Breakfast - Anatolia: Adventures in Turkish Cooking (2016)

Anatolia: Adventures in Turkish Cooking (2016)


They love a big breakfast banquet in the far east of Anatolia. In the city of Van (pronounced ‘wahn’), they’ll take three hours to consume as many as forty-one courses, and then eat nothing else for the rest of the day. Most of the courses will be small—like a dish of olives, a few slices of watermelon, a pot of rose jam and bread rolls in various shapes—but they add up to a feast. There’s a famous Turkish romantic poem, written by Yılmaz Erdoğan in 2002, in which an ardent suitor tells his sweetheart: ‘I’d love the chance to have breakfast with you in a breakfast salon in Van.’

Now please don’t imagine this is typical of all of Turkey—or even that it’s an ancient tradition. Our word for breakfast is kahvaltı, which literally translates as ‘coffee after’. It implies that breakfast is something that puts a layer on your stomach before your first coffee of the day, and in most Istanbul homes most mornings that means white cheese, fruit, yoğurt and bread from the local bakery. The egg dishes will come out at weekends.

Even the wealthy Ottomans of the sixteenth century didn’t go in much for breakfast, preferring to have some soup and leftovers from last night’s banquet around 11 am, in what these days we would call brunch.

Outside of Istanbul today, there is huge regional variation in morning behaviour. In the gourmet town of Gaziantep, in southeastern Turkey, they like to eat liver kebaps or a fiery soup of lamb, rice and chilli. Along the Black Sea they dip their bread into a kind of cheese fondue. In central Anatolia they love böreks—pastries usually stuffed with feta and spinach. In ancient Tarsus, they serve warm humus with bread for dipping. All of them drink tea with their first meal of the day, and have coffee after.

And in Van, they’ve only been doing the big breakfast since the 1940s, when it was introduced in a salon called Sütçü Kenan (which we could translate as ‘Milkman Ken’) to showcase the vast variety of cheeses from the region. Milkman Ken’s breakfast banquet was quickly copied by other cafés in his town, and then by breakfast salons (kahvaltı evi) in Istanbul.

Four years ago, I started offering a ‘Van breakfast’ on Sunday mornings in my restaurant in Sydney. It’s been a huge success. This chapter shows you how you can create your own Van breakfast, or any part thereof, at home.

For the record, these are the courses I serve in my version of the Van breakfast:

1. Pide bread

2. Pomegranate molasses

3. Bazlama bread

4. Poğaça pastry

5. Simit (a kind of pretzel)

6. Kaymak (clotted cream)

7. Honey

8. Rose jam

9. Sour cherry jam

10. Fig jam

11. Quince jam

12. Feta (goat’s cheese)

13. Kashkaval (sheep’s cheese)

14. Tulum (sheep’s cheese aged in goat skin)

15. String cheese

16. Lor cheese (a kind of ricotta)

17. Labne balls (yoğurt cheese)

18. Unsalted butter

19. Sucuk (sausage)

20. Cigar böreks

21. Spinach böreks

22. Paçanga (pastırma böreks)

23. Cracked green olives

24. Black olives

25. Sliced tomatoes

26. Cucumbers

27. Olive paste

28. Tomato ezme (crushed with chilli)

29. Muhammara (pepper dip)

30. Pastırma (cold cuts of spiced beef)

31. Barbecued haloumi

32. Menemen (scrambled eggs)

33. Watermelon

34. Melon

35. Grapes

36. Mulberry leather (dehydrated grape molasses)

37. Katmer (sweet börek)

38. Red grapes

39. Turkish delight

40. Baklava

41. Tahini helva

Now you can make your own.

The Sunday Van breakfast at Efendy restaurant in Sydney.



What pretzels are to New Yorkers, simit are to Istanbulians, who buy them from street stalls all day long and munch them between appointments.

They are at least 600 years old—Topkapı Palace documents from 1593 include bulk orders for simid-i halka (round simits). They have entered the language of metaphor. A Turk who hates his job will say: ‘I’d be better off selling simit’. Protesters trying to dissuade police from breaking up a demonstration will shout: ‘Sell simit and leave with honour.’

There are bakeries that cook nothing but simit—in wood-fire ovens, of course, at 300°C (570°F/ Gas 10+). And there are cafés, usually with titles such as ‘Palace of Simit’, that serve them with melted cheese, tomato and other unnecessary additions. Personally, I would never sit down to eat simit, and I would never cook them at home if I was in Istanbul. But outside my homeland, you need a recipe.


2 teaspoons dry yeast

2 teaspoons sugar

300 g (10½ oz/2 cups) plain (all-purpose) flour, plus extra for dusting

1 tablespoon vegetable oil, plus extra for greasing

45 ml (1½ fl oz) thickened (whipping) cream

1 teaspoon salt

350 g (12 oz/1 cup) grape molasses

140 g (5 oz/1 cup) sesame seeds

butter and feta, to serve (optional)

Mix the yeast and the sugar in a bowl with 250 ml (9 fl oz /1 cup) of lukewarm water and then set aside for 5 minutes. It should start to form bubbles. Add another 125 ml (4 fl oz/½ cup) of water and combine.

Sift the flour into a mixing bowl, make a well in the middle and pour in the yeast mixture, vegetable oil and thickened cream. Knead the dough for 5 minutes to make a soft and stretchy dough, adding more flour if the dough is sticky. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and rest for 1 hour. It should expand.

Preheat the oven to 230°C (450°F/Gas 8).

Add the salt to the dough and knead for 3 minutes. Sprinkle some flour on your work surface. Divide the dough into eight pieces and roll into balls. Rest for 3 minutes. With floured hands, pull each ball in half and roll each half into a strip about 50 cm (20 in) long. Twist the two strips around each other into braids. Pull the braided dough around into a circle. Stick the ends together, wetting the dough if necessary to help it hold.

Dilute the grape molasses in 170 ml (5½ fl oz/2/3 cup) of water.

Place a frying pan over low heat. Add the sesame seeds and toast, tossing constantly, until the seeds turn golden brown. Turn onto a tray and set aside

Pour the grape molasses into a shallow bowl. Dip the braided dough into the molasses, one at a time. Turn to coat both sides. Shake off the excess liquid then toss each braid in the sesame seeds, making sure both sides are evenly coated.

Line a baking tray with baking paper and brush with oil. Arrange the simit on the tray and bake for 20 minutes until golden brown and crusty.

Serve warm with butter and feta, or at room temperature as part of a breakfast spread.



Bazlama is the simplest form of bread in the world—it doesn’t even require an oven. The technique is probably at least 3000 years old. In Turkish villages, lumps of dough are spread on a sac (pronounced ‘sazh’), which is like an upturned wok resting over hot coals. You could try that, or use a frying pan instead.

