church of Divine Wisdom, Istanbul

Hagia Sophia, The Church of Divine Wisdom, Istanbul

No matter now many times I may have visited the Hagia Sophia, this divine place always calls me back. Hagia Sophia, the Church of Divine Wisdom, was completed in 537, and reigned as the greatest church in Christendom until the city was conquered by Fatih Sultan Mehmet in 1453, then turned into a mosque. In 1935, Ataturk proclaimed this amazing place a museum for everyone to enjoy. Take your time and arrive early to enjoy this masterpiece.

The wonderful Iznik tiles in the Blue Mosque

The wonderful Iznik tiles in the Blue Mosque

Right accross the Hagia Sophia is another masterpiece, the Blue Mosque, built during the reign of Sultan Ahmet I; he set out to build a monument that would rival and even surpass Hagia Sophia in grandeur. The Blue Mosque is decorated with 20,000 Iznik tiles, absolutely beautiful to look at. This is a functioning mosque that welcomes visitors and offers much pleasure and peace.

Chocolate and pistachio pudding- Sutlu, fistikli puding, so delicious

Chocolate and pistachio pudding- Sutlu, fistikli puding, so delicious

Need a break? Hafiz Mustafa has been making delicious puddings, desserts like baklavas, Turkish delights since 1864.Their store in Sultanahmet has a wonderful cafe and a little library, a good place to pause and enjoy the break. We enjoyed this luscious chocolate and pistachio pudding with shredded coconut, almonds and nuts over the top – always have time for food : )

Turkish carpets are of high quality with beautiful designs

Turkish carpets are of high quality with beautiful designs

During our tour, we also had a chance to watch how the famous Turkish carpets are made. Turkish carpets are made of double knots, very durable and of high quality and all hand woven; they are a labor of love too, as especially the a silk carpet can take 4-6 months to be completed – really a work of art.

Chora (Kariye) Museum, Istanbul

Chora (Kariye) Museum, Istanbul

If you haven’t been to the Church of the Holy Saviour in Chora (“Kariye Muzesi”) in Turkish, I hope you make it there when you visit Istanbul. The church, now museum, is considered to be one of the most beautiful surviving examples of a Byzantine Church and covered with beautiful, immaculate mozaics. The museum is at Edrnekapi, a little further than Sultanahmet but so worth the visit. In the 16th century, during the Ottoman era, the church was converted into a mosque and, finally, it became a museum in 1948. The interior of the building is covered with fine mosaics and frescoes in great condition.

Chora Museum hosts fine examples of mosaics and frescoes

Chora Museum hosts fine examples of mosaics and frescoes


The mezze feast; hummus, abagannus, walnut & red pepper paste dip and more

The mezze feast; hummus, abagannus, walnut & red pepper paste dip and more

Soon, we were ready to eat again. I love the mezze culture we have in Turkey’; a small plateful of delicious appetizers like this hummus with red pepper flakes infused olive oil, the walnut and red pepper paste dip, the stuffed vine leaves and many more. They are a feast to all senses. You just need to control yourself not to over eat otherwise you are too full to have the main course!

Turkish flat breads with nigella seeds - so dangerously delicious, as it is hard to stop!

Turkish flat breads with nigella seeds – so dangerously delicious, as it is hard to stop eating!

These Turkish flat breads that come with the mezzes are my weak point; they are so delicious that it is hard to stop eating and they complement the mezzes so well. As soon as you sit down at the restaurants, you are served generous portions : )

Boats getting ready for the day at the Sea of Marmara

Boats getting ready for the day at the Sea of Marmara

I woke up this morning to be greeted by all these fishing boats getting ready for the day, the seagulls hunting for their first bite and the brew of cay at the background. It felt so good to be at home.

Look forward to sharing more of Istanbul and our visits to other parts of Turkey with you again soon.

Istanbul’dan Selamlar – Warm Greetings from Istanbul;


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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 can be ordered at this link, with prompt (worldwide) delivery, if you  would like – 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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Fresh, Delicious and Fun Cooking; Turkish Food Made Easy

I guess the teaching bug instilled in me, while watching my mum teaching and then while I was doing my degree on English Language and Literature at the University of Marmara, Istanbul (anyone from Marmara University? 🙂 I used to teach English language privately to secondary school pupils. It is a wonderful feeling to be able to make a little difference to their learning and infuse love of languages to the children.

Turkish cooking classes are a wonderful opportunity to learn about Turkish cuisine, culture and delicious recipes

I have been living abroad now almost 10 years (gosh, that is a revelation, haven’t realized that up to this very moment!!). For the last 6 years or so, I have been doing another, a very delicious kind of teaching, Turkish cooking. One of the best parts of living abroad for me has been realization and appreciation of the richness of my homeland, and a desperate need to share all wonderful things Turkey offers. (A very special thanks here to the Central Market Cooking School in Austin,Texas, for believing in me and giving me the chance to teach Turkish cooking, a real turning point).
Tahta Saray Ocakbasi Kebab House in Istanbul; it is a joy to indulge in those amazing kebabs, though we love our vegetables and salads too

Now living in England, it is a joy to carry on the classes. Many folks still think Turkish cuisine is based on mostly kebabs, and they are pleasantly surprised to see the many wonderful vegetable courses, like vegetables cooked in olive oil, refreshing salads and mezes we have too.

