Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Monthly Market Update: What's in and What's Not in the Turkish Pazars

October-November 2014: Istanbul

Last week I was happily out of Istanbul on Heybeliada, one of the fabled Princes Islands in the Sea of Marmara. We were on a photo trek and the day had been chosen because it was the island's weekly market day. We were so blessed with the weather and everything looked totally enchanting.

Heybeliada pazarı, last Wednesday

Now, in this picture there is only one clue that we are now in October and that is the mushrooms. With all the other produce, you could easily think it was summer. What do we see here: courgettes, aubergines, okra or ladies' fingers, tomatoes, cucumbers - it is quite remarkable to see them on the market stalls in October. But rest assured, it is the end of them!

So it is getting quite confusing to track down what is truly seasonal. I only know because I have lived here such a long time, way before markets became interesting at all.

There is no way I am going to buy the vegetables that I have just listed above even though they look completely fine. It is just the wrong time of year for them.

Here's what you should be looking for:

persimmons and pears
pumpkin - right in time for Hallowe'en
crunchy carrots
here come the root vegetables: celeriac
çintar mushrooms which look quite evil but are OK

And yesterday I went to the market in Selami Çeşme, my local market, which I almost always go to instead of the supermarkets around. True, I do have my guy on the corner who always has lovely fresh stuff in extremis. It's just that I like the markets.

It was the same story: the market was bursting with produce and if you were a newcomer, you would be forgiven for thinking that it was an amazing paradise for fresh vegetables of all sorts.

citrus fruits make their entrance around now: mandarines but not the time for oranges

I bought a lot of stuff as I really had nothing in the fridge after my recent travels, including cauliflower and a red cabbage, both newcomers on the seasonal front. Oh I also bought some lovely small beetroots - I am a bit confused myself as to beetroots as you see them on and off throughout the year but these really did look appetising and I happen to love them.

I even saw barbunya/borlotti beans and figs! Not to mention red peppers. I know they are tempting and who knows, I may change my tune.

the time to buy them is August

But now you can see pomegranates appearing in all their glory. In Eminönü you will see little barrows offering glasses of their ruby red juice for 1 TL per glass. I recommend you get it mixed with the juice of 1 orange just to dilute the sourness because, let's face it, it's still very early.

And of course this month sees the grand re-entry of the ayva or quince, which will be around for some time now. 

they look beautiful: the sign says Real Bread Quince! i.e. can be eaten raw

So enjoy your local pazar! The colours and the sheer abundance of the fruits and vegetables will intoxicate you! 

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Müceddere/Mercimekli Bulgur Pilavı: Bulgur Pilav with Green Lentils and Walnuts

My love affair with all things bulgur continues despite a totally bulgur-less 9 days in England!

Back in my own kitchen and getting back into my old routine helps. And I really am a big fan of this nutty grain: I like its taste and the fact it's so healthy and easy to cook.

I am also a pulse devotee: ie when I see lentils, red or green, mentioned in a recipe, the odds are that I will read on and in all probability try it.

green lentils/mercimek

Refika Birgül, the celebrity chef whose fab kitchen in Kuzguncuk is the one I have been using for my cooking classes, also has a similar recipe to this one which I have actually made and posted about. It's called Mucandara Pilavı and originates from Cyprus while the origin of this one is Arabic. Are they related? Who knows? Both pilafs use green lentils, this one with walnuts, the other with sesame seeds. This one using butter and Refika's olive oil. But this one is a bulgur one while Refika's is a rice-based pilaf.

adding the bulgur to the boiled lentils

I actually think I prefer this one! The instructions are clearer apart from anything, and so are the measurements! This recipe comes from the book Bulgurun Halleri/Ways with Bulgur, that I mentioned recently, written by Nursen Doğan along with Refika.

