ESSENTIALS - Anatolia: Adventures in Turkish Cooking (2016)

Anatolia: Adventures in Turkish Cooking (2016)


We called this book Anatolia because that word best conveys the history and diversity of a land that only started using the term Türkiye (Land of the Turks) in the eleventh century, and only became the Turkish Republic in 1923. The word Anatolia is used to show that our book includes the delicious Arab, Armenian, Assyrian, Balkan, Greek, Jewish, Kurdish and Romany contributions to the way Turks eat.

Turkish people have a passion for eating well. While they’re enjoying breakfast, they’re planning dinner. They cook a lot at home, but everyone has a favourite kebap shop, a favourite lunch lokanta, a favourite source of baklava, and a favourite street stall for sobering up with stuffed intestines after a long night drinking rakı in a meyhane. There is no time of day when you can’t get interesting food, so instead of dividing this book into conventional chapters such as starters, mains, desserts and party food, we’ve arranged the chapters in the form of a typical Turkish eating day.


The first use of the term Anatolia was in clay tablets written 4300 years ago in the cuneiform letters of Mesopotamia, so that suggested a timespan for this book. (We could have taken you back 11,000 years, because the world’s first human settlement has been discovered at Göbekli Tepe, near the town of Şanlıurfa in southeastern Anatolia, but information on the cuisine of that period is scarce.)

The Hittites may not have been the first organised civilisation on earth (that title should probably go to the Sumerians), but they do seem to have been the first to use iron weapons; the first to make wine and cultivate olives, almonds and apricots; and were the speakers of a language that turned into most of the dialects of modern Europe.

The Hittite Empire was at its peak 3500 years ago, and Troy was a west-coast branch. The defeat of Troy about 3200 years ago (as reported by Homer) was part of a Greek conquest of Anatolia that was confirmed by Alexander the Great about 2300 years ago. About 2600 years ago, a Greek demigod named Byzas founded the city that came to be called Byzantion (Byzantium), then New Rome, then Constantinople, and finally Istanbul (which literally translates as ‘into the city’).

The Greek Empire was replaced by the Roman Empire around 2000 years ago and Constantinople became the imperial capital when Rome fell to barbarians in the fourth century.

The last vestiges of Roman-Christian rule were eliminated in the eleventh century by the invading Seljuks (an extended family of Muslims from the northeast, whose empire also included Persia). The Seljuks spoke a language called Turkic.

Western Anatolia got involved in various disputes with European crusaders passing through on their way to Jerusalem, but stayed in Seljuk control until the arrival, around 1300, of an army under the command of a military strategist named Osman in Turkish and known to English speakers as Ottoman. This commander gave his name to an empire that proceeded to invade lands we now call Greece, Hungary, Bulgaria, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Algeria.

One of the obsessions of the Ottoman Turks was the art of food, and at the peak of their power (under Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent in the sixteenth century), the Topkapı Palace in Istanbul had 400 cooks using ingredients and techniques from all over the empire.

In the sixteenth century, Anatolia welcomed Jews and Muslims who were expelled from Spain and Portugal by Christian fundamentalists. They brought new approaches to the way ingredients could be combined.

Then, in the seventeenth century, Anatolia welcomed Spanish and Portuguese traders who brought strange and exciting ingredients from the New World—tomatoes, peppers and potatoes.

Ottoman rule collapsed during the First World War, and in 1923 a bunch of modernisers took over. The first president of the Turkish republic was Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, a soldier who had defeated the Allied invaders at Gelibolu (Gallipoli) in 1915. He abolished the dominance of the Islamic clergy (known as ‘the caliphate’), gave women the vote and created a secular democracy. As part of a treaty between the new nation and the Allies, Anatolians of Greek background were told to move to Greece while Muslims of Turkish background moved from Greece to Turkey.

So you can see why Anatolian food is likely to have a fair bit in common with the cooking of Greece, Syria, Egypt, Armenia, Italy, Spain, Iran and even Hungary, and why so much culinary mythology has developed over the past four millennia.

Myths make good stories, so in this book we’re going to recount the myths and then try to analyse where they deviate from reality. We are not going to waste time with disputes about which ethnic, religious or national group ‘owns’ a particular dish.

The cooking in a particular area is dictated by the climate, the soil, the range of ingredients available, the survival techniques developed over the millennia and the cultural assumptions passed on by successive waves of settlers. It’s perfectly possible for a dish to be simultaneously Turkish, Greek, Italian and Syrian, or to be none of the above if it appeared long before those names were on any map. When in doubt, our default position is to describe a dish as ‘adapted from the Hittite’.

So how is a non-Turkish-speaking visitor going to tap into this historical, geographical and cultural abundance? In Istanbul most waiters speak enough English to respond to your enthusiastic request to try a range of local specialities and avoid the tourist clichés. Outside Istanbul and the coastal resort towns, two phrases might come in handy in a lunch lokanta or meze bar: ‘Herşey [hershay] den az az ortaya lütfen’, which means ‘Can I have a variety of small servings, please’ (literally, ‘Little little in the middle’) and ‘ Ben de şundan [shundan] alabilir miyim, lütfen’ (‘Could I have those, please’), with which you should point to a dish on another table or on display on the counter.

After the recipes, we’ve provided a list of recommendations on eating places worth visiting in Istanbul and around the countryside. In the unlikely event you don’t find great food in Turkey, cook from this book and discover how it should have tasted.


The geographers divide modern Turkey into seven regions, which vary greatly in their approach to cooking …

The Marmara region (main cities Bursa, Edirne and Istanbul) contained all the palaces from which the Ottoman sultans controlled their empire, so Turkey’s wealth, industry and gourmet faddism are concentrated here. Istanbul, with its 20 million residents, is the heart of the nation (although the political capital is Ankara, 400 km/250 miles away). You can find excellent examples of every region’s specialities without leaving Istanbul, because every successful regional restaurant dreams of opening a branch there (even at the risk of losing authenticity). In Istanbul, go for seafood, because the Marmara Sea supplies tasty fish. Edirne is known for its sautéed liver. Bursa is known for Iskender kebap.

The Mediterranean coast (main cities Antalya and Adana) grows most of Turkey’s fruits and greens. Hatay is the most multicultural city in Turkey, with large communities of Arabs, Christians and Jews—which makes its cuisine fascinating. Antalya is nicknamed ‘Antalsky’ in the summer months, because of the invasion of Russian tourists. That’s when serious foodies leave the coast and head for the mountains.