A vibrant fruit stall at the Sali Pazari (Tuesday Market), in Levent, Istanbul

A special aspect of the cooking classes is a chance to talk about the freshness of ingredients and importance of seasonality in Turkish cuisine. In Turkey food is bought fresh daily, and each meal of the day would be taken into account, with as much attention paid to breakfast, lunch and dinner. As well as having a balance of nutrients, the food should also be appealing to the eye, and of course tasty. Turkish cuisine is healthy and nutritious and the Turks are purist in their culinary taste; their dishes bring out the flavor of the main ingredient rather than hiding it behind sauces.

Another aspect of the class worth noting is a chance for the folks to “taste” Turkish hospitality and culture. Today in Turkey food and mealtimes is still the hub of everyday life. Always time is taken to share meals with family members or friends, to relax and enjoy conversation. Everyone wishes each other “afiyet olsun”, literally meaning “may you be healthy.” This is followed by a tribute to the creator of the meal, “elinize saglik”, meaning “health to your hands”. Guests are always received with the highest cordial hospitality and it is believed that no one should ever leave a Turkish table without feeling satisfied and happy! And I must say, the classes are such a special time for me to connect with home, and I am grateful for these  moments, I so look forward to them!:)

A genuine Turkish hospitality by Sultan Sofrasi, Antakya; they showered us with wonderful regional delicacies

Well, my next Turkish cooking class on Saturday, June 16th is almost sold out -many thanks to all the folks signed up!- There are only few spots left; if you are in the area and would like to join in, do please let me know. You will be showered with Turkish hospitality, delicious food blended with history and stories from my homeland.

If you can’t, here are some of the courses and recipe links from the class menu, for you to have a go at home. They are so easy to make, healthy, delicious and fun to share:

Spinach and Cheese fillo pastry – Ispanakli, peynirli borek (a wonderful appetizer, great for healthy lunches too; freezes very well)

Spinach and cheese fillo pastry; so easy to make and very delicious

Baked Turkish meatballs with summer vegetables (a real crowd pleaser one pot dish, freezes well too) – Firinda Sebzeli Izmir Kofte

Baked Turkish meatballs with peppers, tomatoes and potatoes

Yoghurt and cucumber dip with dried mint A wonderful accompaniment to any grilled meat, roasted vegetables and casseroles. It is also a great party food, for dipping veg like carrots.

Turkish Coffee – Our ultimate, fragrant coffee, a great experience. A little sip of Turkish coffee is enough to transport you to that quaint café in Turkey!

The wonderful Turkish Coffee

I do hope you enjoy the recipes and have a chance to go at them sometime. I would love to hear your experience with Turkish food (or your travels inTurkey), so please drop a line if you can.

Afiyet Olsun!

And Here Comes the Awards; One Lovely Blog and Versatile Blogger

Peri’s Spice Ladle has again been very kind to nominate Ozlem’s Turkish Table with Versatile Blogger and One Lovely Blog Awards. Thank you very much Peri! Peri’s Spice Ladle is a wonderful gateway to the fascinating India and Indian cuisine, I look forward to her posts every week. Please check out this great blog.


The Rules of Acceptance:

  • Thank the person who gave you this award
  • Include a link to their blog
  • Next, select 15 blogs/bloggers that you’ve recently discovered or follow regularly.
  • Nominate those bloggers for the Awards
  • Finally, tell the person who nominated you 7 things about yourself.
  • In the same post, include this set of rules.
  • Inform each nominated blogger of their nomination by posting a comment on each of their blogs.

I’d like to nominate the following blogs (some of which I am delighted to discover recently) for the Versatile Blogger Award and One Lovely Blog Award, I very much enjoy reading their posts, travels, recipes, photos…Please check them out :

Turkish Travel Blog

 As Strong As Soup

Nadia Swindell Photography

 Back to Bodrum

A Seasonal Cook in Turkey

Create Amazing Meals

Cuisine de Provence

Inside A British Mum’s Kitchen


Istanbul Eats

My Italian Kitchen

My Turkish Joys

Turkey’s For Life

Turquoise Diaries

 Adventures in Ankara

Tuesday Recipe

I wouldn’t like to bore you about 7 interesting things about me again, though here is the link if you’d like to refresh your memory 🙂 One more thing I forgot to add on about myself in that list is that, my love for music. I was a (proud!) radio DJ in the late 1990s in Istanbul (can you believe??) The private radio stations just started by then, and I was thrilled to have a chance to host two radio programs for Kent FM with my dear friend, uber music guru Eralp (great memories, Eralp!!:) We did Friday Night Fever Show on Friday nights and Golden Oldies on Sunday morning, happy days!!




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