Müceddere/Mercimekli Bulgur Pilavı or Bulgur Pilav with Green Lentils and Walnuts


1 cup green lentils/mercimek, washed (pre-soaking not necessary)
1 cup large grain bulgur/pilavlık bulgur
1 large onion, chopped
3 cups water
2 tsps salt (1 tsp for the bulgur, 1 tsp for the onion)
1 tsp sugar
3 tbsp butter
1 handful walnuts/ceviz


  • Boil the washed lentils in the water for 10-15 minutes. Do not overboil but do check for doneness. 
  • When they are cooked, do NOT throw away the remaining water in which they were cooked. Add the bulgur and 1 tsp salt to the pan. If necessary, add a little more hot water. Cook for a further 10 minutes until the grains have swelled and softened. Remove from heat.
  • Heat the butter gently in a small pan and pour half of it over the pilaf. Then place the lid on top and leave to 'rest'.
  • Gently cook the chopped onion in the rest of the melted butter. Add 1 tsp salt and the sugar and cook till the onion caramelizes. 
  • Place the bulgur and lentils in a serving dish with the caramelized onion on top. 
  • Take the walnuts and heat them through in the pan in which you cooked the onion. (1-2 minutes).
Nursen's serving suggestions are  salad, pickles/turşu, and ayran, the yogurt drink, or cacık/cucumbers in garlic yogurt.

Personally, I think this pilaf is the perfect complement to any meat dish!

However you choose to serve this delicious, moist and very satisfying pilaf - and it seems to me that this will be culturally based,

Afiyet olsun!


  • I needed to boil my lentils longer than the time stipulated here before they were done. I think it's because they'd been in the store cupboard for some time so were that much harder and dryer.
  • When you chop the onion, you may think it looks like a lot: in fact, once it cooks, it looks a whole lot less. I think a second one wouldn't come amiss!

here's what 1 chopped onion looks like 
Adding the melted butter to the pilaf

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Kısır/Spicy Bulgur Salad with Tomatoes and Pomegranate Molasses

I think that in the 4-year career of my blog, this is the longest gap that has ever occurred between posts.

And the reason is travel.

Travel is truly my favourite thing (and luckily, TT's) and I have had two fabulous trips recently: one to Paris and the south of France, and then shortly after, one to London and Brighton.

So I came back late on Sunday night not quite sure whether I wanted to be here or not. But to cheer me up, there it was writ large and clear on Facebook that my blog was included in the Top Ten Expat Blogs in Turkey. Very nice and very motivating indeed: warmest thanks to Property Turkey for giving me this boost.

Now I can get down to business as usual and concentrate on my Turkish table: today's recipe is one that I made just a few days before I flew off to Gatwick. We were invited to a lovely lunch party in Riva, which is out in the country towards the Black Sea. I had said I would like to make kısır, one of our favourite salads using bulgur or cracked wheat. I also was dying to try it out with my all-time favourite, pomegranate molasses..

here is my kısır in its plastic box all ready to go to the party

Now, all this may be sounding rather familiar: I do have not one but two posts all about somewhat similar salads using somewhat similar ingredients, but they are called tabule not kısır! May I remind you that Daughter No 1 always says that tabule is white while kısır is always, but always, red!!

This red is achieved by adding a spoonful of red pepper paste, a true Turkish ingredient that I recommend you add to your store cupboard if at all possible.
When you combine just the right mix of herbs and spices, I believe this salad is one of the great Middle Eastern salads, one that you, your friends and family will just love. I certainly do!

adding the red pepper paste to the onion and cumin
getting there ..
the spring onions, washed and trimmed and ready to be chopped

Kısır/Spicy Bulgur Salad with Tomatoes and Pomegranate Molasses

Serves 8


2 cups fine-grain bulgur wheat
1 large onion, finely chopped
8-10 spring onions, chopped
4-5 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 tbsp red pepper paste/biber salçası
1 bunch of flat-leaf parsley/maydonoz, chopped
½-1 bunch of fresh mint/nane, chopped
½ bunch of fresh dill/dereotu, chopped (optional)
1 tbsp flaked red pepper/pul biber (spicy/acı, if liked)
1 tbsp cumin/kimyon
salt to taste
4 tbsp pomegranate molasses/nar ekşisi
juice of 1 lemon
½ - 1 cup olive oil/zeytinyağı


  • Place the bulgur in a large bowl and add the chopped onion, cumin and 2-3 tablespoons hot water. Add the red pepper paste. Mix together. The idea is that the bulgur grains will swell and soften. No cooking is necessary.
  • Add the chopped tomatoes, pomegranate molasses and lemon juice to the mix.
  • On top, sprinkle the chopped herbs: parsley, mint, dill if using, spring onions and olive oil. Combine but try to avoid over-mixing. Season with the salt.
  • Taste and see if you think if any of the herbs or spices should be increased: as with all these salads, nothing dire will happen if they are. It's all very personal!
  • Decorate with black olives if desired, and mint sprigs. Kısır is often served with lettuce or even vine leaves on the side in which it is wrapped.

