Elizabeth Taviloglu, Guide for Turkish Food
Thursday October 31, 2013
'Helva,' 'halva' or 'halwa.' However you choose to say it, these traditional Middle Eastern desserts have a lot of history and culture behind them. And they are delicious comfort food. That means loads of carbs, fat and sugar. But that's what makes them so delicious!
In Turkish cuisine, the most popular 'helva' is made with semolina and pine nuts. Uncooked semolina and a handful of pine nuts are slowly browned in large amounts of butter until golden brown.
When both ingredients become a deep amber color, they're saturated with sweetened and sometimes flavored milk and left to solidify. Then the 'helva' is either spooned out, shaped in a mold or separated grain by grain with a wooden spoon before serving.
There's nothing like a plate of still-warm 'helva' with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
What's so special about this Turkish classic? It's always made to announce, commemorate or share important milestone events in life. Happy or sad, events like births, deaths, circumcisions, landing a new job, returning home from military service. All are occassions commemorated with 'helva.'
Try this simple recipe for Turkish semolina 'helva.' It's very easy to prepare and only contains a few ingredients. Just this recipe and a gallon of ice cream can feed a large group and keep them smiling. Try Turkish semolina 'helva' with pine nuts the next time you have important news to share.
Thursday October 31, 2013
Turkish coffee has become the universal symbol of Turkish culture and cuisine. And for good reason. There's nothing like a robust cup of freshly-cooked Turkish coffee in a tiny, fancy cup and saucer to settle the stomach after a big meal.
For those of you who've never tried authentic Turkish coffee, the best way to describe it would be to compare it to a rough form of espresso with a sweeter, nuttier flavor. Turkish coffee is ground very fine and cooked cup by cup in a copper kettle called a 'cezve' (jes-VAY').
When it's poured into its cup, the grains remain in the bottom, so you have to take small sips. The sugar is added before it's cooked, so you have to decide before hand whether you want your coffee with only a little, or a lot of sugar.
A good cup of freshly prepared Turkish coffee is perfect served with Turkish desserts and sweets like baklava, candied fruit desserts , Turkish Delight and chocolate. Need I say more?
The best way to enjoy Turkish coffee is to prepare it at home. Here is a step-by-step guide for making Turkish coffee to help you get started.
It has photos as well as information on ingredients, equipment and cooking techniques. With this article called "How To Make A Perfect Cup Of Turkish Coffee," you'll have all the information you need to become a Turkish coffee pro.
Tuesday October 29, 2013
Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. If you're like me, you always wait to put up your decorations, buy the candy and carve your pumpkin until only a few days before October 31st.
It's not that I don't have time. It's that I want my pumpkin to stay fresh so I can use it my favorite recipes!
If you too love foods with pumpkin, try this recipe for Turkish-style pumpkin pudding. It's a great way to use leftover fresh pumpkin, and the whole family will love it.
Pumpkin pudding and other delicious desserts made with milk are some of the most common desserts in Turkish cuisine. I prepare this pudding during the fall and winter when fresh pumpkin is easy to find.
It makes a healthy treat for kids with a taste they'll love. It also works well for buffet entertaining. A lot of pretty dessert cups filled with pumpkin pudding and decorated with ground nuts and currants look lovely on any table.
If you don't have fresh pumpkin on hand you can also used canned. Make sure it's pure pumpkin with no added spices or sugar. You'll be able to achieve a similar pumpkin flavor, but the color of the pudding won't be as delightful as when you use fresh.
Go ahead and try this easy Turkish recipe for pumpkin pudding this Halloween. You'll never go back to plain old vanilla pudding!
Saturday October 26, 2013
Did you know the tradition of marriage is very important in Turkish culture? So much so, there is a soup especially dedicated to weddings! Turkish wedding soup, better known as 'dugun corbasi' (doo-OON' chor-BAH'-suh).
Don't let the name fool you. It's not fancy at all. This rich, creamy soup is actually made with only a few modest ingredients.
Lamb or mutton on the bone is slowly stewed to make a rich lamb stock . Once the lamb is separated from the bones into bite-sized pieces, the broth is thickened with flour and egg yolk and seasoned with lemon and spices. The result is a simple, satisfying soup with a pronounced lamb flavor that's a must at every wedding.
The soup's magic comes from the tradition surrounding the wedding moreso than from the ingredients and presentation. In rural areas of Anatolia, weddings often last for days. Several families or even villages will come together to celebrate the union of a new bride and groom.
The ladies of the hosting families have the duty of feeding all the well-wishers that attend. That's why wedding soup has become a staple. It's ingredients are inexpensive and easy to find. It can be prepared in large pots over an open fire and ladled out to hundreds.
Turkish wedding soup can be time consuming to prepare, but it's said everyone has to try it at least once in their lifetime, just like marriage itself! Try this easy recipe for authentic Turkish wedding soup at home.
photo © Elizabeth Taviloglu, 2013
Tuesday October 1, 2013
If you love fish and savor light, Mediterranean-style cooking, here is a simple recipe for Turkish steamed fish and vegetables.
I discovered this recipe after a boat trip down the Bosphorous in Istanbul during the height of the fishing season. As we passed a local fisherman, we decided to stop and ask what he had caught. There in his boat was the most beautiful, fresh turbot I'd ever seen.
We paid him and took it home with us and cooked it the very same evening. He suggested we create a pocket out of aluminum foil, and simply put the turbot in it whole with whatever herbs, veggies and lemon we had on hand. We covered it with more foil and let it bake for about two hours.