Unlike most breads, bazlama involves little preparation time. You could leave it to rise overnight, or you could wake up on a Sunday morning, decide ‘Lets do a bazlama brunch’, invite your friends, leave the dough to rise while you’re showering and tidying up, and fry your bread while your guests are sitting down.

Because it contains yoğurt it has a rich flavour and an interesting texture—soft inside and crunchy outside. You’d serve it with jams or cheeses (which you would need to make earlier).


2 teaspoons dry yeast

1 teaspoon sugar

600 g (1 lb 5 oz /4 cups) plain (all-purpose) flour, plus extra for dusting

1 teaspoon salt

125 g (4½ oz/½ cup) plain yoğurt

vegetable oil, for frying

butter, jam or cheese, to serve

Put the yeast and sugar in a bowl with 250 ml (9 fl oz/1 cup) of lukewarm water, then set aside for 5 minutes. It should start to form bubbles.

Sift the flour into a mixing bowl, make a well in the middle, and pour in the yeast mixture. Knead the dough for 1 minute, then add the yoğurt. Knead for a further 10 minutes or until the dough has reached, as we say in Turkey, ‘the softness of an earlobe’. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and rest in a warm place for 2 hours. The ball of dough should double in size.

Add the salt to the dough and knead for 3 minutes. Sprinkle some flour on your work surface and divide the dough into four balls. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with a damp cloth and rest for 10 minutes.

Place one ball of dough on the work surface and, using floured hands or a rolling pin, flatten into a round about 10 cm (4 in) wide and 1 cm (½ in) thick. Repeat with the remaining dough balls.

Heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil in a frying pan for 1 minute over medium heat and swirl gently to coat. Add one round of dough and cook for 1 minute. Turn the round over and cook for 1 minute more or until golden brown, then transfer onto paper towel. Repeat with the remaining three rounds, adding more oil to the pan as required.

Serve the bazlamas with butter, jam or cheese.



Let me say it again—pide bread is different from pita, which is a Greek term for the unleavened bread that wraps around kebaps (better known as lavaş in Turkish). In Istanbul, pide is a treat you enjoy for one month of the year—when you break your fast after sunset during the month of Ramadan. In lucky southeastern Anatolia they get to have pide all year round, because it’s their main form of bread. The cooks augment it with a coating of yoğurt, deposited on the top with dancing fingers, like concert pianists—hence the name ‘finger pide’. The accompaniments for pide are infinite—jam is only the beginning.


3 teaspoons dry yeast

500 g (1 lb 2 oz/31/3 cups) plain (all-purpose) flour, plus extra for dusting

50 ml (12/3 fl oz) sunflower oil

½ teaspoon mahlep powder (ground white cherry seeds) (optional)

2 teaspoons salt

25 g (1 oz) plain yoğurt

1 tablespoon nigella seeds

1 tablespoon sesame seeds

50 g (1¾ oz) wholemeal flour (if using a baking tray)

Dissolve the yeast in a bowl with 250 ml (9 fl oz/1 cup) of lukewarm water. Set aside for 5 minutes. It should start to form bubbles.

Sift the flour into a mixing bowl, make a well in the middle and pour in the yeast mixture. Add 375 ml (13 fl oz/1½ cups) of water, the sunflower oil and mahlep powder, and knead for 5 minutes to form a soft dough. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and rest in a warm place for 1 hour. The ball of dough should double in size.

Add the salt to the dough and knead for 3 minutes. Sprinkle the extra flour on your work surface. Divide the dough into five pieces and roll into balls. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with a damp cloth and leave to rest for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to its maximum temperature (as close to 300°C/570°F as possible). If you have a pizza stone or unglazed terracotta tile, place it in the oven to heat.

Place one ball of dough on the work surface and, using floured hands or a rolling pin, flatten into a round about 10 cm (4 in) wide and 2 cm (¾ in) thick. Repeat with the remaining dough balls.

Mix the yoğurt and 25 ml (¾ fl oz) of water together in a bowl. Dunk both your hands in the mixture and then, using four fingers of each hand joined together, hop your fingertips across the dough vertically and then horizontally to make indentations across the top of each round. Dip your fingers into the yoğurt regularly to keep them wet.

Mix the nigella and sesame seeds together and sprinkle them evenly onto each round. Put the bread on the pizza stone or tile and place on the middle rack of the oven. If you don’t have a stone or tile, sprinkle the wholemeal flour on a baking tray lined with baking paper and place the rounds on the flour. Cook for 5 minutes at 300°C (570°F/Gas 10+) (or 6 minutes at 250°C/500°F/Gas 9 or 7 minutes at 200°C/400°F/Gas 6) until brown on top and golden on the sides.

Serve warm as part of a breakfast spread.

The harbour at Bodrum, Aegean coast.



The Turkish word poğaça (pronounced ‘poe-uchah’) comes from the same root as the Italian word focaccia: the Latin panis focacius, which means bread cooked in the hearth. That suggests it must have been a favourite of the Romans during their time in Constantinople. In the mid-seventeenth century, the travel writer Evliya Çelebi reported in his memoir Seyahatname (Tales of the Journey) that a sweet version of poğaça had been popular in the sultan’s palace 100 years earlier but was introduced as street food by Balkan immigrants, who would heap hot ashes over the dough, let it bake, then scrape the bread clean and serve it with cheese or lamb mince. (The description sounds rather like damper, a favourite of Australian bushies in the nineteenth century.)

My version of this recipe could not have been eaten by the Emperor Constantine, since potatoes only reached Turkey from South America in the eighteenth century. I think poğaça tastes even better when the mash melts into the dough.


1 teaspoon dry yeast

2 teaspoons sugar

70 g (2½ oz) butter

1 egg

125 g (4½ oz/½ cup) plain yoğurt

300 g (10½ oz/2 cups) plain (all-purpose) flour, plus extra for dusting

3 boiling potatoes (such as desiree)

2 teaspoons salt, plus extra for boiling the potatoes

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 teaspoons chilli flakes

1 heaped tablespoon shredded kaşar (or mozzarella)

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 egg yolk

1 tablespoon nigella seeds

1 tablespoon sesame seeds

Mix the yeast and the sugar in a bowl with 125 ml (4 fl oz/½ cup) of lukewarm water and set aside for 5 minutes. It should start to form bubbles.

Whisk the butter, egg and yoğurt together in a bowl. Sift the flour into a mixing bowl, make a well in the middle, pour in the yeast mixture and stir through. Add the yoğurt mixture and knead vigorously for 10 minutes to make a soft, stretchy dough. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and rest in a warm place for 2 hours to expand.

Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F/Gas 6).

Peel and quarter the potatoes, then place in a large saucepan, cover with salted water and bring to the boil. Cook for 15 minutes or until the potatoes are tender, then drain well. Add half the salt, the pepper, chilli flakes and cheese, and roughly mash.