This salad can be made in advance so very handy for the busy cook! Just give it a stir before bringing to the table. Such a healthy dish I feel, and surely one that vegetarians in particular will love. It is also one where the tastes improve if made in advance.

kısır/spicy bulgur salad with tomatoes and pomegranate molasses

Afiyet olsun!

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Fresh from the Black Sea: Fried Anchovies/Hamsi Tava with Parsley Sauce

Following the fish as they swim down from the Black Sea at this time of year is quite exhilarating.

I don't mean literally but the fish' progress down the Bosphorus can be closely observed simply by visiting the wonderful open fish markets of Karaköy and Kadıköy.

Since the fishing ban was lifted last month, look out for palamut/bonito and hamsi/anchovy. The first are unmistakable with their distinctive red frills, and the others no less obvious because of their sheer number. There are piles and piles of them on every fish monger's stall!

hamsi at our local fishmonger's

I went to Kadıköy a few days ago in quest of palamut. I happened to see on facebook that there was a protest in full flow in that area with attendant TOMA and tear gas. This did indeed make me pause and I wondered if it was worth getting gassed just for the sake of some fish for dinner. However, the FB thread kept me faithfully posted and about half an hour later, it seemed safe to venture out. So I did, albeit cautiously.

I bought from the very first stall I came too,I wasn't going to hang around although there was clearly nothing to be alarmed about: 3 palamut for 20 TL. Not bad at all. I couldn't resist a kilo of the very freshest of anchovy either. They were a mere 8TL per kilo or 10TL if they were cleaned. Money well spent, I thought and got the latter.

fried anchovies/hamsi tava

Hamsi can be cooked in a variety of ways but let's face it, with small fish, frying is a very tasty option, especially if you use corn flour or mısır unu. We eat very little fried food in this household so once in a while, we really enjoy it! Having said that, I also really enjoy poached anchovies or hamsi buğulama and it is healthier.

(and I do have a much earlier post on dealing with these little fish if you care to look..)

So very simply, buy a kilo of cleaned hamsi.  Once home, wash them well again and if liked remove the backbone which is very easily accomplished. 

Match up two of the opened fish fillets like this to make one plump fish:

arrange the pairs on a plate and cover with clingfilm until ready to cook

When you are ready to start frying, dip each pair in the seasoned corn flour and place in the hot oil. They will sizzle - you can turn each pair over to ensure that it becomes evenly brown on each side. 
Place on kitchen paper to absorb excess oil.

Plump and succulent: fried hamsi!

here they all are, fried to perfection ....

Here's a little extra to increase your pleasure: 

    Parsley Sauce

  • juice of 2 lemons
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed with salt
  • pinch of salt
  • pinch of red pepper flakes/pul biber
  • ½ bunch flat-leaved parsley, finely chopped

Combine all ingredients and place in a bowl. Serve the fried anchovies with fresh rocket and slices of onion with this sauce on the side.

Afiyet olsun!

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Lemon Poppy Seed Bread

Back to the comfort of my own kitchen and these cooler temperatures make me want to bake. 

You know how I found this recipe? Through Pinterest! This social media website is brilliant and I enjoy it in several ways, one of which is browsing through foodie pictures (which are all categorized according to type and the names people have given their own boards) and saving onto a board of my own entitled Recipes I have to try. It is instant and saves me copying, cutting, saving, classifying as one used to do. All I have to do when I want to cook something different is go to my own board! Which is what I did.

This recipe, which comes from  the blog Cooking Classy (love that name!), has somewhat Turkish-sounding ingredients and is the type of cake I tend to go for: not fussy or creamy, no elaborate icings or sickly fillings. A simple loaf at the end of the day - ideal for children and adults alike!

lemon poppy seed bread

One of the ingredients is the ever-tricky sour cream which we don't get here: my solution-to-hand is always plain yogurt! I would love to know how sour cream actually behaves in a cake like this since I have no experience of it at all. Yogurt works fine as far as it goes, and produces a very moist cake that keeps exceptionally well.

