Kahvaltı: For The Love of Tea – Turkish Breakfast

The word for ‘breakfast’ in Turkish is ‘kahvalti’ which literally means ‘before coffee’. At a Turkish breakfast table it would be a rather unusual sight to see a Turk drinking coffee. Before coming to Turkey most of my mornings started with a soy latte, but not anymore, partly cause it’s very hard to find a soy latte in Istanbul, let alone a good one and secondly cause I don’t want to look like a weird yabanci (foreigner) drinking coffee with my breakfast. In Turkey it’s tea baby, tea all the way and I’ve got to say I’m hooked. At first I didn’t get how they could drink so much tea in a day. But I get it now. There’s an advertisement on TV which says ‘Çay love you’, ‘çay’ being the Turkish word for ‘tea’ and I’ve got to say çay love you. Just to clarify, when I refer to Turkish tea I am not referring to apple tea. I have never drunk apple tea in Turkey and barely even see it available anywhere except for in the touristy areas. But yes, tea is served in the small tulip shaped glass cups.

However my love of tea is being compromised because I’ve been reading up lately on how if you drink tea with your food the tea blocks the vitamins from the food from getting into your system. So I’ve started drinking my tea ‘açik’ which means weak or trying to replace it with herbal tea, orange juice or water whenever possible (read whenever there’s no one else around so I don’t look like a weird yabanci (foreigner) who not only is vegan but also doesn’t drink tea!).

Here’s some pictures of breakfasts that I’ve enjoyed lately to make your mouths water.


I know this last one isn’t Turkish, it’s a tofu scramble, but sometimes a girl just needs a good old comfort breakfast.
Looking at these photos it’s become very obvious to me that I eat a lot of potatoes, menemen (stewed tomatoes), bread and olives! Oh well what’s that saying ‘breakfast is the most important meal of the day’ so I think that means breakfast should be enjoyed.

Afiyet olsun!

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Menemen: Stewed Tomatoes and Green Peppers

In summer tomatoes are really cheap in Turkey, about 1 Turkish Lira a kilo. But as the weather starts to cool down the price of tomatoes starts to go up. In the peak of winter tomatoes can get up to around 6 Turkish Lira a kilo and the taste is often not there.

This means that towards the end of summer it’s time to start conserving for winter.Image

To make the stewed tomatoes (this recipe can be doubled or tripled or even more depending on how big a pot you have):

In an oiled large soup pan add 2 kgs of diced green banana peppers and fry slowly.Image

Once the peppers have started to soften add in 5 kgs of peeled and diced tomatoes. Slowly bring to the boil. Add in about a tablespoon of salt (and a pinch of sugar if you want) and cover and simmer for at least an hour.Image

Bring another large pot of water to the boil and boil jars and their lids to sterilize them. Remove jars and their lids from the boiling water and very carefully using tongs and tea towels so as not to burn yourself with either the boiling water or the boiling hot tomato mixture spoon the tomato mixture into the jars. Immediately put the lid on the jar and put the jars back into the boiling water for a minute.Image

Remover the jars from the water and place the jars upside down for about 24 hours (the heat and placing the jars upside down ensures suction to seals the jar lid shut). Store in a cool, dry place and use during winter.Image

I use these conserved tomatoes to make pasta sauce or to use in stews in place of fresh tomatoes, but the most common way I that I use these conserved tomatoes is so that we can continue to enjoy our favourite breakfast dish, menemen, even in the middle of winter. You may know menemen as a famous Turkish egg dish in which the eggs are scrambled into the tomato and green pepper mixture. But menemen is also the name for the egg-free version of the same dish.

To make menemen is very simple:

In a small pan dice an onion and fry in oil, add in a clove or two of thinly diced garlic. Fry gently until the onion is softened and the smells are starting to waft around the house. Add in a jar of the stewed tomatoes and green peppers. Add in some mild chili flakes, black pepper, salt to taste and a tiny bit of sugar (optional but I think it brings out the natural sweetness in the tomatoes). Cover and simmed over a low heat for about 10-15 minutes. If you are using fresh tomatoes and green peppers then fry the peppers at the same time as the onions and add the tomatoes after the peppers and onion have softened.Image

Afiyet olsun!

