Monday, 30 March 2015

Yogurt Cake with Blood Oranges/Kan Portakallı Yoğurtlu Kek

I have a board on Pinterest called Recipes I have to try. 

'Pinning' interesting-looking recipes onto this board is fun and at the same time by far and away the easiest way to save them without cutting out, putting in a scrapbook or creating a recipe file online.


This month it was my turn to have the neighbours to tea and I had been mulling over in my mind what exactly I was going to make. The usual pattern is two tuzlu and two tatlı ie two savoury dishes and two sweet. But I knew what I wanted to try and it was two delectable cakes I had saved on my special board. One in particular, with its eye-catching photograph of a loaf cake topped with vibrant ruby red slices of orange. It looked amazing.

Just look at it:

yogurt cake with blood oranges

Planning ahead, I bought my blood oranges from the market, and with anticipation - I love nothing better than the challenge of a new recipe - got out my mixing bowl and baking ingredients one day last week. Then I brought my laptop into the kitchen to find that recipe. That was easy. I clicked through to the actual website to find the instructions and what should I see but what looked like Polish: something totally incomprehensible at any rate. Well, you can imagine what I thought. Yes, exactly.

Oh no, I thought to myself. Amazing photographs yes, but not one word could I understand. But I was skimming down, feeling more and more irritated, and eventually spotted in small print Scroll down for English version

To cut a long story short, there is a happy ending: this recipe is excellent. It makes a truly delicious loaf cake, every mouthful light and moist, using ingredients that we usually have in our store cupboards. All except orange blossom water -not a staple for me I have to say, but I substituted plain orange juice instead which was just fine. But the point is that pinterest is a site based on sharing images so be careful: often the photos are better than the recipes! But this time the photos were fantastic and the recipe - once I got to it - certainly matched up.

adding ingredients to the mixing bowl

So here's the recipe for Yogurt Cake with Blood Oranges from a blog intriguingly called Chili & Tonka:


(the measurements were all in cups but I have added oz and gr)

1½ cups flour + extra for dusting
2 tsp baking powder
¾ tsp salt
1 cup/8oz/200g sugar
1 tbsp finely grated lemon or orange zest
¾ cup/6oz/150g plain yogurt
½ cup/4oz/100g vegetable oil + extra for greasing the tin
2 large eggs
½ tsp vanilla extract
2 blood oranges/kan portakal
1 tbsp orange blossom water


  • Preheat oven to 180C/350F degrees.
  • Grease and flour a standard loaf tin (5¼ x 9¼in/ 13 x 23 cm)
  • Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.
  • Using your fingers, rub the lemon zest into the sugar in a large bowl until sugar is moist and fragrant.
  • Add yogurt, oil, orange blossom water, eggs, and vanilla extract. Whisk to blend. Fold in dry ingredients with a rubber spatula just to blend. Don't over mix.
  • Pour the batter into your prepared tin and smooth the top.
  • Peel the oranges and cut them into THIN slices. Arrange on top of the cake. Overlapping if fine. NB One orange may be enough.
  • Bake about 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean.
  • Let cake cool in pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Invert onto rack and let it cool completely.
  • Additionally you can brush the top of the cake with liquid fruit jelly or other glaze. Here the recipe leaves you on your own. This is what I did:
  • for glaze:
  • Sieve approx. 2 tbsp apricot jam  into a small saucepan and add the juice of ½ lemon. Using a whisk helps.  Stir over the heat until ingredients are blended, then bring to the boil and simmer for a minute. Let cool slightly then brush over the cake. You can do this a day in advance and it will still be shiny the next day. I really recommend the glaze as it brings out that fabulous colour.
The cake itself can be made up to 3 days in advance and kept at room temperature in an airtight tin or simply wrapped in foil.

here are my two tatlıs: the one on the right, an upside down banana cake with nuts, is another pinterest find - more about that later!
But take it from me, everybody loved both!

Afiyet olsun!

