DINNER - Anatolia: Adventures in Turkish Cooking (2016)

Anatolia: Adventures in Turkish Cooking (2016)


For most Turks, dinner is the most important meal of the day, particularly during the thirty nights of Ramadan (spelt ‘Ramazan’ in Turkish). That’s the month when adult muslims are expected to refrain from eating, drinking, smoking or having sex from dawn to sunset.

When the drums and cannons signal that the sun has set, the faithful sit down to a feast called iftar, which begins with easily digested foods such as dates and olives, then moves on to lavish lamb and eggplant stews, and concludes with cinnamon-flavoured rice puddings and baklava.

Paradoxically, although Ramadan is the month for fasting, Turks tend to put on weight then, because they have a gourmet party every night—either at home or in lokantas and restorans that set up trestle tables in the street to provide instant gratification to the desperate fasters.

The other 335 nights of the year, Turks have the leisure to contemplate the way their dining scene is changing, and the rise of what is being labelled ‘the new Anatolian cuisine’.

The classic European image of a ‘restaurant’, serving starter, main course and dessert from a written menu, with matching wines, is not part of the Turkish tradition. Until the twenty-first century, our approach to meals outside the home mostly involved going to eateries that specialised in one type of cooking (just kebaps, say, or just köfte, or just grilled fish, or just pide), and sharing dishes delivered to the middle of the table in no particular order, apart from the broad principle of ‘cold first, then hot’.

There was no tradition of hero-worshipping chefs. Eateries were chosen for the friendliness of there. Chefs saw their job as perfecting the standard recipes of their predecessors, not creating their own works of art.

If people wanted to show off, they would look for restaurants purporting to offer Italian, French, Japanese or whatever was that year’s international fad. They saw no reason to spend big money on anything described as Turkish.

Then a bunch of radicals came along and applied to Anatolian food a concept known in English-speaking societies as ‘fine dining’ or in French-speaking societies as nouvelle cuisine.

Mehmet Gürs was the first of the fine dining pioneers, and became internationally known. With a Turkish father and a Finnish mother, and eight years’ kitchen training in the United States, he was bound to come up with something unusual when he opened his first restaurant, Downtown, in 1995(which had evolved by 2006 into the very posh Mikla on top of the Marmara Pera Hotel). Here’s how Mehmet summarises his philosophy:

The Anatolian kitchen is not restricted to the Turkish or the Ottoman kitchen. All products of different ethnic origins and religions of Anatolia, the birthplace of cultures during a very long span of time before and after the Ottoman Empire, constitute the kitchen of this region. Wine born in this region is an indispensable part of the New Anatolian kitchen. Diversity of ingredients and revitalisation of endangered and almost extinct rich resources is as important as the methods used … Respect the elders and listen to them, yet do not be crushed by them and do not be afraid to turn age-old ideas upside down.

Other pioneers include Şemsa Denizsel, who moved from advertising to cooking and opened her Kantin in 2000; US-trained Didem Şenol, whose restaurant Lokanta Maya sets the bar a lot higher than all preceding lokantas; Maksut Aşkar, who started his career as a bartender in one of Mehmet’s restaurants and now runs a bistro called neolokal where he reinvents traditional recipes with his unique touch; and Civan Er, who studied international relations in London before opening Yeni, which means ‘new’. I’ve detailed how to find these places at the end of this book.

Thanks to chefs like them, it’s possible for visitors to Istanbul to enjoy sophisticated Turkish dinners that use contemporary methods but respect the produce and have regional authenticity. That’s an approach I share. But in addition, I’ve had to develop my style in a land thousands of miles from Turkey. I’ve found those adaptations exciting, and I hope the fun I’ve had comes across in this chapter.

Mehmet Gürs prepares for dinner at Mikla, one of Istanbul’s most innovative restaurants.



The almond, now grown along the Aegean and Mediterranean coasts, is another delicacy that was cultivated first in Anatolia (and one of only two nuts to be mentioned in the holiest Christian, Jewish, and Muslim texts—the other being the pistachio).

I first had the cold version of this sixteenth-century Ottoman dish in Şemsa Denizsel’s famous Kantin restaurant in the posh Istanbul suburb of Nişantaşi. She was inspired by Spanish cuisine in deciding to include grapes. I like the addition of unripened green almonds (picked in late spring before the outer skin becomes tough and inedible) because they give a sour balance to this mellow soup.


50 ml (12/3 fl oz) almond milk

1 slice thick sandwich bread

2 garlic cloves

160 g (52/3 oz) blanched almonds

1 teaspoon sea salt

125 m (4 fl oz/½ cup) olive oil

60 ml (2 fl oz/¼ cup) white wine or sherry vinegar


3 garlic cloves

2 teaspoons lemon juice

pinch of sugar

80 ml (2½ fl oz/1/3 cup) olive oil

2 green almonds (optional)

180 g (61/3 oz/1 cup) green seedless grapes

Put the almond milk in a saucepan with 50 ml (12/3 fl oz) of water. Bring to the boil and then turn off the heat. Cut the crusts from the bread and discard. Soak the bread in the boiled almond milk for 2 minutes. Squeeze the excess milk out of the bread and set the milk aside to cool.

Dry-fry the garlic (unpeeled) in a frying pan over medium heat for 4 minutes, shaking the pan constantly to evenly brown. Remove from the heat and leave to cool slightly. Peel away the skin and any burnt spots.

Place the blanched almonds, soaked bread, toasted garlic and salt in a food processor, and blend to make a fine paste. Slowly mix in the oil, then the almond-milk water, and then 200 ml (7 fl oz) of cold water. Pour the soup into a large bowl and stir in the vinegar. Chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Next, make the garlic chips. Finely slice the garlic lengthways into about eighteen thin pieces. Drizzle with lemon juice and sprinkle with sugar.

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan over high heat. Add a drop of water to the oil. If it sizzles, the oil is ready. Add the garlic to the pan and fry for 3 minutes until it’s golden brown. Scoop the chips out with a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel to drain the excess oil.

Quarter the green almonds. Cut the grapes in half. Divide the badem çorbasi soup into four bowls. Decorate with the halved grapes, almond pieces and garlic chips. Serve chilled.



When I was growing up, this delicacy made with the ugliest fish I’d ever seen was a speciality of my father. He is a devoted sailor and amateur fisherman, and we spent our summers in the seaside village of Bayramoğlu, an hour from Istanbul. He’d go out on the water all day in his small boat, and come back with a catch that always included scorpionfish. They are bony and hard to clean, so there’s no point trying to turn them into fillets. Best to cook them before you remove the flesh.

Like many Turkish soups, this is enriched at the end with a terbiye—a word that translates as ‘teaching good manners’. The basic ingredients of a terbiye are egg and lemon, sometimes with yoğurt or flour added. Old-school chefs would call this ‘binding’ the soup, but we prefer to say we’re polishing it to perfection.