Add the remaining salt to the rested dough and knead to combine. Sprinkle some flour on your work surface. Divide the dough into eight pieces and roll into balls. Place one ball of dough on the work surface and, with floured hands or a rolling pin, flatten into a round about 10 cm (4 in) wide and 1-2 cm (about ½ in) thick. Repeat with the remaining dough. Add 1 tablespoon of the mashed potato mixture in the middle of each round. Fold over one side to create a half moon shape. Press lightly around the edges to seal.

Line a baking tray with baking paper and brush with vegetable oil. Arrange the poğaças on the tray. Brush the pastry with oil and the tops with egg yolk, and sprinkle on the seeds. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown.

Serve warm, two per person.



When I led my first gourmet tour of Turkey in 2013, we visited the tranquil Istanbul suburb of Anadolu Kavaği—the last stop for the Bosphorus ferries—lined with casual seaside restaurants looking out to the Black Sea and up to Yoros Castle. We sat down to a fish feast.

Walking back to the ferry, we passed an unassuming bakery, and one of my guests noted a snack I’d never seen before—cornbread that seemed to be stuffed with sardines and leeks. He bought some for everyone and they declared it the highlight of the day. So I researched it and recreated it for this book.

Hamsi is the most prized fish of the Black Sea—somewhere between an anchovy and a sardine. I decided to substitute baby whitebait, because hamsi don’t swim far beyond the Bosphorus and sardines might be too strong for breakfast.


½ bunch silverbeet (Swiss chard)

½ bunch dill

½ bunch flat-leaf (Italian) parsley

2 leeks

2 onions

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons dried mint

500 g (1 lb 2 oz) whitebait

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 kg (2 lb 4 oz) maize flour

250 ml (9 fl oz/1 cup) olive oil, plus extra for brushing

1 egg

1 tablespoon salt

Wash the silverbeet and remove the stalks. Finely chop the leaves. Remove the stalks from the dill. Pick the leaves from the parsley. Remove the roots and green outer layer from the leeks, then rinse to remove any dirt. Finely chop the leeks, parsley and onions separately.

Melt the butter in a frying pan over high heat. Add the onions and cook for 3 minutes or until soft. Add the leeks and cook for 3 minutes, then add the silverbeet and cook for a further 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, turn into a bowl and leave to cool.

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F/Gas 4).

When the silverbeet mixture has cooled, stir in the parsley and dried mint. Add the whitebait and mash together with a fork.

Mix the baking powder with 300 ml (10¾ fl oz) of warm water. Sift the flour into a mixing bowl, make a well in the middle and pour in the baking powder mixture. Stir thoroughly and then add the whitebait mixture, olive oil, egg and salt. Knead for 5 minutes, or until it forms a rough dough.

Line a 30 x 20 x 4 cm (12 x 8 x 1½ in) baking tray with baking paper and brush with olive oil. Press the dough into the tray. Sprinkle the dill over the top and press it in. Brush the top with oil and bake for 45 minutes.

Take the tray out of the oven and make three knife cuts across the top of the bread to ensure even cooking. Brush the top and the slits with more oil and bake for a further 45 minutes or until golden brown.

Turn off the heat, leaving the bread in the oven, and rest for 30 minutes.

Slice or break the warm cornbread into chunks and serve.

Kaymak at Pando’s

Everything moves slowly at Pando’s—particularly Pando Şestakof, who is ninety. When a young businessman on his way to work sits at an outside table for a plate of kaymak and asks: ‘Could you rush the order?’ Pando replies: ‘Here it runs at my speed.’ Then he shuffles inside and painstakingly scoops the pure white treasure onto a steel plate and drizzles it with honey. He picks up a plastic basket containing half a loaf of bread, roughly chopped, and takes a full five minutes to shuffle back outside with the two plates.

That ritual has been going on in this place since 1895, when Pando’s grandfather came from Bulgaria and set up a shop called Hayat (Life) to sell the products of his dairy farm. He became the favoured supplier to the Dolmabahçe Palace, where the sultan lived in summer. After the revolution that palace became the residence of President Atatürk, and Pando’s father continued to provide the kaymak.

When Pando and his wife Yuanna inherited the shop, they sold the farm and started buying their milk from the best water buffalo farmers in the neighbourhood. Pando opens his café at 8 am, seven days a week, and closes when he runs out of kaymak. Then he goes home to make some more for tomorrow.

Pando’s little shop is a geographical reference point in the neighbourhood. For the past thirty years, visitors asking the way somewhere won’t be given a street name but instead be told ‘Go 20 metres past Pando’s and turn left’. He’s at a kind of crossroads in Beşiktaş market, one of the last surviving local markets in Istanbul. As recently as twenty years ago, nearly every suburb had a jumble of shops and stalls like this. But more than a hundred local markets have shrunk to a handful, replaced by shopping centres with escalators instead of lane ways and supermarkets that sell flavourless commercially processed kaymak.

Here’s how Pando makes his clotted cream (and you’ll quickly see why we adapted the recipe):

Use unpasteurised and unhomogenised buffalo milk (which has a fat content of about 8 per cent, while cow’s milk has 3 per cent).

Pour it into a baking tray over a wood fire and slowly cook it. Never let it boil. After about four hours it will start to develop a skin.

Every few hours, skim off the skin and put it into a separate tray. The skin is the kaymak. Over 48 hours you will get 100 g (3½ oz) of kaymak from 1 kg (2 lb 4 oz) of buffalo milk. You can drink the watery milk that is left behind.

To accompany our recipe on the following page, we’ve suggested rose jam—because that’s how Pando used to serve it back in the 1960s. Nowadays, he prefers honey, but he always keeps a pot of rose jam for nostalgic customers.

Pando Şestakof delivers the tea that must accompany his precious kaymak.



The Turkish name for this dish translates as ‘Liar’s kaymak’, because our recipe will not end up tasting the same as the kaymak that has been served for 100 years in my favourite breakfast café in Istanbul—Pando in Beşiktaş markets. There the kaymak is made with water buffalo milk that has been slowly simmered until it’s thick and luscious.

In this recipe, I’ve included cornflour as a thickener, on the assumption that you will be using pasteurised milk. If you have access to creamy unpasteurised milk, lucky you, because you can eliminate the cornflour and come closer to the Pando experience.