Monday, 23 March 2015

How to Pod Broad Beans ...

Today is Monday so yet again, market day in Selami Çeşme on the Asian side of Istanbul where I live.

Wet, blustery, not a great day but this pazar is really close to where I live so no excuse not to go. Anyway, when I go, I always love it.

I was after, among other things, fresh artichoke hearts and fresh bakla or broad beans. I have a cooking class on Wednesday and of course we are going to cook artichokes/enginar in olive oil with broad beans/baklalı!

I bought a few extra so I could cook them this evening for us and as I was podding the beans, I suddenly wondered if perhaps you might be interested. I mean, I wasn't brought up to the sight of my mother podding broad beans and maybe you weren't either. 

To tell you the truth, I never found it necessary to go that extra mile and pod the beans the second time. Here in Turkey we are lucky as they sell them in the markets already out of their outer pod, usually next to the artichokes. But I am a true convertee: it is really worth it to pod those beans a second time to release that vibrant green colour and the real taste of this springtime delicacy.

So here is how to do it:

beautiful and fresh, home from the market

use a sharp knife and make a slit in each

sprinkle with a teaspoon of salt, rub in, and wait 10 minutes. Then slip off the outer skin.

fresh and green: worth that extra hassle

This evening I used them to make artichokes in olive oil with these beans.

Last week I made a delicious bulgur pilaf with broad beans but I haven't posted the recipe as yet.

Other links to past posts featuring broad beans or bakla:


You can see I am a seasonal cook
The main purpose of this post is to encourage you to pod those beans that second time!
Go on, it's springtime after all!

Monday, 16 March 2015

Time Again for Fresh Broad Beans Cooked in Olive Oil/Zeytinyağlı Taze Bakla

You just can't help it: if it's the time, then it's the time.

And the time right now is for broad beans or fava beans as they say in the US.

As the season turns, so inevitably do one's culinary inclinations.. bakla as they are called here, are starting to appear so it stands to reason that you are going to cook them!

literally: marvellous fresh broad beans! you can see the price is quite high ...

The standard Turkish way is to do them with olive oil ... zeytinyağlı. Nothing wrong with that. This post may even be a little bit late as the word 'sakız' is all-important: it means freshest of the fresh indicating that these beans don't have to be stringed. I made this dish last week when they were indeed described as sakız in the market - it made it all that much easier, not having to remove those pesky double strings. A week makes a lot of difference on the market front so it may be too late for that. If so, you will simply have to remove the offending strings - you have to as they are diabolical in your teeth!

fresh broad beans/fava beans/bakla cooked in olive oil

Here is the recipe for this authentic Turkish dish:

Fresh broad beans cooked in oliveoil/zeytinyağlı taze bakla:

Serves 4-6


1½lbs/800g fresh broad/fava beans/bakla
2tbsp flour
1 tbsp lemon juice
½ cup olive oil
1 small onion, finely diced
3 tbsp coarsely chopped fresh dill/dereotu
 *garlic yogurt to serve

*Garlic Yogurt:

1½ cups plain yogurt
4 garlic cloves, crushed

In a small bowl, whisk the yogurt, garlic and salt until smooth. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes to allow the flavour of the garlic to blend with the yogurt.

Method for Broad Beans Cooked in Olive Oil

based on Özcan Ozan's  'Sultan's Kitchen'

  • If the beans are not really new and fresh, prepare them by snapping off one end and pulling off the string, then turning the beans over and pulling the string from the other side. Cut them in half and place in a bowl. Cover with cold water, sprinkle on the flour and stir in the lemon juice. Set aside.
  • Heat the olive oil in a deep pot over medium heat and cook the onion gently for about 2 minutes, until softened. Drain the beans and add them to the pot along with 2 tbsp of the dill and 1½ cups water. Season with salt.
  • Bring this mixture to a boil, then lower the heat, cover the pot, and simmer for about 40 minutes or until beans are tender.
  • Transfer the mixture to a serving dish, cover it and refrigerate. pour the garlic yogurt over the beans and sprinkle on the rest of the chopped dill. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

fresh and vibrant
broad beans with the freshly chopped dill in the pan

Afiyet olsun!

