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Thursday, December 9, 2010


I have never been much of a baker.  Especially when it comes to cakes.  Fortunately, my friend V has gave me a cake book few years ago as a gift, which improved my baking skills very much.  I still fail to bake a nice looking cake sometimes, although according to my husband they all taste good.  I have been baking some Christmas cookies around this time last few years.  There is no risk of messing them up too bad so I love baking them.  While looking for the recipes of my favorite cookies, and believe me there are quite a few, I decided to write this one.  It absolutely tastes the best with the butter and the jam.  It's really a shame to bake them only at this time of the year but given the amount of butter in them, maybe that's a good cycle. 

(Makes about 40-50 pieces with 4-5 cm diameter cookie cutters)

250 g Butter (about 1 1/4 cups) - softened
125 g powder sugar (about 1/2 cup)
pinch of salt
1/2 tablespoon of vanille sugar
1 egg white (lightly beaten)
350 g white flour (a little less than 3 cups)

For filling:
3-4 tablespoons of quince jelly or any other jam, jelly or marmalade you prefer.

To sprinkle:
2 tablespoons of powdered sugar

Here are the steps:
1.  Start with mixing the softened butter and sugar in a bowl. 
2.  Stir vanille sugar, a pinch of salt and the egg white into the mix.
3. Mix in the flour to the dough. 
4. When the dough is formed, wrap it up with a folio and put it into the fridge to chill for 1 hour. 
5. Take the dough out of the fridge 30 minutes before you start rolling it out.
6. Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F).
7. Roll out the dough to 2mm (a bit less than 0.1 inch) and cut out shapes with cookie cutters. 
8. Cut out shapes with cookie cutters.  Make sure you have 2 of each shape. 
9. By using a miniature cookie cutter make a shape in the middle of the cookies you'll put on top. 
10. Place the cookies on a baking sheets and bake in the middle rack for about 6-8 minutes.  
11. After they are done, leave them on the baking sheets for about 1-2 minutes to cool down and then transfer them on a wire rack to cool completely.  I normally leave them to cool over the night. 
12. To assemble the cookies, put some some jelly on the bottom half with the help of a teaspoon, then place the top part over.  Try not to put too much jelly, otherwise it will look a little messy.  You can also melt the jelly in a pan before you do this.  I normally just do it without but a lot of recipes call for melting the jelly before making the little sandwich.
13. Sprinkle some powder sugar over the cookies.  

These cookies can be stored in an airtight cookie tin or a jar and they are best when eaten fresh. 

Monday, December 6, 2010

Fresh Basil and Parsley Pesto

Before the snow came and it all got freezing cold, I had a look at my herb garden and thought I should not waste all that fresh stuff and make something out of them. I dried the peppermints and dried some of the sage to make some tea later on in the winter.  Then took out all of the parsley, rosemary and thyme. Basil has been inside the house in a pot for a while as it does not like the cold at all.  At least that is what I have learned after throwing away 4-5 pots of dried, dead basil in the past years.  Now the problem was what to do with all this. I always wanted to try making fresh pesto but I didn't have enough basil so this is what I've done.  A combination of parsley and basil. The pesto was delicious and we ended up eating it all within a couple of weeks.

(Makes about 200-250gr)
1 cup of fresh basil
1 cup of fresh parsley
1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons of pine nuts
3 garlic cloves - peeled
salt and freshly milled pepper to taste

First, put the pine nuts in a food processor and run it for a few seconds until they are all crushed.  Next, add in the rest of the ingredients but leave out olive oil.  Pulse it a few times and then add the olive oil.  Pulse it couple of times more.  You may need to scrape down the sides with a spatula in between. 
Finally add some salt and pepper to taste. 
Best way to store pesto is in a closed jar.  If you need, add some more olive oil on top after you fill the jar with pesto. This helps to keep the pesto longer in the fridge. 

Pesto can be used in a lot of pasta dishes, as well as pizza and lasagne.  I definitely recommend to spread it on fresh bread and try it first. It's yummy. 

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Tahini Bread

As the baking time is approaching I wanted to post a related recipe that is very easy to do.  Kids love these.   This recipe is a version of the usual tahini bread that I know of.  It's a lot less sweet and I added a little bit Swiss twist by adding chestnuts to the recipe.  I love tahini and this is a great use of it if you have a jar of tahini and  that you don't know what to do with it.  You can either use all of the dough to make one big bread, or smaller ones like I did. 

For the dough:
400 g half white/half whole wheat flour
100 g sugar
1/2 pack of yeast
50 g butter
150 ml milk

For the filling
125 g chestnut (mashed)
1 tablespoon of crushed almonds
3 tablespoons of yogurt
1 tablespoon of cream
4 tablespoons of Tahini
3 tablespoons of brown sugar

To glaze
3-4 tablespoons of fruit gel or marmelade
To sprinkle 
1-2 tablespoons of sugar

