Taze Fasulye (Green Beans)

This is a lovely side dish to have with grilled meat or chicken or any food that requires a sauce to accompany it. This green bean recipe has it’s own delicious rich sauce, yet it is healthy and not heavy on the stomach and it still tastes great.

In Turkey, this dish is usually eaten on it’s own as a main course, with lots of bread dipped into the tomato sauce. However, I always serve it as a side dish or simply have it with some rice. A good vegetarian option.

Taza Fasulye (Green Beans)

You will need;

700 – 800g of green beans, both ends snipped off and each bean washed and cut or broken into two.
1 medium white onion, finely chopped
1 tin of chopped tomatoes or 400g of fresh finely chopped tomatoes
1 tablespoon of tomato purée
3 teaspoons of sugar
3 tablespoons of olive oil
Salt according to taste

Quite simply, fry off the onions in the olive oil. When softened, add the green beans, salt, sugar and tomatoes and leave to cook on a low heat with the saucepan lid tightly on. Keep stirring regularly.

TIP: Rinse your tomato tin out with a little water and add to your beans. You want all the remaining tomato to go into your dish and not to be thrown away with the tin. Do the same to your plate if you are using fresh tomatoes.

After 25-30 minutes turn off the heat and leave to rest in the pan before serving. The cooking time can of course vary according to taste. Some people like their vegetables slightly crisp and raw, where as others more cooked. So please keep checking and tasting your dish whilst it is cooking. If you do need to cook your beans slightly more, then make sure you have enough water in the saucepan to do so without burning your dish.

Traditionally in Turkey this dish is eaten cold. However I like to take the chill off it, by heating it up slightly, before serving. Your choice!

 

Courgettes With Dill Weed

This is a dish that I put into a pita bread and eat, at my desk. Really it is a side dish. It is another very healthy option that has lots of flavour, its not just a plain, bland vegetable dish.

Courgettes with Dill Weed

Your will need;

A grill
A flat baking tray
1 kilo of courgettes, sliced ever so thinly
Juice of 1 lemon
3 – 4 cloves of garlic
25 – 30g of dill weed
Salt according to taste
1 tablespoon of olive oil and enough to either spray or drizzle onto the courgettes

It’s up to you of course, but I tend to remove all the dark green skin off the courgettes using a potato peeler. So I am left with a lighter coloured courgette. I find that sometime this dark skin can be slightly bitter, so I peel it off.

Once you have sliced your courgettes as thinly as possible then, start placing them onto your tray as tightly together as you can. Spray with olive oil and season as you wish.

Each side should take approximately 3 minutes, depending on how thin you managed to slice your courgettes. Keep checking. When you turn over your courgettes, spray and season the uncooked side. If you are satisfied that both sides are cooked, place into your serving bowl.

Now with the garlic, most people tend to add it to the dish raw. However, I fry it off ever so slightly in a tablespoon of olive oil. Next I add the lemon juice to the garlic and stir it well, before pouring it all over the courgettes. Give it all a good stir again. Once the garlic and lemon are mixed in with the courgettes, garnish with dill weed and serve.

I always think this dish is best the next day, once it has absolved all the lemon juice and garlic, and has just come out of the fridge. Yum!

Turkey Steaks in Thai Green Sauce

I hope my cousin’s wife, does not read this recipe, as she is the best Thai cook I know. However, this is a mid-week family meal, that is easy and very simple to make. It is another one of those dishes that can last for at least two days, so it saves you from cooking and worrying about what to feed your family when you get home from work.

Turkey Steaks in Thai Green Sauce

You will need:

A casserole dish or any dish that is oven safe
Tin foil, if your oven dish does not have a lid
Turkey steaks or chicken breast approx. 1kg 
3 large potatoes, sliced into circles of about 1cm thick
4 – 5 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
25 -30g fresh coriander, finely chopped (optional)
1 thumb size piece of fresh ginger (optional)
2 tablespoons of olive oil (optional). I don’t use oil for this dish as the sauce has it’s own.
1 teaspoon of oregano
1 teaspoon of All Purpose seasoning
1 teaspoon of chicken seasoning
1 teaspoon of paprika
1/8 teaspoon of ground cumin
1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
1 chicken stock cube (dissolved or crumbled into the dish). I usually use 1 tablespoon of liquid stock.
Chill flakes and black pepper. Add according to taste, either to your plate when serving or to the dish itself.
Salt, add according to taste (optional). I tend not to use salt as the both the sauce and seasonings contain enough already.
1 jar of ready made Thai Green sauce approx. 415g
If you do not like Thai green sauce, try making this dish with either one of the options below;