Monday, 9 March 2015

I Learn How to Make Borekitas From Madam Fortuna

I had such a wonderful Saturday afternoon: it was like stepping into a different time in Istanbul, a time when the the population make-up included sizable Jewish, Armenian and Greek communities.

I was with my friend Lusi who usually visits her mother at the weekend. This time the invitation included me as I had happened to ask her if she ever made borekita.  This question followed on from my learning that it is the time of Purim right now and I wondered if perhaps borekita, a Jewish type of börek, were considered festive and associated with this feast.

borekita, fresh out of the oven, fragrant, warm and inviting

It turns out that they're not but boreka or borekita are very special, very Jewish, always savoury, and served with tea in the afternoon. According to Claudia Roden, the doyenne of Middle Eastern food and cooking whose book The Book of Jewish Food is such an amazing resource, these 'little pies are the pride and joy and the trademark of the Sephardi table'. The name comes from the Turkish word börek but they differ from ours in size, shape, type of pastry and filling.

Lusi's mother, fourth of five daughters, is called Tuna short for Fortuna and, according to her daughter, is the family borekita expert.  She lives very near Göztepe Park which is nearby, with her husband Monsieur Albert/Mösyö Alber, who looked on benignly as we proceeded with the afternoon's programme. 

here is the lovely and lively Madam Fortuna with the tray of borekitas before baking

But before we got down to business, Lusi and I were waved to two armchairs beside the window for a welcome cup of Turkish coffee. Any afternoon gathering always starts with this: we both took it az şekerli/ with a little sugar, and it was quite the most delicious coffee I have had for a very long time. Madam Tuna makes it herself, no Arçelik coffee machine for her!

served with the mandatory glass of water, lokum and cookies

I was entranced when I realized they were not speaking Turkish amongst themselves but Ladino, the language of the Turkish and Balkan Jews which has evolved from the archaic Castilian dating from before the Spanish expulsion in 1492, influenced over time by French, Arabic, Spanish and Italian. I didn't realize that Lusi could speak it, I don't think her daughters can.

The Jews of Istanbul traditionally make their borekitas with one of two fillings depending on the season: aubergine in summer and potato in winter. But nowadays we can get aubergine all the year round so Madam Tuna had kindly prepared both fillings so that I could taste both. I looked them up in Claudia Roden's book when I got home and sure enough, she has the recipes for both so I am giving them here. Apparently the aubergine filling is particular to the Istanbul Jewish community so I was thrilled to be trying something so authentic.

        Ingredients for the aubergine filling: (makes about 20)
  • 500g/1lb aubergines
  • 100g/4oz feta/white cheese/beyaz peynir
  • 100g/4oz grated taze kaşar peyniri, kashkaval or Gruyere
  • pepper
  • salt (optional since the white cheese contains salt)


  • Grill the aubergines either in the oven, under the grill or over the gas flame until soft and blackened. Put them in a colander and peel them. Then chop the flesh in the colander with a sharp knife to release the juices, and press them out with your hand. NB Madam Tuna wraps the peeled aubergines in a piece of muslin and squeezes them to get rid of as much liquid as possible.
  • Turn the  aubergine into a bowl. Add the feta and mix well. Then add the kaşar, kashkaval or gruyere and the pepper and mix well. You may not need to add any salt. Taste before you do.

         Ingredients for the potato filling: (makes about 40)
  • 400g/14oz or 3 medium potatoes, boiled and mashed
  • 350g/12oz white cheese/feta/beyaz peynir
  • 50g/2oz grated Parmesan or kaşar peyniri
  • 3 eggs
  • white pepper
  • Mix all the filling ingredients together thoroughly.