In the wild and windy Black Sea region (main cities Trabzon and Samsun) the obsessions are hazelnuts, corn, salad greens and a fish called hamsi (somewhere between a sardine and an anchovy). There are alleged to be more than 200 recipes for it, including a hamsi jam.

Not surprisingly, the Aegean coast (main cities Izmir and Bodrum) is Greek-influenced. The Greek islands are so close that at night Turks in the Aegean region can see the headlights of cars driving around Kos, Lesbos, Chios and Samos. No wonder it was so easy for the Greeks to invade Troy. It’s a wine-making area, more liberal than the rest of Turkey in its attitude to alcohol. The best food is found in its meyhanes, which do seafood specialities, and olive oil-braised greens and other vegetables.

Central Anatolia (main cities Ankara, Konya and Kayseri) is the agricultural heartland, growing most of the vegetables and grains. The restaurants tend to specialise in lamb, börek pastries and casseroles with bulgur. Konya was one of the first places settled by the nomadic Turkic people when they arrived in the eleventh century, and has become a culinary and cultural centre. The Armenian community in Kayseri made the region famous for beef pastırma and sucuk sausage. Butter is the main cooking medium here, not olive oil.

Eastern Anatolia (main cities Van, Kars and Malatya) borders Iran, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia, and has a large Kurdish population. On its western side, the climate is ideal for growing apricots, figs and grapes that turn into powerful red wines. On the eastern side, the cattle, sheep and goats produce wonderful cheeses.

Southeastern Anatolia (main cities Gaziantep, Şanlıurfa and Mardin) has a cuisine influenced by neighbouring Syria and Iraq. It produces the world’s best pistachios and thus the world’s best baklava. The climate is harsh in winter and hot and dry in summer, so they’ve perfected drying, preserving and pickling techniques to keep their eaters happy all year. The famous isot chilli pepper and çiğ köfte (raw veal and bulgur wheat) come from Şanlıurfa.

The food regions of turkey:

AEGEAN SEA: Olives, wines, salads, herbs, wild weeds and seafood

BLACK SEA: Hamsi, tea, corn, hazelnuts and pide bread

CENTRAL ANATOLIA: Börek pastries, beef pastirma, lamb casseroles and fruit molasses

EASTERN ANATOLIA: Cheeses, dried fruits, grains and lamb

MARMARA: Mezes, white wine, rakı, small fish and puddings

MEDITERRANEAN SEA: Large fish, salads, oranges, lemons and figs

SOUTHEASTERN ANATOLIA: Kebaps, bulgur wheat, baklava and peppers

The Fifteen Favourite Ingredients


Growing up in Istanbul, the only bread I knew was ekmek—a torpedo-shaped roll that was made every morning in a wood-fired stone oven by a bakery a few doors from my apartment. No Turks bake their own bread at home because the price of bread has been subsidised by the government since Ottoman times (when the sultans followed the Roman emperors’ practice of pacifying the populace with ‘bread and circuses’).

Bread is subject to a multitude of laws specifying minimum size of loaf (250 g/9 oz), minimum flour type, maximum salt content (1.5 per cent) and hygiene for shops and delivery trucks (delivery truck needs to be washable), and can only use flour, yeast, salt and water.

Although my family was not religious, the holy month of Ramadan was an exciting time for me, because a new kind of bread appeared—a round and fluffy creation called pide, designed to be consumed hot as soon as the faithful break their fast at sunset. The cooks elaborated on the basic ekmek by putting yoğurt or molasses on top. I later discovered that if I visited southeastern Anatolia I could eat pide all year round because it’s their standard form of bread. (Pide is not to be confused with pita, which is not a word used much in Turkey. The flatbread called pita by other cultures is called lavaş in Turkey.)

So if you go to the southeast of Turkey and ask for ekmek, you will get pide. If you ask for pide on the west coast, they will tell you ‘It’s not Ramadan yet’. In the Black Sea, if you ask for pide, they will ask you ‘with cheese or lamb?’ In Istanbul tourist restaurants they will serve you pide in the form of a balloon, made by throwing cardboard into the stone oven in the last few seconds of the baking process to create a sudden blast of heat that will make the bread puff up. Do not try this at home.


Being nomadic people, the Turkic groups who reached Anatolia in the eleventh century first drank horse milk. When they settled in one spot, they domesticated cows, sheep and goats, and found new flavour sensations.

Although I am sceptical about the Turkish habit of taking credit for all sorts of culinary creations, I think we are safe in saying those invaders gave yoğurt to the world (which is why I’ve used the Turkish spelling throughout this book). Turks are now the biggest consumers of plain yoğurt on the planet—our average consumption is 24 kg (over 50 lb) per person per year. We use it in or with just about everything.

For my grandma, yoğurt was as much a medicine as a food. A burnt hand got a yoğurt wrapping, a sunburn meant your whole back, neck and face were covered with it. If you got food poisoning, it settled your stomach. My grandma bought her yoğurt from a man who walked down her street at the same time every day carrying two pots suspended from a pole that went across his shoulders.

I like to say that I can offer four recipes in which the only ingredients are yoğurt and time—in its basic form as a sauce; thickened to become a dip (by hanging in a muslin cloth for three hours over a pot to catch the drips); thickened and sun-dried to become a cheese (hanging for twelve hours); and diluted to become a drink (which we call ayran—and okay, I must admit water is another ingredient, unless you got it from the pot under the bag in which you made the cheese).

To make your own yoğurt:

First buy a full-fat natural yoğurt (ideally pot-set). Boil 1 litre (35 fl oz/4 cups) of milk for 5 minutes and let it cool until you can keep your finger in it for 10 seconds. Stir 1 tablespoon of the commercial yoğurt through it and whisk with a fork to aerate. Cover the pot and leave it overnight in a warm place (in winter, wrap it in a blanket and keep it in the warmest part of the house). It should have turned to yoğurt within 8 hours, and then you can keep it in the fridge. You should eat it within 5 days, which won’t be difficult if you’re cooking Turkish recipes.

Butter is the main cooking medium in eastern Anatolia (on the west coast they follow the Greeks in preferring olive oil). Some of my recipes involve the use of clarified butter (ghee). If you want to make your own ghee:

Gözleme are a kind of pancake made popular by Yörük people who bring their food stalls from the mountains to coastal villages.

Nose to tail eating is common in Turkey, with two types of butcher shops: those that sell prime cuts and mince, and those that specialise in offal.