When the smells began to engulf the kitchen I knew it was going to be incredible. The fisherman knew his stuff!
This recipe is so easy and delicious, I still make it at home to this day. It's great on a busy day, whenever my son brings home some fish or I see something I like in the fish market I make a pocket out of foil and just put it in the oven. It's also special enough for company.
Try this recipe for Turkish-style steamed fish and experience light Mediterranean flavors at their best.
Monday September 30, 2013
Dining in Turkey isn't just about shish kebab. If you enjoy the lighter side of Mediterranean cooking and love fresh fish, then Turkish cuisine is for you.
Surprised? It's no wonder considering Turkey is surrounded by seas on three sides. Some of the world's freshest, tastiest fish is being eaten on Turkish shoes as I speak.
If you'd like to enter the world of Turkish fish, you may need some help at first. To guide you, here is a list of the 10 best Turkish fish.
In this article, you'll learn the what the most popular species are and what to call them in Turkish. You'll also get an idea how they're cooked and served, when they're in season and where to find them.
If you're planning a trip to Turkey this fall, this information is crucial for dining out. Read this article and visit Turkey's fish restaurants and order like a pro.
Check out my article about the 10 Most Popular Turkish Fish right away and start eating fish the Turkish way.
Monday September 30, 2013
September is here and the long-awaited lift of the fishing ban in the Bosphorous strait is upon us. The time to eat fresh fish has arrived! Did you know that fish has an important role in Turkish cuisine?
Alongside world-famous lamb and kebab dishes, Turkish cuisine is also famous for it's fish. It's no wonder. Turkey is surrounded by four seas, the Black Sea, the Marmara Sea, the Aegean Sea and the Mediterranean. It's actually a huge penninsula and sports 4,475 miles of coastline. Need I say more?
In any coastal city or town, you can buy the daily catch practically at your doorstep, so be prepared for some great cooking and eating. Fresh fish is abundant during the fall and winter months between September and April when commercial fishing is permitted.
During these months, local fish markets overflow and fish restaurants have plentiful selections of fish and seafood to choose from daily. Some of the best are sea bass, bluefish, bonito, sardines, red mullet, turbot and many more. Shellfish like shrimp, octopus and squid also abound.
Whether you grill it, steam it or fry it, eat out or cook at home, be prepared for some of the best fish you'll ever have. To learn more about Turkish fish, read my article called "The Importance Of Fish In Turkish Cuisine."
Sunday September 1, 2013
Calling all Middle Eastern 'kibbe' fans. Turkish cuisine has its own version of this popular Middle Eastern street food. Turkish-style 'Icli kofte' (each-LEE' kuf-TAY') is a meatball with a golden-Brown crust of potato and bulgur that surrounds a juicy filling of meat, ground nuts like walnuts or pistachios and Turkish spices. 'Icli kofte' is best in the southeastern city of Kilis, but you can find delectable versions all over the country, wherever spicy kebab dishes are served. When you try them for the first time, you'll marvel at the complexity of the dish. Actually, making these delicious packages at home isn't as hard as you may think. Try this recipe for Turkish stuffed meatballs
and impress your family and guests. You can expirement with different nuts, like pine nuts, and add different spices like allspice. I like to serve Turkish 'stuffed meatballs' piping hot with dipping sauces like soy sauce, tahini mixed with honey and plain yoğurt mixed with grated cucumber and fresh dill weed.
Sunday September 1, 2013
School is open and fall weather is approaching. It's the perfect time to try new, heartwarming comfort food recipes that your kids and your whole family will love.
What better way to begin than with a new variation on classic macaroni and cheese. In Turkey, an oven-baked version of mac and cheese, called 'firin makarna' (fur-UN' mah-KAR'-nah) is topped with creamy Bechamel sauce and served with a squirt of ketchup on top.
Try this easy recipe for Turkish 'oven pasta' at home. You can really do a lot with this recipe.
It goes a long way as a side dish to any meat or chicken meal. You can also expirment with different mixtures of cheeses and vegetables, sausage, ground beef and chicken to make a complete meal, all in one creamy dish.
My kids love to bring leftovers as a school lunch the next day, too. And it makes a great, warm snack after school. Go ahead and try this Turkish twist on a good old American classic. Your kids, and you, won't regret it.
Sunday September 1, 2013
Spicy Turkish steak tartar balls, traditionally made with high quality, raw beef, have been a famous appetizer from the southeastern region of Turkey for centuries. Modern times have brought more stringent food regulations and today's Turkish chefs and home cooks are much more aware of food safety issues than they once were.
Thus, the meatless version of steak tartar, or raw beef meatballs, was born. This dish is a true paradox. Not only in the fact that it's a meatless meatball, but that it actually tastes like real meat!
It contains bulgur, tomato and pepper paste, onion, garlic and generous amounts of Turkish spices, without a drop of meat, blood or juice. Something in the mixture makes it taste like the real thing. That's why many restaurants, home chefs and food manufacturers choose recipes similar to this one for Turkish-style imitation steak tartar, or 'cig kofte' (CHEE' kuf-TAY').
Try this easy recipe at home and give your family a taste of classic Turkish regional cuisine without having to deal with raw meat. Just put a meatball in a cup of crisp Romaine lettuce, squeeze on some lemon juice, pop it in your mouth and enjoy. Once you taste them, one will never be enough!