Now, here is the recipe for the actual boreka/borekita dough: (makes about 20)

I am giving Claudia Roden's recipe as she has proper tried and tested measurements. Madam Tuna's method which I witnessed with my own eyes was all coffee cups and water glasses. Even though these translate into 1/4 cups and cups respectively, and is straightforward enough, I think I'll go with Claudia Roden who has 2 Basic Pie Dough recipes, the first using sunflower oil and the second oil and butter. Madam Tuna's is actually a cross between the two but is basically like the first one.

  • 125ml/4fl oz sunflower oil
  • 125ml/4fl oz warm water
  • ½ tsp salt
  • about 350g/12oz flour
        Method - I am going to quote directly from Claudia Roden:

  • 'This is a very easy dough to make. It can be easily rolled or flattened between the palms of your hand. The quantity of flour needed is always given as 'as much as it takes - when it feels like the lobe of your ear'. So true: this is what Turkish cooks say! I think that is much more sensible than giving precise measures, since the amount of water that flour absorbs varies not only with different types of flour but with flour from the same provenance from one year to another.
  • ... For this reason, I urge you to add the amount of flour slowly towards the end, and to be ready to stop when you feel the dough has absorbed as much as it can. It should be extremely soft and malleable.
  • In a large bowl, mix the oil, water and salt, beating with a fork. Gradually work in enough flour to make a soft, malleable dough - stirring it in with the fork to begin, then working it in with your hands. You may roll it out right away. If you want to keep it aside for an hour or so, do so in clingfilm and at room temperature, not chilled in the refrigerator.'
Madam Tuna did exactly this but waited 15 minutes. She also sieved her flour.

sieving the flour into the liquid

to continue in Claudia Roden's own words:

  • 'It is a very oily dough and must be rolled out without flouring the rolling pin or the surface. You want the rolling pin and surface to become oily so as not stick to the dough. Divide the dough into 4 pieces to make rolling easier. Roll out as thin as you can, and cut into 10cm/4 inch rounds with a pastry cutter. Scraps can be immediately rolled into a ball and rolled again so you do not waste any part of the dough.'
Madam Tuna did not use a rolling pin but just her hands. She took walnut-sized lumps of dough and rolled each into a ball. She pressed and pulled to get each as thin as possible.

see what a compact dough it makes
rolling into balls; behind is the aubergine filling
placing a spoonful of filling on each round
this dough stretches very easily: here she has pinched the edges firmly
together and twisted all around
  • Put a heaped teaspoon of filling in the middle of each round. Fold the dough over the filling into a half-moon shape. Then pinch the edges firmly together to seal the pies. It is traditional in all the Jewish communities to pinch, fold and twist all around the edges.
  • Place the little pies on oiled trays or a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper.
Madam Tuna did not brush with egg yolk mixed with a drop of water but Claudia Roden does. Madam T however, dipped each borekita into grated kaşar cheese before placing on the baking tray.
  • Bake at 350F/180C for about 35 minutes or until slightly golden. they are best eaten hot but are also good cold.

I absolutely agree with this: they really are at their best when oven-warm, just like any börek. Of course they can be reheated in the oven later on. They can also be frozen before cooking, and then cooked from frozen. Lusi tells me that in the summer on the island (Büyükada), she often makes one big tart and fills it with the aubergine filling.

And so it was, that while our borekitas were cooking, we sat at the table and enjoyed a wonderful cauliflower and artichoke salad along with a piyaz:

and then along came the borekitas, golden brown and simply heavenly, accompanied by glasses of çay ... 

Ellinize sağlık, Madam Fortuna! Çok teşekkürler!

Literally, health to your hands, thank you very much, Madam Fortuna!

What a fantastic afternoon!

Monday, 2 March 2015

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

February - March 2015: Istanbul

I purposefully waited until today to go to my local weekly market here in Selami Çeşme on the Asian side of Istanbul so that I could see for myself what seasonal changes have occurred since the last time I went.

First of all, yes, there are some positive signs of spring - look, mimosa!

