Thursday, 6 February 2014

Pumpkin Dessert with Chopped Walnuts: Kabak Tatlısı

I was thinking that it would be a good idea to re-post this article from the British Community Council e-newsletter where I had my culinary corner on a regular monthly basis a few years ago. This was in its heyday before the BCC disappeared from the scene and now there is no more newsletter. 

Anyway, kabak tatlısı, a winner of a pumpkin sweet, is a Turkish winter classic along with ayva tatlısı or baked quince dessert. I really think that no self-respecting blog about Turkish food is complete without featuring this seasonal dessert that appears in restaurants everywhere in Istanbul at this time of year even if I don't make it myself.

here is a serving of kabak tatlısı complete with kaymak or buffalo cream as you
get it in a restaurant

Kabak tatlısı isn't necessarily difficult to make but because it's so very sweet, the very amount of sugar needed to render the pumpkin to its delectable levels of moistness and downright decadence makes me weak at the knees. But I have to say that it is delicious and the perfect antidote to a fish meal by the Bosphorus and you definitely have to try it!

huge pumpkins are available all throughout the winter months from street vendors or from the outdoor markets.

OK, so here goes (this is an excerpt):

BCC Culinary Corner: November 2010

y pumpkin seller Metin is back on his corner! This marks the official start of autumn-sliding- into-winter for me. He has been there for years, metamorphosing into an artichoke seller in springtime. I have even seen him acquire his first specs.  Pumpkins  have no fat and are very low in calories I have discovered. They contain vitamins A,B and C as well as potassium.  In Turkey they are mainly used in a  delicious traditional dessert called kabak tatlısı  which is served in all the restaurants and found on many family tables at this time of year. Here is the recipe according to Berrin Torolsan from one of my favourite magazines Cornucopia (issue 14); she says this dessert is cooked in the same manner from Inner Mongolia to the Balkans:


½ kg fresh pumpkin/bal kabaği
2 cups sugar
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts/ceviz


  • ·         Slice the pumpkin into segments with a serrated bread knife. Remove seeds and filaments. Using a sharp knife, cut each segment into manageable pieces (slices not chunks) on a board. Cut away the rind, then rinse.
  • ·         Arrange the wet pumpkin pieces snugly in the bottom of a wide, shallow pan. Dust with sugar to cover. Repeat the layers of pumpkin and sugar.
  • ·         Cook on a moderate heat for 30 minutes or until the pumpkin is tender and the liquid reduced. Cool, covered.
  • ·         Transfer the pumpkin to a serving platter, and serve with the chopped walnuts sprinkled over the top. 

Afiyet olsun!  That means Enjoy or Bon Appetit!'


If you are a regular follower of my blog, this is something that you well and truly know: afiyet olsun!

I remember that this particular article motivated someone to write an impassioned comment re the merits of pumpkin pie!!! They are different, that's all I can say.

This dessert is very easily bought from upmarket supermarkets like Macro or Nezih here in Istanbul, Migros too will have it.

They sell the pumpkin slices like this along with the other mezes:

pumpkin cooked and ready to go at Nezih, Çifte Havuzlar

Important note: the chopped walnuts are NOT displayed with the cooked pumpkin slices. They are only added right at the end, otherwise they make the dessert go black!

So I leave it to you: either make it yourself or simply buy it!

Either way, you'll love it!

PS Metin the pumpkin seller is still there but somewhat erratically these days. I think his health is suffering. Also I think the corner café where for years he's had his stall is pushing him out. He's now parked in the road alongside the curb while the café has tables and chairs in his old spot.