Option 1 – with tomato and garlic

1 tin of  chopped tomatoes
4-5 cloves of garlic
25 – 30g fresh basil chopped coarsely or 1 teaspoon of oregano (do not add if you are going to make the carrot dish as well)
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 tablespoon of soya sauce
1 tablespoon of sugar.
Do not add garlic to the turkey as well, if you choose this option.
For both options, mix all the ingredients together in a bowl and pour over your turkey steaks and potatoes

Option 2 – with lemon

Juice of 3-4 lemons
Juice of 2 limes 
3 tablespoons of Olive oil
1 tablespoon of soya sauce
Approx. 800 fl.oz of water or enough for your potatoes to cook in

Place all your ingredients into a large mixing bowl and stir all the seasoning etc. together. Line the base of your dish with some of the turkey steaks, then on top place your potatoes. Next do another layer of turkey, then potatoes, until your dish is full. If you are using the ready made sauce pour, it on top.

Fill up your now empty jar, half way with hot water and rinse out any left over sauce, pour onto your dish. (If you have opted not to use ready made sauce, simply pour your home made marinade or sauce into your dish).

Place some tin foil or the lid, onto your dish and place into a pre-heated oven. Cook for about 1 hour 15 minutes at 200°c fan, 220°c non fan, 400F Gas Mark 6. Keep checking regularly and stir occasionally. If you feel your potatoes are cooked enough, then leave to cool down for a few minutes before serving.

Whilst the oven is on, I usually stick some sliced carrots into a dish, sprinkled some  oregano on top with a drizzle with olive oil. I cook this for about an hour with tin foil over the dish, checking and stirring occasionally. If you do choose to cook this dish as well, then I would suggest you leave out the oregano from the turkey dish (your choice of course).

 

 

Potato Salad

A simple potato salad that can go with any fish, chicken or a meat dish. Lovely to have at a garden party or at a barbecue. Best served chilled.

Potato Salad

You will need;

750g – 1kg of new potatoes
1 medium size red onion and/or a bunch of spring onions approx. 100-125g
1/2 teaspoon of chilli flakes (optional)
1/8 teaspoon of ground cumin 
1/4 teaspoon of salt
Approximately 50g fresh mint
Juice of 1 lemon
3 tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/4 teaspoon sumak (this is optional). Sumak is a type of seasoning that is used in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cooking. It has a sharp lemony taste. I wouldn’t worry too much about not using it if you cannot find it.

Boil your potatoes, with or without the skin on (your choice). Personally for this dish I peel my potatoes. Once cooked, drain and leave to one side to cool down .Depending on the size of your potatoes either slice into two, or leave whole if they are small enough.

Slice your onion into little rings, halving them if you wish, (same goes for the spring onions) and place into your serving dish.  When your potatoes have cooled down, add them to the onions with the rest of the ingredients. Gently stir to mix all the flavours together and serve as a side dish.

Celeriac chunks with potatoes (Zeytin yagli Kereviz)

Celeriac is one of those root vegetables you either love or loathe. Personally I love celeriac and this dish is one of my favourite recipes. I just find that the egg and lemon mixture gives the whole dish a beautiful creamy texture together with the earthiness of the celeriac. It is a taste that I believe most people will enjoy. It is both healthy and suitable for vegetarians.

Total cooking time 25 minutes

Celeriac chunks with potatoes (Zeytin yagli Kereviz)

You will need;

A saucepan of approx. 25cm diameter 
1 large celeriac approx 900gm – 1kg peeled and chopped into 2 ½ – 3 cm cubes
1 large white onion, chopped approx. 150gm
1 large carrot, sliced approx 150gm
25gm-30gm finely chopped dill weed
25gm-30gm leaves of celery finely chopped
300gm small potatoes diced into 4
1 egg, beaten
Juice of one lemon, mixed into the egg
6 tablespoons 90ml olive oil
2 tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoons of salt (optional)

Fry off your onions in the olive oil until they slightly soften. Add the celeriac, potatoes, carrots and sugar, (salt if you wish). Stir the all the  ingredients together, turning down the heat to the lowest temperature possible. Place the lid of the saucepan on and leave to cook, yet keep checking and stirring occasionally.

After about 15 minutes, add 200ml 7fl.oz of boiling water. 5 minutes later add the dill weed.

Check to see if the potatoes and celeriac are cooked, if so turn off the heat.