I liked this display
nestling next to the cabbages

There were huge piles of bakla or broad beans everywhere, true harbingers of spring indeed. There were even some which had been podded for using with enginar/artichokes although it is early for both of these. I asked if the artichokes were from Cyprus which is always early but most of the stallholders replied no, Izmir. Anyway, I bought some! They look delicious, fresh, and meaty, much more attractive than the ones in jars that have been available most of the winter.


I also bought half a kilo of broad beans: they look very young and fresh and will make a change after a steady diet of winter veg.

as you can see, these guys aren't camera shy in the slightest

Other newcomers included a sighting of semizotu or purslane but I (and the woman next to me) refrained from buying it as by rights it is far too early in the season. I associate it with eggplant/patlıcan, red peppers/ kırmızı biber, and courgettes/kabak and their time is not now! My sources tell me that this month is the month for asparagus or kuşkonmaz but I didn't see any at all.

However you can still see a few pomegranates here and there but they have lost their fabulous vibrancy; quinces, but not nearly as many so if you want to make your last quince dessert/ayva tatlısı, buy them now! Oranges are starting to lose their juiciness. The apples are still looking good: I particularly recommend the Fuji variety (the ones on the right) but I think generally Amasya are the apple of choice here. Granny Smith are too perfect to be true: I had one that got lost in the fridge and it came out weeks later looking as good as the day it went in.

 a nice selection of apples/elma

What struck me today was not only the abundance but the sheer exuberance of all the greenery: the different lettuces, parsley, nettles, spinach, Swiss Chard, and above all, the mounds of different green peppers. We now have quite a choice compared with days of yore when it was either tatlı/sweet, or acı/hot. Life was simpler then. You could tell them apart by their colour and shape as the tatlı were light green and bigger, while the acı were slim and a dangerous-looking dark green.

a huge pile of 'garden' sweet peppers although to me they look like the old-fashioned acı

Turks eat them for breakfast! I like them too but in modest amounts. They go well with the sliced tomatoes and cucumbers that distinguish a Turkish kahvaltı. However, the tomatoes are still not in season although I do buy the very small ones as at least they have taste. Have you noticed how quickly the little cucumbers go off? They're delicious but I only buy half a kilo at a time.

Right now prices are reflecting the change in season: we are inbetween right now. Keep your eyes open for signs saying Yeni Mahsul/New Crop. Or conversely, Son ... /Last... Those celery roots, cabbages and cauliflowers will eventually disappear, leeks too..

Son Hafta/Last Week for 'boiling' chestnuts proclaim the signs

Visit your local pazar to witness the changing seasons with your very own eyes!

Saturday, 28 February 2015

Delicious Winter Vegetable Soup with Lemon & Egg/Ekşili Çorba

My feet don't seem to have touched the ground these last two weeks what with a photography course, walks, and everything else! Oh yes, we also had the big snow, the worst in 28 years here in Istanbul,followed by some beautiful mild days that made us think that maybe, just maybe, spring is just around the corner.

But today was chilly again and this time it was TT's turn to feel under the weather. I had to go out but luckily I had made this old family favourite of a soup yesterday and it's one of those that just gets better and better if left to its own devices in the fridge for a day or two.

a bowl of warming vegetable soup with lemon & egg to thicken/ekşili çorba

It's an authentic Turkish recipe along with lentil, Ezo Gelin and Yayla. I had actually quite forgotten all about it, you know how one does appeared regularly on the menu when the children were little but less so now, for some reason. (Click here for an earlier version).  Children love the little round meatballs in this soup because they look 'prickly' with the protruding grains of rice. But now I've 'remembered' this recipe, I will definitely be making it again soon as it's appetising and warming.

ekşili çorba

The key word is 'ekşili' coming from 'ekşi' which means 'sour'. Here it refers to the tangy blend of lemon juice with the yolk of one egg: you mix them together and then carefully incorporate into the hot soup. Then it gently cooks and thickens, adding both colour, consistency and of course taste. This mix of egg and lemon is also referred to as 'terbiye'.