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Take a Peek Inside

It’s a grey, rainy day here in Istanbul, the first one we’ve had during a weekday all summer (well that I can remember anyway). Here’s how the weather’s looking now:


And here’s how it was looking earlier today:


Because of the extremely heavy rain in the morning my husband couldn’t leave for work on time (a downside of motorbikes), so whilst waiting for the rain to subside a little we had a yummy breakfast whilst watching the rain:


We had menemen (stewed tomatoes, green peppers, onion and garlic – you may know the version which is served with an egg scrambled through it) (I make my menemen it in big batches and jar it – I’ll do a post on that soon), a mixture of chestnut & oyster mushrooms with spinach, basil and tomatoes, hot potato chips, cucumber & tomatoes, parsley & rocket, black olives, peach jam (made by my husband’s teyze (aunty) & so so delicious), raspberry jam and pekmez (which is a molasses-type syrup made from fruit – thanks Wikipedia!), served of course with bread and Turkish black tea.


Now rainy weather for me means sitting on the lounge and watching old movies, but for some reason this morning I felt like not being so lazy. That said, as soon as I’ve posted this, I’m totally going to lay on the lounge and watch Dexter.


So I used my morning to clean out my kitchen food cupboards. It’s not that my cupboards were really messy, but I probably have OCD everything was in plastic packets and I really don’t want a maggot infestation, so I put everything into containers and here’s the result:

Inside you’ll find the staples of a Turkish cupboard: pirinc (rice), pilavlik bulgur (large grain bulgur), koftelik bulgur (small grain bulgur), tel sehriye (small vermicelli noodles), bugday (wheat), kuru fasulye (small white beans), yesil mercimek (green lentils), kirimizi mercimek (red lentils) and nohut (chickpeas) amongst the rest of it.


In cupboard number 2 we have lots of tea and coffee along with assorted kuruyemis which is nuts and dried fruits and must always be on hand in any good Turkish home in the event that unexpected guests pop over.


Well this post was meant to just be a peek inside my cupboards, but I think it turned out to be more a peek inside my morning.


If you want to peek some more, I will next week be posting a photographic journal of all the meals I’ve eaten during this week. Sounds fascinating right?!… Uh huh.

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Two Ways With Green Lentils

Buying things in cans is almost a sin in Turkey, I mean I could buy tinned legumes or tomatoes, but if anyone popped over unexpectedly and found my stash they’d surely report it back to my mother-in-law and I’d be banned from cooking for her son for life! This means that I need to be more well prepared so that I remember to soak dried legumes overnight.

The other night I wanted to soak green lentils before going to bed so they’d be ready for use for the following evening’s dinner, but then the following afternoon when I started thinking about what to make for dinner I remembered that I had forgotten to soak my lentils. But I didn’t give up. At about 4pm I soaked my lentils in hot water for about 2 hours and then boiled them for about half an hour and whaddayaknow, they were soft enough to be used for that night’s dinner. Then I realised that I’d prepared lentils but hadn’t made a decision of whether to cook a soup or a main meal. So I decided to choose both.

Green Lentil Soup (Yeşil Mercimek Çorbası)

1 cup of green lentils (soaked overnight or the cheats version, or if you’re not scared of your mother-in-law then you could use canned😉 )
2 tbs olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 or 3 cloves garlic, diced
1 tsp or more of cumin
Red chilli flakes
Salt & pepper
Boiling water

In a soup pot add olive oil and onions and sautee for a couple of minutes, then add in the garlic and continue to sautee for a minute or two. Then add in the cumin and fry for half a minute before adding your lentils, chilli flakes, salt and pepper and mix around for a couple of minutes. Then add in about 4 cups of boiling water and bring to the boil for a minute before covering and simmering for about half an hour to 40 minutes. Check on the soup every 10 minutes or so and if needed add more water.

I then roughly blend the soup so that it’s creamy but still has some texture, but it’s up to you whether you like a chunky or a creamy soup or a mix of the two like me.

Serve with fresh lemon wedges, or better yet make a ‘soup dressing’ where you mix the soup dressing ingredients and drizzle over your soup.

