Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Red Lentil Pate... (Mercimek Koftesi)

Although I am not a vegetarian, I can easily go on with a vegetarian diet (except when I go to kebap restaurants in Turkey :)). One of the main vegetarian ingredients that I love are lentils, I love any kind of them red, green, split, etc... If I have to tell my favorite lentil recipe, I think that would be Turkish Style Red Lentil Soup, which is my all time favorite soup... The recipe I am posting today is not the soup (easiest, healthiest, and one of the tastiest soup, I should post that too), but my second favorite and that is Turkish style Red Lentil Pate... My husband, who is a Canadian, tasted this dish first time couple of months ago, and he loves it since then... He even prepared it for our guests once, and it was a success... Everyone asked for the recipe...

This recipe is from the blog called "Binnur's Turkish Cookbook" (http://www.turkishcookbook.com). I tried her recipe and did couple of changes to my taste after the first trial...

So, here you go... The recipe works everytime, so do not hesitate to try if you like red lentils, vegeterian starters or looking for a new healthy dish for your diet... We serve this dish as an appetizer or meze in our home...

(makes approximately 20 pieces)

1 cup fine bulgur wheat - washed and drained (I buy mine from Whole Foods' organic section, could not find it anywhere else yet, other than Turkish grocery store)
1 cup red lentils - washed and drained
1 large onion or 2 small onions - cut into small cubes
1/2 cup canola oil (or sunflower oil)
2,5 tbsp tomato paste
1 lemon's juice
1,5 tbsp cumin
1,5 tsp salt (more or less to your taste)
1 tsp red pepper flakes (if you like spicy you can increase the amount, or eliminate if you dont like)
1/2 cup parsley - chopped
1/4 cup green onion - chopped
lettuce leaves


1- Put lentils and 2,5 cups of water into a pot, and cook over low heat until there is a little amount of water left.
2- Then, add bulgur wheat to the pot, and cook until all water evaporates. Cover the pot with a lid and put aside.
3- In a pan, saute the onions with canola oil until they just change color (no need to brown the onions, i like that they still have a bite in the finished dish).
4- Decrease the heat to low, and first add the tomato paste, then lemon juice, then the spices and salt...
5- Mix it well, and add the lentil and bulgur mixture. Continue cooking over low heat... Make sure the bulgur-lentil paste is mixed well with the rest. (If the paste seems too dry or the liquid in the pan does not seem enough to cover all of the paste, you can add 1/2 cup hot water, and cook until you have a homogenous mixture).
6- Cook until the mixture gets doughy and starts to leave edges of the pan.
7- Take off from the heat, cover with a lid and put aside for 1 hour or so, until it gets cold.
8- When cold, add chopped parsley and green onions and mix well.
9- Using your hands, take walnut size pieces from the mixture and shape as photographed above... Serve on lettuce leaves... (I use romaine leaves) Keep refrigerated.
10- You eat these balls rolled in a lettuce leave, which gives it a crunchy texture and a refreshing taste, at room temperature... You can squeeze lemon on top if you like more acidity. Afiyet olsun! (Turkish for Bon appetit!)

Friday, November 12, 2010

Food from Black Sea Region of Turkey...

Contrary to the common belief outside of Turkey, Turkish cuisine is not composed of only kebaps and mezes (I believe this is partially because of bad marketing outside of Turkey, partially because it is easier for western world to classify Turkey into Middle East, and lastly because of dominance of home-cooking for regional food)... In reality, Turkish cuisine is among the most diverse in the world, due to the influence of Ottoman Empire... The food is a fusion of Turkic elements from Central Asia, influences of Middle East and Balkans... Adding the difference in climate and produce between regions to this mix, the result is a very diverse and non-homogeneous (between regions) cuisine...

South-east is famous of its meat, kebaps, mezes, and baklava like desserts; Aegean, Marmara and Mediterranean regions uses the olive oil and vegetables grown in the fertile agricultural land in the area and fish; Central Anatolia is known for dishes prepared by using wheat; lastly but not least Black Sea region's cuisine is based on corn, anchovies (hamsi), kale, dairy products (butter, cheese)...

I am originally from eastern part of Black Sea coast, and the objective of this posting is to introduce the region and make an introduction to my next postings, which will be recipes of dishes from the region...

                               Fishing in Black Sea - Trabzon, Turkey

The land is very mountainous and climate is rainy all year around. There is not vast fertile agricultural land like in the Aegean and Mediterranean regions, and weather is not as co-operative. As a result, the cuisine is very different than other coastal areas of Turkey, and these conditions pushed people of the Black Sea to create dishes using the produce that can be grown/found in the area, such as kale and corn from the soil, anchovies (hamsi) and other fishes from the Black Sea, and dairy products from their kettles...