1 scorpionfish, about 1.5 kg (3 lb 5 oz) (or any rockfish)

1 garlic clove

1 onion, quartered

1 potato

1 carrot

¼ celeriac

1 celery stalk

½ bunch dill

½ bunch flat-leaf (Italian) parsley

125 ml (4 fl oz/½ cup) dry white wine

1 egg yolk

100 ml (3½ fl oz) olive oil

juice of 1 lemon

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Clean the fish, removing the guts and gills. Place on a board and chop into three pieces.

Put 1.5 litres (52 fl oz/6 cups) of salted water in a saucepan. Add the fish, whole peeled garlic clove and onion, and bring to the boil over high heat. Continue to boil for 20 minutes, uncovered. Turn off the heat, remove the fish from the pan and rest for 20 minutes. Remove the flesh from the bones and set the flesh aside. Return the bones and head to the pan, bring back to the boil and then boil over high heat for 15 minutes.

Peel the potato, carrot and celeriac and roughly chop. Remove the leaves from the celery and set aside. Chop the celery stalk.

Strain the hot fish liquid into another pot and discard the bones, garlic and onion. Add the vegetables and bring back to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes.

Pick and chop the celery, dill and parsley, add to the original pan with the fish and mix together. Add the wine and boil vigorously for 2 minutes to let the alcohol evaporate. Add 250 ml (9 fl oz/ 1 cup) of the soup and bring to the boil over high heat. Boil for 5 minutes.

Put 250 ml (9 fl oz/1 cup) of the soup in a bowl with the egg yolk and whisk to combine. Return the soup to the pan and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

Mix the olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a bowl. Divide the fish into four bowls. Pour a ladle of the soup over each lump of fish. Drizzle a little lemony oil over each bowl and serve.



This is a dish to help you sober up at 4 am and in Istanbul is likely to be found in an offal specialist that is closed during daylight hours. These places, in the more colourful suburbs, catch the customers who stagger out of a meyhane in a confused condition after midnight and look after them until the breakfast cafés start opening around 6 am.

I first encountered kelle paça when I was seventeen at an eatery called Apik in the abattoir district Dolapdere. It’s filled with Romany musicians, prostitutes, and characters you would not want to meet in a dark alley. In my merry condition at the time, I found the scene intriguing, and was happy to go along with the Turkish conviction that the gelatine and protein in this dish helps you sober up.

Clearly, this recipe depends on you being able to source a whole sheep’s head. If you can’t, leave out the head and make the soup with lamb knuckles and brains.


1 sheep’s head, skin off, top of skull removed


1 teaspoon white vinegar

2 teaspoons salt

1 egg

1 tablespoon plain (all-purpose) flour

pinch of freshly ground black pepper

125 ml (4 fl oz/½ cup) vegetable oil, for frying


1 onion

2 lamb knuckles

1 tablespoon salt

3 tablespoons plain (all-purpose) flour

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 egg


2 cloves garlic

juice of 1 lemon

70 ml (2¼ fl oz) red wine vinegar

Remove the brain from the head and wash under running water. Remove the outer membrane. Put the brain in a saucepan and cover with water. Add the vinegar and half the salt, and bring to the boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and boil for 5 minutes. Strain off the water and put the brain in a bowl. Cover with cold water and then transfer to the fridge to cool.

To make the soup, peel and halve the onion. Put the head, minus brain, and knuckles in a saucepan, add the onion halves and add enough water to cover. Add the salt. Boil for 1½ hours over medium heat, partly covered with the lid. Skim any scum off the surface.

Remove the sheep’s head from the pan and remove the tongue. Return the head to the pan and set aside the tongue. Continue to cook for another 20 minutes. Remove the head and Knuckles from the pan and leave to cool on paper towel. Strip all the meat off the head. Take the meat from the knuckles and remove the fat. Set aside in a bowl.

Peel the outer layer from the tongue and remove any connective tissue from the base. Thinly slice the tongue.

Strain the stock into another saucepan to remove the onion and any floating scum. Put the stock and all the meat back in the original pan and place over low heat. When the soup is warm (not boiling), scoop out 250 ml (9 fl oz/1 cup) of the quid and mix in a bowl with the flour, lemon juice and egg. Whisk together and then add to the soup. increase the heat to medium and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer.

Remove the brain from the fridge, strain off the water, and slice into four pieces. Mix the egg, flour, remaining salt and pepper, and 1 tablespoon of water in a bowl, and then coat the pieces of brain in the mixture.

Heat the vegetable olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add a drop of water to the oil. If it sizzles the oil is ready. Place the brain pieces in the pan and fry for 2 minutes on each side until golden. Using a slotted spoon, scoop four heaped spoons of meat out of the soup and place each in a bowl. Put one piece of brain on each mound of meat. Ladle the soup around each mound.

To make the sauce, crush the garlic and mix together with lemon juice and red wine vinegar. Drizzle a little of the sauce over each bowl and serve.



European writers in the seventeenth century associated stuffed watermelons (under the name ‘Turkish pumpkins’) with the luxurious life of the Ottoman emperors, although the watermelon had originated in southern Africa and seems to have arrived in Turkey with Arab traders. Nowadays, the biggest watermelons in the world are grown on the banks of the Tigris River, in a region called Diyarbakir. The ‘First International Traditional Watermelon Festival’ was held there in 2012. In 2013, they changed the name of the event to the ‘Diyarbakir Culture and Watermelon Festival’. I met a grower named Adil Aydan, who proudly displayed a watermelon weighing 49.5 kilos (110 lb). Asked who would need a watermelon that size, he replied: ‘In my area, we have big families.’


¼ watermelon, about 1 kg (2 lb 4 oz)

400 g (14 oz) feta (mild and creamy)

1 piece mastic crystal (less than 1 g/1/25 oz) (or 1 teaspoon mastic liqueur or Sambuca)

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

juice of ½ lemon

20 purslane (or baby rocket/arugula) leaves

20 mint leaves

Skin and seed the half watermelon and cut it into 2 cm (¾ in) cubes. Keep the seeping juices in a bowl to add to the dressing. Cut the feta into 2 cm (¾ in) cubes. Put the mastic in a bowl and crush with the watermelon juice. Add the vinegar, olive oil and lemon juice and mix well.

Toss the watermelon, feta, purslane and mint together in a salad bowl and drizzle over the dressing. Serve with grilled fish or sardine ‘birds’.



This has been the house salad ever since I opened my Sydney restaurant in 2007. It was one of my team’s first creations, and I must confess it has one non-Turkish ingredient—mustard, with the seeds left in. If it’s winter and figs are out of season but you’re desperate to serve this, you could soak dried figs in warm water for 15 minutes. It won’t be quite as luscious as the fresh version, but it will still be delicious.


135 g (4¾ oz/1 cup) hazelnuts

6 fresh figs

150 g (5½ oz) wild (or baby) rocket (arugula)

65 g (21/3 oz/½ cup) crumbly goat’s feta


2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon seed mustard

1 tablespoon grape molasses

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

2 teaspoons lemon juice

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

Put the hazelnuts in a baking tray and roast for 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and leave to cool. Rub the skins off. Crush the hazelnuts or roughly grind in a food processor.

Mix all the dressing ingredients in a bowl.