I love the little dots of the poppy seeds and the shiny lemony glaze that gives it that slightly tart taste!

adding the lemon zest to the sugar

Lemon Poppy Seed Bread

adapted from the blog 'Cooking Classy'


1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tbsp poppy seeds/haşhaş tohumu
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
2 tbsp lemon zest
1 cup granulated sugar
½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 large eggs, at room temperature
½ tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp sour cream - I used plain yogurt
1/4 cup milk at room temperature
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice

Lemon Glaze:

1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 tbsp fresh lemon juice

  • Preheat oven to 180C/350F degrees.
  • Butter and flour an 8'' x 4'' baking dish and set aside.
  • In a mixing bowl, mix together flour, poppy seeds, baking powder and salt with a spoon.
  • In a separate bowl, add sugar and lemon zest. Rub the zest into the sugar with your fingertips until mixture becomes moist and pale yellow.
  • Add butter to sugar mixture and beat on medium speed until pale and fluffy, scraping sides of bowl while mixing. Mix in eggs one at a time, adding in vanilla with last egg. TIP: I suggest doing this the other way round: soften up the butter first with the electric hand mixer and then gradually add the sugar mixture, followed by the eggs and vanilla.
  • Mix the milk into the sour cream (or yogurt).
  • Working in 3 separate batches, beginning and ending with flour mixture, add 1/3 of the flour mixture to the butter/sugar mixture, alternating with ½ of the milk mixture and 1 tbsp lemon juice (each time) and mixing just until combined after each addition.
  • Bake in preheated oven 45-55 minutes until toothpick inserted into centre comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow to cool 5 minutes in loaf pan (and no longer than 8 minutes or it won't be as porous and absorb the lemon glaze (it will take several coats but use it all. Give it a second between coats to absorb as needed). Let loaf cool on wire rack.

For the lemon glaze:

Combine lemon juice and sugar in a small pan and gently heat until sugar dissolves. Pour over slightly cooled cake as described above.

brushing the loaf with the lemon glaze
lemon poppy seed bread

 Afiyet olsun!

So now all I need to do is remove this recipe from my board 'Recipes I have to try'! Because I've tried it. Twice!
Why don't you try it tomorrow? It's a really nice little cake :)

Monday, 29 September 2014

Monthly Market Update: What's in and What's not in the Turkish Pazars

September-October 2014: Istanbul

A few years ago I used to be on the BCC [the British Community Council] here in Istanbul. Our mission was varied but one of my particular tasks was to write the Culinary Corner for the monthly e-Newsletter.

Simultaneously, on my blog I had a little box in the sidebar where I would post what fruit,veg and fish to expect each month. Each season has its highs and its lows; Seasonal Cook that I am, I'm interested in the rhythm of the markets which reflect those, and I'm sure you are too.

the fishing ban has been lifted and now is the time for palamut/bonito - they
should be firm to the touch and shiny to look at

So here I'm combining the two ideas: at the end of every month I'll post what's in season in the local street markets of Istanbul or Assos, where we frequently go, along with some photos. 

it's hamsi time again! These are anchovies from the Black Sea

Today I went to my weekly local pazar in Selami Çeşme, wondering whether the summer produce would have disappeared. But in fact, what I saw reflects perfectly the end of summer/ beginning of autumn and everything is still available!

By 'everything', I mean the very summery vegetables like aubergine, green peppers, and courgettes, barbunya or borlotti beans, and loads of green beans. Sadly the beautiful Çanakkale tomatoes have finished and we are back to the more regimented kind that look greenhouse-grown. Personally I recommend the little baby ones as they have the most flavour. These are good for salads and kahvaltı/breakfast but not of course for cooking. This is the time when a little tomato paste starts to come in handy to boost the taste in tomato-based dishes. For cooking, there's nothing wrong with a tin of chopped tomatoes as they will have been canned at the height of the season.

this is one of my regular guys and his tomatoes are still looking OK - he thinks they are, at any rate!
these are the very last of the borlotti beans though: make sure you buy some, pod them and freeze in plastic bags

What is absolutely in right now is grapes/üzüm:  sweet yellow seedless ones and big juicy purple and green ones. Now is the time for plums/erik too, several varieties are available and perfect for eating as well as cooking! Think tarts and crumbles!

what is new here are the mandarines looking as green as anything

Take my advice and don't buy mandarines/mandalina just yet. A lady asked the guy if they were sweet and I thought, in your dreams! They are green because they are not yet fully ripe. If you like sour, fine, but otherwise just wait a bit!
It's also the season for walnuts/ceviz:

ince kabuk means thin-shelled! The sign says 'they have arrived!'
 ....and those peculiar things called hünnap - apparently we call them jujube! We saw them on sale in Paris also called hunnap so maybe it's just we Brits who don't know them! They have medicinal qualities ....

good for diabetes, heart, liver, cholesterol ....so says the sign!

