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Tag Archives | Turkish

Baked Tahini Halva with Pine Nuts; Firinda Tahin Helvasi

Tahini based helva or halva, is a delicious treat enjoyed in Turkey; I especially love the baked tahini halva served in kebab houses and restaurants at home, such a heavenly taste.

Helva, the Turkish name, derives from the Arabic ‘halva’ meaning ‘sweet confection’. Halva is a very popular candy in Turkey, Armenia, Eastern Europe and the Middle East served in cafes and kebab houses. Halva is made primarily with honey and tahini and there are many variations of it.  In the old days they would grind oily sesame seeds into a paste (tahini) and then mix it with hot honey.  This halva has a dry, deliciously crumbly texture and keeps in the fridge well for a long time. You can slice the halva and have with crackers or toasted slice of bread; the taste is just wonderful. I especially enjoy Ozerlat UK‘s Tahini Helva, Tahin Helvasi, made in Turkey with gorgeous pistachios from Gaziantep.

Here I chose to bake the tahini halva in the oven with sautéed pine nuts over the top. This dessert takes only minutes to make and it is so delicious; great for sharing with friends and family. The sautéed pine nuts add a lovely additional flavor and texture; I hope you enjoy it.

Serves 6

350g  precooked helva/halva– plain or with nuts

juice of half a lemon

100ml/4fl oz. whole milk

For sautéed pine nuts:

30ml/2 tbsp. pine nuts and drizzle of light olive oil

Ground cinnamon to serve

Plain crackers to serve

Preheat oven to 200C/400F

Mash the helva with a fork and then add the other ingredients, for a loose hummus consistency.

Mash the helva with a fork and then add the other ingredients, for a loose hummus consistency.

Mash the helva with a fork and then add the other ingredients. If you like, use an electric hand mixer to reach a smooth consistency which should become like ‘a loose hummus’. Pour into a large baking dish or 6 individual or small ovenproof dishes. Sprinkle with cinnamon and place in the hot oven for about 5 –  10 minutes, depending on how deep you filled the ramekins.

Sauteed pine nuts add a lovely texture and taste to the halva.

Sauteed pine nuts add a lovely texture and taste to the halva.

In the meantime, sauté the pine nuts in a drizzle of light olive oil for a few minutes in a pan, until they are golden.

Once the halva is baked, sprinkle the sautéed pine nuts over the halva and serve hot, with plain crackers by the side. Baked or fresh apricots or figs would be lovely to serve with this baked tahini halva too.

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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Karniyarik – Stuffed Eggplants (Aubergines) with ground lamb, tomatoes and onions


Karniyarik; Stuffed eggplants with ground meat, onion, tomatoes

Karniyarik; Stuffed eggplants with ground meat, onion, tomatoes

This impressive dish is a legacy of the Ottoman Palace kitchens and yet another of the imperial demands for ingenuity concerning the much loved eggplant, aubergine, you will find this dish wherever you go in Turkey! Though traditionally made with ground lamb, you may prepare it with ground beef or have a vegetarian version too. Simply replace the meat with your favorite vegetable (mushrooms, chickpeas work very well), sprinkle some grated cheese over the top and bake it, it turns out to be a delicious alternative.

This Karniyarik recipe and many more are included at my cookery book, Ozlem’s Turkish Table, Recipes from My Homeland, along with stunning photography and personal stories. Signed copies are now 30 % OFF for a limited time at this link and delivered worldwide including the USA.

You can cook this dish ahead of time and gently reheat in the oven. Karniyarik freezes very well, once cooked. Here’s also my YouTube video for how to make Karniyarik :

Preparation time – 45 minutes Cooking time – 55 minutes

3 dark purple eggplants (aubergines; small to medium variety if possible)
340 gr / 12 ounces ground (minced) lean lamb
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
400 gr /14 oz (1 can of) chopped tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
240 ml / 1 cup water
1 bunch or 1/2 cup Italian (flat) parsley, finely chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 – 4 tablespoons canola oil or ground nut oil for shallow frying
6 thin slices of tomato and green bell peppers, seeded – for decorative topping
1 -2  teaspoon red pepper flakes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 180 C / 350 F

Cut the eggplants in half lengthways leaving the stalk intact. In each half of eggplant, cut a deep split lengthways without cutting through to the skin on the opposite side and leaving 1/2″-13 mm- uncut at either end. Sprinkle salt over the flesh side of the eggplants and leave them aside for 15 minutes. Salt will help the moisture come out of the eggplants.

In a little of the olive oil, sauté the onions until soft. Add the ground lamb and cook until all the moisture is absorbed. Add the garlic, chopped tomatoes, tomato paste and red pepper flakes. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, mix well. Continue cooking for a further couple of minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in most of the chopped parsley. Seasoning is important, so please check the seasoning of the mixture and add more salt or pepper if you would like.

Dry the eggplants with kitchen towel thoroughly. Lightly brown them evenly on both sides in the canola oil or gorundnut oil. With the split sides facing up, place them into a well-oiled ovenproof dish or a baking tray. Spoon the filling into the splits. On the top of each filled eggplant put a slice of tomato and a green bell pepper. Mix the water with a drizzle of olive oil. Pour this mixture on the baking tray. Cover and bake in the preheated oven for about 45 minutes. Remove the cover and continue baking for another 15 minutes or until they are tender and the eggplants are nicely browned on top.

Serve hot with plain rice and a dollop of plain yoghurt by the side.

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