Hunkar Pilavi – Pilaf With Lamb, Pistachios and Black Currants

The other day, I decided to try a recipe from a book by Ozge Samanci and Sharon Croxford. If any of you guys remember, that is the book my husband bought for me on my birthday. It’s called XIX. Yuzyil Istanbul Mutfagi which translates into “19th Century Istanbul Cuisine”. I ended up playing around with the amounts and the ingredients, but still this recipe is inspired by the above-mentioned book.

Ingredients:

3.5 cups of water

300 g (around a cup) of boneless lamb meat, cut into walnut-size cubes

100 g of clarified butter (regular butter would be fine too)

A handful of pistachio nuts, shells removed

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Cerkes Tavugu – Circassian Chicken

The answer to what makes Ottoman cuisine so special lies in the wide variety of influences ranging from the Caucasus to the Balkans, from Niles to Euphrates… Even Chinese cuisine had an impact on the Ottomans, as Turks brought an over-1000-year-old heritage from the steppes of Central Asia where they were in close contact with the Chinese. Cuisines of the Caucasus region appear as one of the hundreds of influences within the Ottoman cuisine. Georgian, Laz and Circassian people (one might want to include Armenians and Azeris as well) and their unique ways of preparing food is quite distinctive. Circassian chicken, contrary to what its name suggests, has more likely originated from Georgian territories and is a widely-known dish in today’s Turkey.

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Sucuklu Yumurta – Eggs With Sujuk

Sujuk or soudjouk is Turkish sausages, somewhat like Hungarian sausages, sujuk smells and tastes very much like those. Here is a Sunday brunch classic: Eggs With Sujuk. If there is nice and fresh bread accompanying this dish, nothing can compare to it, especially in winter mornings. Sujuk is available in Turkish grocery shops in most Western countries, particularly in suburbs  populated mostly by Turks. It keeps quite long in the fridge too.

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Firinda Cipura – Oven Baked Gilthead Seabream

I’ve been craving fish for months, bluefish is my favorite, turbot comes next. There are rumors flying around about the soon-to-go-extinct bluefish, advising against consumption of it if smaller than 24cms, so I had to convince myself not to buy bluefish until the larger ones are abundant and the prices go down correspondingly.

If you’re asking what does all this have to do with the gilthead seabream recipe, it arrived just in time when my cravings ran in full force. They sell farm-bred seabream all around and it tastes like grass, so I would never recommend it. Farmed seabass is a bit more acceptable in terms of taste, but no farmed seabream for me, thanks. The one I baked was from Western Black Sea and so fresh and full of flavor. By the way, hubs is not a fish-fan at all, but once I had the time to check out on him while nibbling on my yummy fish, he was sucking the gelatinous bits over the bones. Here is how I baked it and let the flavors come out:

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Humus – Chickpea Spread With Tahini

Humus, originally a Middle Eastern meze, “is high in iron and vitamin C, and also has significant amounts of folate and vitamin B6. Garbanzo beans make it a good source of protein and dietary fiber; the tahini consists mostly of sesame seeds, an excellent source of amino acid, complementing the proteins in chickpeas”, says Wikipedia. Humus is a very convenient food for those who prefer a vegetarian or vegan diet and like other combinations of grains and pulses, when eaten with bread it serves as a complete protein. It’s great for your digestive system as well.

Its creamy texture and earthy, yet rich, flavor balances great with the mild and acidic flavors of olive oil and lemon juice. I am always up for regional staple food recipes as they are usually amazingly well balanced both in terms of health and taste. I am not a drinker at all, but some say, humus when eaten with alcoholic beverages helps avoid a nasty hangover.

Here goes the recipe for humus:

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Menemen – Turkish Style Omelette With Vegetables

Here is a simple breakfast dish, a staple food in Turkey, especially when it’s summer.

Ingredients (serves 2-4):

3 tablespoons of olive oil,

1 onion, grated,

4-5 yellow banana peppers, capsicums and/or hot peppers, chopped into 1 cm pieces,

2-3 tomatoes, peeled and diced,

1/2 teaspoon of salt

3-4 eggs or 50 g grated cheese (or you can leave these out completely)

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Bademli Kayisili Pilav – Pilaf With Almonds And Apricots

We were on a short trip to Ankara during the weekend. I came to understand why my brother’s way of describing Ankara is so true,  he says the city should be called a “staff only” place. We came back to Istanbul on Sunday arvo and I decided to make soup and pilaf for dinner, easy and elegant. I ended up making chicken flavored almond and apricot pilaf. It’s a classic, yet almost forgotten by the general public in Turkey. What a shame!

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Zeytinyagli Kuru Dolma – Stuffed Sun Dried Vegetables In Olive Oil

I’m quite happy today, because I just received a job offer, one that is related to my profession. I already have loads of other work stuff to do, but I am very much inclined to quit everything else and accept this one.

Anywayz, other than the good news, the “Eid” has passed already and we of course visited my parents and in-laws in Gallipoli and Corlu. On the eve of the Eid I made a cake with damson plums and stuffed sun dried vegetables in olive oil. I took them to Gallipoli with me hoping to be the star of the family gathering :). I don’t know if I succeeded but everybody seemed quite satisfied with both the dolma and the plum cake.

I had bought the sun dried vegetables from Kahramanmaras last month. I also took pictures of the home-prepared ones that my cousin was in the process of drying. She hung those carved vegetables on her balcony on a clean thread and everyday around noon time she covered the vegies with a huge clean cloth to avoid any discoloration from the direct sunlight for around 2 weeks until they dry out completely.

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Su Boregi – Turkish Cheese Lasagna

This borek is very famous all-over Turkey, especially in the Black Sea Region, in the north. The crispy outer layers, squeaky soft layers of lasagna-like sheets, warm and melting cheese taste in-between might be the reason for its popularity. Store-bought versions are also available in Turkey and those are nothing short of being delicious, but home-made borek with the finest ingredients is always better IMHO.

So many people are intimidated by the idea of making pasta from scratch. If you can find semolina flour, it makes the process a lot easier and affects the outcome quite positively.  To get semolina flour you’ll look for ‘semola di grano duro’. Also, flour types made from the harder wheat grains are very much suitable for this borek recipe. The harder the wheat that flour is made from, the more protein and gluten it contains. Harder flour types are good for making this borek as the pastry sheets will be boiled.

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Ic Pilav – Garnished Rice

On Sunday, we were at my parents’ place. Towards iftar time, my sister was nagging to convince me on making some ic pilav - garnished rice dish which is mainly used as a filling for most stuffed vegetable and meat dishes in Ottoman cuisine. A starving and insisting sister ain’t no good especially if she weighs over 90kgs and is taller than 180cms. I gave up and pulled myself together despite the fatigue caused by fasting on such a long day and made her the pilav. She was happy and I was relieved. Good deal. Besides, the lighting at mom’s garden is good for photographing the food I make.

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