Melt butter over very low heat and when it starts to sizzle, pour it into a bowl and put it in the fridge. Next day, scrape the layer of fat off the top. The liquid at the bottom is ghee.


A text published by the University of Kars (on Turkey’s eastern border) identifies 193 types of cheese commonly used in Anatolia—twenty-three of them made in Kars. The favourite type is ‘white’, a variation on the Greek feta. Mostly it’s made from cow’s milk, but sometimes from sheep’s or goat’s or a mixture. It’s an essential component of breakfast, while other cheeses start to appear later in the day.

Sheep were first domesticated in Anatolia around 10,000 years ago and, soon after that, the habit of storing milk in the stomachs of sheep produced the first cheese (because the milk reacted with the stomach enzymes, known as rennet).

The first written reference to cheese is in The Iliad, where Homer describes a wounded soldier being treated with a mixture of wine, barley and goat’s cheese.

Next comes kaşar, a semi-hard yellow cheese often melted on toast. For the recipes in this book I’ve tried to suggest alternatives that might be available in deprived English-speaking countries, but when you’re in Turkey, I urge you to try every regional artisanal cheese you can find, because the more unusual types are at risk of disappearing.


Yes, we do eat chicken and beef (never pork), but I must admit that 80 per cent of the meat consumed in Turkey is lamb. We see it as a main meal, an ingredient in kebaps, and a flavouring for rice. We use every part of it, and in this book you’ll find recipes for its head, liver and testicles. In 2012, somebody did a census and found that Turkey contained 8 million goats, 14 million cows and 28 million sheep.

Lamb was easily bred in the Anatolian climate, and became hallowed by religious ritual very early in our history. A common prayer goes: ‘If you give me this, I will kill a sheep in your name and give it to the needy.’

Around 3000 years ago, so the holy texts tell us, the prophet Abraham sacrificed a sheep instead of his son after passing a test imposed by an angel sent from God. Many villages celebrate this in a religious holiday during which a lamb is tethered outside your house all day, then slaughtered, sliced and distributed to your neediest neighbours (you can only keep a third for yourself).

During the four-day religious festival called Kurban Bayramı, it’s traditional for rich families to sacrifice a sheep and distribute it to the needy. In the past you’d go and select the animal yourself and watch it being slaughtered with appropriate prayer readings. Nowadays, busy people organise the whole thing online, and never see the sheep or its parts.

There are two varieties of lamb: those with a fatty tail and those with a thin tail. The fat-tailed sheep are highly prized by eastern Turks, who love the flavour of the tail fat, which melts at low temperatures. Some areas use tail fat the way the French use butter—to enrich a casserole. Kebaps are healthier because the fat drips off into the embers.


Turkey is girt by sea on three sides—the Black one at the top, the Aegean on the left and the Mediterranean on the bottom. The seafood varies hugely between regions, getting bigger the further south you go.

Turks don’t feel the need for complex recipes for fish, and they don’t bother much with fillets. The rule is grill the fish whole if large, and fry the fish whole if small, then serve with lemon and rocket (arugula). They get more imaginative with mussels, calamari, octopus, scallops and shrimps.

Everyone agrees the best fish come from Istanbul’s Marmara Sea, which connects the Aegean with the Black, and the best month to eat it is September.

I grew up fishing in the Marmara with my father, who had his own boat and knew how the currents and the seasons affected the availability of the fish. Nowadays, fishing in that area is banned between April and early September, but once the ban is lifted, you will be astounded by the variety at the Kumkapı fish market, and you can eat wonderfully in restaurants along the Bosphorus (I’ve named a few of my favourites in the recommendations at the end of this book). The fish you should ask for is lüfer, which is usually translated as bluefish.

In this book I’ve tried to replace varieties unique to Turkey with similar fish available in English-speaking countries.


Eggplants (aubergines) are even more common than lamb in Turkish recipes (usually disguised under poetic titles rather than their own name, patlıcan), so you might imagine we grew them first. But they seem to have been brought into Anatolia from India by Arab traders at least 3000 years ago. Per capita, Turks are the greatest consumers of eggplants in the world.

The best way to cook eggplant is to pierce the skin with a fork and put it directly over fire—either the embers of a barbecue or the gas flame of your stove. Be careful, though. Historians writing about Istanbul in the seventeenth century record frequent destruction of property due to ‘eggplant fires’, because householders would put them over flames and walk away, letting them drop onto the wooden floor.

You should stay nearby, turning the eggplant with tongs until the skin is blackened. Let it cool and drip in a colander for 10 minutes, then scrape out the flesh. If you’re not going to eat it straight away, keep it in water into which you have squeezed half a lemon.

Our next most beloved ingredient is the tomato (domates)—which you’re going to tell me should not be in this section because it is actually a fruit (but you’ll never convince a Turk of this botanical detail). Its omnipresence is surprising since it only entered the Anatolian repertoire in the eighteenth century (imported from the Americas). Turkey is the fourth-biggest producer in the world, eating 11 million tonnes of tomatoes a year.

Somer and his father Güngör checking the daily catch at an Aegean village fish shop.

The handwritten sign says: ‘Very juicy, wonderfully fragrant 5 Turkish lira.’

Every market across the land has tubs piled high with mounds of bright-red tomato paste (usually sitting next to a tub overflowing with even brighter peppers). We use it to boost the flavour of everything but fish (which works better with fresh tomato).

You can make your own tomato paste like this:

Slice 1 kg (2 lb 4 oz) of over-ripe tomatoes into quarters and let them rest for a day under a cloth. Then push them through a coarse sieve to get rid of the skins and most of the seeds. Wrap the pulp in a muslin cloth (cheesecloth) and put a weight on the parcel to squeeze the water out overnight.

Stir 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 1 teaspoon of rock salt through the pulp, and simmer for 1 hour, stirring regularly. Put the paste in clean jars, with some more olive oil at the top, and tightly seal the lids. You can keep the paste in the fridge, topping up with more olive oil each time you dig into it.


The pomegranate has been a symbol of opulent eating around the Mediterranean for thousands of years. A tradition going back to the Greek occupation of Anatolia is throwing a pomegranate into the doorway of your house on New Year’s Eve to ensure abundance for the following year.

Turkey is the third-biggest pomegranate producer in the world, (after Iran and India). Turks call it a ‘superfruit’, believing it to contain an antioxidant that lowers cholesterol.

Every Turkish supermarket sells special-purpose pomegranate seeders and pomegranate juicers, but if you can’t find these devices near you, don’t despair. Cut the pomegranate in half, horizontally. Put one half face down over a bowl and tap gently all over the back. The seeds should pop out. Then you can crush them to make juice or use them to decorate dishes, savoury or sweet.