I made the dough by mixing all the ingredients for the dough in a bread machine for 1.5 hours.  Alternatively, the ingredients can be mixed in a bowl and kneed to a dough. Then the dough should wait at room temperature for two hours.  
To prepare the filling, put all filling ingredients in a food processor and mix for about a minute. 
When the dough is ready, roll it out with a rolling pin and spread the filling over it by leaving some space on the ends. Roll the dough carefully to a spiral.  Slice the roll into about 12-15 pieces without pressing too much.  Place the slices on a baking tray over a baking paper.  
Bake them in a preheated oven at 200° C(400° F) for about 25 minutes.  When done, take them out and put them over a grill.  Warm up the gel in a small pen and brush it over the tahini breads.  If you prefer you can also sprinkle some sugar over them as well.
Have a cup of tea and enjoy them while warm and fresh.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Cacik - Yogurt and Cucumber Meze

It has been too long but it's like this once you have a vacation.  You mentally check out from all the things you should be doing and if you are a mother then you start thinking what to pack.  Yes I was on holiday again and it was great.  But it is time to get back on the usual daily routine so as I promised I am writing the recipe for the famous "Cacik".  I guess it is a little strange for me to write this because I never heard of a Turkish person giving the recipe for this to another Turkish person.  It seems like we learn this from our mothers and pass it on to our children. It comes naturally, without being written anywhere.  It is also too easy to write.  However I had so many friends asking for the recipe so I had to write it.  The way cacik is done varies within different parts of the country, however the ingredients are generally the same.  In some parts, they add some water to the yogurt so that it almost has the texture of a cold soup.  I prefer it with a thick yogurt.   This time I used fresh peppermint and it was delicious. 

(Makes about 4-5 portions as a dip or meze)
500 g natural yogurt
a large cucumber, peeled and finely chopped into very small bits
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed or finely chopped
a handful of fresh peppermint leaves (alternatively you can use dried and crushed peppermint)
salt to taste
a drizzle of olive oil (optional)

If you have time, prepare this few hours before you serve because it tastes much better if it waits a little while.
Mix yogurt with garlic, salt and cucumbers.  Finely chop most of the mint leaves and mix them into the yogurt.  Leave some of the mint leaves to garnish.  Pour the cacik into bowls to serve.  Garnish with some mint leaves. You can also add a drizzle of olive oil on top before you serve. 
You can also put some crushed chilies on top if you want to spice it up.  It goes really well with the Chickpea and Bulgur kofte from the previous post.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Chickpea and Bulgur Kofte

I guess this is another post that should be added to "What to do with leftover food" series.  I really didn't think it would turn out so good but as soon as I tried it I knew I had to write the recipe.  I like making bulgur pilaf because it's very easy and practical but I always make a little bit too much of it.  This time I made these nice falafel-like spicy koftes and they were super delicious.  If you have some canned chickpeas and bulgur, have a go at this and believe me you won't regret.  I normally prepare some chickpeas and freeze them in small bags to use them later on.  Bulgur rice in this recipe is very easy to make if you have some onions and fresh tomatoes, however you can also make it plain without onions and tomatoes if you'd like.  You would also need a food processor for this recipe.

(Makes about 10)

for Bulgur rice:
150 gr Bulgur (about 1 cup)
1 tomato, peeled and grated.
1 small onion - chopped
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of blackpepper
2 cups of water or vegetable stock
1 tablespoon of olive oil

200 gr of cooked chickpeas
1 teaspoon of ground chilies
about 1 teaspoon of freshly milled blackpepper
salt to taste
1 tablespoon parsley
2-3 tablespoons of oil to cook

Start with making your Bulgur rice. First saute your onions with the olive oil.  Then add tomatoes and saute them with onions for about a minute. Add the bulgur, salt, pepper and water and leave it to cook over low heat for about 15 minutes.  Check regularly to make sure it's not sticking to the bottom of the pan.  When it's done leave it cool. 

To make the kofte, put the chickpeas, parsley, bulgur rice and the spices into the food processor.  Run it on a low level so that they are not forming a puree but a slightly crumbly mixture. 
When it's ready make little forms as in the picture and fry them on both sides on a non-stick pan with some olive oil or another oil of your choice.  Serve them with a nice green salad and Turkish cacik. (Recipe will follow)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Bruschetta with Tomato and Basil

Here are a few things you can do by just getting up early.  By that I mean really early.  You can have a cup of tea in piece.  No kids running around.  You can also write in silence.  Not that I can write when the kids are around.  This really should be a habit for me.  So here is me writing about Bruschetta, which I really should when we have the opportunity to buy some fresh summer tomatoes and basil.  I've seen them made with a lot of different ingredients but for me the simple version is the best.  In some recipes they put onions in them too, which I don't prefer.  Garlic brings out the flavors of tomato and basil and goes really well with olive oil. In some recipes they skin the tomatoes and take the seeds out before making the bruschetta but I prefer the tomatoes unpeeled and with a lot of juice.  The juice moistens the bread with the garlic and olive oil very nicely.