For soup dressing:
½ lemon juiced
A dash of vinegar, apple cider or white
½ clove garlic, finely diced
A glug of olive oil
Salt & pepper

Green Lentil Food (Yeşil Mercimek Yemeği)

1 cup of green lentils (soaked overnight or the cheats version, or if you’re not scared of your mother-in-law then you could use canned)
2 tbs olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 clove garlic, diced
1 tbs tomato or red pepper paste
1 potato, diced
Red chilli flakes (optional)
½ tsp dried mint
Salt & pepper
Boiling water

In a pot add olive oil and onions and sautee for a couple of minutes, then add in the garlic and continue to sautee for a minute. Add in the tomato paste and fry for half a minute before adding your potatoes and lentils and mix around for a couple of minutes. Then add in chilli flakes, mint, salt and pepper and about 1½ cups of boiling water, or enough water so that the lentils and potatoes are just covered and bring to the boil for a minute before covering and simmering. Stir occasionally and add a little bit more water if necessary. Cooking time is about half an hour or until the potatoes are cooked through and the lentils are tender enough to eat.

Serve with a wedge of fresh lemon and some crusty bread.

Afiyet olsun.

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Lahana Turşusu – Pickled Cabbage

Pickled vegetables known as ‘turşu’ are found all over Turkey. At any food market you go to or in some suburbs you can find a ‘turşucu’ which is pickled vegetable seller. But the best turşu is homemade. Turşu is easy to make and lasts for a long time. Turşu is generally made when the particular vegetable you wish to use is in season and is therefore at it’s cheapest and the turşu is then stored in a cool dark place to be eaten during winter when vegetables are not so readily available. I’m waiting for the price of flat green beans (fasulye) to go down so that I can make fasulye turşusu.

In the Black Sea region of Turkey, turşu is added to fried onions and eaten hot as a breakfast dish. Being a lover of pickles and salty sour things, turşu is one of my favourite Turkish foods and is a regular on the breakfast table. I also love to use lahana (cabbage) turşusu as you might use sauerkraut, especially as a filling on sandwiches. My current favourite sandwich is made with grilled tofu, lahana turşu and acuka (which is a spread made of red pepper and tomato pastes mixed with nuts, spices and pomegranate molasses).

1 large cabbage (you could also use 2 or 3 small cabbages), washed and cut up roughly
About 1/2 cup or more of rock salt
1 whole bulb of garlic, finely diced
Chillies, finely diced or chilli flakes, to your liking

Wash and cut up your cabbage roughly.

Bring a large pot of water to the boil and add cabbage in batches cooking for approximately 7 mins or until just tender.

Remove cabbage from the boiling water with a slotted spoon and place into a large bowl (enough to hold all of the boiled cabbage) and run cold water over the cabbage to stop the cooking process.

Repeat this process until all the cabbage has been boiled and then drain the water.

To the bowl where all your cooled cabbage is sitting, add the rock salt, garlic, and chilli and mix around with your hands, rubbing everything into the cabbage.

Stuff all of the cabbage and flavourings into a large sealable container and fill with water enough to cover the cabbage. Seal the container and place upside down for 24 hours. After 24 hours you can stand the container up and check the taste. If it’s not salty enough, add more sale. If it’s too salty add more water.

Your turşu is now ready to be used, but it tastes better if you leave it to pickle for a few days at least.

Okay so that’s how you make turşu. But if you want to eat it the Black Sea way and the way that I recommend, then there’s a few more steps.

1 onion, finely sliced
1 tbs Margarine
1 tbs oil
2 cups turşu, approx, cut into smaller pieces

To a cold pan add the margarine and oil and a very thinly sliced onion. It’s optional to add a few chilli flakes at this time. Put the lid on the pan and place the pan on the stove over a low heat and cook for about 5 mins. You want the flavour to come out of your onions and for them to soften but for them not to burn at all.

Then add the turşu to the pan and mix around so the onions are evenly spread throughout the turşu. Add some of the turşu pickling liquid. Put the lid back on the pan and cook for about 10 mins, stirring occasionally.

Note: If your turşu itself is too salty, then either wash the turşu before you use it or instead of adding the picking water to the pan, just add plain water.

Serve and enjoy.

Afiyet olsun!