Remove the stalks from the figs and slice each fig into six pieces, lengthways. Toss the rocket and nuts in a salad bowl with the dressing. Crumble the feta and sprinkle over the salad. Top the salad with the fig slices and serve.



This dish commemorates the pivotal historical event shared by Australia and Turkey, and combines ingredients from these two great cultures. Gallipoli, in northwest Turkey is a popular scuba-diving area, and a major source of scallops. It is best known to Australians as the site of an attempt in 1915 to secure territory in Turkey, which had joined the First World War on Germany’s side.

Australia’s major public holiday each year is 25 April, which was when the Australian and New Zealand troops (called ANZACs) took part in the ill-fated Allied assault on the Turkish peninsula. They were repelled by the Turks under General Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, who went on to create the Turkish republic out of the ruins of the Ottoman Empire.

When I came to live in Sydney, I was curious to see how kangaroo meat would respond to the drying and preserving process we call pastirma. It turns out that kangaroo works even better than beef, because it’s almost fat-free.


500 g (1 lb 2 oz) kangaroo fillets

1 kg (2 lb 4 oz) rock salt

500 g (1 lb 2 oz) caster (superfine) sugar

15 garlic cloves

1½ teaspoons salt

3 tablespoons ground fenugreek

3 tablespoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground fennel

2 tablespoons sweet paprika

1 tablespoon hot paprika

8 tarragon leaves

4 mint leaves

juice of 1 lime

1 teaspoon white pepper

1 teaspoon grape molasses

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon raki

12 sea scallops (or 6 large scallops)

Place the kangaroo fillets on a board and, using a sharp knife, remove any sinews. Using a cake rack (or steamer tray or a large colander), cover the rack with muslin (cheesecloth) or a tea towel (dish towel). Place the rack in a baking tray or large pan. You will use this for the drying process.

Mix the rock salt and caster sugar in a bowl. Spread half the rock salt mixture onto the muslin-covered tray, about 1 cm (½ in) thick. Put the kangaroo fillets in the middle of the rack and thoroughly cover with the rest of the rock salt mixture. Fold the muslin cloth over the top of the salt. Place a flat-bottomed tray over the fillets with a 3 kg (6 lb 12 oz) weight on top (using anything from a case of beer to wine bottles) to flatten out the kangaroo as it dries. Place the baking tray in a cool spot for 2 days, checking occasionally that the accumulated water does not reach the meat.

Unwrap the meat and wash off the salt. Place the meat in a bowl, cover with water and leave to rest for 24 hours.

Remove the meat from the water and pat dry with paper towel. Put the kangaroo on a rack with a drip tray underneath and refrigerate for 24 hours. Turn the fillets over and return to the fridge for one more day.

Next, make the paste. Mix the garlic, 1 teaspoon of the salt, fenugreek, cumin, fennel and paprika in a blender. If the mixture seems dry, drizzle about ½ teaspoon of water into the mix.

Remove the kangaroo from the fridge and coat with the paste, making sure every part is completely covered. Put the kangaroo on the cake rack with the tray underneath, but without the muslin cloth, and return to the fridge for at least another 5 days.

When you are ready to serve, slice through the fillet, diagonally, as thinly as possible (about 1-2 mm/1/32-1/16)—use a slicer if you have one. Finely chop the tarragon and mint leaves. Put the lime juice in a small bowl and mix in the mint, tarragon, white pepper, grape molasses, olive oil, raki and the remaining sea salt. Slice the scallops into rounds about 1 cm (½ in) thick, and rest them in the marinade for 2 hours.

Divide the scallop slices among four plates, top each with a slice of kangaroo and serve.



As you’ve gathered by now, we Turks will stuff anything. We love baby calamari because, when cleaned, they form little pouches—just waiting to be filled. To make life more challenging, I decided to fill the pouches with an elaborate stuffing, using other seafood that would either eat or be eaten by calamari.

You may be surprised to see soy sauce among the ingredients here, and yes, it’s not typically Turkish. I first encountered this mixture of cream and soy in the meyhane of my friend Ivgen, in Bodrum, and mistook it for a form of tahini. It turned out Ivgen had successfully brought together the two ends of the spice route.


1 kg (2 lb 4 oz) small calamari

(about 6-8 cm/2½-3¼ in each), cleaned

1 tablespoon white vinegar

100 g (3½ oz) prawns, peeled

100 g (3½ oz) firm white flesh fish (such as ling, blue eye trevalla, mahi mahi)

1 garlic clove

60 ml (2 fl oz/¼ cup) olive oil

100 g (3½ oz) rice

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon sugar

1 tablespoon turmeric

50 g (1¾ oz) butter

50 g (1¾ oz) grated kaşar (or mozzarella)

10 tarragon leaves, chopped

10 mint leaves, chopped


50 g (1¾ oz) butter

3 garlic cloves

1 tablespoon soy sauce

150 ml (5 fl oz) pouring (whipping) cream

We recommend you buy the calamari cleaned, but if you prefer to use whole calamari, remove the tentacles, the cartilage in the middle and the skin, and thoroughly wash the bodies (you can use the tentacles, chopped, as part of the stuffing).

Put 1 litre (35 fl oz/4 cups) of water and the vinegar in a saucepan over high heat and bring to the boil. Add the calamari tubes, reduce the heat to medium and cook for 25 minutes. Scoop the tubes out of the water and place on a board to cool. Reserve the cooking liquid.

Peel and clean the prawns, then finely chop. Check there are no bones in the fish fillets, then finely chop.

Finely slice the garlic. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Wash the rice under cold running water, then add to the pan. Stir for 1 minute to coat the rice with the oil. Add the chopped fish, prawns and the salt and sugar. Stir for 1 minute to combine.

Put 250 ml (9 fl oz/1 cup) of the reserved cooking liquid in a small bowl and stir in the turmeric. Add the turmeric liquid to the rice mixture and cook, covered, for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave to rest, with the lid on, until it cools to room temperature.

Finely chop one of the calamari tubes (and the legs, if you’ve kept them) and add to the rice. Stir in the butter, cheese, and the chopped tarragon and mint leaves.

Use a teaspoon to stuff the rice into the remaining calamari tubes (about 2-3 teaspoons per tube). Tightly pack the calamari tubes into a saucepan, with the wide open ends facing upwards. If the calamari seem too loosely packed and are at risk of falling over, put a large (washed) potato in the middle and pack the calamari around it. Pour 250 ml (9 fl oz/1 cup) of the cooking liquid into the pan, so that the liquid comes about two-thirds of the way up the tubes. The tops should be at least 2 cm (¾ in) clear of the liquid. Cover with the lid and simmer for 20 minutes over low heat.

Meanwhile, make the sauce. Melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat. Halve 2 garlic cloves. Add to the pan, increase the heat to medium and cook for 3 minutes. Add the soy sauce and reduce the heat to a simmer. Add the cream and simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes, stirring regularly until the mixture starts to bubble. Remove from the heat.

Put 2 tablespoons of the sauce onto each plate. Lift the calamari tubes out of the pan, divide between the plates, sitting them on top of the sauce, and serve.