(Makes about 6-8)
6-8 slices of baguette or Italian bread
3-4 tomatoes - diced
2 cloves of garlic - crushed
2-3 tablespoon of olive oil
1/2 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
salt and freshly milled black pepper to taste
fresh basil leaves to garnish 

1. First chop the tomatoes and put them in a bowl.  Add in the crushed garlic, olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  You can also add some chopped basil leaves if you prefer. Put some salt and pepper to taste and move on to next step to prepare your bread.  If you prepare the topping with tomatoes a little earlier than serving time, the flavors will blend a little bit better.
2. Now to prepare the bread, you have few options.  Just chose whatever suits you.  
You can simply toast the bread in a toaster, you can toast them in the oven with some olive oil brushed over the slices or you can toast them on a non-stick pan with a little bit of olive oil brushed on both sides.  I've certainly tried all and they all result very good, however if you're in a hurry then I suggest toasting them on a pan.  This way you get them done quickly but be careful not to burn the bread. 
3. Last part is to put the tomato topping on the bread slices.  Garnish them with fresh basil leaves and serve them slightly warm.  This is really a nice taste of summer.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Bread and Butter Pudding

I have never tried this before, although I'm coming from a family that cooks various dishes with left over bread.  There are so many of them, I wouldn't even know where to begin with.  I was thinking what to do with the spelt bread I made. For some reason we didn't get the chance to eat much of it.  I didn't want to just throw it away then I thought about this recipe I saw in my "Low fat cookbook".  I bought this book years ago.  The food photos in it looked amazing and super healthy.  You wouldn't think there was a bread and butter pudding in there.  Below recipe is adapted from the book.  It's been modified quite a bit because I didn't have most of the ingredients.  It would be great with any kinds of mixed fruit or even with just raisins.

Bread and Butter Pudding
(Serves 5-6)

50 g butter
8-10 slices of old bread (remove the crusts if possible)
1 cup of mixed dried fruit
1/2 cup of dried raisins
1/2 cup of sugar
1/4 teaspoon of grounded nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
1 teaspoon of vanilla sugar or vanilla essence
2 eggs (beaten)
2,5 cups of milk

To start with, spread some butter with a spoon on both sides of the slices of bread.  Put the slices in a greased ovenproof casserole dish.  This should form your first layer.  Sprinkle half of the sugar, half of the fruits and spices.  In a bowl, mix milk, eggs and vanilla sugar together and then put half of this mixture over the first layer of bread.  Put the rest of the bread on top to form the second layer.  Pour the rest of the milk mixture on top.  Sprinkle the rest of the sugar, spices and fruits.  Bake it in the preheated oven (180° C/356° F) for 30-40 minutes.  It's an easy but delicious dessert. 

Monday, August 2, 2010


Here is another traditional recipe that I love.  In my family this dish is cooked more or less the same way except the cream sauce.  The cream sauce seems to be more common in Greek based recipes and this one I generally use is an adapted version of the Moussaka recipe from my The Complete Middle East Cookbook.  I wanted to write about this recipe a long time ago, but I didn't like the photos I took back then.  But it seems you can't take a good looking moussaka picture (If you don't believe me just Google Moussaka for images).  There is only few decent ones.  I just took these shots for you to give you an idea what it sort of looks like.  Despite the way it looks in the photos, it's one of my favorite dishes.  I only used aubergines here but you can also add sliced potatoes.

(Serves 5-6)

300 g minced beef
3 Aubergines (Peeled partially and sliced 1-1.5 cm (1/4") thick)
1 medium onion (chopped)
2 cloves of garlic (chopped or crushed)
3 tablespoons of olive oil
1 cup of chopped tomatoes
1 tablespoon of tomato paste
1 tablespoon of chopped parsley
salt and pepper

Cream Sauce:
1 tablespoon of butter
2 tablespoons of flour
2 cups of milk
a pinch of nutmeg 
1 tablespoon of grated parmesan
1 egg
salt and pepper

1. Start with peeling your aubergines as described in the ingredients section.  In a large bowl, put some water and about a teaspoon of salt and leave the aubergine slices in this salty water for about an hour.  Dry them with a paper towel.  This process is not necessary but it is done so that aubergines don't absorb too much oil during frying. 
2. Next, put 2 tablespoon of olive oil in a non-stick pan and fry both sides of aubergine slices until they are light brown.  Put them on a plate until you are ready with the rest of the ingredients.  (Here you can use oil spray or brush the aubergines slightly with a little bit of olive oil as an alternative).
3. To make the meat sauce, saute the onions and garlic in a pan with a tablespoon of olive oil.  Add the minced beef and continue to cook.  Finally add the tomatoes, tomato paste with some salt and pepper.  When it's all done, take it off the heat and stir in the chopped parsley.  
4.  Make your cream sauce in a small sauce pan over medium heat.  Put in all the ingredients, except the parmesan, nutmeg, salt and pepper.  With the help of a whisker, keep whisking the sauce over medium heat until you have a thick sauce.  Take it off the heat and stir in the parmesan, nutmeg, salt and pepper. 
5.  Take a medium size casserole dish to layer up the moussaka.  Put a layer of aubergines at the bottom, then a layer of minced meat sauce over the aubergines.  Repeat the same process until you run out of the meat sauce and aubergines.  Finally, spread the cream sauce on top.  If you have some left over parmesan, sprinkle it over the cream sauce.  A little bit of black pepper on top and then you are ready to put it in the preheated oven (180° C/356° F) for about 45 minutes until you have a golden brown creamy sauce on top.  Serve it with rice, potatoes or with some nice plain yogurt. 