60 g (2¼ oz/½ cup) cornflour (cornstarch)

250 ml (9 fl oz/1 cup) full-cream (whole) milk (preferably high-fat such as Jersey or buffalo)

500 ml (17 fl oz /2 cups) thickened (whipping) cream

50 g (1¾ oz) butter


50 pink rose petals

500 g (1 lb 2 oz) sugar

1 teaspoon citric acid powder

pide bread, to serve

First make the kaymak. Whisk the cornflour, milk and cream together to dissolve the starch. Transfer to a baking tray, preferably a stainless steel ¼ gastronorm tray (26.5 x 16.3 x 2 cm/101/3 x 6½ x ¾ in). Place the tray over very low heat and whisk for 5 minutes—being careful not to let the mixture stick. Add the butter and continue to whisk for 15 minutes or until it thickens to a pudding consistency. Remove from the heat and leave to rest for 30 minutes, then transfer to the fridge.

To make the jam, first peel the petals from the pink roses. If using organic (non-sprayed) roses, wash under cold running water. If using commercial roses, blanche in boiling water for 15 seconds, soak in cold water in the fridge for 12 hours, and then strain and wash under cold running water. Discard any brown or spotty petals. Cut the white patch off the bottom of each petal and slice any large petals in half. Pat the petals dry with paper towel. Place a layer of petals in a bowl, sprinkle with sugar, add another layer and repeat the process until all the petals are coated with the sugar. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Pour 500 ml (17 fl oz/2 cups) of water into a heavy-based saucepan and add 1 tablespoon of sugar. Slowly bring to the boil, stirring frequently. Add the sugared rose petals and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the citric acid and simmer for a further 10 minutes, scooping off any scum that forms on the surface. To test the thickness of the jam, scoop a spoonful onto a cold plate. It should form a gel. If it‘s still runny, simmer for a further 5 minutes or until it thickens.

Remove the jam from the heat and leave to cool to room temperature, then transfer to a jar with a tight-fitting lid* and set aside. (Do not put in the fridge.)

Spread 2 tablespoons of jam on a plate and top with a large dollop of kaymak. Serve with pide.


Stored properly, the rose jam will keep for up to 6 months. Cut a piece of baking paper slightly larger than the jar cap, brush liberally with olive oil and place it between the jar and the cap before sealing tightly. This will prevent mould forming on the jam.

Pando’s wife, Yuanna Şestakof.



When I first heard of a Middle-Eastern cheese called labne I was intrigued, but I refrained from using it in my restaurant because I thought it was Lebanese. Then I discovered that the name comes from laban, an Egyptian-Arabic word for ‘milk’, that it is just strained yoğurt, treated with a little lemon and salt; and that it can be found all over Turkey under the name süzme. The Lebanese like to dip their labne in zaatar, and the Egyptians dip them in dukka, but I thought I’d be Turkish and use mint and sumac.


1 garlic clove

1¼ tablespoons salt

1.4 kg (3 lb 2 oz) plain yoğurt

juice of ¼ lemon

1 mint stalk

500 ml (17 fl oz/2 cups) extra virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons dried mint

3 teaspoons sumac

2 teaspoons chilli flakes

1 tablespoon dill tips (or dried dill)

Crush the garlic with 1 teaspoon of salt, then mix with the yoğurt and lemon juice.

Place the yoğurt mixture on a sheet of muslin (cheesecloth), tie up the corners and hang over a pot for 12 hours to drain. The yoğurt should thicken to a cream cheese consistency.

Mould the thickened yoğurt into spheres about the size of a ping-pong ball. This quantity should make about fifteen balls.

Gently place the labne into a large jar with the fresh mint, cover with olive oil, and then set aside to rest for at least 24 hours.

When you’re ready to serve, combine the herbs and salt on a plate and roll the balls in the mix, one at a time. Serve on a platter in the middle of the table for people to help themselves.


Labne can be kept in the fridge for up to 1 month.



This is the first of three recipes for böreks, the pastries that got their name from a Turkish verb meaning ‘to twist’. You can tie yourself in knots trying to fold the pastry as neatly as a Turkish cook. We suggest you just relax and try to make shapes that vaguely resemble cigars (this recipe) or spirals (the next recipe) or square parcels (the third recipe).

The word börek is very old—there’s a reference to a sugar burek in a twelfth-century book called Danişmendname, about the conquest of Anatolia by the Turks, which presumably means we can call böreks ‘the breakfast of conquerors’.

The cigar börek is the simplest form, and can be made with commercial yufka (or two layers of filo) instead of rolling out your own pastry. From one sheet of yufka you can make eight to twelve cigars, which you could freeze and then deep fry (without defrosting) when you need them.

Normally sigara böreği are stuffed with just feta and parsley, but I find mint a refreshing addition.



1 bunch flat-leaf (Italian) parsley

1 bunch mint

300 g (10½ oz) sheep’s feta

1 egg

1 tablespoon sweet paprika


1 sheet yufka, about 80 x 80 cm (31½ x 31½ in) (if you cannot buy yufka)

1 egg white

sunflower oil, for frying

First make the filling. Pick the mint and parsley leaves (discarding the stalks) and finely chop. Mash the feta with a fork. Break the egg into a small bowl and whisk. Add the feta, parsley, mint and paprika, and stir to a chunky paste.

Place the yufka on a board and cut across four times to create eight wedges (or cut eight times, into 16 wedges, to make cigarillos). Next, fill and fold your cigars. Place the egg white in a bowl. With the round edge of one yufka segment facing towards you, place a strip of filling across the pastry, about 5 cm (2 in) from each edge. Fold the round edge over the strip of filling and press down. Then, fold over about 5 cm (2 in) of pastry from the left side, leaving a straight edge. Finally, fold over a 5 cm (2 in) flap from the right side, leaving a straight edge. Using a pastry brush, brush the top triangle of pastry with egg white and roll the folded part tightly over to make a cigar shape. Repeat this process with the seven other segments.

Place a deep frying pan over high heat and add enough sunflower oil to cover the böreks (about 3 cm/1¼ in deep). Add a drop of water to the oil. If it sizzles, the oil is ready. Carefully add four böreks and fry for 2 minutes or until lightly golden. Remove the böreks from the pan with a slotted spoon and place on paper towel to absorb the excess oil. Repeat with the remaining böreks.

Serve immediately.



The Turkish word kol means ‘arm’, and presumably gets into the Turkish name for this börek because each roll of pastry is bent to look like an arm coming round to hug you. It would make more sense to call this a spiral or a labyrinth, since that is how it looks when all the arms are linked together.

My maternal grandma, who came from Yugoslavia, was a master of the ‘arm börek’, and she made giant spirals to feed a large family. In later life, she used an electric börek cooker, called a drum oven, which was a cylinder with doors on the side and shelves onto which you could place multiple layers of börek.

Spinach is the traditional filling, but you can use kale, silverbeet or even minced lamb.