Turkish supermarkets also sell pomegranate molasses. To make your own:

Simmer the pomegranate juice in a heavy-based saucepan until it has reduced to a quarter its original volume. There’s no need to add sugar.

You can use it in any dish where you might use balsamic vinegar or lemon. In my restaurant, I serve my bread with a saucer containing two tablespoons of olive oil and a teaspoon of pomegranate molasses. I also like to baste lamb in it, because it caramelises the exterior.

When I arrived in Sydney, I was delighted to learn that the Australian term for English people is pommie, supposedly because their faces quickly go the colour of my favourite fruit under the hot Australian sun.

The next most popular fruit in Turkey is the fig, which is at its best in autumn. It was apparently the first crop to be cultivated in the world—in southeastern Anatolia, of course, about 10,000 years ago. We use unripened figs in jams, fresh figs in salads, and dried figs in deserts and dolma stuffings.

Turkey supplies 80 per cent of the world’s dried fruits, particularly apricots, dates and raisins. The Ottoman sultans embraced the Persian passion for combining dried fruits with stewed or roasted meats, as you’ll see in our Dinner chapter.


Before the appearance of chillies and peppers in the seventeenth century, the cooks in the Ottoman kitchens used huge quantities of ground black pepper to satisfy the jaded sultans’ need for culinary kicks. In the sixteenth century, peppercorns were a major trading commodity, with 1 kg (2 lb 4 oz) costing as much as 35 kg (over 75 lb) of bulgur. Then the long red and green peppers and chillies arrived from the Americas, and the bottom dropped out of the black pepper market, because chilli proved to be a useful preservative as well as a flavour booster.

Heat preference varies hugely around Anatolia. In the southeastern culinary triangle of Şanlıurfa, Gaziantep and Maraş, spice is everything. They give chillies to children to chew on as an appetite stimulant. In villages near Şanlıurfa in late summer, you can see chillies laid out all over the flat roofs, then covered with sheets at night to ‘sweat’ them. The famous Maraş and isot chilli flakes are exported around the world, including to my restaurant in Sydney. Maraş is stronger, with an intense ‘mouthburning’ flavour. Isot (also known as Urfa pepper) is milder but longer lasting.

When I arrived in Australia, I was disappointed to find the peppers were much bigger, with thicker skins, than the ones I knew in Turkey. I have shifted to bullhorn peppers in some of my recipes, because they’re closer to the taste and texture I knew in Turkey. Feel free to use whatever form you can find near you, but remember that smaller is better, especially if you are stuffing them.


Wheat was first cultivated in eastern Anatolia about 10,000 years ago, and it’s likely that before the grains were turned into flour for bread, they were stripped of their skins and boiled, to become a belly filler and a base for roasted meat or vegetables. Much later in history rice arrived from China, and the principle became: rice for the rich, bulgur for the poor. So the poor were better nourished.

In Turkey, bulgur is now sold in four grind classifications: extra fine (for kneading with raw meat in çiğ köfte); fine (for lentil köfte); coarse (for mixing into salads); and extra coarse (for pilav, served with stews). To make an interesting bulgur pilav:

Sauté 1 finely chopped onion in butter for 5 minutes, then add 500 g (1 lb 2 oz) of bulgur and sauté for another 10 minutes. Add 750 ml (26 fl oz/3 cups) of water or chicken stock and simmer, covered, for another 10 minutes. Add a chopped tomato and/or a chopped capsicum (pepper) if you like. Decorate it with chopped flat-leaf (Italian) parsley, and serve it with a stew or kebaps or just with yoğurt as a dish in itself.

Another form of wheat, called freekeh, became trendy in Anatolia 4000 years ago and is now becoming trendy again in the English-speaking world. It is a green wheat that has been roasted (in southeastern Turkey they set fire to the wheat field to burn off the chaff and give the grains a smoky taste).

Drying red peppers for winter in Oğuzeli in southeastern Anatolia.

Pistachios and other nuts and pulses for sale at a village shop.

The name literally means ‘rubbed’, and of course it comes with a story: around 4000 years ago a bunch of Hittites harvested their wheat when it was unripe and stored it away in a wooden shed, which caught fire. When they recovered the stalks and rubbed off the blackened husks, they found the grains smelled and tasted delicious, and a fad was born.

Freekeh is easier to digest than bulgur, which can bloat you if you eat too much. A bowl of freekeh brings a beautiful aroma to the table, and makes an ideal base for a chicken stew or a healthy dose of fibre mixed into a salad.


In Ottoman times, rice (pirinç), initially imported from China, was a treat for the aristocrats. If you visited Istanbul’s Topkapı Palace 500 years ago, you’d be offered three beautiful dishes—dane-i-sarı (yellow rice, made with saffron), dane-i-yeşil (green rice, made with spinach or fresh herbs), and dane-i-kızıl (red rice made with pomegranate or barberries). Nowadays, every class eats it, but more in Turkey’s west than east.

There is much debate about how to get the best out of rice, but here’s my preferred way to make an interesting rice pilav, learned from my mother-in-law:

Soak 200 g (7 oz/1 cup) of rice in 500 ml (17 fl oz/2 cups) of warm water and 1 tablespoon of salt for 1 hour. Rinse the rice and toss with 1 tablespoon of melted butter over medium heat for 2 minutes, then add 250 ml (9 fl oz/1 cup) of water (or chicken stock) and 1 grated tomato, and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes.


Stuffing and baking pastries is a huge fad in Turkey, but it’s rare for Turks to make the basic pastry at home, because so many shops sell sheets of yufka (for böreks) and filo (for baklava). The word yufka meant ‘thin’ in the old dialect, and that’s exactly why you risk frustration if you try it at home.

But if you’re game, this is what you need to do to make yufka sheets:

Mix 1 kg (2 lb 4 oz) of strong flour with 2 tablespoons of salt and 250 ml (9 fl oz/1 cup) of water. Knead for about 10 minutes until a flexible dough is formed. Divide the dough into ping-pong-ball-sized lumps. Covering your work surface, hands and a thin rolling pin with lots of flour to prevent sticking, roll and pull each ball out into a sheet about 50 cm (20 in) across. If you have a pasta machine, you could use that to start the rolling process, but you’ll have to finish it by hand.

Now you need to partly cook the pastry. You’ll need a large wok, which will become a device the Turks call a sač.

