Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A culinary tour around the world - third stop: Turkey

So, Joan from Foodalogue is taking us to Turkey this week. As you can imagine, I'm very happy about this stop. She already posted a lovely vegetarian recipe, Imam Bayildi (literally: the imam fainted), go and have a look at it.

I have been to Turkey once, but this has been ages ago and the dishes I can remember are baklava because it was devastatingly sweet, sickly sweet tea and spinach börek which I just loved. There isn't much else; maybe the police razzia into which we ran because some Turkish guy took us to an illustrous night club made me forget profane things like eating. We were young we didn't need to eat ...
Turkey actually became much more meaningful to me during my later studies at uni. Turkey, being part of the 'Fertile Crescent', is home to many of our domesticated plants. The early domesticates were genetically most similar to wild plants from the Karacadağ region of southeast Turkey. The location for domesticating einkorn for example is placed in this area. Single origins for both tetraploid wheat and barley are also suggested, with wheat definitely from the Karacadağ area, too (Öskan et al. 2002).
Wild einkorn wheat in the Karacadag mountain range
B. Kilian et al.fig. 6. In: M. Glaubrecht (ed.) Evolution in Action 2010, 137-66.

Lev-Yadun et al. 2000

The 'Fertile Crescent'  was not only the origin of einkorn, wheat, emmer, and barley but also of lentils, peas, flax, and chickpeas. Sedentary hunter-gatherers in sites like Hallan Çemi or Çayönü of course also ate wild animals and early domesticated pigs but they intensively used the fore-runners of our cultivated grains and pulses. Finds of querns and handstones, mortars and pestles, suggest an avid use of grasses, pulses, and nuts (esp. almonds).

Before I venture into the origin of religion in this area I want to come back to the reason of this blog post, the coulinary journey to modernTurkey. OK, just one last picture from the famous site of Göbekli Tepe, the mother of all religion, also called the 'Garden Eden'. Look at this impressive monolith, it's 10,000 years old!

Schmidt 2006, fig. 59

Well, where were we? Ah yes, Turkish cuisine ....
I wanted to keep up the spirit of the late hunter-gatherers in ancient Turkey and look for it in modern Turkish cuisine, so it had to be something with wheat and pulses, lots of pulses, because I love lentils and co.

In the end I choose to make some spinach börek, red lentil and bulgur patties, and a green lentil salad (yes, I know, it was a lentil overkill - did I mention that I loooove lentils?)

The börek were based on a recipe from a German site called Turkish Recipes. Since you might not want to read a German recipe and I veganised the filling anyhow, I give you the recipe here:

Spinach börek

1 packet frozen spinach leaves (ca. 300 g), thawed and pressed to remove the water
half a block of tofu (200g) (or use vegetarian feta cheese, instead of lemon marinated tofu)
lemon juice from half a lemon
1 small onion
2 cloves of garlic
herb salt, black pepper, paprika
olive oil for frying
1-2 tablespoons of tomato paste
Italian parsley
8 Yufka pastry sheets (I couldn't get them, so I used vegan phyllo pastry)

What to do

Marinate the crumbled tofu in lemonjuice and herb salt. Meanwhile finely chop the onion and garlic clove. Heat oil and fry onion and garlic until transparent, add the spinach and fry for a couple of minutes. Add the tofu crumbles, fry again. Add tomato paste, seasoning and parsley. This will be the filling.
Put the filliing in the centre of the pastry sheet, moisten the edge of sheets and press together.
Heat Olive oil in frying pan and fry the börek on both sides
Can be eaten warm and cold.

Since yufka pastry doesn't contain fat it is nice to fry in the pan, it was a little on the fatty side with the phyllo. Next time I would bake them in the oven if I can't get yufka.

The green lentil salad (Mercimek Piyazi) came from Chili and Ciabatta.

Petra from Chili and Ciabatta permitted to translate and post her recipe, so here it is:

Green lentil salad (Mercimek Piyazi)


1 cup green lentils, soaked for a couple of hours
1 bunch of green onions, chopped
2 tomatoes, finely diced
2 cloves of garlic, pressed
1 bunch of flat leave parsley
some twigs of mint
1 and 1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon  paprika (the hot one, Turkish or Hungarian one, if you can't find it use 1/2 a teaspoon cayenne pepper)
4 tablespoons live oil
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
salt, black pepper

What to do:

Cook lentils in roughly 1.5 l of water for about 15-30 min until tender. Do try them now and then, you wouldn't want to get them mushy. Strain lentils and put in a big bowl. Add all the other ingredients and mix up well. Let rest for half an hour to let the flavour develop.
Serve with pide bread and if you are not vegan you can fry halloumi cheese, that's what Petra did.

And, last but not least the red lentil and bulgur patties are from

In the end, I added some wonderful blogs about Turkish food to my rss feeds and have lots of recipes and ideas which I will try after this journey. Thank you, Joan, for taking us on this tour and I can't wait to see the round-up. See you in Japan then :)


  1. I, too, love lentils so it's not overkill for me. I think we're all agreed that Turkey was a great stop with a wonderful selection of food for all tastes.

  2. I always order borek when I go to a Turkish restaurant. Appetizer portion. Also, lentils are part on my diet. I really love this post and sharing this trip to Turkey with you.

  3. I adore lentils and particularly like the look of the red lentil and burghul patties. My daughter is vegetarian and I think these would go down well. I liked the different background about Turkey you discovered and shared.

  4. I would love all of these dishes Torwen. I have tried making borek in the past with a cheese filling.

  5. I love lentils too but most of all I love how you "veganise" all the recipes! In our culinary trips it's a very intriguing different point of view