250 g (9 oz) English spinach

1 onion

4 spring onions (scallions)

120 ml (4 fl oz) sunflower or vegetable oil

1 tablespoon chilli flakes

1 tablespoon salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon dried mint

150 g (5½ oz) feta

80 ml (2½ fl oz/1/3 cup) milk

1 egg

1 tablespoon plain yoğurt

2 sheets yufka (if you cannot buy yufka)

Wash the spinach thoroughly. Remove the stalks, then finely chop the leaves. Finely slice the onion. Wash the spring onions, then remove the roots and green outer layer. Finely chop.

Put 2 tablespoons of oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the onions and cook for 3 minutes. Add the spring onions and cook for 3 minutes more. Add the spinach and cook for a further 3 minutes, then remove from the heat. Mix in all the herbs and spices and leave in the frying pan to cool. Grate the feta into the cooled spinach mixture.

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F/Gas 4).

Whisk the milk, egg, yoğurt and 2 teaspoons of oil in a mixing bowl.

Unfold a sheet of yufka and slice it down the middle to create a half moon shape.

Brush a quarter of the egg mixture onto each half moon of yufka. Spread a quarter of the spinach mixture along the flat side of the half moon, making a strip about 5 cm (2 in) wide. Fold the strip over and tightly roll the yufka into a tube about 80 cm (31½ in) long.

Brush a 20 cm (8 in) wide baking tray with the remaining oil. Place the rolled börek onto the tray and pull it around into a circle, with the ends overlapping. Make another börek and join that to the inside end of the previous circle, so that it forms a smaller ring inside the first one. Add two more börek tubes so you have a spiral of smaller and smaller rings.

Bake for 20 minutes or until the börek are golden. Turn off the heat, leaving the tray in the oven, and rest for 10 minutes.

Cut across the spiral four times to make eight wedges, and serve.



The Turkish name for this pastry—kürt böreği—suggests it is a Kurdish speciality, but you should not expect to find it in eastern Anatolia, where the Kurds live. The name seems to have arisen because it’s the kind of dish Istanbul chefs imagine Kurds might eat. To confuse the issue further, I’ve boosted it with hazelnuts and crème pâtissière, which makes it more like the kind of rich pastry they love on the Black Sea.



120 g (4½ oz/1 cup) hazelnuts

1 kg (2 lb 4 oz) plain (all-purpose) flour (plus extra for dusting), or 3 sheets frozen puff pastry

2 eggs

1 tablespoon baking powder

125 ml (4 fl oz/½ cup) vegetable oil

125 g (4½ oz/½ cup) plain yoğurt

150 g (5½ oz) butter, plus extra for greasing

1 tablespoon cinnamon powder

3 tablespoons icing (confectioners’) sugar


310 ml (10¾ fl oz fl oz/1¼ cups) milk

3 egg yolks

3 tablespoons cornflour (cornstarch)

2 tablespoons plain (all-purpose) flour

30 g (1 oz/¼ cup) icing (confectioners’) sugar

1 vanilla bean, or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F/Gas 4).

Place the hazelnuts on a baking tray and bake for 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and leave to cool. When the nuts are cool enough to handle, remove the skin, transfer to a food processor and grind coarsely.

To make the crème pâtissière, warm the milk in a saucepan over low heat for about 10 minutes until it reaches a low simmer, preferably using a simmer mat. Try to keep the temperature around 70°C (160°F) if you have a food thermometer, being careful not to let the milk start to boil.

Meanwhile, combine the egg yolks, cornflour, flour and icing sugar in a mixing bowl and whisk until smooth. Ladle about 125 ml (4 fl oz/½ cup) of the warm milk into the yolk mixture, whisk together, and then pour into the saucepan with the remaining milk. Whisk slowly for another 2 minutes, then remove from the heat. Slit the vanilla bean lengthways, scrape the seeds into the mixture and stir through. Discard the skin. Put the bowl in the fridge to cool.

Sift the flour into a mixing bowl, make a well in the middle, break in the eggs and then add the baking powder, vegetable oil and yoğurt. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes, or until the dough is soft and stretchy. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and rest for 1 hour to expand.

Sprinkle some flour on your work surface. Divide the dough into twenty pieces and roll into balls. With floured hands or a rolling pin, flatten one ball into a round 20 cm (8 in) wide and 2-3 cm (about 1 in) thick. Repeat with the remaining dough.

Melt the butter in a frying pan over medium heat (or microwave for 30 seconds). Brush each round with the butter and then place the rounds on top of each other to make a stack. Press the stack down and spread the dough out with a rolling pin, as thin as possible. Brush with butter and roll into a log. Slice into three equal pieces, wrap each piece in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour to rest.

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F/Gas 4).

Remove the chilled dough from the fridge (or freezer if using store-bought puff pastry) and leave to warm to room temperature. Grease a 30 x 20 x 4 cm (12 x 8 x 1½ in) baking tray with butter. Roll out the first piece of puff pastry to the size of the tray. Remove the crème pâtissière from the fridge and spread onto the pastry, then sprinkle one-third of the hazelnuts over the top.

Roll out the second and third pieces of puff pastry to the size of your tray, and brush the top with butter. Place the second puff pastry layer on top of the first, sprinkle with another third of hazelnuts, and then place the final pastry layer on top.

Cut the stacked dough into 8 cm (3¼ in) squares. Bake for 25 minutes or until golden on top. Remove from the oven and leave to cool slightly.

Sprinkle the remaining hazelnuts on top of the börek, dust with cinnamon and icing sugar, then serve warm.



This is a speciality of the Laz people who live along the Black Sea in northern Anatolia. People from other parts of Turkey say two things about the Laz people: the women are very beautiful and the men are very smart before midday. The Laz are famous for creating hundreds of recipes from a fish similar to a sardine called hamsi, but this is one of the few sardine-free recipes. It’s a kind of fondue into which you dip bread, but the maize flour gives it more of a hearty porridge consistency than a Swiss fondue. It prepares you to face the harsh climate along that windy coast.


2 tablespoons butter

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

100 g (3½ oz) maize flour

115 g (4 oz/¾ cup) shredded mozzarella

1 tablespoon grated parmesan

½ teaspoon smoked paprika

pide bread, to serve

Combine the butter, salt, pepper and 500 ml (17 fl oz/2 cups) of water in a saucepan over high heat and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and add the maize flour. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the cheeses and stir in to melt.

Top with paprika and serve hot in the pot, with pide for dipping.

Mehmet Özsimitci, third-generation master of the art of katmer making.



When the suffix -ci (pronounced ‘zhee’) is added to a Turkish noun it means ‘a maker of’ that thing. Thus a katmerci is a maker of katmer, the crunchy pancake that is a speciality of Gaziantep, in southeastern Anatolia. The supreme katmerci in that foodie city is a man named Mehmet Özsimitci, whose surname translates as ‘maker of genuine simits’. That tells you that one of his ancestors was a specialist in the pretzel/bagels that every Turk consumes as a street snack.

