Monday, February 13, 2012

Turkish Meze

 Over the millenia Turkey has been a crossroads with many different civilizations including Hittites, Romans and Bzyantines fighting for its rich and fertiles soils,  In the 6th century tribes of Turkish origin migrated west from central Asia and Mongolia. In the 15th century many of the Turkish tribes came together to form the new Ottoman Empire.

Turkish cuisine today reflects this cultural heritage. It lays emphasis on seasonal freshness. I have found that while in Bodrum, even in the large supermarkets , if it is not in season I cannot buy it.

One of the delights of Turkish cuisine is Meze. Meze, like Spanish tapas, are lots of little things. Now served in restaurants as an entree they consist of appetisers, dips and salads. The word meze, originally from the Persian word mesaq means "taste, flavour snack, relish"

Here are a few of the recipes I used for the meze I cooked for my book club recently.

Acı Domates Ezmesi - Crushed Chilli and Tomato Dip.
Serves 4-6
6 tomatoes, peeled and finely chopped
1 small cucumber, grated
1 green pepper, finely chopped                                          
4 spring onions , finely chopped
6 garlic cloves crushed
grated lemon rind
Juice of half a lemon or 1tbs of sour pomegranate syrup
1tsp paprika paste
1 tbs olive oil
2 tbs tomato paste
handful of each of chopped fresh parsley, and mint ( 1 tsp of dried mint if fresh unavailable)
1/2 tsp sugar
salt and black pepper to taste.

Place tomatoes and cucumber in a sieve, sprinkle with a little salt and leave to drain for half an hour. Combine all the ingredients and give quick blitz in a blender taking care not to over pulverize. Chill and serve with fresh crusty bread.

                                                                                     Haydarı - Mint and Yogurt Dip
Serves 4-6
4 cups thick strained yogurt
4 cloves garlic crushed                                                
4 tbs finely chopped mint (1 tbs dried mint) dill can be used instead or a combination of both.
1 cucumber grated and drained
squeeze of lemon juice.

Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Chill. To serve, place on a plate, garnish with fresh mint leaves, pour a little extra virgin olive oil on top and sprinkle with crushed chilli flakes. Serve with fresh crusty bread.

Pancar Ezme - Beetroot Dip.
4 cooked Beetroot
1 tbs chopped dill
1-2 cloves garlic                                        
1 cup thick natural yogurt
2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp crushed black pepper

Puree beets and garlic. Mix all ingredients in a bowl with a spoon. Place in a serving dish and serve with fresh bread.

Sarımsaklı Kozlenmıs Kırmızı Biber - Roasted Red Peppers with Garlic.
 3 red bell peppers

2-3 garlic cloves crushed
1 tbs cider vinegar
4 tbs extra virgin olive oil

Prepare the peppers, cut in half, remove tops and seeds. Place under the grill for 15 mins approx. In the meantime whisk the ingredients for the sauce.
Remove the skin from the peppers.  Slice them in large chunks. Place on a serving plate, Pour sauce over and garnish with some finely chopped parsley.

 Fırında Nar Eksili Soğan  -  Roasted Onion with Pomegranate Paste

Red onion cut into 4-6 chunks.
Salt and pepper.                                          
Pomegranate paste.

 Preheat the oven to 200C/ 400F
Place the onion on an earthenware dish. season with salt and pepper. Drizzle some pomegranate paste over them. Place in the middle of the oven and cook until the onion is tender.

Kısır Salad - Spicy Bulgur Wheat Salad
2 cups fine bulgur wheat
11/2 cups boiling water
1tbs tomato paste
2 tsp paprika paste                                              
1 tsp paprika flakes
1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp salt
1 tbs sur pomegranate paste or juice of 1/2 lemon
4 tbs olive oil
4 spring onions, finely chopped
3 tomatoes, peeled and finely chopped
handful of finely chopped parsley,
handful of finely chopped mint
freshly ground black pepper.
lettuce leaves to serve
lemon wedges to squeeze over

Put the bulgur in a bowl and add the boiling  water. Leave to stand for 20 min. Most of the water should be absorbed. Drain and squeeze out any excess water if necessary. The bulgur should be of a dry consistency.