Monday, July 26, 2010

Oven Roasted Potatoes

It seems that summer is already over here and I'm ready to go into the Christmas mood.  After waiting for summer to arrive for so long, I'm finally giving up.  Yes, there has been some nice days that were warm (hot) and sunny, but here we are again with cloudy, gray skies and with temperatures that we should have had around spring.  Somehow, after having few days of summer, then next day with winter temperature seems to be really acceptable around here.  After living for very long time now, I am finally accepting the fact that I will never ever have an uninterrupted summer of 3 months (or more) again.  A week or two weeks of summer is perfectly fine.  It saves you a lot of energy.  No need to do spring cleaning.  Who would need to have clean windows for few days anyway, especially if it will rain right after you clean them?
But if you are having a day or two of summer, or if you are one of those lucky people who has long summer season, then I suggest you make these roasted potatoes as a side dish to your BBQ.  They are so easy to prepare. There is no precooking involved. They are healthier and tastier than usual fried potatoes.
I have learned how to make these from my mother-in-law.  I had few friends who have asked me the recipe before, so here it is.  I've made few changes to the original recipe, such as adding the vinegar, which makes the potatoes a little more crispy.

Oven Roasted Potatoes

(Makes 4 servings as a side dish)

About 1 kg potatoes
1/2 tablespoon of fresh thyme
2 tablespoons of fresh rosemary leaves
3-4 tablespoons of olive oil
1 tablespoon of white wine vinegar
Freshly milled black pepper

Preheat your oven to 200° C(400° F) before you start.  Wash the potatoes very well and without peeling them slice the potatoes into wedges.  Take a deep salad bowl and put the potatoes in and then the olive oil.  Turn them around to get the potatoes coated with olive oil.  Then add all the other ingredients and mix them well with the potatoes. On a flat baking tray, place a baking paper, then spread the potatoes on.  Put them in the preheated oven for about 30 minutes.  If you want them more crispy then roast them for about 20 minutes, then take them out,  quickly turn them around a little bit with the help of a spoon or spatula, then roast them for another 10.  Depending on the type of potatoes you are using, cooking time can vary between 30-45 minutes, so check if they are cooked before taking them out.  Do not burn your fingers while doing so.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Cordon Bleu

This was the last thing I thought I would be cooking after the holiday.  To be honest, I was so used to not-cooking after being cooked for such a long time, I felt like I couldn't be bothered to cook proper meals again.  Oh well...  I had to start at some point.   Husband and kids were hungry so I did what I had to do.   I went to look in my freezer to see what I can find in there, hoping that there is a frozen pizza somewhere hidden or forgotten so I wouldn't have to do much work.  The only thing I could find was some frozen meat including some beef fillets cut for Cordon Bleu.  I have to say, I get these delivered as a part of a package but I have never used them in a real Cordon Bleu, except once. Mainly because I was too lazy to do the work.  Stuffing it, frying it, etc.  It just looked too complicated.  I ended up cooking them as schnitzels or chop them into something else.  This time somehow,  I had the ingredients at home although we had not yet done a proper grocery shopping.  I already had the Gruyere and some Turkey ham.  I have done this once before from a recipe book but it didn't quite work that time, but this trial turned out to be a success.  Meat was cooked perfectly and was soft.  Kids loved it. (Surprisingly!)
I did it really quickly in a very simplified way so if you have the ingredients then go for it.  Below recipe is adapted from Betty Bossi Fleischküche cookbook.

(Makes 3)

3 pieces of beef or veal fillet, sliced into two thin pieces each.  You can leave them attached from one side so it would be easier to close them up. 
100 g Gruyere Cheese (should make about 3 large slices to fill up each steak)
3 pieces of Turkey ham or usual ham
1/2 tablespoon of mustard
Salt and freshly milled pepper
12-14 toothpicks to close up the steaks

To fry:
3 tablespoons of flour
1 egg beaten
1 cup of breadcrumbs (keep the pack near by just in case you may need more depending on the size of your steaks)

Prepare your fillets on a chopping board so it's easy for you to work on (See picture).  First brush a little bit of mustard on the insides of the fillets.  Then put the ham on one side. Next the slices of Gruyere on top of the ham.  Try not to stuff the fillets too much, otherwise you won't be able to close them up well and cheese will melt out of the steaks during cooking. The proper way is to wrap the cheese in the ham and then put it on the fillet, however I was in a rush.  Mine looked like this.
Last is to close up those steaks with toothpicks as in the photo above.  Then season them on both sides with some salt and pepper.
When you are done start preparing for frying in this order.  
Put your flour on a flat plate.  
Put your beaten egg on a slightly deep plate. 
Put the breadcrumbs on a flat plate.  
Then put them right next to each other in the same order.  Flour, egg, breadcrumbs. 
Then heat up the oil in a non stick pan.  Don't need to use too much oil, just enough to cover the base of the pan. Start preparing your steaks for the final round. 
First roll the steak on flour, then dip it in the egg and last, roll it on breadcrumbs.  Next onto the frying pan with oil.  Fry 5 minutes on each side over medium heat.  This is very important to get tender meat. 
I served this with some oven baked potato wedges, which I will post here soon.  For now I leave you with Cordon Bleu. 

Monday, July 19, 2010


It always feels good to be on holiday, but just like every holiday mine is over and I'm back home.  It was a great vacation at the south coast of Turkey with family and some very yummy homemade food.  I know that most people say their mother is the best cook, but my mother really is the best.  As my first post after the holiday, I decided to dedicate this post to my mother, and put few photos of some of the best meals she prepared for us.  I will not be putting all of the recipes here today, although I will at some point in the future, because I'm determined to try these recipes out in my own kitchen.  Here, I give you one of the best hummus recipes from my mother's kitchen.  It is very easy and quick to prepare if you have some cooked or canned chickpeas and some tahini.