The word güveç (pronounced ‘goo-wetch’) means a clay pot in which traditional casseroles are made. The usual version of karides güveç, served in restaurants and meyhanes in Turkish coastal cities, uses small prawns or shrimps, but because I live in Australia, I have the luxury of easy access to prawns of significant size. Using bigger prawns also saves shelling time.

The mushrooms keep the casserole moist when it’s cooking, and help prevent the prawns from drying out. You need only bake the güveç in the oven for long enough to let the haloumi melt, without overcooking the prawns.


12 cherry tomatoes (multi-coloured, if possible)

1 long green chilli

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

3 onions

3 garlic cloves

12 prawns

80 ml (2½ fl oz/1/3 cup) vegetable oil, for frying

400 g (14 oz) small mushrooms (such as Swiss brown or button)

200 g (7 oz) haloumi

50 g (1¾ oz) butter

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Hlave the cherry tomatoes. Slit along the chilli and the bullhorn peppers and remove the stalks and seeds. Finely chop. Finely slice the onions. Finely chop the garlic.

Remove the heads from the prawns. The best way to do this is to straighten the body with one hand and with the other hand twist the head 90 degrees, gently pulling the head off so that the black thread along the spine comes away. Peel off the skin but leave the tail on.

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

Heat half of the vegetable 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 prawns and sear for 30 seconds on each side. Remove from the pan and set aside on paper towel. Add the remaining oil to the pan, immediately add the onion and cook for 3 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Add the chilli and pepper and fry for 3 minutes. Halve the mushrooms. Toss them into the pan, add the salt and pepper and simmer for 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the halved cherry tomatoes.

Put three prawns in each of four ovenproof bowls. Divide the mushroom mixture between each bowl. Cut the haloumi into four slices. Place one slice in each bowl. Put a dollop of butter on each slice of haloumi. Bake for 7 minutes until the haloumi is melted and slightly burnt around the corners. Serve hot.

Outside and inside one of the massive mosques built in Istanbul with the wealth of the Ottoman Empire.



The traditional recipe involves stuffing and wrapping hamsi (similar to a European anchovy), the most prized fish of the Black Sea region, but they are impossible to find outside of the Black Sea. You could make this dish with sardines, or small red mullet, but I prefer garfish because it’s milder in taste and can absorb some of the saltiness of the vine leaves. Because they’re cooked on the barbecue or grill, the vine leaves will char a little. That just adds flavour.


15 fresh or preserved vine leaves

10 flat-leaf (Italian) parsley leaves

10 mint leaves

2 garlic cloves

2 tablespoons pine nuts

juice of ½ lemon

12 garfish (about 1 kg/2 lb 4 oz), butterflied, heads and tails on

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 lemons, cut into 8 wedges each, to serve

If you’re using a charcoal grill, light it 1 hour before you’re ready to cook. Burn the charcoal for at least 45 minutes, and when the flames have died down and the coals are glowing with a covering of white ash, the barbecue is ready. If you’re using a gas barbecue, turn it on to medium heat about 5 minutes before you’re ready to cook. Or use a frying pan.

If the vine leaves are fresh, place in a bowl, cover with boiling salted water and soak for 10 minutes. If they are in brine, wash thoroughly to remove most of the salt.

Crush the parsley leaves, mint leaves, garlic, pine nuts and lemon juice with a mortar and pestle. Open out each fish and place a tablespoon of the stuffing inside, then close the two halves of the fish.

Spread the vine leaves out flat on a board, shiny side down. Roll each garfish in a vine leaf. If the vine leavs are small, add half of another vine leaf. Drizzle the vine leaves with the olive oil and cook on the grill, close to the heat, for 2 minutes on each side until the vine leaves are charred. If you don’t have a barbecue, heat the olive oil in a heavy-based trypan over high heat. Add a drop of water to the oil. If it sizzles the oil is ready. Place the wrapped fish in the pan and cook for 4 minutes on each side.

Serve the asmada zargana with the lemon wedges. You should eat the vine leaves.



This is very much a hands-on recipe, requiring you to squeeze three egg-coated fish fillets into the shape of a bird (or what must have looked like a bird to the Black Sea chef who named this dish centuries ago). There’s a song about this dish, by local folk singer Volkan Konak, which goes: ‘I wish I was a hamsi bird, so I could fly up into the branches, and the mothers-in-law wouldn’t eat me.’

The strong-flavoured fish called hamsi (similar to a European anchovy) is the staple protein of the Black Sea region. In the season (autumn and winter) you find them everywhere in Istanbul, and you can buy them in the fish markets for as little as 2 lira a kilo.

Because they’re so plentiful, hamsi appear in hundreds of Turkish recipes—in simple dishes like pan-fried hamsi with cornflour, some more complicated ones (like this recipe), and some totally weird, like the cornbread in our breakfast chapter or ‘hamsi jam’ (which everyone mentions but nobody admits to having eaten). The best substitute for hamsi outside Turkey is sardines.


1 tablespoon roasted hazelnuts

30 wild rocket (arugula) leaves

2 onions

290 ml (10 fl oz) olive oil

2 tablespoons rice

2 teaspoons salt

½ teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

zest of 1 lemon

18 sardines, butterflied, tails on

4 tablespoons maize flour

2 eggs

watermelon salad to serve (optional)

Finely chop the roasted hazelnuts. Finely chop the wild rocket. Finely slice the onions.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and cook for 5 minutes until soft and translucent. Wash the rice under cold running water, then add to the onion. Stir for 1 minute. Add 250 ml (9 fl oz/1 cup) of hot water and the salt. Bring to the boil and then simmer, covered, for 15 minutes. Stir in the hazelnuts, sugar, pepper and lemon zest. Remove from the heat and leave to rest, covered, for 15 minutes.

Slice six of the sardines into two fillets each, so you have twelve lids to go on the ‘birds’. Toss all the sardines (halves and whole), in the maize flour.

Now stuff the birds. Holding a butterflied sardine in your hand, place a little less than 1 tablespoon of filling between the halves, and push them gently together. Repeat with the other eleven butterflied sardines. Put a half-sardine lid on each stuffed sardine, to make a triangle shape. Squeeze the pieces together.

Whisk the eggs in a bowl. Heat the remaining olive oil in a frying pan over high heat. Add a drop of water to the oil. If it sizzles the oil is ready. Dip the birds into the egg and carefully place in the hot oil. Fry for 2 minutes on each side until golden. Place on paper towel to absorb the excess oil.

Serve three hamsi kuşu per person, with watermelon salad if you like.



Partly out of laziness, partly out of convenience, Turkish restaurants outside Turkey have made swordfish on skewers a clichéd dish, but they’re not doing their country any favours. Charcoal works best with an oily fish that doesn’t dry out as easily as swordfish, so inevitably most swordfish skewers turn out dry and overcooked.

Putting something on a skewer doesn’t make it Turkish. What does is the right application of techniques and flavourings to a fresh ingredient. Sole, like most fish fillets, is much more suitable for pan-frying, and rolling the fillets before skewering means you can achieve a crispy outside and a juicy inside.