Now stirring very quickly, add the lemon juice and egg mixture into the dish. Be as fast as you can to avoid the egg curdling.

Leave the dish to rest in the saucepan with the lid tightly on for a further about 10 minutes before serving. Once in your serving dish, garnish with the chopped celery leaves.

Note: an alternative to dill or celery leaves could be flat leaf parsley.
Your choice, but I would recommend this dish to be eaten cold.

Dolma

Dolma means filled or stuffed, in Turkish. Any of you who have been to Istanbul would know of the famous 18th century Dolma Bahce Sarayi. That’s the filled in (reclaimed land from the sea) Garden Palace. I just thought I would stick that in there, because it makes me sound clever, and besides I may have even taught you something.

There are two types of dolma. One with meat and one without. Another name for the vegetarian version is Yalanci Dolma (Fake Dolma) or Zeytin Yagli Dolma (Olive Oil Dolma). These are typically eaten cold and are more of a summer dish. Usually they are made with stuffed bell peppers and the larger of the vine leaves.

Note; Any Turkish dish that has “zeytin yagli” (olive oil) at the beginning of it’s name, is considered a dish that should be eaten cold. These dishes are refreshing in the heat of the Mediterranean, therefore are cooked with olive oil, and as a result will not congeal unlike most meat dishes that usually need to be served hot.

Moving on to the mince meat dolma (Etli Dolma), these are usually made from the smaller of vine leaves, courgettes and aubergines. Obviously because it uses meat, it needs to be eaten hot or warmed up.

My personal favourite meat dolma is the aubergine with lemon and garlic.This is a separate dolma all together. It uses small aubergines and should be kept to a separate occasion to the other two versions.

Now remember (it’s not brain surgery). It really isn’t as hard as you think, just a bit time consuming. So don’t treat your family to dolma during the week, save it for a dinner party or a garden party. That is unless you have all the time in the world in which case eat dolma any day of the week. Who cares? As long as you enjoy……

Vine Leaves

Persevered Leaves
When it come to vine leaves, you should be able to obtain them in most supermarkets in the ‘World food’ section). Failing that, any Mediterranean, North African or Middle Eastern food stores, would defiantly stock them.They normally come in compressed packets, each store will have it’s own quantity per pack. Personally I would say buy two packets, it’s usually better to have some extra and besides you can always freeze any leftovers.

When you open your packet, the leaves will be stuck together, so you will need to separate them and give them a thorough wash as they have been preserved in salt. Now depending on the type you have purchased, it maybe that they will require blanching. This is of course up to you, but some preserved leaves can: 1) be really salty and 2) be really tough. However if you feel they seem to be OK then play it safe and go easy when adding salt to your stuffing, that way you should be fine. Make sure you snip off any stems that have been left on any leaves.

Fresh Vine Leaves                                                                                                                If you or any one you know has a vine tree in their garden, then try to pick the larger leaves for the vegetarian dish and separate the smaller ones for a meat dolma. Once you have harvested your leaves, wash thoroughly then blanch ever so slightly and leave to drain. Do not cook your leaves, just soften them enough so that you can roll them. Remember they are going to be holding your stuffing inside. Don’t worry if they still look raw as they will cook in the pan later. Any leftovers leaves can be frozen, once they have been washed, blanched and drained completely.

Zeytin Yagli Dolma non meat/vegetarian dolma

You will need:

A deep saucepan. Deep enough to cook your bell peppers in and your vine dolmas
An oval shaped dish to serve them in
A large mixing bowl
Obviously Vine leaves approx. 500g
4 colourful bell peppers
2 cherry tomatoes halved (these will be the lids for your bell peppers)
500g regular uncooked long-grain white rice (not Basmati)
50g fresh mint finely chopped
2 tablespoons of dried mint
2 large onions finely chopped approx. 400g
1 tin of chopped tomatoes or 400g of fresh tomatoes chopped finely.
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon salt
(this is optional) if you are using preserved leaves bear in mind these are very salty, especially if you have chosen not to blanch them.
1 teaspoon of All Spice seasoning
(ideally for dolma in Turkey there is a specific seasoning just for this purpose, Dolma seasoning. However, this is not easy to come by so the next best thing is All Spice)
25g dried currants or raisins
(again there is a specific currants just for dolma, (kus üzümü) tiny little currants that are less sweeter than the average current)
30g pine nuts
1 ½  tablespoons of sugar
6 tablespoons of olive oil
Boiling water, enough to cover dolmas in saucepan
1 lemon for wedges

Information: Turkish people use a separate bell pepper all together for this dish. They are slightly smaller from the colourful ones, and are a light green colour. They have a thinner lining of membrane (skin) on the outside which makes it easier to digest. However, they are not easily found (unless you live in Turkey or have a Turkish shop nearby that stocks them). So the colourful supermarket ones will do just as well. If you wish, once your peppers are cooked and before serving you could try removing the outer skin. Your choice. Personally I serve with the skin on and I have never had anyone complain (well apart from my mother who is from Istanbul and is very fussy).