Here are my holiday food photos:

Best cheesecake I have ever had, I'm really looking forward to try this one.

Tahini bread is general sold in every bakery, and it was the first time I had this at home.  It is very easy to make, you just need the usual bread dough and some tahini.

Here is the best leg of lamb I have ever tasted.  It's the boneless part of the meat rolled with rosemary and garlic, then slow cooked in the oven.

Lamb was served with a very soft and creamy potato gratin. 

I'm looking forward to try all these recipes out and share them here. So until then enjoy the hummus recipe below. 

2 cups of cooked chickpeas
1 clove of garlic
1/2 cup of tahini
3 tablespoons of olive oil
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 teaspoon of blackpepper
1 teaspoon of grounded cummin
1 teaspoon of salt
1 tablespoon of parsley leaves and some pickled cucumbers to garnish (optional)

In order to make the hummus, it is best to use a food processor.  Just put all the ingredients in (except the parsley and cucumbers) and blend for about 2-3 minutes until smooth.  You can garnish it with some parsley and pickles if you prefer.  Another option is to pour some melted butter with chili powder over it.  In any case, it tastes great and you can enjoy it warm or cold.  Serve with some pita bread. 

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Spinach Pizza with Crème Fraiche

While getting ready for vacation and having a million things to remember to pack, I didn't want to worry about food very much so we have been eating a lot of pizza, pasta, rice and salads.  It is a great opportunity to use the left over stuff in the fridge and in the pantry.  I enjoy trying to cook meals with what you have as it enforces creativity but the result can turn out to be a disaster sometimes or something "not so tasty".
This is a pizza I've learned from a very good friend, who lives very far away now.  I know she used to call this "Spanish pizza".  I'm not sure if it's the real name or only because she learned it from her Spanish friend.  I never forgot this pizza and I have been making it regularly.  It's so easy especially if you have a ready pizza dough or pastry.  I didn't have any so I made the dough this time.  This is a special pizza with no cheese and I recommend that you eat it cold or even the next day.  It tastes much better when it is colder, because you can feel the taste of the olives, olive oil, tomato and spinach more when cold.  The original version doesn't have any crème fraiche, but I have added it to make it a little bit softer and it made a great combination with spinach.  If you don't have any crème fraiche, then don't use it as it still tastes great without it.

(Makes about 2 round pizzas or one big square one - 2-3 portions)

Pizza dough:

1 1/2 cups of warm water
3 spoons of dry yeast
4 cups of flour (you can also use 2 cups of white flour and 2 cups of spelt or whole wheat flour)
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil

Pizza topping:
2-3 tablespoons of crème fraiche
200-300 gram of fresh or frozen spinach
2-3 medium tomatoes diced
1 small onion chopped
1 clove of garlic crushed
A handful of olives with no seeds, chopped
2 tablespoons of olive oil
freshly milled black pepper

Preparing the dough:
You need to prepare the dough 2 hours in advance.  If you have a ready made dough then skip to the next part for topping. 
Mix all the ingredients of the dough in a pan and kneed very well for about 10 minutes.  Cover it with a clean tea towel and leave it to rise for about 1 1/5 - 2 hours.  Eventually the dough should be doubled in size.  When it is ready, flatten the dough with a rolling pin on a flat surface.  You may need to dust the dough with a little bit of flour for this, but you can also roll it out directly on a baking paper to save time.  

First make the tomato sauce by sauteing the onions and garlic for few minutes in a pan with a table spoon of olive oil over medium heat.  Then add the tomatoes in and take it off the heat after few minutes.  The tomatoes shouldn't be too cooked.  Leave the tomato sauce to cool down for a while.
Next prepare the spinach by cooking them in a pan.  After they are cooked, make sure to drain the water from the spinach and leave it to cool.
When you have your pizza base ready and the ingredients are cooled down enough, start with spreading the crème fraiche over the pizza base with a spoon.  Then spread the spinach over and next, spread the tomato sauce over the spinach.  Last thing to put on top is the olives.  Sprinkle some salt and pepper over and put it in a preheated oven at 220° C(425° F) for about 15 minutes.  After you take it out of the oven, drizzle the 1 tablespoon of olive oil you have left over the pizza.
Eat it warm or cold but if you have some left overs, keep it in your fridge for the next day.  Believe me, you won't regret.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Fava Beans with Artichoke Hearts

You know those type of dishes that your mother makes but you don't really like, then you still have to eat it because you have to.  Fava beans (or broad beans) were one of those things I didn't enjoy as a child.  Lucky for me that the season for fava beans were very short.  I came to appreciate them long after I left home. Maybe, because there was nobody to cook them for me and they turned into something that reminds me home.  I also probably realized that they are actually very tasty.  This is a slightly modified recipe from my mother's one, because she actually fills the artichokes with the fava beans.  I bought some already prepared and cooked artichokes at the market.  Alternatively you can use tinned ones, but if you do then pick the ones without olive oil.  This dish is served cold and it's originally a meze, but can be served as a salad or starter as well. 