Scrub the wok clean, inside and out, and put the wok upside down over a lit burner on your stove. Drape a sheet of dough over the wok, and as soon as you see it start to bubble, put another sheet of pastry over it, and flip the pair over. Cook the bottom side of the second sheet for 1 minute or so, then remove the pair (put them on a board next to you) and start again with another sheet. You’re cooking every sheet on one side only, then adding its partner and flipping.

You can keep the partly cooked yufka sheets in the fridge for 3 days. When making böreks, always put the stuffing on the uncooked side.

The process for making filo is similar, except that the dough sometimes contains eggs, and must be rolled out even thinner than yufka—as thin as a page of this book, in fact.

In the recipes you’re about to read, we’ll show you how to make other forms of pastry (gözleme, katmer, mille-feuille), but we’ll suggest buying commercial filo, as Turkish families do.


Almonds and pistachios are the only two nuts mentioned in the ancient religious text that is accepted by Muslims, Jews and Christians (known as the Tevrat, the Torah or the Old Testament of the Bible). Both were first cultivated in Anatolia. Ground almonds became the basis for the favourite sauce of the early Ottoman sultans, and crushed pistachios became the basis for their favourite desert—baklava.

The world’s best pistachios come from Gaziantep in southeastern Anatolia. That’s been the case since at least the year 100, when the Roman emperor Trajan organised regular deliveries of pistachios from the village of Zeugma to Rome. They are expensive but versatile—the wild form makes an interesting form of coffee. Turkey is the third-largest producer in the world, but Iranian and Californian varieties are arguably of lesser quality. Gaziantep pistachios are harvested in midsummer, when they are small enough to be best for baklava.

Turkey produces 75 per cent of the world’s hazelnuts, mostly in the Black Sea region. They are roasted for snacking or turned into oil for frying, paste as a breakfast spread, and meal for cakes.


When you go out drinking of an evening anywhere in Turkey, you’re likely to be given a bowl of what you think are salty nuts. They are more likely to be leblebi (toasted chickpeas), bought from nut shops that cook them all day in giant leblebi roasters. Chickpeas, now used to bulk out countless casseroles, were first cultivated in Anatolia more than 8000 years ago. In the fifteenth century, a vizier working for the sultan in the Topkapı Palace became famous for surprising his guests by hiding a golden chickpea in one of the dishes in every banquet.

The next most popular pulse is lentils. The green variety is produced in central Anatolia and used whole in sautés. It’s known as the poor man’s beef, because of its high iron content. The softer red variety is produced in the southeast and used in soups or as a paste in köfte.

Turks also use dried beans a lot—in particular the small white ones the Italians call cannellini—and in this book so do we. It’s vital to soak these beans overnight, rinse them and change the water several times to get rid of the chemicals that can upset your digestion.


My friend Musa Dağdeviren, the scholar-chef who sparked the revival of regional Anatolian cooking (see Dinner chapter), was once asked to name the three ingredients he would take with him to a desert island. He said: ‘Onions, garlic, and spring onions, because as long as I have them, I can make a delicious meal with anything else I find on the island.’

Onion was the key flavour-booster in Anatolian food long before the arrival of peppers from the Americas, and it remains dominant. Every home-style Turkish appetiser or main course has onion or garlic or both at its heart, often with leek as well.

My preference is to use red onions in salads and white or brown onions in cooking, and always to sauté onions for 5 minutes longer than garlic.

It’s common in Turkey to use the green shoots of fresh garlic, which are most readily available in spring. They look like thin spring onions. In some recipes, we’ve suggested garlic shoots, but if you can’t find them, toss whole spring onions in equal amounts of olive oil and finely crushed garlic to achieve a similar flavour.

We love leeks in winter, particularly braised in olive oil as part of a meze spread, or as wrappers instead of pastry around mince or rice parcels.


Anytime I talk about parsley in this book, I mean the flat-leaf kind English-speakers call continental or Italian parsley. You never see the curly type in Turkey, but you see the flat-leaf kind everywhere. Don’t feel compelled to follow the Turkish habit of sprinkling it on anything savoury. I know parsley is good for you, but I fear it is used too often as decoration and in my restaurant I have to spend a lot of time picking it off dishes my cooks send out of the kitchen.

Mint is our second favourite herb, used fresh in salads and dried as decoration on soups and dumplings. It is hardly ever associated with lamb—Turks regard that as an English eccentricity, preferring to use oregano or thyme (which is also used to make an invigorating tea in the southeast). We like to use bay leaves with fish, marjoram with chicken, and wild weeds (nettles) with eggs and pastries—but only on the west coast.

Herbal teas are central to Turkish life, seen as suitable treatments for colds, anxiety and stomach upsets. Wild thyme (zahter) tea is popular in the southeast for aiding digestion, and you’ll also find teas made with linden, mountain sage and wild nettles.

The equipment you should have

· Big sharp knife for mincing (ideally a zırh or a mezzaluna knife)

· Large, thick wooden board

· Long tongs for the barbecue

· Mortar and pestle

· Baking trays for pastries

· Plastic wrap

· Paper towel

· Baking paper

· Aluminium foil

· Skewers—bamboo and three sizes of metal (round, narrow-flat, wide-flat)

· Small and large clay pots for baking

· Wooden spoons

· Mixer/ blender/ food processor

· Whisk

· Regular rolling pin

· Thin (stick) rolling pin

· Wide heavy-based saucepans

· Pizza stone or unglazed terracotta tile

· Charcoal grill (broiler) or wood-fire barbecue

· Muslin (cheesecloth), for straining

· Ideally, a pomegranate seeder

· Turkish coffee pot (cezve)

· Spice grinder

· Sealable jars (for pickles and preserves)

Turkish home cooking is about doing what’s comfortable with the equipment that’s available, so if you don’t have any of the above, adapt with what’s in your cupboard.

The Wines of Anatolia

It is believed that the first place in the world where wine was made was Anatolia—by those reliable old Hittites, around 6000 years ago. The Hittites used the Sumerian term viyana for the alcohol derived from grapes—a word which some Turkish scholars think was the origin of a name to the capital of Austria (just as the Persian word ungur for grapes, gave a name to the capital of Turkey, Ankara).

Jewish and Muslim texts tell us that the first crop planted by Noah after he got off the ark was grapes, so his family could celebrate with a cup of wine. That supposedly happened on the southeastern side of Anatolia. Nowadays, excellent red wines are still made in that hot, dry climate.

