Turkish Delights

Before I begin to offer my favourite Turkish recipes, I will share a few interesting facts about Turkish foods. Did you know that Turkey provides 70 percent of the world's hazelnuts? Or that Mezze, a selection of small bits of foods, may include a thick roasted eggplant dip that is flavoured with garlic and lemon, a dip of yogurt with fresh chopped dill, or stuffed grape leaves known as "dolmas" that have rice, parsley, ground lamb, pine nuts, and lemon juice? You might have heard of "boereks", which is a pie of thinly rolled flaky pastry that may be stuffed with cheese, meat, potatoes, or spinach. They are all just divine to eat!

Although I have never visited Turkey, I do have several friends that are from there. Thus, while we lived in the same town, we shared recipes.I have included a two from my collection of Turkish recipes for you to try!

Kebabs, which can be made of chicken or cubes of lamb meat, are grilled gently over wood. You may like to add a small tomato or pieces of onion between your meat. If you decide to make "koftas" you will be taking finely minced meat and mixing it with spices and onions and cooking it on a metal skewer until cooked. Here is a simple koftka recipe to try!

First preheat your oven to 350F. Next, saute in olive oil 1/2 pound of ground beef until brown, roughly about ten to fifteen minutes. Remove from stove when cooked and then place in a bowl in which you can add salt and Aleppo pepper. Stir in 3 tablespoons of finely chopped parsley, 3 tablespoons breadcrumbs, and 3 beaten eggs. Using your hands, place meat mixture around a well-greased metal skewer. Press together, about an inch thick, then place on a greased baking sheet. Once you have your skewers prepared, put them into the oven for about twenty minutes, or until browned. If you enjoy outdoor cooking, try using a grill and charcoal. Your meat will have a nice smokey flavour. You can also make this recipe without using the skewers.

Another favourite of mine is to make grape leaves stuffed with rice, parsley, and pine nuts. A traditional meze dish is called in Turkish, zeytinyagh yaprak sarma. This means vine leaves stuffed or rolled with olive oil.

First, I usually go to my grocery store and buy vine leaves in a bottle. If you are a gardener, you may grow your own vines. Either way, your vine leaves should be picked young. They are then soaked in brine. Thus, make sure you rinse off the salt before using. Otherwise, your dinner may be overly salty.

Next, I like to line an olive oiled deep braising pan with open vine leaves. Then I begin the preparation of my stuffed vine leaves. In a separate pan, with a bit of olive oil, I quickly brown uncooked, rinsed, white rice. I add my pine nuts to my rice, at a !:1 ratio.  I have already prepared chopped up parsley, so once my rice and pine nuts are browned, I then add my chopped up parsley. Then take this mixture off the stove and let it cool.

For your final preparation, make sure you cut out the vein of each vine leaf before filling with your mixture of rice, pine nuts, and chopped parsley. Leaving the vein will make your meal tougher to eat.  I will gently add salt to my mixture. Once I roll each leaf up, stuffed with my mixture of rice, parsley, and pine nuts. I place them with the closed section down on the vine leaves that line the braising pan.  I completely fill up the bottom level of the pan, then add lemon juice. I may have a second layer of rolled stuffed vine leaves placed on top of the first layer. If I do this, then I place a heavy cast iron skillet on top. I make sure to add water to cover the vine leaves before placing my skillet on top. Finally, I place the lid on top and put the pan on a simmer for about an hour. Your rice will puff up and you should have a nice plateful of stuffed vine leaves. Use lemon slices to decorate your plate. It makes an awesome appetizer! Enjoy!

Check these out!

The Turkish Dining Table

Turkish Cooking

Best of Turkish Cooking

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