Fava Beans with Artichoke Hearts
 (Makes 4 portions as a starter)
900 g fava bean pods - shelled (beans makes about 300 g when shelled)
1 medium size onion - finely chopped
20 small artichoke hearts - prepared and cooked (or about 2 cans of artichoke hearts)
1 teaspoon salt
3-4 tablespoons of olive oil
a handful of fresh dill to garnish
If you have shelled your beans and ready to go, first you need to boil the beans in water for about 5 minutes.  This is apparently to get rid of the slightly bitter taste.  After boiling is finished, drain the water and set the beans aside.  Put about 1 tablespoon of olive oil on a non-stick pan and saute the onions for about 2-3 minutes over medium-high heat.  Next add the fava beans and a cup of water.  Cover the pan with a lid and let the beans cook over medium heat for about 15-20 minutes until they are tender but not too soft.  Keep checking regularly if there is still a bit water in the pan to prevent the beans sticking to the bottom. If necessary add in some hot water, but not too much as you don't want it to look like a soup in the end.  Next, add in the artichoke hearts and let it simmer over low heat for about 5 minutes. When it's done, set it aside and let it cool.  When it is cold enough, add in the rest of the olive oil, as this will bring out the flavors of the beans and artichokes.  Garnish with dill leaves before serving. 
It's vacation time for me soon, therefore, the posts will be a little less for a while, but I'll keep you all posted with my culinary adventures from Turkey (and mainly my mom's food).

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Peanut Butter and Chocolate Bars

It seems to be a food blogger tradition.  If you go and read any food blog, you will most likely see a recipe for one of these or something similar.  I love the taste of peanut butter and chocolate combination, but I don't normally have peanut butter at home.  I just saw too many delicious photos of peanut butter bars in many food blogs recently and then I decided to make these.  After going through few recipes I came up with below.  I used the McVitie's Digestives, because they just taste great and I wanted the peanut butter to be a little bit crunchy.  Next time I may try to use some cornflakes or another kind of breakfast cereal instead.  They were very delicious and very rich.  Kids loved it but they are dangerous for adults as we can easily get addicted to them.  It is very easy to make these and you don't need to bake anything, which is great.  The peanut butter layer was softer than the chocolate layer so I recommend to take it out from the fridge 15 minutes earlier before you serve.  It will be also easier to slice.

(Makes about 16 bars)

Peanut Butter Layer:

1 cup dark brown sugar
75 g (about 5 tablespoons) butter- melted
350 g (1.5 cup) of creamy peanut butter
1 pack of McVities Digestives biscuits (250 g pack) - crumbled

Chocolate Layer:
300 g (2 cups) of dark chocolate broken into smaller bits (70% cocoa solids) or chocolate chips
1 teaspoon of vanilla sugar
1 tablespoon of butter

You will need a rectangular or square shaped brownie or baking tin for this.  Start with preparing the peanut butter layer.  First whisk the sugar and butter together to form a creamy mixture.  Stir in the peanut butter and then the biscuits.  Spread the mixture to the bottom of the baking tin and try to make it an even layer as much as possible.  Next, melt the chocolate in a bowl, that is sitting on a saucepan of simmering water.  Add in the butter and vanilla sugar and stir until the mixture is smooth.  Last step is to spread the chocolate mixture on top of the peanut butter layer.  Put the tin in the fridge until the chocolate is set.
I made this the night before and it was perfect the next day.  Don't forget to take it out of the fridge about 15 minutes before you serve.  Slice it with a sharp knife and enjoy your peanut butter bars.  

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Aussie Pie with Puff Pastry

Here is another recipe I really had to write about.  I've learned this from my mother-in-law, who learned from their Australian family friends and I've been making this very tasty pie since then.  It's another simple dish that you will keep making if you try it once.  It is something like pasta or pizza.  If you have the pastry at home, it's a wonderful and a filling meal for everyone.  My children absolutely love this and it is also an easy recipe if you are having guests around.  This version of the Aussie pie is made with ready fresh puff pastry, which makes the preparation very easy and quick.  You need some ground beef and some vegetables that you think that might go well with the beef.  I used below vegetables this time, but it's also great with zucchini, peas, sweet corn, etc.  I would definitely recommend to put one chopped tomato in it always to make the filling a little bit juicy.  Alternatively you can use vegetable or meat stock or 1-2 tablespoons of cream.  Please write your comments if you try this recipe.  I am really interested in to hear what versions you have been making.

2 round fresh puff pastry (33cm - app. 13'')
1 egg beaten 

500 g ground beef
1 onion - chopped
1 red pepper - chopped
1 aubergine - diced
1/2 leek - chopped
300 g mushrooms - chopped
1 tomato - chopped
1/2 teaspoon of ground cummin
1/2 teaspoon of mild or hot chili powder
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat your oven to 180° C(356° F).  In a pan over medium heat start cooking your beef together with the onions.  When they are cooked a little bit, add in the aubergines, peppers, leeks and saute them together with the meat and onions.  The vegetables shouldn't be overcooked.  3-4 minutes before you take it off the heat, add in all the spices, mushrooms and tomatoes.  When the filling is ready, taste to see if it needs more salt or spice.  Set is aside to cool down a little bit. 
Take a pie tin or a tart tin and put the first puff pastry at the bottom over a baking paper.  Make some holes on it by using a fork.  If your filling has cooled enough put the filling over the pastry and cover it with the second pastry on top.  Seal the sides by folding and cut the excess bits of the pastry if necessary.  Brush the top layer with the beaten egg and bake the pie in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes until the pastry has a golden brown color on top.  Serve it with some fresh green salad or any other salad of your choice. 