Place your rice, chopped onions, mint, tomatoes and olive oil into your mixing bowl. Add the All spice, cumin, currants and pine nuts. Then start mixing together, making sure all the ingredients are evenly distributed.

When it comes to assembling, stuffing the peppers or wrapping your vine leaves, be prepared that this is the time consuming part of the dolma process. So sit yourself down on a comfy chair have all your ingredients in front of you, and begin.

Tip: If you have a close friend that lives nearby, or a mum, sister, partner whatever… try and include them in the process, that way, you can get things done much faster and you can turn the whole activity into a social event. You’ll be surprised at the conversations you can have while wrapping dolma. (My mother and I nearly solved the world’s water crisis while wrapping dolmas for this blog). If you’re on your own, be sure to put on some music, or have your kitchen TV switched on.

OK are you ready? Let’s go!

Have your saucepan ready at hand.

Start with the peppers
Wash your bell peppers, dry them, then neatly cut around the stems with the core and discard (keep the pepper of course). Now you need to remove the seeds and any pulp from inside each pepper. So get yourself a teaspoon and start digging, try to remove as much pulp as you can without tearing the pepper. Turn your pepper upside down and give it a good shake to make sure all the seeds are out. Now using your teaspoon again, take your rice mixture and start stuffing. Try not to over fill your pepper as the rice will need room to cook. Once filled, take your halved cherry tomato and put in the centre using it as a lid, then place your completed pepper in one corner of the saucepan. Don’t worry if it topples over, once your vine leaves and the other peppers are made they, will hold each other up.

Now, for the vine leaves.
Grab your self an empty dinner plate, big enough for a vine leaf, a tablespoon would come in handy at this point as well.

Place your leaf veiny side up, shiny side down on your plate, keeping the stem part of the leaf closest to you, so the pointy part of the leave is at the top of the plate. Spoon your rice mixture across the middle of the leaf, making sure not to go near the edges. Now fold up both edges, then start rolling away from you to make a cylinder, so it looks almost like a cigar. Try to keep the opening or pointy end of the leaf faced down, so that they don’t unroll, especially while they are cooking. Once you have completed a few, start placing them into your saucepan carefully around your peppers. Pack them in tightly together, not too tight though, after all you do want them to cook, but at the same time, you don’t want them opening up.

When you have finished, stand back, take a deep breath and and admire your handywork. Then put the kettle on to boil some water, (yes a cup of tea would go down well at this point but have some extra water for the dolmas as well).

Boil approx. 1 ½  pints that’s roughly, or enough to just cover the dolmas, and pour the boiling water into the saucepan containing the dolmas.(Try to find a little gap between the dolmas in which to pour the water, avoid pouring directly onto the peppers or vine leaves). Place a wide enough plate on top of the dolma’s so it can hold down all the ingredients whilst boiling. Put the lid on you saucepan and place on a high heat, until your dolmas start to boil. This should take approximately 10 minutes. Keep checking. As soon as water starts to boil in the pan, turn down the heat completely. Remove the plate and drizzle some olive oil onto the dolmas (add a pinch of salt if you feel that you should). Place the lid back onto the saucepan and cook for a further 30 minutes on a low temperature.

Try tasting a vine leaf dolma, if you feel the rice is still a little bit raw cook for a further 5 minutes, making sure you have enough water in you pan to do so. Do not at this point burn your dolmas! You have come too far for that, so keep checking. Once you feel they are cooked, turn off the heat, and leave to rest in the pan for about 10-15 minutes. When they have cooled down, they are ready to serve. Drizzle any remaining juice (water) over the dolmas once on your serving dish.

You have gone to a lot of effort to make this dish. Now don’t spoil it by not presenting it nicely. It’s up to you of course, but I would suggest, an oval shaped dish. Try placing the bell peppers in the middle of your dish with the vine leaves surrounding and almost keeping the peppers up. Keep the vine dolmas going around the dish until you have covered the entire plate. Place some lemon wedges over a few of the dolmas, then stand back and enjoy looking at what you have made. Afiet olsun.