Somewhere along the line, Mehmet’s family swapped from making simits to making katmers, adding greatly to the happiness of the world. Outside his shop, at the end of an arcade in the modern part of the city, Mehmet displays a slogan that translates as ‘Katmer is not a product of a pastry shop but a culture of master Zekeriya’. Zekeriya is Mehmet’s father, who these days sits at the cash register while Mehmet supervises his team of young pastry rollers and dances around the outside tables, taking orders and chatting to customers.

He’ll tell you that katmer is best consumed with tea rather than coffee (and he’ll order you a tea from the shop next door); that katmer is traditionally the first meal eaten by a bride and groom after their wedding night (to restore their energy); and that half his daily production goes to home delivery—transported by moped across Gaziantep and by mail to homesick Turks all over Europe.

I hope my recipe does him justice.


2 sheets chilled filo pastry, about 40 x 27 cm (16 x 10¾ in) each

2 tablespoons ghee

2 tablespoons thick (double) cream, or kaymak

2 heaped tablespoons ground pistachios

1 tablespoon sugar

Take the filo sheets out of the fridge and leave to warm to room temperature for 1 hour. Spread one sheet out on a large work surface and overlap with another sheet to create a 40 x 40 cm (16 x 16 in) square of filo. Paint a little ghee where the sheets overlap, and join them together.

Leaving a margin of about 10 cm (4 in) around the edges, dot nine dobs of cream onto the filo to make a square about 20 cm (8 in) wide. Sprinkle the pistachios and sugar over the cream, and then fold the four edges of pastry over to make a square parcel about 20 cm (8 in) wide.

Pour 1 tablespoons of ghee into a frying pan and swirl to coat. Place the pan over medium heat and let the ghee warm for about 10 seconds. Drop the filo parcel into the pan (wrap-side down) and cook for 2 minutes or until golden. Using two spatulas or large knives, turn the pancake over and cook for 1 minute more.

Cut the katmer into eight squares and serve two per person as part of a breakfast spread.

At Zekeriya Usta, the art of katmer making begins with sprinkling and tossing sheets of buckwheat dough to make the thinnest possible fila.



Pestil is fruit juice that has been dried into strips. Although the process originated as a way of preserving summer ingredients to last through winter, it has now become the candy bar of central Anatolia. Rolled around nuts, it goes in a kid’s backpack to be consumed at school as a nutritious morning snack. We’re suggesting you make pestil from grape juice, but you can get tasty results with mulberries, plums or apricots. If you’re planning to keep your pestil strip for any length of time, roll it up in baking paper so it does not stick.



500 g (1 lb 2 oz) red grapes

1 star anise

1 cinnamon stick

3 cloves

1 heaped tablespoon cornflour (cornstarch)


5 dried figs

150 g (5½ oz/11/3 cups) walnuts

Wash the grapes and remove any stalks.

Place a large saucepan over low heat and then add the grapes, star anise, cinnamon stick and cloves. (Don’t add any water.) Press down with a potato masher to push out some of the juices. Bring the grape mixture to the boil and then simmer for 15 minutes, pressing down regularly to release the juices.

Take the grape mixture off the heat and leave to cool. Put a muslin (cheesecloth) over another saucepan and pour all the grape pulp into the muslin. Tie the edges of the muslin together and squeeze the bag to extract all the juice—it should yield about 300 ml (10½ fl oz).

Preheat the oven to 100°C (200°F/Gas ½).

Place the grape juice in a saucepan over medium heat and bring to the boil. Put the cornflour in a bowl and mix in 250 ml (9 fl oz/1 cup) of the hot grape juice and then pour the mixture back into the pan. Continue to cook for 15 minutes, stirring regularly, until the mixture thickens to a custard-like syrup.

Line a baking tray, including the sides, with baking paper. Pour the syrup into the tray (it should be about 5 mm/¼ in deep).

Tap the tray to remove any air bubbles from the syrup. Bake for 5 hours, checking every hour to ensure the edges are not becoming too dry. If they appear crusty, use a pastry brush to apply a little water.

Remove the tray from the oven and leave to cool slightly. When the grape leather is cool enough to handle, carefully lift the baking paper edges to remove it from the tray and transfer to a board to cool completely.

Next, make the stuffing. Put the figs in a bowl, cover with hot water and leave to soak for 15 minutes. Transfer the figs to paper towel, drain for 10 minutes, and then remove the stalks. Put the figs in a food processor, add the walnuts and coarsely combine.

Cut across the grape leather to make four equal strips. Spoon a line of filling along the middle of each strip. Roll each strip, lengthways, to create a log about 20 cm (8 in) long, pressing down to keep it sealed. Slice the log into four equal pieces and serve as part of a breakfast spread.



You’ve got to get up pretty early in the morning to catch Ali Haydar. Around 6 am should do it. If you wait till 8, you might find he has sold out of his speciality and gone home. This speciality is lamb liver kebaps—another breakfast tradition of southeastern Anatolia that baffles visitors from Istanbul.

Ali opens his little kebap shop, just down the hill from Gaziantep Castle, immediately after the dawn prayer, which means around 5 am in the summer and around 6 am in the winter. Gradually the customers arrive to sit on the tiny stools outside the shop. Some sit at an angle that suggests they are on the way home from a night of drinking. Others are straight-backed and alert, suggesting they are just out of the nearby mosque and on their way to work.

Inside the shop, Ali, in a light-blue butcher’s jacket, risks setting fire to his moustache as he uses a sheet of cardboard to fan the coals of his charcoal grill. He closely watches his skewers and, at the moment the exterior turns crunchy while the inside stays pink, he lifts them away from the coals and wipes them into a mitten of flatbread. When all his livers (and his hearts, lungs and kidneys) have been cooked and consumed by customers, he heads home. In the afternoon he visits the offal market (distinguished by a large sign announcing ‘Cleaned Heads’) and collects the ingredients to be prepared overnight for the next morning’s feast.



2 lamb livers, about 300 g (10½ oz)

250 ml (9 fl oz/1 cup) milk

4 mild green or red chillies

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon hot paprika

1 teaspoon chilli flakes

1 teaspoon salt

250 g (9 oz) butter, softened


1 bunch flat-leaf (Italian) parsley

1 red onion

1 tablespoon sumac

1 teaspoon chilli flakes

2 teaspoons pomegranate molasses

1 tablespoon olive oil

4 store-bought pita breads (or make a lahmacun base and fold it over), to serve

Soak the lamb livers in milk overnight, covered, in the fridge.

Remove the bowl of livers from the fridge and set aside.

To make the parsley salad, pick the leaves off the parsley and roughly chop. Discard the stems. Finely slice the red onion and place in a salad bowl. Add the parsley, sumac, chilli flakes, molasses and olive oil, and mix well.