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Noodles with Coconut Shrimps

I never used to like them and avoided them until about 8-9 years ago.  I have no idea why I never liked these tasty little things.  It could be that the first time I tried them, they weren't cooked so nice.   I  remember where I decided to have a go again.  It was in an Italian restaurant in Dusseldorf, where I was with my best friend J, who loved shrimps and would always order shrimps in any restaurant we go.  We had ordered some antipasti and they had really delicious, a little bit spicy shrimps with some olive oil.  After that meal I started to eat shrimps at every opportunity I get.   
I have tried these noodles in my favorite Thai restaurant and I have tried to make different versions since.  For this recipe I used frozen shrimps, and ready made fresh noodles.  The coconut milk and shrimp combination tastes lovely and you can also use some aromatic rice here instead of the noodles if you prefer.  If you want it more spicy, then add more chili in it as this is a milder version.

(Serves 3-4)

250 g fresh noodles ( I used fettuccine here)
300 g shrimps
1 leek chopped
1 spring onion chopped
1 medium red pepper
1/2 white cabbage
1/2 cup coconut milk
salt & pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon hot chili powder or chopped fresh chili pepper
1 tablespoon of coconut oil or any other mild cooking oil
About a handful of coriander leaves to garnish

You need to prepare your vegetables before because this all goes really fast.  Start with cooking your noodles as usual like you cook your pasta.  In a wok, heat the coconut oil.  When it's hot enough, put your shrimps in the wok and stir-fry them for about 2-3 minutes, then take them out to a plate, but leave the cooking oil in the wok.  Add in the leeks and stir-fry them for a minute, then add in the rest of the vegetables, peppers, cabbage and onions.  When they are all cooked a little, add back in the shrimps, the chili or chili powder.  Add in the coconut milk with some salt and pepper.  The shrimps are cooked really fast so you need to just check if your vegetables are done enough for you.  Don't overcook the shrimps. When you are ready, stir the noodles in to everything else in the wok and leave them for a minute.  Serve the noodles with few fresh coriander leaves on top. 

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Vegetable Samosa with Puff Pastry

Celeriac is really something I don't know how else to cook, other than the usual Turkish dishes I learned from my mother and as soup.  I really wanted to do something a little different this time and I thought to try it as a samosa, which is an Indian dish, very similar to the typical Turkish borek but has a spicy curry touch.  It's one of my favorite starters when I go to an Indian restaurant.  I absolutely love them.  I didn't want to make these too hot for the usual reason.  I wanted the kids to enjoy this little snack.  I generally make a dish with celeriac adding in potatoes, peas, carrots, onions and of course olive oil.  These little samosas have all of those except the carrots.  I preferred to use the puff pastry to give it a lighter taste.  They turned out really good.  In fact, I am going to make this one of my repetitive recipes and try it with other vegetables as well.  

(Makes 16)
1 rectangular puff pastry (42x26 cm) (16"x10")
1 small celeriac - chopped into little cubes
2 medium potatoes - chopped into little cubes
1 small onion - chopped
1 cup of frozen or fresh peas
1 teaspoon of curry powder
1/2 teaspoon of mild chili powder
1/2 teaspoon of cumin ground
1/2 tablespoon of fresh dill leaves
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 egg- beaten
salt and pepper to taste

First of all, you need to saute the vegetables in a non-stick pan.  Heat the pan with the olive oil and put the onions first.  Saute them until they are cooked and then add in the celeriac, potatoes and the peas.  Add in the spices, with some salt and pepper.  Make sure the vegetables are cooked but they shouldn't be over-cooked, otherwise they will get mushy.  When they are done take them off the heat, add in the dill and set it aside to cool.  Preheat your oven to 180° C(356° F) degrees.  Lay the puff pastry on a baking tray over a baking sheet.  I used the big puff pastry and sliced it into 16 little squares as in the photo, but if you can find the little square shaped puff pastries then don't bother to buy the big one for this recipe.  Once you are ready, put about a spoonful of the vegetables on the pastry and fold it into a triangle shape.  Spread some egg onto the edges with a brush, so that the ends of the pastry can stick together.  I used a fork to press the ends together and folded the corners to give it a more samosa looking shape.  When it is all ready brush them over with the rest of the egg and put them in the oven for about 20 minutes until they are done.  These are best when they are eaten warm.  If you want to make a meal out of them, I recommend to serve them with a nice green salad. 

Friday, May 7, 2010

Vanilla and Cinnamon Waffles

I remember where I ate my first waffle ever.  It was in Istanbul, in Bebek.  I am not sure if the place still exists but they used to make the world's best chocolate and banana waffles.  At least for me it was the best.  My cousin introduced me to that place at the time and I'm so happy that she did, because I have never forgotten those delicious waffles and their lovely smell.  That was long long time ago, and I have eaten many waffles since, but I guess none of them were that good.  Few months ago I was in search for a toaster, which can also make waffles and I found what I was looking for.  I have made waffles only twice since I bought it.  This recipe came out in the second trial and they were very good, so I wanted to share.  If you have a waffle maker then try this recipe. The waffles turn out so good, you can even eat them without putting anything on them.  This recipe made about 10 waffles for me.