Now, remember this dish is best eaten cold. In fact some Turkish people say, it taste better the next day, as it has absorbed all the ingredients. This is a matter of opinion of course. Having said that, I do like the idea that you can cook it well in advance, and can simply present the dish at the table when your guests arrive. So I would wait for the dish to cool down completely, place a clean bag or cling film over the plate, and pop it into the fridge. Ready to eat whenever you wish.

 

Delicious Beef and Lamb Shish Kebabs

Beef and Lamb Shish Kebabs

Very similar to the chicken kebabs only because we are using red meat obviously  more gamey flavour, I have made slight variations on the marinade by adding onions, less garlic, flat leave parsley, for both lamb and beef, and 2 teaspoons of oregano or thyme for the lamb.

Serves 6-8 people per dish

Beef and Lamb Shish Kebabs

You will need

½ kg/500gm lean beef diced into cubes of 3-4cm
½ kg/500gm lean lamb diced into cubes of 3-4 cm
Juice of one large lemon ½ for the beef the other ½ for the lamb
Paprika 2 teaspoons, 1 spoon for each dish
Beef or steak seasoning 2 teaspoons, 1 spoon for each
Spring onion 1 bunch approx 100gm 50 gm finely sliced per dish
1 large onion
Parsley 60gm or two small packets
Garlic 5 cloves. All either finely chopped or preferably chopped in a food processor.
Olive oil 3 tablespoons
¼ teaspoon 1.2ml salt (black pepper optional)
Appropriately 16 large cherry tomatoes halved one for each end of the skewers.

Tip; as with the bell peppers, always buy a few extra tomatoes, as it is hard to judge how many you will need when assembling your kebabs onto the skewers. Try to keep the extras away from your raw ingredient and only take them out if you need to so as to avoid any meat juice dripping onto them.

If you feel you need more instructions on how to assemble/cook, please refer to my chicken kebab recipe.

Chicken Kebabs (Shish Kebabs)

Chicken Shish Kebabs (Şiş Kebap)                                                                  

The word “shish” or şiş as know in Turkish means skewer. As for the word Kebap or better known to Europeans as Kebabs, simply means roasted meat or vegetables. Legend has it that the Turkic (the historic national roots of the Turks.) soldiers used their swords to grill meat over an open fire during the invasion of Anatolia. (How true this is, I do not know, I am not a food historian, nor was I there at the time), but I like the story anyway.

Serves 6-8 people

Chicken Shish Kebabs

You will need;
1 kg of chicken breast (skinless). Diced into 3-4 cm cubes
6 colourful bell peppers, again diced into 3-4 cm cubes
Try buying a one or two extra as it is hard to judge how many you will need when assembling your peppers onto the skewers. Keep the extra’s away from the raw meat, and only chop them up if you need to.
Juice of 1 lemon
10 cloves of garlic finely chopped
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons chicken seasoning
Salt/black pepper optional (if you are going to use salt, try very little as the chicken seasoning is quite salty)
2 tablespoons Extra virgin olive oil
Packet of wooden skewers
A large mixing bowl
A rectangular bowl (or a dish that is the length of the skewers)

Take out a few skewers and put to one side, ready to use. You do not want to get raw meat juice over the unused skewers as you will need them for another barbecue, so only use the amount you think you may need. Some people soak their skewers before using them, but I find they burn anyway, and besides you are not going to eat the skewer, so to me it doesn’t matter. (Your choice!)

Have your diced peppers ready on a separate plate and put to one side.

Then mix the rest of the ingredients together. Give it a really good stir, making sure all the chicken is being covered with the seasoning and garlic.

Next start piercing your chicken and peppers onto the skewers. Try making a pattern say red pepper, chicken, yellow pepper, chicken, green pepper chicken etc. (try saying that fast!)

As each skewer is complete, place in your rectangular dish, until all your ingredients are used up. Cover with cling film or put the whole dish into a clean plastic bag, and place in the fridge to marinade, either over night or for a few hours before your guests arrive.

When your barbecue is ready, start cooking.  Each kebab should take around 6-7 minutes to cook. There is nothing worse than undercooked chicken so keep checking. If they need more then, carry on cooking whilst turning regularly.  Serve with pitta bread and salad.

I normally serve with a tomato salad.

Tip: If you have an extra fridge in your garage/shed, then now’s the time to use it. If you only have one fridge, then make sure you only have the party food to store in it. Leave the family shop till after the barbarque as your refrigerator is going to be very busy.