Now, two much more autumn/winter fruits were on sale today but it's far too early for them to be interesting. I would say again, wait a few weeks at least so they can ripen: pomegranates/nar and persimmons/hurma.

the colour isn't right: wait till they become more vibrantly orange
Karadeniz means Black Sea

By the way, keep away from figs: you will see them on the stalls but don't be tempted. The season is over and they are tasteless.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

A Hearty Autumnal Soup: Wheat with Yogurt Soup/Yoğurtlu Buğday Çorbası

The weather has drastically changed. The temperature has dropped, that beautiful blue sky is now overcast and downright grey. Time to wear socks and forget about France!

All summer long, nary a thought of soup entered my head. Not even a cold soup as I don't care for cold soups.

But all of a sudden, here we are and honestly the first thing that I feel like is a good hearty soup.

I have just acquired a new cookbook: it is called Bulgurun Halleri or  'Ways with Bulgur', written by Nursen Doğan (in Turkish) along with Refika. As many of you may know by now, Refika (Birgül) has been most generous in letting me use her fabulous funky kitchen to give cooking classes. I didn't know about this book until the other week when I saw it there and bought it on the spot.

I am very fond of bulgur, I truly am. I prefer it to rice: it isn't so stodgy nor so demanding in terms of how to cook it. I know I am going to like this book, I have already made one of the pilafs. I skimmed through it looking for a soup and sure enough, here is one that made me think, ahaa!

Hearty wheat with yogurt soup/yoğurtlu buğday çorbası sprinkled with dried mint and a little flaked red pepper

If you ask me, it's a cross between our good old faithful yayla çorbası or soup of the mountain pastures, and regular chicken soup! But what's wrong with that? You will find similar recipes with slight regional differences all over the country.

This one specifies aşurelik buğday, a type of wheat grain traditionally used in aşure, the dessert with special significance as it supposedly uses the 40 ingredients that remained to Noah on the Ark. I would say that if you can't obtain it, you can simply use rice and in fact turn the soup into yayla. Or any other grain you have in your store cupboard would probably be just fine.

aşurelik büğday

But for those of us who live here and for whom this grain is easily available, I recommend using it. I like the fact that it keeps its shape and texture throughout the cooking and doesn't become mushy like rice so easily does. I also appreciate the fact that the consistency of the soup changes if the soup waits a while before being eaten: it thickens but doesn't become glutinous. I like that.

So here is the recipe for this healthy yogurt-based soup which I hope you'll enjoy as much as I did. Nursen says in her experience this is a firm favourite with  foreigners and Turks alike!

Wheat with Yogurt Soup/Yoğurtlu Buğday Çorbası

Serves 4-5


½ of one chicken breast/tavuk gögüs eti
½ cup aşurelik buğday/aşure wheat or other bulgur grain
2 cups plain yogurt
7-8 cups water (I used 7 and it was perfect)
1 egg yolk
2 tbsp cornstarch/nişasta
1 tbsp dried mint/kuru nane
1 tbsp butter


  • Wash the aşure wheat and place it with the chicken breast in a saucepan with the cold water. Add salt and cook until the wheat grains have cooked (about 30 minutes). If necessary, add more water. Remove the chicken and shred before replacing in the saucepan.
  • Put the yogurt in a bowl and add the egg yolk and cornstarch. Mix well.
  • Then little by little, add the  hot liquid, stirring all the time otherwise the yogurt will curdle.
  • Continue until the liquid with the grains and shredded chicken has been well incorporated into the yogurt mixture. If the soup is too thick, add a little more water.
  • Spinach or another green may be added at this point. 
  • Cook gently for a further 2-3 minutes.
        To serve:

  • Melt the butter in a small pan and add the dried mint. Drizzle over each serving. (I didn't use the butter! But I did add a few red pepper flakes).

adding the egg yolk and the cornstarch to the yogurt
adding the hot liquid to the yogurt mixture, stirring all the time

hearty wheat with yogurt soup/yoğurtlu buğday çorbası

Afiyet olsun!


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