The Greeks who conquered Troy thought the west-coast town of Nysa was the birthplace of white wine—and of the drunken demigod known to them as Dionysos (Dionysius) and to the Romans as Bacchus. Around 3000 years ago, white wines from western Anatolia were exported all around the Mediterranean in giant two-handled jugs called amphoras, some with a capacity of 75 litres (over 15 gallons). Thousands of amphoras have been found in ships that sank in the Aegean Sea, stamped with details of the wine’s quality, including a recommendation that it be diluted in the proportion two cups wine to five cups water, or improved by the addition of honey.

Wine became a key component of celebrations for every ethnic, tribal or religious group that ever ruled Anatolia. Even some Ottoman sultans, supposedly devout Muslims, consumed vast quantities at palace banquets, while publicly disapproving of it for their subjects.

But in the nineteenth century the Turkish wine industry went into a decline, as drinkers decided they preferred to swallow rakı with their meze. By the time I was at university and ready to start my drinking life, wine (sold in bottles with plastic stoppers) was regarded as a poor man’s tipple, suitable only for alcoholics who couldn’t afford rakı.

The comeback started in the 1990s (despite a government determined to tax it out of existence), when some visionary Turkish companies sought the help of French winemakers to make better use of ideal climatic conditions in particular regions of Anatolia. Nowadays, if you visit a wine-tasting shop such as Sensus, near Istanbul’s Galata Tower, you’ll be surprised how many Turkish wines can match the best of America, Australia, Italy and France.

Many Turkish winemakers simply replicate the international clichés of chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, cabernet sauvignon and shiraz. They taste fine, but for the visitor they don’t represent a uniquely Anatolian experience. You should look for wines made from the local white grapes called emir (from the cold middle of the country), narince (from Tokat in Central Anatolia), and misket (from the Aegean coast). My favourite whites are Suvla Kınalı Yapincak and Sevilen Isabey Narince.

I think Turkish reds are much more advanced and complex than Turkish whites. My favourites are Sevilen Plato Kalecik Karası and Kavaklıdere Prestige Boğazkere.

The red grapes to look for are öküzgözü (literally ‘ox-eye’, grown in Eastern Anatolia near Malatya) and boğazkere (‘savoury throat’, grown in the southeast, near Diyarbakır). I’m particularly pleased to see kalecik karasi making a comeback in the vineyards near Ankara. That was the grape used by the Hittites (and probably Noah), so it could well be the oldest wine in the world. Dionysos would approve.

Somer’s mum Ülkü with her signature fava meze.

A beginner’s glossary

Here are a few terms you’ll encounter in Turkey that might not turn out to be quite as you expect:

Ayran (pronounced ‘eye-run’): The other national drink (after rakı), made with yoğurt, salt and water.

Baklava: A sweet made with filo pastry layered with pistachios (sometimes walnuts) and soaked in sugar syrup (not honey).

Börek: Savoury pastry (called yufka) that has been rolled, stuffed or layered with (usually) feta, spinach and/or lamb mince.

Çay (pronounced ‘ch-eye’): Tea, served with all shopping experiences and much more popular than Turkish coffee.

Çorba (pronounced ‘chorba’): Soup, served for breakfast, lunch and dinner, sometimes approaching the thickness of stew.

Dolma: Anything stuffed, most often peppers, eggplant and zucchini, but occasionally lamb ribs, intestines and melons.

Dondurma: Ice cream, the best kind beingthe stretchy maraş (pronounced ‘marash’) made with mastic gum and salep (wild orchid stems).

Gözleme (pronounced ‘goz-lem-eh’): A kind of savoury pancake, usually stuffed with feta, spinach and/or lamb mince.

Helva: A sweet, often made with semolina or flour (at home) or with tahini and soapwort root (in shops, where it’s sold in sticky blocks).

Kahve (pronounced ‘kah-weh’): Turkish coffee,and please wait for the grounds to settle (see Afternoon Tea chapter).

Kaymak (‘keye-muk’): Clotted cream, made with buffalo, cow’s or sheep’s milk.

Kebap: Char-grilled meat, usually on a skewer. Döner kebap is the vertical version.

Köfte (pronounced ‘kof-tuh’): Usually translated as ‘meatball’ — minced meat kneaded into various shapes, often with bulgur wheat.

Kokoreç (pronounced ‘koko-rezh’): A kind of char-grilled sausage made with lamb offal wrapped in lamb intestines, often sold in street stalls.

Lokanta: A casual eatery, ideal for a cheap lunch, where most dishes are displayed on counters and served lukewarm.

Lokum: Turkish delight.

Mantı (pronounced ‘mantuh’): Dumplings usually stuffed with beef mince and served with garlic yoğurt and pepper sauce.

Meyhane (pronounced ‘may-huh-neh’): A bar that serves small tasting plates called meze, accompanied by aniseed-flavoured alcohol called rakı, or wine if you insist.

Muhallebici (pronounced ‘moo-hah-lebee-zhee’): A pudding shop, selling milk- and rice-based desserts.

Pastane (pronounced ‘pas-tah-neh’): a pastry shop, selling biscuits and syrupy sweets.

Pastırma: Dried spiced beef, usually served in thin slices as a cold cut.

Pide (‘pee-deh’): A kind of bread roll, often stuffed with cheese or mince, sold in shops called pideci (‘pee-day-zhee’).

Restoran: Less casual than a lokanta, open for lunch and dinner, where you’re likely to see a menu and a wine list.

Salça (pronounced ‘salcha’): A flavouring paste, usually made with tomato or pepper.

Salep: A hot drink for winter, made with powdered orchid tubers, thought to be an aphrodisiac.

Sucuk (‘soo-jook’): A spicy dried sausage, usually made of beef and usually fried.

Tarator: A paste of walnuts, garlic and day-old bread, usually served with fried seafood.



Most English-speakers are familiar with a Greek dish called dolmades, which they take to be vine leaves filled with seasoned rice. In Turkey, that’s not a dolma, that’s a sarma. Dolma means ‘stuffed’ and sarma means ‘rolled’. Turks will stuff anything that can be made to have a space in the middle, and anything they can’t stuff (like leaves from grapevines, spinach, or cabbage) they will roll.

Records from the sultan’s palace show that in the fifteenth century Turks were stuffing onions, apples and intestines; in the sixteenth century, zucchini (courgettes), eggplant (aubergine) and butternut pumpkin (squash); in the seventeenth century, mackerel, watermelon and barbunya (red mullet); in the eighteenth, leeks, spinach and quince; and in the nineteenth, melon, okra and lamb ribs.