16 sole fillets (or other flat fish)

125 ml (4 fl oz/½ cup) olive oil

8 bay leaves

4 spring onions

1 red onion

1 lemon

12 bay leaves

1 small fennel bulb

zest of 1 orange

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon plain (all-purpose) flour

juice of 2 oranges

2 tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon white pepper

Ask your fishmonger to slice four fillets each from four soles. Lay the fillets on a board. Slice the spring onions into 4 cm (1½ in) tubes. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the spring onions and cook for 2 minutes, shaking the pan constantly. Remove from the heat.

Put a spring onion across the bottom of each fillet and roll the fillet around it. Now make the skewers. Cut the red onion in half, crossways. Reserve one half to use with the fennel. Cut the remaining half into eight pieces. Cut the lemon in half, then slice that half into three rounds about 1 cm (½ in) wide, then slice each round into quarters. Reserve the remaining half of the lemon for the sauce.

Each skewer will contain four rolls of fish, three small pieces of lemon, three bay leaves, and two pieces of onion that will form brackets at either end of the skewer. Take one piece of onion and push onto the skewer. Add one roll of fish, then one bay leaf, one piece of lemon, then fish again, bay leaf again, lemon, fish, bay leaf, lemon, fish, and finally the other onion bracket. Make three more skewers the same way.

Remove the outer layer from the fennel and slice the remaining bulb into four rounds, lengthways. If the fennel came with the green fronds attached, Keep them for decoration. Finely slice the remaining half onion and any remaining pieces not used for the skewers.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the onion and fry for 1 minute. Add the fennel pieces and fry for 1 minute, then stir in the zest, salt and sugar. Mix the flour into the orange juice. Reduce the heat to a simmer. Add the orange juice mixture and enough water to cover the fennel. Close the lid and simmer for 15 minutes. Check the fennel; if it is not soft, simmer for another 10 minutes.

In a separate, large 30 cm (12 in) frying pan, heat all but 2 tablespoons of the remaining olive oil with the butter over medium heat. Add a drop of water to the oil. If it sizzles the oil is ready. Add the skewers and cook for 4 minutes on each side until golden brown.

Place a quarter of the fennel mixture on each plate. Place a skewer on top. Juice the remaining half lemon, and combine the juice with the remaining olive oil and the white pepper. Drizzle a little over each skewer. Decorate with fennel tips (if you have them) and serve.



In this dish you are required to reach down the throat of a fish and pull out its insides, including the bones, in order to make it empty enough to satisfy the Turkish compulsion to stuff everything they see.

Uskumru dolmasi is one of the oldest surviving Ottoman seafood recipes, mentioned in seventeenth century palace documents, and nicknamed unutma beni (don’t forget me) because meyhanes in past centuries would send plates of stuffed mackerel to the homes of their regular customers on the last night of the fasting month of Ramadan, to remind them of what they’d been missing. It was the earliest form of advertising by letter box drop, but we doubt if anybody rejected it as junk mail.


4 blue mackerel, whole


50 g (1¾ oz) dried barberries (or currants)

1 large onion (about 250 g/9 oz), chopped

200 ml (7 fl oz) olive oil

100 g (3½ oz) pine nuts

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon allspice

3 teaspoons salt

20 flat-leaf (Italian) parsley leaves, finely chopped, plus extra to garnish


150 g (5½ oz/1 cup) plain (all-purpose) flour

3 eggs

190 g (6¾ oz/1 cup) fine polenta

300 ml (10½ fl oz) olive oil


1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses

1 tablespoon olive oil

20 pomegranate seeds

10 parsley leaves, finely chopped

Clean the blue mackerel by removing the gills and the organs without a knife. You need to push your fingers into the throat of the fish and hook them under the gills. Pull gently so the gills and the attached organs come out. Use scissors to cut off the fins, being careful not to tear the skin. Wash thoroughly.

Gently massage the fish on each side for 5 minutes to soften the flesh until you can feel the spine. Gently break the tail, turning it 90 degrees, up then down, without puncturing the skin. Push the points of a pair of scissors through the gill hole and use them to sever the head from the spine. You can now remove the spine from inside the fish. Cover the fish with a dry cloth so you can hold it with one hand. With the other hand, reach through the gill hole and, with your thumb and forefinger, gently pull out the spinal bones. Scrape off any meat that’s attached to the spine and put in a bowl. Using a cocktail spoon, remove all the flesh from inside the fish and add to the bowl.

Put the barberries in a bowl, cover with water and leave to soak for 15 minutes. Finely chop the onion. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add a drop of water to the oil. If it sizzles the oil is ready. Sauté the pine nuts for 2 minutes, then add the onions and fry for 3 minutes. Add the fish meat, spices, salt, parsley and barberries and fry for another 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat and leave to cool for 5 minutes.

Stuff a quarter of the mixture into each fish, using a long-handled cocktail spoon. Pack the stuffing in tightly, and use your fingers to mould it into a fish shape.

Now make the coating. Sift the flour into a bowl. Lightly whisk the eggs in a separate bowl. Put the polenta in a third bowl. Heat the oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add a drop of water to the oil. If it sizzles the oil is ready. Coat each fish with flour. Dip in the egg. Thoroughly coat with polenta. Carefully place the stuffed fish in the pan, two at a time, and cook for 8 minutes each, giving them a quarter turn every 2 minutes until the skin is golden brown and crisp. Drain on paper towel.

If using, mix the pomegranate molasses, olive oil, pomegranate seeds and parsley together in a small jug (pitcher).

Serve the uskumru dolmasi hot, splashed with a little olive oil and parsley and, if you like, the pomegranate dressing.



This late-summer dish is a combination of two much-loved ingredients in Turkey. There’s the pretty pink sweet-tasting fish, which is called barbunya by the Turks and Greeks, triglia by the Italians, and red mullet or goatfish by the unpoetic English. And there’s the green bullet called bamya by the Turks and Arabs, ladies fingers’ by Malaysians, okra by the English and gumbo by the people of Louisiana.

Okra are edible seed pods that originated in Africa. They had become a fad food by the fifteenth century in the Ottoman Empire, when the sultan in Istanbul organised palace war games between teams named ‘the cabbages’ and ‘the okras’. Okra is very good for you, but it’s not popular because when cooked it puts out a slime that some people don’t like. Here’s the solution to the slime: use very small pods. If you can’t find small okra, choose medium-sized ones (no longer than 10 cm/4 in or they’ll have a woody texture) and soak them for 30 minutes in 1 litre (35 fl oz/4 cups) of water with 100 ml (3½ fl oz) of vinegar and 2 tablespoons of salt. Rinse them well, peel off the skin, and remove the woody stalk.