When you’re ready to cook the livers, remove them from the bowl, pat dry with paper towel and clean off the membrane and sinews. Roughly cut each of the cleaned livers into 16 cubes about 2 cm (¾ in) across—the size of a bird’s head, as we say in Turkey.

Preheat the barbecue grill to very high. If using bamboo skewers, soak in water for 15 minutes.

Slit down one side of each chilli and remove the seeds. Slice across each chilli to make six pieces about 1 cm (½ in) wide. Mix the cumin, paprika, chilli flakes and salt in a bowl, then stir in the softened butter. Using your hands, rub the pieces of lamb liver in the spiced butter to coat well.

Next, make the kebaps by alternately threading four pieces of liver and three chilli chunks onto each skewer—with the chilli keeping the liver pieces apart. Repeat to make eight kebaps.

Put the skewers on the grill and cook for 2 minutes on each side, turning the skewers once. The livers are ready when they start to form a crust.

Partly slit through the pita bread so that it can open like jaws. Spread any leftover spiced butter inside the bread. Next, holding a skewer in your left hand and a pita in your right hand, use the pita like a baseball mitten to wrap round the skewer and pull the row of liver and chilli pieces off. Repeat so each pita contains the liver from two skewers. Open the bread again and add a heaped tablespoon of salad between the two strips of liver. Close the bread and serve immediately.

Ali Haydar’s liver stall at 6 am, just after morning prayers.



‘While shepherds watched their flocks by night, all seated on the ground, they also soaked their figs in milk, and then some sleep they found.’ That’s essentially the back story of this dish. I love its name—the Sleeping Figs—because it suggests the gentle process of warming the milk and resting the pudding overnight.

A version of this dessert, called teleme, has been a typical goat herder’s snack popular for thousands of years in northwestern Anatolia. They’d milk their goats, add a few drops of sap from fresh figs to the milk, mix it for a few minutes and let it set into yoğurt. Then they would slice fresh figs through it. Of course, that restricted the pleasure to early autumn, when figs are at their best. Our version uses cow’s milk, walnuts and dried figs to make a healthy breakfast for all seasons.


10 dried figs

500 ml (17 fl oz/2 cups) milk

2 fresh figs

2 tablespoons grape molasses

60 g (2¼ oz/½ cup) walnuts

Put the figs in a bowl, cover with hot water and leave to soak for 15 minutes. Transfer the figs to paper towel, leave to drain for 10 minutes, then remove the stalks. Roughly chop each fig into about six pieces and then set aside.

Warm the milk in a saucepan over low heat until it reaches a low simmer, preferably using a simmer mat. Try to keep the temperature around 70°C (160°F) if you have a food thermometer, being careful not to let the milk start to boil.

Add the chopped figs and, using a hand-held blender, mix to a purée. Simmer for a further 5 minutes. (If you don’t have a stick blender, pour the mixture into a blender and pulse until smooth, then pour it back into the saucepan and warm for a further 7 minutes).

Half fill four small bowls with the fig purée. Put the bowls in a cool spot, cover with a tea towel (dish towel) and rest for 2 hours. Cover the bowls with plastic wrap and place in the fridge overnight.

When you’re nearly ready to serve, preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F/Gas 4).

Cut each fresh fig into quarters. Place them on a baking tray with the skin side down. Brush each fig piece with grape molasses, then bake for 5 minutes until slightly soft but still semi-firm.

Roughly chop the walnuts using a food processor, or by hand. Remove the fig purée cups from the fridge. Place two fig quarters on each cup and sprinkle the crushed walnuts over the top, then serve.



Menemen is a famous breakfast dish in Turkey—the nearest thing we do to scrambled eggs—but nobody can agree on the perfect version. It varies from village to village and from house to house—even in the Aegean town called Menemen, which is not necessarily its place of origin. There is constant debate among chefs and domestic cooks on whether to use butter or oil, whether to include onions or garlic, whether to include peppers or tomatoes, and whether to leave the eggs whole for the eater to smash, or scramble them as part of the cooking process.

I prefer to use oil, because I want to cook the onions and peppers without burning the butter. I add the tomatoes at the last minute so they taste fresh. And I prefer my eggs stirred not scrambled. You can join the debate and vary the dish to your taste.


4 ripe tomatoes

2 green bullhorn peppers (or 1 large green capsicum/pepper)

1 red onion (optional)

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 eggs

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf (Italian) parsley

Score a shallow cross in the base of each tomato. Put the tomatoes in a heatproof bowl and cover with boiling water. Leave for 30 seconds, then transfer to a bowl of cold water and peel the skin away from the cross. To seed, cut the tomato in half and scoop out the seeds with a teaspoon. Chop the tomatoes into 1 cm (½ in) dice.

Cut the peppers in half and discard the stems and seeds. Chop the peppers into 1 cm (½ in) pieces. If you are using an onion, finely slice it.

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add a drop of water to the oil. If it sizzles, the oil is ready. Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes. Add the chopped peppers and cook for a further 5 minutes, or until soft. Break the eggs into the pan and cook for 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes, salt and pepper. Stir two or three times to mix in the eggs, but don’t blend. Cook over medium heat for a further 3 minutes until the egg whites are set.

Sprinkle with parsley and serve the menemen in the pan for people to help themselves.



There is nothing sophisticated about this recipe, but I had to include it because it’s one of the most common breakfasts all over my land. It’s our answer to Britain’s bacon and eggs. A wife might say of her husband: ‘He’s so hopeless, he can’t even cook sucuk and eggs’.

You can buy sucuk everywhere in Turkey, so nobody would bother to make it at home. But if you can’t find it near you, you could use the recipe we offer here (or substitute chorizo). Bear in mind that this won’t taste exactly like a professional sucuk, since that is stuffed into intestine casings, then hung and dried for a month. But it will be tasty.



2 garlic cloves, crushed

250 g (9 oz) minced (ground) veal or beef

150 g (5½ oz) minced (ground) lamb

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon dried oregano

2 teaspoons chilli flakes

2 teaspoons smoked paprika

1 tablespoon capsicum (pepper) paste

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon butter

1 teaspoon salt

4 eggs

pide bread, to serve

To make your own sucuk, crush the garlic into a fine paste. Put the garlic into a mixing bowl, add the ground meat and spices, and knead for 10 minutes.

Using a rolling pin, flatten the meat mixture into a strip about 1 cm (½ in) thick and then roll it into a log about 4 cm (1½ in) wide. Wrap tightly with plastic wrap, squeezing all the air out, then freeze for 1 hour.

Remove the sucuk from the freezer, remove the plastic wrap, and slice off twenty thin slices (about 5 mm/¼ in thick). Put the remaining sucuk in the fridge where it will keep, wrapped in plastic, for 2 weeks.