You’ll find most of those recipes here, though we’ve occasionally expanded upon the two standard fillings (rice, onion and lamb mince or rice, cinnamon, currants and pine nuts).


The array of dishes that can be called ‘Turkish cuisine’ evolved in a time-rich, cash-poor society. Because of harsh climate variations in the eastern half of the country, people had to find ways to make ingredients last across four seasons. So they perfected techniques for drying, pickling, brining, preserving and pulverising products that were plentiful in late summer.

The pulverising process is called salça in Turkish—a word that entered culinary dictionaries only in the nineteenth century, even though it’s derived from the Latin salsa. Before that, the word palude was used for pastes, sauces and reductions that were thickened with starch. For me, salça means a concentration of one ingredient—a paste, perhaps with salt as a preservative.

The most popular salça is made with peppers. On the farm of my traditionalist friend Musa, they pick the peppers in the morning, remove the stalks and seeds, and toss them into a purpose-built pepper mincer. Then they simmer the mince in huge pots over a wood fire until most of the water has evaporated.

To make your own pepper salça (pepper paste) at home:

Remove the stalks and seeds from the capsicums (peppers) and boil the chopped pieces in a little water for 1 hour (with the lid on the pot). Strain the capsicum and purée the pieces in a blender, then simmer the purée for 1 hour with the lid off.

For every kilogram of capsicum, stir in 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 1 teaspoon of salt. Pour the paste into clean glass jars while still warm, top with olive oil and seal.


The local baker in an Anatolian village is the home cook’s best friend. You can send him any dish and he will cook it for you in his wood-fire stone oven, taking a share of the food as payment if you’re not flush with funds.

In the southeastern town of Gaziantep, I spent a morning in the bakery of Aydın Kilitoğlu, who’s had twenty-nine years’ experience with heat. His place is as big as the average bedroom, but he produces 3000 pides a day. His eleven-year-old son Samet (opposite) works as an apprentice during school holidays—just as Aydın did with his own father.

Locals kept coming in with trays of eggplants, peppers and even kebaps that would normally be done over charcoal but which he quickly finishes in his oven. He charges 1 lira per tray, regardless of what the customer has put on it. Some people were bringing him ‘new’ dishes, such as pizzas they’d constructed at home, and he was enjoying the challenge of deciding where in the oven the pizza tray should go, and how long it should stay there.

If you don’t have a stone wood-fire oven, the best way to get close to Aydın’s effect is to turn your oven up to full blast for at least 30 minutes before you put in your baking tray (or pizza stone, or unglazed terracotta tile).

If you’re using a metal oven tray, the best way to avoid your pide dough sticking is to spread a bit of flour on the tray and bake it for about 5 minutes before putting the ball of dough on the flour.

Samet, eleven-year-old son of the owner of Asri Bakery in Gaziantep, learning how to make pide.

The ‘Spice Girl’, Bilge Kadıoğlu, in her shop in ‘Area 51 ‘of Istanbul’s Spice Market.


Turks don’t make stocks or reductions for storage. We simmer whatever meat we need on the day we’re going to eat it, and boil the accompanying rice in that water when the meat is removed. We might make a second dish from the leftovers, but essentially it’s all consumed within 24 hours.

But we do love slow cooking. The tradition of güveç (clay pot) cooking started in rural households, which would have a fire pit outside the house—a hole in the ground called a tandır. You would light a fire in the bottom and hang a clay pot over the fire, slowly simmering a mixture of any ingredients you could find. If you could afford it, you would line the sides of the pit with clay, and bake dough on the hot sides, making a loaf that was called nan in Ottoman.

In the nineteenth century, an iron device called a kuzine became the centrepiece of every Turkish home. It was a wood-fire stove, useful for warming the house, but also used for stewing, brewing tea, even roasting chestnuts. The cook would leave a clay pot full of ingredients on the top all day long and everybody tucked in when they got home at night.

The trick with güveç cookery is layering the pot so that the ingredient that will take the longest is at the bottom, while the one needing least heat is at the top.


In delicatessens called şarküteri all over Turkey, you’ll see red tubes that look like salami and red slabs that look like leather hanging from hooks. The sausage is called sucuk, spiced beef inside a lamb intestine, and the leather is a marinated beef fillet called pastırma.

The word pastırma (adapted to basturma in Greece and pastrami in New York) simply means ‘pressed’, but that reveals nothing of the long and complex process of drying and coating in paste that produces Turkey’s ubiquitous answer to prosciutto.

Kayseri in central Anatolia is the capital of pastırma-making. It is thought to be the first place meat was wind-dried in the world, some time before the Romans arrived. These days the master-driers are said to be people of Armenian background. Afyon on the Aegean coast is the capital of sucuk-making.

In this book we’ve given a couple of recipes for non-traditional pastırma and a suggestion for sucuk without the intestine, but we’re happy for you to use store-bought general versions.

In food markets across the land you will see small purple pouches hanging on strings from the roof beams. They are dried eggplants, waiting to be stuffed. Most likely they came from the Oğuzeli area in southeastern Anatolia, where summer is perfect for growing baby eggplants and drying them. In the season, they pick the eggplants (and zucchinis) early in the morning, scoop out the flesh and leave them to hang in the 35°C (95°F) heat for 24 hours. That’s all it takes. But if it rains, the eggplants will become spotted and unsellable, and the grower will need to start again.


For 1000 years Constantinople was the end point of the spice route. Some spices were literally worth their weight in gold because they were thought to be miracle cures for a variety of ailments. Now they are flavour boosters.

In a quiet corner of Istanbul’s spice market, identified as number 51, you’ll encounter a shop called Ucuzcular (Cheapies), run by Bilge Kadıoğlu (opposite). She’ll tell you her first name is pronounced ‘like Bill Gates—but without the money’. She’ll tell you she doesn’t mind being called the ‘Spice Girl’. She’ll tell you the term ‘Area 51’ is appropriate, echoing the section of a US air force base where UFOs are allegedly hidden, because in the marketplace she’s an alien—the only woman to run a shop, and the only shopkeeper to charge the same prices to locals as to visitors. She’s an honest broker in one of the world’s oldest professions.

When I’m there, I always buy my salep powder (made from orchids) and mahlep powder (made from white cherry seeds) from Bilge. She also turns her spices into perfumes and oils for the skin.