2 cups of flour
2 cups of milk
2 tablespoons of sugar
1/2 tablespoon of vanilla sugar
2 teaspoons of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon (use cinnamon that is freshly grounded, it still has to have some lovely cinnamon smell)
1/2 teaspoon of lemon zest
3/4 teaspoon of salt
2 tablespoon of butter (melted)
2 eggs

Start with whisking the eggs and the sugar in a bowl.  Add the milk, melted butter, lemon zest and vanilla sugar to this mixture.  In a separate bowl, mix the rest of the ingredients, flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.  Once the dry ingredients are mixed well enough, combine the two mixtures and whisk all together.  Use a ladle to put the mixture into your preheated waffle maker.  Try not to put too much, otherwise it will overflow.  Bake them until they have a nice golden brown color.  I put some maple syrup and banana slices on mine and sprinkled a little bit of icing sugar.  Next time I will be trying them with chocolate and bananas. 

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Macaroni and Cheese with Spinach

I seem to always have a question in my mind when I'm thinking about what to cook. "Would my children eat this?" They are not picky children, but they are still very small.  I do try to introduce them to a variety of cuisines as much as possible, but it is not always easy to find suitable dishes, especially when one of them has only 10 teeth.  I try to make sure I cook something that is attractive for everybody.  I do the usual pasta dishes once a week or so, but I do get bored of cooking pasta the usual way sometimes and I need a change.  This time I decided to try the famous mac and cheese, but I wanted to add some vegetables in it to make a little bit more balanced meal for the children.  This is quite an easy recipe and kids love it.  You can always try with other kind of vegetables or cheese.  

300 g pasta (cornetti type)
about 300 g of cooked spinach (you can use fresh or frozen)
100 g Gorgonzola cheese - chopped into little pieces
50 g Mozzarella - chopped into little pieces
70 g grated Parmesan
250 ml milk (about a cup of milk)
2 eggs
salt and pepper
15 gr butter - chopped into little pieces
4-5 fresh basil leaves - roughly chopped

Start with cooking your pasta as usual by following the instructions on the package.  When it's cooked drain and leave it to cool for a while.  In a separate bowl, whisk two eggs, milk, some salt and pepper.  Take a gratin or baking dish and put your pasta, spinach, Gorgonzola, most of the Parmesan (leave about a tablespoon of it for later), basil and egg mixture in and mix them all together.  Next, put the Mozzarella pieces and sprinkle the rest of the Parmesan over, then put the bits of butter on top.  Bake it in a preheated oven at 180° C(356° F) for about 35-40 minutes.  I would check with a fork if it's done inside as well before taking it out.  It goes really well with a mixed salad.  Enjoy!

Friday, April 30, 2010

Oven Baked Fish

My mother cooks fish sometimes like this one.  It's basically oven baked fish with some vegetables and some simple sauce or only some olive oil.  As I was cooking this, I also came across a similar recipe like this one in Jamie's Dinners.  It was originally made with Salmon, but I had only Pangasius fish in my fridge but it still turned out so good that I had to write it here.  I love Salmon more than any other fish here, but I thought I will try some other kind this time and that's why I ended up with the Pangasius fillets.  I also tried my new and not so thyme-like, lemon thyme herb from my freshly re-done herbs garden.  Only because it had a lemon-like smell, I thought it might go with fish.  You don't really need to put that if you don't have it, but some fresh dill or even dry dill will go perfectly with the fish.  If you need a light summer meal and you have some potatoes, some vegetables at home then try this one.  I thought it was a great dish, because it was all-in-one meal.  The carbs, veggies and fish baked at the same time without so much preparation beforehand.  I love practical dishes for our weekday lunches and I really try to find healthy and simple dishes as much as possible, although I'm not always so successful at that.  If you are a mother who has little time to cook, try this. Next time I'll be making this with Salmon. Yummy...

(Serves 4)
4 Pangasius fish fillets
800 g new potatoes - with skin but washed and scrubbed well
about 300-400 g of green beans - cleaned and the tops removed. 
about a cup of peas
2-3 spring onions - chopped
juice of half a lemon
half lemon - thinly sliced
some olive oil
1 tablespoon of fresh dill
1 tablespoon of fresh lemon thyme
about 1 tablespoon of fresh rosemary
salt and pepper

Start with boiling your potatoes in water for about 10 minutes and boil your beans for 5 minutes.  Leave them to cool a little while, while you prepare your fish.  Rub the fish with some salt, pepper and olive oil.  Preheat your oven to 200°C(392° F).  Half the potatoes if you want them to be a little bit crispy.  Put all of the potatoes, beans, peas and spring onions on the tray and season them with salt and pepper.  Add some olive oil and stir them so all the vegetables are seasoned.  Place the fish fillets in between the vegetables and sprinkle the dill and thyme on the fish fillets and rosemary on the vegetables.  Put a little more olive oil and add your lemon juice over everything then place your sliced lemons on the fish fillets. Bake it in the oven for about 20-25 minutes until the fish is cooked.