ready to whisk the lemon juice into the egg yolk
So here's the recipe for this delicious soup with a little bit of zing to it:

Winter Vegetable Soup with Lemon & Egg/Ekşili Çorba

Serves 6


For the meatballs:

500g/1lb of ground beef (köftelik)
1/4 cup rice, rinsed
1 onion, chopped finely
2 tbsp cooking oil
1 small tsp black pepper
1 tbsp salt
2 tbsp flour (to coat the meatballs)

For the terbiye/lemon and egg mix:

juice of 1 lemon
1 egg yolk

For the soup:

1 medium potato, diced
1 medium carrot, diced
2 tbsp parsley, chopped
8 cups water
1 small tsp salt
2 celeriac leaves or sprigs (optional)


  • Put the ground beef in a large bowl with the onion, rice, salt and black pepper and mix well. Roll into small balls and place on a floured tray. Shake the tray so that they all become covered in the flour.
  • Place all the chopped vegetables in the 8 cups of water and add the salt. Bring to the boil, add the floured meatballs and then the cooking oil to the water. Gently boil for 20 minutes.
  • Place the egg yolk in a small bowl and beat in the lemon juice. Carefully add one ladle of the hot liquid to the mixture and stir well to avoid curdling. Then add this mixture to the saucepan and stir. Boil for 10 more minutes.
  • Stir in the chopped parsley.
  • Let the soup rest for 10 minutes before serving.

delicious winter vegetable soup with lemon and egg/ekşili çorba

Afiyet olsun!

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Date and Orange Muffins/ Hurmalı Portakallı Mini Kek

date and orange muffins ready for tea!

Take one whole orange - yes, skin and all, just minus the pips - and pulverise it in the food processor ... these little muffins aren't moist and full of flavour for nothing; right now the oranges are bursting with juice and taste so this is the ideal recipe.

first the orange, then the orange juice, egg and melted butter - give them a whizz and hey presto!

The first time I made them I didn't have any dates and one glance out of the window at the raging snow storm confirmed that I was going to have to use whatever other dried fruit I had to hand. It turned out to be large seedless black raisins, left over from the Christmas mincemeat. They were fine but I made the recipe again, this time with the specified dates, and they were much better: tastier, for a start, with more texture to them. So if you can, I recommend you use dates.

date and orange muffins/hurmalı portakallı mini kek

So how about a bit of homebaking?  It's just the weather for it!

This is a lovely straightforward recipe from a book with the comforting title of Granny's Muffins - 55 New Zealand Favourites Tried & True!  I think it's quite oldMany of you will immediately guess where I got this recipe: yes, from good friend Lesley who lives here but is from New Zealand originally. I made my mincemeat at Christmas this year from another NZ recipe that she passed on and it was fantastic. She is an excellent cook and her recipes are always reliable not to mention delicious!

Date and Orange Muffins/Hurmalı Portakallı Mini Kek

Makes 12


1 medium orange, washed and cut into quarters
½ cup orange juice
1 egg
100g/4oz butter, melted, plus a little extra to grease the muffin tin
1½ cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
¾ cup granulated sugar
½ cup dates/hurma, chopped


  • Preheat the oven to 190C/375F.
  • Place the pieces of orange in the food processor and reduce to pulp. Add orange juice, egg and melted butter, and combine.
  • Sift the flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda and sugar into a bowl. 
  • Add the mixture from the processor to the dry ingredients and stir well.
  • Add the chopped dates and mix until just combined.
  • Use the mixture to fill a 12-hole muffin tin which has been greased. (Each hole will be filled about 3/4 full). OR YOU CAN USE CUPCAKE PAPERS.
  • Bake for 20 minutes in the pre-heated oven or until firm and nicely browned.
Afiyet olsun!

cooling on a wire rack

Make them soon while the weather is still miserable: I loved this recipe because it's simple and unpretentious- these little muffins will be a hit with both friends and family ....


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