2 French shallots (eschalots)

2 garlic cloves

1 red capsicum (pepper)

1 carrot

1 green tomato or 2 tablespoons unripened grapes

300 g (10½ oz) okra

80 ml (2½ fl oz/1/3 cup) olive oil

125 ml (4 fl oz/½ cup) verjus

juice of ½ lemon

½ teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon white pepper

2 teaspoons salt

16 small red mullets

75 g (22/3 oz/½ cup) plain (all-purpose) flour

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

250 ml (9 fl oz/1 cup) vegetable oil

1 lemon

Finely slice the French shallots and garlic. Remove the stalk and seeds from the red capsicum and roughly chop. Roughly chop the carrot. Quater the green tomato. Cut the stalks off the okra.

Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallots and carrot and fry for 3 minutes. Add the garlic and fry for 2 more minutes. Add the okra, tomato and capsicum, and fry for 1 minute. Add the verjus, lemon juice, sugar, white pepper and half the salt, and bring to the boil. Add 250 ml (9 fl oz/1 cup) of warm water, reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes.

Clean and scale the red mullet. Sift the flour into a bowl and mix in the remaining salt and the black pepper. Coat the red mullets in the flour. Shake the fish to remove the excess flour.

Heat the vegetable oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add a drop of water to the oil. If it sizzles the oil is ready. Carefully add the mullet, four at a time, and fry for 2 minutes on each side until the skin is golden brown and crisp. Transfer to paper towel to remove the excess oil.

Cut the top and bottom off the lemon and slice into 8 rounds. Place the lemon in the frying pan and cook for 1 minute on each side each side until it starts to caramelise.

Spread the okra mixture on one half of each plate, and place four red mullet on the other half. Decorate with the lemon rounds and serve.

The moped rider must have gone swimming at Bodrum beach.

Fishing from Istanbul’s Galata Bridge, with beer houses serving local seafood on the lower deck.



One day when I was a kid, my father came home very late saying my stepmother was in hospital with food poisoning, because ‘she ate yoğurt and fish together’. That started my fascination with combining seafood and dairy.

It’s a common myth in Turkey that milk and fish don’t mix, but if it were true, there’d be nobody left alive in the west coast town of İzmir (formerly known as Smyrna and very close to Troy). All along the promenade there, restaurants compete to offer the best version of sütlü balık (literally ‘fish in milk’). Normally it’s done with fillets, but I always prefer to use whole fish if I can. I’ve included celeriac here, because it adds a great flavour to the milk.


1 celeriac

500 ml (17 fl oz/2 cups) milk

1 white onion

4 celery stalks

2 tarragon stalks

4 caperberries

1 snapper (about 1 kg/2 lb 4 oz), cleaned

2 tablespoons thickened (whipping) cream

250 ml (9 fl oz/1 cup) dry white wine

juice of 1 lemon

½ bunch chives

3 silverbeet (Swiss chard) leaves

Peel the celeriac and cut it into rounds about 1 cm (½ in) thick. Place the rounds in a bowl, add the milk and leave to rest overnight in the fridge. Remove the celeriac from the bowl and pat fry with paper towel. Reserve the milk.

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

Slice the onion. Pick the celery leaves and tarragon leaves. Chop the stalks off the caperberries and slice in half.

Clean and scale the fish, if necessary. Place the fish on a board and slice through the belly to open a pocket for the stuffing. Stuff with celery and tarragon leaves, onion and caperberries.

Place the celeriac rounds on the bottom of a baking tray. Place the snapper on top. Mix the soaking milk with the cream and white wine, and pour over the fish. Add the lemon juice and chives on top of the fish. Cover with silverbeet leaves, then cover the baking tray tightly with foil. Bake for 40 minutes.

Serve the mercan buğulama on a serving platter, pouring any remaining juice over the fish, for people to help themselves.


Batur Durmay happily admits that his restaurant, Asitane, is an indulgence. ‘We didn’t open this place to make a lot of money’, he says. ‘I just have to be sure I get it right.’ Getting it right means ensuring the dishes on his menu are what you could have eaten had you been invited to a banquet with the sultan at the Topkapi Palace around 1700.

Asitane was set up by Batur’s family in 1991 so they’d have an interesting place to take clients in their primary business, which was making steel moulds for heavy industry. Batur, the most obsessive foodie in a family of gourmets, was tasked with unearthing recipes that displayed the opulence and diversity of one of the greatest empires in history.

He soon encountered a problem. Before the year 1844 (when the first cookbook in the Turkish language was published), the Ottoman kitchen workers did not write down recipes. But they were meticulous record keepers, giving names to every dish served at banquets and noting the ingredients purchased for the pantry. Batur found a particularly helpful document from 1539 listing the 100 dishes served at a circumcision ceremony for the sons of Süleyman the Magnificent.

He hired scholars to dig further into the palace records and chefs to theorise on how the ingredients must have been combined and served, and ultimately came up with more than 300 dishes that he is confident would be recognisable to a time traveller from the seventeenth century.

Modern Turks have an ambiguous relationship with the Ottoman Empire. They are proud that for 500 years, their ancestors were the fairly humane rulers of a collection of countries now called Albania, Bulgaria, Egypt, Greece, Hungary, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Macedonia, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Tunisia. They are annoyed that after 200 years of decline, the Ottoman caliphs had become so decadent by the early twentieth century that they dragged Turkey into The First World War on the wrong side, and ended up losing what was left of this great empire.

Whether they admire or disapprove, they are fascinated by the lavish lifestyle the Ottomans created for themselves, especially since the success in 2011 of a TV melodrama called Muhteşem Yüzyil (Magnificent Century), about the life of Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent. Batur was a food consultant for the series.

The Istanbul eating scene is now enjoying an Ottoman revival. Batur estimates there are 200 restaurants that claim to serve the food of the emperors. Many of them think that all they have to do is cook meats with dried fruits, or serve spiced rice in several colours, or give fancy names to standard kebaps.

Some places have sent spies to Asitane, to steal Batur’s recipes. But Batur is fighting back. Occasionally he includes a dish on his menu that contains typically Ottoman ingredients but has no background in any scholarship. He invents a name that sounds as if it might have been used in the sixteenth century, and then waits to see how long it takes for that name to appear on the menus of his competitors. Then he has a little word to them about laziness and plagiarism.

Fortunately, he now has plenty of customers who recognise the work his researchers and cooks have put into ensuring authenticity. Asitane has become so popular that he finds himself seriously at risk of financial success.

Batur Durmay recreates dishes served to the seventeenth-century sultans at Asitane restaurant, in Istanbul’s historic Fatih district.



My family used to keep quails in cages on the balcony of our apartment in Istanbul because my father believed eating their eggs would help my stepsister’s asthma.

Quails are thought to have originated in China, but they were cultivated for food by the Egyptian pharaohs and became popular in Anatolia during the Seljuk period (in the eleventh and twelfth centuries). We don’t know how the Seljuks cooked them, because they weren’t big on written records, but a few hundred years later, this recipe was created by the Ottomans, which explains the carob glaze. Before the arrival of chocolate from the Americas in the seventeenth century, carob was the sultans’ favourite sweetener. Nowadays, grape and pomegranate molasses have become more fashionable than carob molasses, but I think the thick caramel flavour contrasts beautifully with the smoky freekeh (which I’ve used as stuffing instead of the Ottomans’ rice).



