The vastness and complex history of Turkey is very much reflected in it’s cuisine. Straddling both Europe and Asia, Turkey shares it’s borders with eight countries, including Syria, Iraq, Armenia and Georgia. It is equally home to over 30 ethnic groups, Turcs, Arabs, Kurds and Assyrians to name a few! This diversity enriches both Turkish culture and cuisine.
In addition to cultural influences, the vastness of Turkey’s territory results in a variety of agricultural produce. Consequently, Turkish food, cuisine and eating habits vary geographically, from region to region.
In general, the Turkish people eat three meals a day. Breakfast usually consists of eggs, a variety of cheeses, olives, bread, and the staple Turkish coffee or black tea. This meal is so healthy and substantial it could keep you going all day! Nevertheless, dinner is the main meal and much effort goes in to it’s preparation. It depends on the region and family, but the evening meal generally consists of at least three or four dishes: a salad, a meat dish, vegetable dish or soup, and a dish of rice or bulgar wheat. And dinner is always served with vast amounts of bread! It is quite common for families to eat their meal directly from the serving dishes. In many homes you are simply given a fork and spoon and no personal plate. This allows for a real communal, sharing vibe. One must not be afraid of digging in and dipping their bread into everything!
During our travels across Southeastern Turkey we tried and tested a vast amount of specialities. Each place we stopped had it’s own twist on Turkish staples, and everyone we met took pride in showing us their local specialities. To list some of the tasty dishes and snacks we feasted on would take days, but below are two easy recipes we particularly enjoyed. As with most Turkish staples they are easy to make at home, requiring no special equipment or techniques.
THYME SALAD (serves 4-6 people)
This salad originates in Antakya, a charming city bordering Western Syria. A bustling hub, it’s cuisine is a representation of its mix of cultures and traditions, and in particular the strong Syrian influence. The thyme leaves are particularly potent so this salad is generally enjoyed as part of a mezze or a kebab (see below).
– 2 or 3 large bunches of fresh thyme, leaves only.
– 2 tsps sea salt
– 1 medium red onion finely chopped
– 2 medium tomatoes finely chopped into cubes
– 1 garlic clove, minced
– a handful of parsley, finely chopped
– 3 to 4 tbsps good quality extra virgin olive oil
– 1 tbsp pomegranate molasses or balsamic vinegar
– pomegranate seeds to garnish (optional)
– Rub the thyme leaves and salt together with your hands for approximately 3 minutes to release the flavour. Rinse and pat dry.
– Combine tomato, onion, garlic, parsley , oil and molasses or balsamic in a medium sized serving bowl. Stir in the thyme and toss until well mixed.
– Decorate the salad with pomegranate seeds for a lovely sweet and crunchy addition.
ADANA KEBAB (serves 4)
Although this kebab originates in Adana, it is famous across all of Turkey. Mersin in particular boasts many kebab shops serving juicy versions of this simple and healthy kebab.
– 500g good quality ground beef
– 1 onion finely diced
– Handful of parsley finely chopped
– Salt and pepper to taste
– 1 tsp sumac (if available)
– 1 tsp paprika
– 1 tsp red pepper paste (if not available replace with tomato paste)
To serve (optional):
– 4 medium sized tomatoes
– 4 large green chillies
– flatbread or fajita wraps
– 2 lemons cut in quarters
Prepare barbecue or heat oven to broil or grill.
Mix ingredients and knead well.
Divide the meat mix into four balls and shape into burgers.
-If using skewers, insert skewer into burger and gradually stretch and shape meat into a sausage form (approximately 9 inches long and one inch wide).
– the kebab meat can equally be served in burger form or small flat meatballs.
– Optional: cut tomatoes in quarters and place in skewers or on grill.
– barbecue or broil for approximately 10 minutes (longer if making bigger burgers) until lightly charred and cooked throughout.
– Optional: barbecue or broil tomatoes and chillies until slightly burnt.
Serve your Adana kebabs with flat bread or wraps. The traditional way of eating this dish is to sprinkle your bread with the thyme salad, place a few bits of your grilled tomato and chilli on the bread before inserting the kebab meat. Squeeze a lemon quarter over the meat, fold the wrap and enjoy!
Do you like these recipes or do you have something similar you’d like to share? Please comment, share and like