Bilge’s two most traditional spice mixes are spot on: dolma baharı (a blend of cinnamon, allspice, black pepper and pimento, to be stirred through rice) and köfte baharı (a mixture of cumin, black pepper, pimento, dried oregano and dried coriander, to be kneaded into minced meat). They are extraterrestrial. In this book we’ll try to show you how to replicate their effect.


A local movie called Happy Days, made in the 1970s, exposes one of the most divisive issues in Turkish society. It shows a married couple at odds over the best way to pickle vegetables. The husband says lemon, the wife says vinegar. They divorce and then get back together, but never reach agreement. Both as a chef and as a married man, I know you can never win an argument with a woman, so I mostly go with vinegar.

That also puts me on the side of the first published picklers. A fourteenth-century nutrition book contains recipes for preserving cucumber, eggplants, onions and beetroot in a vinegar marinade. In the seventeenth century, Greek meyhanes started pickling a fish called lakerda, its saltiness probably boosting alcohol sales.

The Turkish technique seems simple:

For every 1 litre (35 fl oz/4 cups) of water you need 100 ml (3½ fl oz) of vinegar and 3 tablespoons of natural rock salt (not iodised). But the devil is in the detail—you must make sure your glass jar is sterilised, the vegetables are of premium quality, not overripe, and evenly placed in the jar, and you must wait at least 5 weeks before eating them. You can throw in a few chickpeas to speed fermentation, but be sure to remove them after 1 week. The ideal temperature of the room where you store your pickles is 20°C (about 70°F). For every two degrees Celsius below that, wait another week.


There are more jams in Turkey than there are fruits, because we often make several types from the one ingredient—for example, orange rind marmalade and orange jam, or unripened fig jam, fresh fig jam and dried fig marmalade.

Some recipes are simple—as in, boil 1 kg (2 lb 4 oz) of berries with 800 g (1 lb 12 oz) of sugar for 30 minutes, adding the juice of half a lemon to prevent crystallisation. Some are more elaborate, like the rose petal jam we discuss in the Breakfast chapter.

The word reçel (jam) comes from the Persian ricar, which suggests an origin a little to the east of Anatolia. But we know the Romans were making marmalade with fruit and honey before they arrived in Byzantion, so we could also credit an influence from the West. The crusaders supposedly took jam-making recipes from Istanbul to northern Europe in the thirteenth century, and by the sixteenth century the futurologist Nostradamus was using them to impress the French royal family. Eat jam with pide and clotted cream.


This is what they do for entertainment in the southeastern town of Şanlıurfa: watch an expert make çiğ (chee) köfte. While a band plays and singers emote, the master sits on the floor and kneads a mixture of raw veal, bulgur and spices in a large tray for up to an hour. Moving his shoulders in time to the music, he produces hundreds of meatballs, which are served to the guests sitting around the musicians. The guests roll the pieces of köfte in lettuce leaves, and munch on them as they watch the floor show. The sweat from the master’s hands has become part of the flavour. In a sense, sweat is the most important ingredient in any köfte, because it symbolises how much effort you’ve put into the kneading.

Köfte is often translated as ‘meatball’ but it comes from a Persian word that simply meant ‘mashed’. The name implies no particular ingredient, which can be raw or cooked, meat, fish or veg. You work with shoulders and (thoroughly washed) hands for as long as it takes to produce a smooth patty. When you think it’s ready, knead it for another 10 minutes.

In the centre of Sultanahmet Square, just near the Topkapı Palace, you will see rows of köfte sellers claiming to be ‘the original’, ‘the historical’ and ‘the traditional’. The best, the first and the original does not display any of those adjectives. It’s called Selim Usta (Selim the Master) and it dates from 1920. Selim’s köfte is made from spiced beef and served with bean and onion salad.


A common folk myth goes that kebap cooking was invented in the twelfth century by Turkish soldiers who skewered meat on their swords and cooked them over a fire. But an archaeological dig in Santorini, Greece, found kebap cookers called ‘fire dogs’ (with a hotbox carved into the shape of a dog) that were in use 3700 years ago. So it’s one of humanity’s most ancient forms of cooking, now evolved into a fine art.

First you must decide the form in which your lamb, beef or chicken will be cooked—whole, in lumps or minced into patties. Any mincing must be done with a giant sharp knife called a zırh. Then you must blend in your flavouring—a sophisticated mix of herbs, peppers, onions, spices and (with meat kebaps) lamb fat, which will drip out of the meat and turn into a fragrant smoke that will further complicate the ultimate flavour.

And it’s not just a matter of sticking it on a fire. The wood or charcoal must be lit 1 hour in advance and allowed to die down to embers, so there will be no flames in contact with the meat.

Turks like to go to specialist kebap houses for their charcoal hits. Australians claim to be barbecue kings, so kebap cooking at home should be easy for them. If you don’t own a charcoal grill, we offer some kebap recipes that can be cooked in the oven. But you’ll be missing a lot of flavour.

How to talk Turkey

After the republic was formed in 1923, Turks moved from the confusing Arabic alphabet to the much simpler Latin alphabet. In this book, we’ve used the Turkish spellings of dishes and locations.

The names might seem difficult at first, especially since the alphabet has twenty-nine letters, but the spelling is logical and phonetically consistent, once you get the hang of it.

All letters are read as they are written, and they always have the same sound.

AA/a B/b C/c Ç/ç D/d E/e F/f G/g Ğ/ğ H/h I/ı İ/i J/j K/k L/l M/m N/n O/o Ö/ö P/p R/r S/s Ş/ş T/t U/u Ü/ü V/v Y/y Z/z

A few letters are pronounced differently from the English alphabet:

A/a = as in far

C/c = as in joke

Ç/ç = as in chair

E/e = as in set

G/g = as in goat

Ğ/ğ = silent g, not pronounced but it extends the preceding vowel

I/ı = (without a dot) pronounced as the last syllable in button

İ/i = (with a dot) as in sit

J/j = as in measure

Ö/ö = as in bird

Ş/ş = as in shut

Ü/ü = as in cube

V/v = like w, as in water

So, for example, köfte (meatball) is pronounced ‘kirf-teh’; sütlaç (rice pudding) is ‘soot-latch’; mantı (dumpling) is ‘mantuh’; gösleme (pancake) is ‘gerslemeh’; yogurt is ‘yoh-ourt‘; keşkül (almond pudding) is ‘kesh-kool’; kahvaltı (breakfast) is ‘kah-waltuh’; and baklava is ‘bah-klawa‘.

At Karadeniz in Istanbul’s Beşiktaş market, the döner kebap starts the morning as a 100 kilo ball of meat and slims down as the day proceeds.