50 g (1¾ oz) green lentils

1 onion

2 tablespoons olive oil

250 g (9 oz) freekeh

1 teaspoon chilli flakes

1 tablespoon capsicum (pepper) paste

500 ml (17 fl oz/2 cups) chicken stock

1 tablespoon butter

pinch of salt

pinch of pepper


80 ml (2½ fl oz/1/3 cup) vegetable oil

4 tablespoons carob molasses

1 teaspoon hot paprika

5 sage leaves

8 quails

4 tablespoons butter

Soak the lentils overnight or simmer for 30 minutes, and then drain.

Finely chop the onion. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the onion and fry for 5 minutes until soft. Add the freekeh and the lentils and fry for a further 3 minutes, stirring regularly. Add the chilli flakes, capsicum paste, stock and butter. Stir thoroughly and bring to the boil, then add the salt and pepper. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave to rest, covered, for 15 minutes.

Wash the quails. Sizzle 1 tablespoon of the butter in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the quails, two at a time, and cook for 2 minutes on each side until the skin crisps up. Add a new tablespoon of butter for each two quails. Leave to rest on paper towel.

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

Using a tablespoon, stuff each quail with the freekeh and lentil mixture.

Now make the coating. Mix the vegetable oil, carob molasses and paprika together in a bowl. Finely chop the sage leaves, add to the carob mixture and combine. Brush the quails thoroughly in the coating, retaining a little of the molasses mixture to serve.

Pour 250 ml (9 fl oz/1 cup) of water into a baking tray. Sit the quails in the water. Bake for 25 minutes until golden brown. After 10 minutes of baking, spoon some of the liquid from the tray over the quails to keep them moist.

Serve two quails per person, with a tablespoon of the molasses mixture drizzled over each plate.



Melon has been one of the staples of Anatolian cuisine since Roman times, and was probably first cultivated near what is now eastern Turkey. The Ottoman palace chefs apparently liked the theatre of being able to lift the lid and expose the filling. They adopted the Persian fascination for mixing meat and fruit, and mostly used lamb mince in the stuffing, but I think that’s too heavy for the delicate fruit, so I changed it to chicken.

I like to use Galia melon (developed in Israel in the 1970s) because it’s almost perfectly round, but if you can’t find it, go for rockmelon, and choose the smallest one you can find.


50 g (1¾ oz) craisins (dried cranberries)

2 onions

10 parsley stalks

10 mint stalks

50 ml (12/3 fl oz) vegetable oil

75 g (22/3 oz) almonds

75 g (22/3 oz) cashews

300 g (10½ oz) chicken mince

1½ teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

½ teaspoon allspice

½ teaspoon cinnamon

1 Galia melon, rockmelon or honeydew (about 1 kg/2 lb 4 oz)

2 tablespoons butter

50 ml (12/3 fl oz) olive oil

Put the cranberries in a bowl, cover with warm water and leave to soak for 15 minutes. Finely chop the onions. Pick and chop the mint and parsley leaves.

Heat the vegetable oil in a frying pan over medium heat, add the onions and cook for 4 minutes. Add the almonds and cashews, and fry for 1 minute. Add the chicken mince and fry for 5 minutes, stirring regularly until the chicken is evenly golden brown. Add 1 teaspoon of the salt and the spices. Drain the cranberries, add to the pan and stir. Remove the pan from the heat.

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

Slice the cap off the melon, about 2 cm (¾ in) below the top. Scoop out and discard all the seeds. Mix the butter with a pinch of salt and rub inside the cavity. Push in the stuffing mixture. Place the cap back on, secured with two toothpicks. Rub the olive oil all over the outside of the melon and bake for 35 minutes.

Remove the cap and serve the whole melon at the table. Scoop out four servings, or slice into quarters.



This is a kind of chicken and rice pie, which originated in Siirt, a city in southeastern Turkey. In the classical version they simply mixed the chicken into the spiced rice and wrapped pastry around it, but I find that quite dry.

It makes a spectacular presentation if you upend the pie and unveil layers of different ingredients inside—caramelised onions on top, which keep the other layers moist, then a layer of shredded chicken, and under that the spiced rice.



125 ml (4 fl oz/½ cup) olive oil

10 brown onions

5 saffron threads

440 g (15½ oz/2 cups) medium-grain rice

1½ tablespoons butter

100 g (3½ oz) flaked almonds

1 tablespoon cinnamon

2 teaspoons allspice

2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper


2 onions

2 carrots

1 small chicken (less than 1.8 kg/4 lb)

1 tablespoon salt


450 g (1 lb/3 cups) plain (all-purpose) flour, plus extra for dusting

250 g (9 oz) butter

3 eggs

½ teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons vegetable oil, for greasing

5 blanched almonds, halved

First, get the onion confit started for the filling. Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over low heat. Finely slice the onions, add to the pan and fry, covered, for 10 minutes. Move the lid so it’s partly open and simmer 1½ hours, stirring occasionally. The confit onions should reduce to half the size of the uncooked onions.

Next, make the chicken stock. Halve the onions and carrots, and place in a large saucepan with the chicken. Cover with salted water and boil, partly covered, for 30 minutes over medium-low heat. Turn off the heat and transfer the chicken to a board. Leave to cool slightly. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, strip off the skin and all the meat. Shred the meat into thin strands and set aside. Put 375 ml (13 fl oz/1½ cups) of the warm chicken stock in a bowl, add the saffron and set aside to soak. Put the chicken skin and bones back in the pan and return to the heat. Simmer, without the lid, so the stock reduces.

Now, make the ‘veil’. Sift the flour into a mixing bowl. Make a well in the middle. Melt the butter in a frying pan over medium heat (or microwave for 30 seconds). Whisk the eggs in a bowl. Whisk the butter into the egg, then whisk in the baking powder and salt. Fold the egg mixture into the flour and knead for 5 minutes. Sprinkle some flour on your work surface and roll the dough into a ball. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with a damp cloth and rest in a warm place for at least 30 minutes.

Now cook the rice. Rinse the rice under cold running water. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the flaked almonds, and fry for 2 minutes. Add the rice and toss it in the butter for 1 minute, to coat. Remove the saffron threads from the bowl of stock and discard. Mix the cinnamon, allspice and pepper into the saffron liquid. Add the liquid to the rice and stir. Add 500 ml (17 fl oz/2 cups) of the simmering chicken stock. Bring the rice to a boil.

Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave to rest, covered, for 15 minutes.

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

Place the dough on a floured work surface. Roll into a round sheet about 60 cm (24 in) wide. Paint half the vegetable oil inside a 25 cm (10 in) cake tin to grease well. Place the half almonds around the bottom of the cake tin in any pattern you like. Line the tin with the pastry sheet so the sides of the sheet come up and overlap the rim of the tin. There should be about 12 cm (4½ in) of pastry hanging over the edge (this will be folded over the rice).

