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Learn about Turkish Cooking!

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Get classic Turkish recipes that anyone will enjoy! Ozlem, who was born and raised in Turkey, talks to us about Turkish cooking.

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Has your family ever tried Turkish recipes? Check out these recipes for mezes, boreks, and kebabs. Your kids will love this new style of cooking! 

Tell us more about yourself, your site, and your family.

My name is Ozlem, I was born and bred in Turkey, and lived there for 30 years. I feel very fortunate to be a part of this rich, generous and welcoming culture. After getting married, my husband, Angus and I moved to Austin, Texas (my husband’s roots!) and lived there for 6 years and gave birth to two wonderful children, Mark (9 years) and Emma (6 years), it was a wonderful experience. Living in the US enabled me to pursue my passion, teaching Turkish cookery through the Central Market Cooking Schools in Austin and Texas; I was delighted to see the interest for the healthy, delicious Turkish cuisine and my homeland.  I now live in England and travel frequently to Turkey and the US to teach Turkish cookery classes. Having two small children, I know the joys and challenges of providing healthy, nutritious and delicious meals that are also practical and easy to prepare. Turkish cuisine fits the bill perfectly here as it is healthy, delicious, affordable and most recipes are very easy to make. Through my blog Ozlem’s Turkish Table –I enjoy sharing these recipes with folks and how they can recreate them in their own home. Living in England, I also cook other Mediterranean inspired dishes and some wonderful sweet treats. I hope the recipes may inspire you to have a go!

What is Turkish cooking? What are classic Turkish recipes?

Good eating has always played an important role in the long history of the Turks in Ottoman times; they gave as much importance to the building of their kitchens as they did to the building of the palaces they catered for. Turkish cuisine is a rich blend of the thousands of years of history – from the Nomad Turks’ flat breads and kebabs back in the 6th century to the Ottomans heritage of blending seasonal produce with spices, nuts and fried fruits. I love the fact that Turkish cuisine makes use of fresh, seasonal produce, olive oil, grains, nuts, yoghurt and spices – it is healthy, delicious, easy to make and reflects a thousand years of history! Turkish recipes are well balanced, very family friendly as you can prepare most recipes ahead of time and leftovers can be frozen successfully.

Among different parts of Turkish cookery, the most notable are:

  • Mezes (mouthwatering appetizers, tasty dips and salads): Have you ever tried warm hummus with red pepper flakes infused olive oil? Warming up the hummus and the olive oil totally transforms the humble hummus, wholesome and delicious. How about the utterly delicious Circassian Chicken with Walnuts, bread sauce and garlic dressing? It is so creamy and delicious that you can’t believe there is not mayonnaise in it.

  • Boreks (pastries) filled with meat, cheese, vegetables or any other filling depending on imagination is another delicious category; this Filo Rolls with Cheese and Parsley filling is one of my favorite; so easy to make and a great favorite with kids and adults. 

  • Kebabs and Koftes (broiled or roasted meat dishes) is a popular category in Turkish cuisine; we like to bake the vegetables with our kebabs, you get a balanced meal in a practical way. This Tray Kebab with Peppers, Tomatoes and Potatoes has always been a huge hit with friends and family.

  • Vegetables cooked in olive oil, “Zeytinyagli's- a special category of Turkish cuisine where a certain vegetable is cooked with onions and tomatoes in  olive oil and garnished with salt, little sugar and sometimes garlic, and served cold or at room temperature. Try these wonderful Eggplants cooked with lentils, peppers, and onions in olive oil; refreshing, delicious, and healthy.
  • Desserts: After such a great variety of delicious dishes, the desserts are also feature heavily, ranging from traditional milk puddings to sweet pastries like “Baklava” to milk and fruit based desserts. Here is my Homemade Baklava recipe with walnuts and pistachio. Turkish Delight is one of Turkey’s landmarks and you can make Turkish Delights at home, here is my recipe if you’d like to try out. A meal at the Turkish table is always finished off with the famous Turkish coffee, cooked in a special long-handled pot called “cezve”. 

What are classic Turkish ingredients or spices that you often use while cooking?

All seasonal, fresh produce is used widely in Turkish cooking and frozen food is minimal. Eggplant is regarded as the king of vegetables and we have over 200 recipes featuring eggplant! We also use spices to add flavor to our dishes; red pepper flakes, cumin, oregano, sumac, dried mint, black pepper are among the most frequently used spices. Here is some more information on Turkish spices for you. Nuts, grains like bulgur, legumes like chickpeas (garbanzo beans), lentils also feature a lot in Turkish cuisine.

There are also Mediterranean recipes on your site. Which ones are your favorites?

Turkish cuisine follows the healthy Mediterranean diet and uses olive oil as its main source of fat; I am  a big fan of olive oil. This simple and delicious pasta with ripe tomatoes, garlic, chili peppers and olive oil with a strong cheese like Pecorino Romano is one of my favorites.

Since you’ve experienced the cuisines from many different countries, which countries do you think have the best foods?

I am a big fan of Mediterranean diet, and along with Turkish cuisine, I love the Italian, Greek, Spanish cuisine, where seasonal produce and olive oil are featured a lot. Each produce is at its best when in season and these cuisines reflect that. I also greatly love the refreshing Thai cuisine and the Indian cuisine; we share the love spices with them.

What do you enjoy the most about cooking?

Cooking for me means sharing a delicious, nutritious bite with the ones you love and care about. Hospitality is a big part of Turkish culture and the life revolves around gathering around the table and sharing a bite with your loved ones. I vividly remember friends and extended family members knocking the door of my Grandmother’s 400 year old house in Antakya spontaneously and they were happily welcomed to the dinner table. Cooking is a way for us to tell folks that we care for them, and I think that is very special.

My heartfelt thanks for having me here in Mommypage, it’s been a pleasure to share Turkish cuisine with you all.

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Ozlem’s Turkish Table | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Email: ozlem@ozlemsturkishtable.com

 

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