Stir in the tomato and red pepper pastes, paprika flakes, cumin, salt and pepper and knead thoroughly. Add the pomegranate paste together with the olive oil and knead well again. Stir in the remaining ingredients and combine well. Refrigerate until required.
To serve, take spoonfuls and place in individual lettuce leaves. Garnish with lemon wedges to squeeze over.

Sigara Böreği - Crispy Cheese and Herb Filled Pastry Rolls
2 sheets yufka/filo pastry
225gr soft white Turkish cheese e.g. Lor / feta cheese.
2 egg yolks
1 cup chopped parsley, mint and dill.
salt and black pepper to taste.                                      
Sunflower oil for cooking.

Mix together the cheese, egg yolks and herbs to form a smooth paste. Season with salt and pepper.

Yufka, a Turkish pastry, comes in large circular sheets. Place on sheet on top of the other and cut the sheets into eights forming 16 elongated triangles.(If using filo cut into 16 elongated rectangles)
Take one triangle, place a generous tsp of the cheese mixture at the wider end.
Fold the pastry from each side to seal in the mixture and then roll up tightly like a cigar. Wet the end with water and seal. Do the same for the rest of the triangles, keeping the finished ones covered with a damp cloth to prevent the pastry drying out. Refrigerate until required.
Heat the sunflower oil i a shallow pan and fry the cheese rolls over a medium heat until golden brown and crispy. Alternatively brush with oil and place in a pre-heated oven at 180C and bake for 20 mins.

As usual, I forgot to take photos of what I had cooked so I found these pictures on the net. Most of the recipes I used come from either Angie Mitchell's Secrets of a Turkish Kitchen or from Binnur's Turkish Cookbook.

They went down a treat, with the Crushed Chilli and Tomato Dip being the favourite. Main  course will be next. Do you have a favourite recipe you would like to share?


  1. These look great. I will plan to use two of them for this Sabbath's meal.

  2. As the Turkish say when you are going to eat "Afiyet olsun - May you be healthy" Out of curiosity which two are you going to try?

  3. You are a person of many talents! These recipes look delicious. Lucky book club!

  4. Loving the look of these dishes - so much of color. I'm sure they taste wonderful and seem healthy too! ♥

  5. Yum! Pommegranite paste. I've never heard of such a thing, but now I'll be on the lookout...cause I really want to try the onion one!

  6. Oh the yoghurt dip is a personal favorite! Have to try these out! :)

  7. Lots of yummies!! gonna try a few!! Spicy Bulgar Wheat...mmmm

  8. Fresh, homemade and made with can you go wrong? You're absolutely making me drool, Mary! Yummmmm :-)))

  9. I have just had my lunch bu your post made me hungry again! It looks great!

  10. Lucky book club! When I was in England my poor book club friends had to make do with pots unpacked from Waitrose,

  11. Haydari, my absolute favorite! I use it in sandwiches instead of butter or marge, in jacket potatoes and sometimes just as it is from the tub....Superb :-) Not tried the Pancar Ezme and although I don't spend much time in the kitchen I think I'll give this a go as I love Beetroot. I often pop the market fresh beets in the oven in a little water with the intention of using them throughout the week, however, they rarely make it through the day!

  12. I'm a big Haydari fan! I also love any of the meze with the ground red pepper and chili mixture that you can buy at any of the local markets in Turkey. We bought a sizable bag to bring back home with us, and make a similar tomato and chilli meze to yours. I also made some a spicy baked cauliflower dish with it.. the receipe is over at my Bodrum Peninsula Travel Guide site.

    When I'm in Turkey, I don't need main course, just give me a table full of meze! That, with a view of the sunset and a chilled glass of wine or beer, and life just seems perfect.

    Thanks for the recommendation on Angie's book... I'll have to check that out. Keep on Cooking!

  13. Just found your blog, thanks Noreen. It's great, really enjoying it, thank you.

    1. Glad you are enjoying it and thanks to Noreen for pointing you in this direction.


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