(If using store-bought sucuk or chorizo, soak in hot water for 15 seconds, then peel off the skin. Slice into twenty thin slices.)

Place a frying pan over medium heat. Add the sucuk and spread out into a single layer. Add the butter (and 1 tablespoon of water if the sucuk seems dry) and salt, then cook for 1 minute. Once the sucuk begins to sizzle, take out eight slices from the middle of the pan and break the eggs into the space created. Put the eight sucuk back on top of the eggs.

Cook for 3 minutes, or until the egg whites begin to set, the sides curl, and the yolk is soft but still formed in the centre. If you prefer your eggs more cooked, cover with a lid and simmer for 1 minute more.

Place the sucuk in the middle of the table—the Turkish way—for people to help themselves. Serve with pide.


Instead of making your own sucuk you can use 100 g (3½ oz) of store-bought sucuk or chorizo if you prefer.



In Ottoman times, çılbır was the generic term for poached eggs, done all sorts of ways. Palace records from the fifteenth century show that a version of çılbır containing poached eggs and onion was cooked for the mighty sultan Mehmet II. The imperial cooks kept improving on it over the years. This recipe, with garlic yoğurt, was a favourite of the second-last sultan in the empire, Abdulhamid II, in the early twentieth century, and became the gold standard for çılbır in homes and restaurants across Anatolia.


1 garlic clove (or chopped garlic shoots)

500 g (1 lb 2 oz/2 cups) plain yoğurt

½ small red capsicum (pepper)

125 ml (4 fl oz/½ cup) white vinegar

8 eggs

2 tablespoons butter

½ tablespoon aleppo red pepper flakes (or chilli flakes)

4 teaspoons smoked paprika

pide bread, to serve

Crush the garlic and mix it with the yoğurt (if the taste of raw garlic in the morning is too strong for you, you could leave out this step, and instead fry a little garlic or chopped garlic shoots later with the capsicum). Set aside at room temperature.

Remove the seeds from the capsicum and finely chop.

Divide the yoğurt mixture into four bowls.

Put 1 litre (35 fl oz/4 cups) of water and the vinegar in a deep frying pan over high heat. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer. Carefully break in the eggs, one at a time, with a maximum of three eggs poaching at a time. Cook for 2-3 minutes, or until the whites are set and the yolks are still soft and runny.

While the eggs are poaching, melt the butter in a saucepan, add the red pepper flakes, paprika and capsicum (and garlic, if you’ve saved it for this step) and cook for 3 minutes.

When ready to serve, scoop the eggs out of the simmering water with a slotted spoon and place two in each bowl, on top of the yoğurt. Pour a light stream of the melted butter and peppers over the eggs. Serve with pide.



There’s a joke about a salad farmer who is having a tea in the village café. A neighbour comes in and says: ‘There’s a goat in your field.’ The farmer says: ‘Don’t worry, he won’t eat much’. Shortly afterward, the neighbour returns and says: ‘There’s a cow in your field.’ The farmer keeps sipping his tea and says: ‘Don’t worry about it.’ Then the neighbour returns and says: ‘There’s a man from Crete in your field.’ The farmer leaps up and rushes back to save his field before everything green has been stripped.

People of Cretan background are famous for eating the dark-green weeds that grow wild along the Aegean coast and that were ignored for centuries by Turkish cooks. This egg dish uses the kind of wild (and tame) greens the Cretans have taught the Turks to love.


1 cup of any or all of these, mixed: nettles, curly endives, chicory, dandelion greens, round radicchio, beetroot (beet) leaves, wild rocket (but not witlof)

3 spring onions (scallions)

1 onion

80 ml (2½ fl oz/1/3 cup) olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon hot paprika

4 eggs

pide bread, to serve

If you are using nettles, use gloves to handle them. To remove the sting, put in a heatproof bowl and cover with boiling water for 30 seconds. Transfer to cold water for 30 seconds. Pick the green leaves and discard the stems.

Clean and finely chop the endives and the chicory, discarding the woody stems. Wash the spring onions, then remove the roots and green outer layer. Finely chop the onion.

Heat the olive oil in a non-stick frying pan over medium heat, then add the onion and brown for 5 minutes. Add the spring onions and cook for another 3 minutes, then add the wild leaves in this order (from toughest to softest): endives, chicory, radicchio, nettle, dandelion, beetroot leaves, wild rocket. Lightly fry for about 5 minutes to let any excess water evaporate. Add the spices and stir. Make four wells in the mixture and break an egg into each well. Continue to cook until the whites are set but the yolks are still runny.

Serve the kaygana in the pan for people to help themselves. If the yolks spread into the mixture, so much the better. Serve with pide.

Mustafa Hasırcı preparing mutton for beyran soup at Metanet, Gaziantep.



Take a whole sheep, skin it and gut it. Boil it for 12 hours. Shred all the meat. Boil the same weight of rice. Put some rice, a handful of meat and a hell of a lot of garlic and chilli into a bowl. Put it over an open flame so the fat on the surface catches fire. Serve.

That’s not the recipe we’re suggesting for beyran, but it’s what Mustafa Hasırcı and his team do every day at Metanet, just behind the central spice market in Gaziantep, southeastern Turkey. The restaurant’s name means ‘endurance’ or ‘fortitude’, which is presumably what you need to eat this spicy soup every day for breakfast as many citizens of Gaziantep do (only tourists think of having beyran for lunch).

Mustafa certainly has endurance. For the past forty years he’s been getting up every day at 4 am to make his soup—following in the footsteps of his father, the founder of Metanet. Mustafa has earned the title usta, which means ‘master of your craft’. He has no equal in Gaziantep.

Our soup is a modified version of Mustafa’s masterwork, and we won’t tell anybody if you decide to have it for lunch or dinner.


1 lamb neck, about 1 kg (2 lb 4 oz)

220 g (7¾ oz/1 cup) medium-grain rice

2 teaspoons salt

4 garlic cloves, crushed

1 tablespoon chilli flakes

Put the lamb neck in a large saucepan with 1 litre (35 fl oz/4 cups) of water, then cover, and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 1½ hours.

Lift out the neck and place on a rack or plate to cool. Do not discard the cooking water. When the lamb is cool enough to handle, strip off the meat and discard the bones. Shred the lamb into small strips and set aside.

Pour the rice into the pot of lamb-flavoured water and bring it back to the boil over medium heat. Cook the rice for 15 minutes, then add the salt, garlic, shredded lamb and chilli flakes. Increase the heat to very high and boil rapidly for 1 minute to spread the red-chilli colour through the liquid. Serve immediately, while very hot.

Lunch heaven: one of Musa Dağdeviren’s three Çiya restaurant in Kadıköy, Istanbul.