                               Camlihemsin, Rize


Originally from South America, corn is brought to the region in the 17th century, and used for variety of purposes by the Black Sea people since then - eaten fresh by boiling or grilling, dried and grinded to the flour to prepare corn bread or to use in several dishes like muhlama (cheese fondue), hamsi bread, kale dishes, etc.

                               Boiling corn on open fire - Camlihemsin, Rize

Dairy Products:

Black Sea cuisine is not big in meat dishes other than Kavurma, which is braised meat in its own fat, since they use the milk of the kettles to prepare dairy products. The region is famous with its butter, and also produces variety of cheeses... Muhlama or Kuymak - similar dishes using butter, cheese, corn flour but different preparations - is one of the staple dishes of the Black Sea cuisine.

                               Yummy muhlama with fresh butter, cheese and corn flour...

                               Perfect appetizer mix: Toasted corn bread, honey and butter

Kale and other vegetables:

Kale is another staple of the Black Sea cuisine. It is used in various dishes, from kale soup to dolma (kale filled with ground meat mixture) to sarma (kale filled with fried rice) to mashed or sauted kale. Other vegetables used widely are green beans and chard... Pickling is also used to preserve the vegetables, especially green beans... In winter, these pickled beans are sauted and eaten warm with corn bread...
                               Fresh Kale - Still in the garden

Anchovies (Hamsi) and other fish:

Fish from the Black Sea play a big role in the kitchen of the people of the region. The most famous of these is Anchovies (Hamsi), and eaten in plenty of different cooking styles and preparations: grilled, fried, cooked with rice (hamsili pilav), hamsi bread (hamsili ekmek), omlette with hamsi and vegetables, etc.


The most interesting dessert of the area is Laz Boregi, which is a baklava like syrupy dessert layered with custard in between layers instead of nuts... The name is interesting to the Turkish people who are not familiar to the area since borek refers to savory pastries in Turkish cuisine and this one is a dessert...

If you are curious about how the mentioned dishes are made and taste, read this blog :) Coming soon...

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

My new go to Carrot Cake...

Without any hesitation, I can say that Cafe Fernando is my favorite food blog. At first it was because of his neat website, beautiful photos and good writing. After a while I could not hold myself back from trying his recipes and everything I tried tasted amazing... I believe the priority of the blogger should be building the trust with his/her followers, since they don't have any chance to taste the end-product before putting all the effort to buying the ingredients and applying the recipes... Everything I did from Cafe fernando tasted soooo good, most of the times they were even better than a product I would eat at a quality bakery (like this recipe, yummy)... Now I am at a trust level that I can try his recipe's for the first time for special guests and not be worried, since I know that he tests all the recipes multiple times and makes sure it works out, and I trust his taste buds...

The carrot recipe I am giving here is from his English blog, and I really liked the outcome... This is the richest moistest carrot cake I have eaten, and it does not need the classic icing... Only powdered sugar sprinkled on top is enough to enjoy it, as recommended by Cenk of Cafe Fernando...

(the igredients are for a fluted pan with diameter of 25 cm or 9 inches)

2 cups all-purpose flour
1+1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1+3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
4 tbsp sweetened shredded coconut (I did with unsweetened and it also worked well)
3/4 cup grape seed oil (or sunflower oil or canola oil - I used canola oil)
3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
4 eggs
Pinch of grated nutmeg
2+1/2 cup finely grated raw carrots
140 gr walnut halves
1 tsp butter for greasing the cake pan
1/4 cup powdered sugar - to be used for serving
zest of 1 orange - to be used for serving


1) Roast the walnuts in a non-stick pan on the stove or in the oven for 10-15 minutes. When they are cold, cut into big pieces, and put aside.

2) Preheat your oven to 350 F (170 C) and place a rack in the center of the oven. Butter a 9-inch fluted cake pan and set aside.

3) In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, shredded coconut, nutmeg and ground cinnamon. Set aside.

4) In another mixing bowl, whisk together (I used an electronic mixer) the eggs with the sugars until the batter is thick and light colored.

5) Add the oil and whisk to combine.

6) Add the flour mixture to wet mixture in 3 parts and each time mix until combined. Do not overmix.

7) Fold in the grated carrots and chopped nuts to the mixture.

8) Pour the batter into the cake pan and hit the pan to the counter couple if time to take the air out of the pan.

9) Bake for 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

10) Remove from the oven and let it cool. After about 5 -10 minutes invert the cake onto a serving platter.
Right before serving, dust with powdered sugar. I also sprinkled some orange zest on top, to give some citrus smell and flavor...

11) Bon appetit!

Note: You can freeze the remaining cake by wrapping with plastic roll and again with aluminum foil. When you want to eat, just take the cake out of freezer and let is sit at room temperature for 6-8 hours... It is as moist and fresh as the first day...