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Turp Salatası – Radish Salad

Here’s a really easy refreshing salad/side dish that I like to make and eat. It’s super easy to make and goes especially well as a BBQ side dish (or just to put on the table to make it look like you’ve gone to more effort than you actually have).

2 radishes, grated
Tahini (about 3 or 4 tbs)
Lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
Garlic, finely diced/grated (1 or 2 small cloves)
Water (about 1 or 2 tbs or more if you went a bit overboard with the lemon juice)

In a bowl mix together tahini, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper until the taste is how you like it. You may want to add water to thin it out or to tame the taste a little. Once the dressing is how you like it add the grated radish to the bowl, mix to cover the radish in the dressing and your salad is ready to serve! So easy. This dish is best eaten cold and on the day it’s made.

Afiyet olsun.

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Parsifal Vegetarian Restaurant

For a city of 15 (?) million or so people, there’s not a lot of vegetarian restaurants in Istanbul. So it was nice to discover Parsifal which is not far from Taksim Square and is on a street parallel to Istiklal Caddesi (or find them on Facebook). Parsifal is great, not simply because it’s vegetarian, but the food is actually really good. Vegan options are clearly marked and prices are reasonable.

I’ve been to this restaurant a few times, a couple of times by myself and a few times with Mr T (Mr Turk). It was funny when I went back with Mr T after about a year and the guy at the restaurant remembered us and was shocked we were still together, such must be the nature of most Turk/foreigner relationships, or maybe he just got a bad vibe from us LOL.

When you get there they give you this really yummy warm homemade bread with a herbed oil to dip it in. Did I mention that dipping bread in oil is one of my all time favourite activities? Well it is, so this restaurant is off to a good start in my books.

Next up is Potato Borek: light crispy pastry, soft potato and lots of dill = winning combination!

Then there is dolma (stuffed chard leaves). Now my personal preference is for dolma to be oily, lemony and salty, you know where you cringe a little when you eat it from the combination of salty and sour *drool*, but I think that must be more the Lebanese version because most of the dolma I’ve eaten in Turkey isn’t like this and is a little more ‘reserved’ in flavour, but delicious nonetheless. The dolma at Parsifal is served with a tasty tomato salsa which gives it a nice lift.

On to mains they serve an eggplant dish which isn’t much to look at, but the taste, oh the taste! Smoky eggplant, garlic, tomato, green peppers, need I go on? It was yum.

I’m one of those vegans who isn’t vegan for health reasons, I’m vegan purely because I love animals. I am what other vegans would refer to as a ‘mock meat vegan’. I think the hardest thing about being in Turkey is not being able to get my mock meat fix (okay maybe the hardest thing is the cultural differences, but that’s another story altogether). So anyway you can imagine my delight when I saw a dish on the menu called ‘soya burger’. I imagined a soy meat patty of some sort in a bun, you know, like a burger. I was just planning on ditching the bread and salad bits and going to town on the soy meat patty. Well this isn’t a burger in the traditional form. It’s crumbed, fried potato patties stuffed with soy mince served with salad on the side. Different and not quite as filling as a normal burger might be, but it would work well as an entree. Although my craving for soy meat wasn’t totally satisfied, this was still a good dish.

We also ate a vegetable stew which was good. In Turkey you can’t really go wrong with ordering a vegetable stew (‘sebze guvec’ in Turkish) as long as it’s not cooked in any animal stock or oil.

My favourite dish that I’ve eaten at Parsifal is the vegetable grill plate, which is skewers of barbequed vegetables with a light tomato sauce served with grilled potatoes, rice and a salad garnish. My favourite vegetable on the skewer is definitely the oyster mushroom and I could easily eat 10 skewers of just those! Although I’ve eaten this dish a couple of times I’ve never managed to take a photo of it because I’ve been too busy shovelling the contents of the plate into my salivating mouth.

The only criticism I have of Parsifal is that they don’t have any vegan deserts on the menu. Now it’s besides the point that I’m usually too full to eat desert anyway and often don’t like sweet stuff, but it would just be nice to have that option.

If you’re in Istanbul, be sure to check out Parsifal. Even if you’re of the meat-eating type, you’re arteries will need a break from all those kebabs at some point.

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