Remove the onion confit from the heat. Scoop out the onions with a slotted spoon and spread them over the pastry in the tin. Add a layer of chicken meat over the onion, then spoon in the rice so it fills to about 1 cm (½ in) below the rim. Fold the pastry over the rice. If it doesn’t completely cover the rice, squeeze the pastry out with your fingers so it stretches across. Brush on the remaining vegetable oil. Cook the ‘pie’ in the oven for 20 minutes until golden. Lift the cake tin out of the oven and turn the pie out onto a baking tray. Put the baking tray in the oven and cook for another 10 minutes.

Serve the whole pie at the table, slicing it into eight wedges (two per diner).



When I came to Sydney I found duck was a popular meat with Australians, and I started serving this dish in winter. It is a modern variation of a Black Sea dish, where silverbeet is usually wrapped around lamb mince and rice. There they’d never use duck, which is a meat cooked at home by the wives of hunters, or freekeh, which is from the southeast. My justification for the change is that spit-roasted duck was served in Istanbul at the circumcision ceremony for the son of Sultan Mehmet II, in 1457. That’s the rule: when challenged, quote the Ottomans.


4 duck legs

1.5 litres (52 fl oz/6 cups) chicken stock

190 g (6¾ oz/1 cup) freekeh

2 tablespoons dried barberries (or cranberries)

1 red capsicum (pepper)

1 onion

1 garlic clove

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 tablespoons flaked almonds

125 ml (4 fl oz/½ cup) dry sherry

½ teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon pimento

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 teaspoons capsicum (pepper) paste

2 teaspoons tomato paste

10 silverbeet (Swiss chard) leaves


2 garlic cloves

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon smoked paprika

250 g (9 oz/1 cup) plain yoğurt

Put the duck legs and chicken stock in a large saucepan. Bring to the boil over medium heat, then reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 1 hour.

Remove the legs from the pan and place on a board to cool slightly. When the legs are cool enough to handle, remove the meat. Put the skin, sinews and bones back in the pan and simmer, with the lid off, for another 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Put the freekeh in a bowl and cover with 375 ml (13 fl oz/1½ cups) of warm strained stock. Leave to rest for 30 minutes. Put the barberries in a bowl. Cover with warm water and leave to soak for 15 minutes. Halve the capsicum, remove the stalk and seeds, and finely chop. Finely chop the onion and the garlic.

Melt the butter in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the olive oil. Add the flaked almonds and onion and cook for 2 minutes. Add the garlic and fry for 1 minute. Add the duck pieces and fry for 2 minutes. Add the sherry, cinnamon, pimento, salt and pepper. Increase the heat to high for 3 minutes to cook out the alcohol.

Put the capsicum and tomato pastes in a bowl, add 125 ml (A fl oz/½ cup) of the warm chicken stock and stir to combine. Add the mixture to the duck and stir. Add the strained freekeh and capsicum to the duck mixture, and stir. Bring to the boil, then turn off the heat. Strain the barberries and stir into the duck and freekeh stuffing. Leave to cool, covered, for 10 minutes.

Wash the silverbeet leaves under cold running water. Put the silverbeet in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Leave for 2 minutes, then plunge in iced water for 1 minute to refresh. Remove the stalks. If the leaves are large, cut them in half (so you can make two parcels). You should have at least ten leaf pieces. Put the two largest leaves aside (to line the bottom of the cooking pot). Place 3 tablespoons of the freekeh and duck mixture across each leaf, about 4 cm (1½ in) from the bottom. Fold in the edges around the stuffing and tightly roll the leaf up. Repeat to make eight parcels.

Cover the bottom of a saucepan with the two reserved leaves. Place the eight parcels on the leaves. Pour in the chicken stock to almost cover the parcels. Weigh the parcels down with a plate. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, covered for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the sauce. Crush the garlic. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the crushed garlic and paprika. Fry for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat and leave to cool. Transfer to a bowl and mix in the yoğurt.

Place a quarter of the yoğurt sauce on each plate. Scoop out the parcels with a slotted spoon then add two to each plate and serve.



This is a hearty dish, designed to entertain an extended family or lots of friends. It’s a speciality of the beautiful southeastern city of Mardin, which was carved out of a sandstone mountain 6000 years ago.

I first tried this dolma at Cerciş Murat Konaği, Mardin’s most famous restaurant (now with a branch in Istanbul), which also serves wine made from white cherry pits in clay jugs. Mardin’s cooking has influences from the Kurds, the Assyrians and the Armenians.

Try to use spring lamb, which has sweeter flesh than a grown-up sheep. And you’ll need good stitching skills, because tightly stitching the skin is important to keep the flavours inside the ribcage.


2 kg (4 lb 8 oz) uncleaned lamb ribcage (skin on)


1 lamb liver (about 120 g/4¼ oz)

4 onions

80 ml (2½ fl oz/1/3 cup) olive oil

70 g (2½ oz/½ cup) pistachio kernels

440 g (15½ oz/2½ cups) coarse bulgur

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons capsicum (pepper) paste

3 tablespoons craisins (dried cranberries)

2 teaspoons allspice

2 teaspoons cinnamon

15 basil leaves


20 oregano leaves

1 tablespoon plain yoğurt

1 teaspoon dried chilli flakes

1 tablespoon butter

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon capsicum (pepper) paste

First make the stuffing. Remove and discard the skin from the lamb liver, and roughly chop into small pieces. Finely slice the onions. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat Add the onions and cook for 3 minutes. Add the lamb liver and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly, then add the pistachios and bulgur and fry for 1 minute, stirring to coat. Add the salt and pepper and 250 ml (9 fl oz/1 cup) of warm water, and stir.

Dilute the capsicum paste in 250 ml (9 fl oz/1 cup) of water, and add to the pan. Add the cranberries, allspice and cinnamon. Cover and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat. Finely chop the basil and stir into the mixture. Leave the mixture to rest for 10 minutes, covered.

On the wider side of the ribcage, lift the skin away from the ribs to create a pocket for the stuffing. Push the stuffing into the cavity so the skin forms a dome. Stitch up the skin at the top. Ideally, you should use what chefs call a ‘trussing needle’, but any large needle and strong thread will do. This will stop the stuffing falling out during the boiling process.

Sit the stuffed ribcage in a large saucepan, ribs facing upwards, and pour in enough water to almost cover. Bring to the boil and then simmer, covered, for 2 hours. Add more water after 1 hour, if necessary.

Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F/Gas 6). Transfer the ribcage to a board and leave to cool.

Finely chop the oregano leaves. Place in a bowl and mix with the yoğurt, chilli flakes, butter, salt, pepper and capsicum paste. Spread the yoğurt paste over the ribcage. Place the ribcage in a baking tray, skin side up, and roast for 20 minutes until it’s brown and crisp.

Serve the kaburga dolmasi on the tray at the table. Remove the stitches and discard the cotton. Carve down the middle and open to reveal the stuffing. Spoon out the stuffing and add a chunk of meat for each person.



Along with cubed and deep-fried spiced liver, this goat stew is one of two famous Albanian dishes that influenced the cuisine of Anatolia. It is named after the city of Elbasan, which means ‘crushing fist’, presumably because Mehmet II built a huge fortress there to keep the Albanians under control in the fifteenth century.

Strangely, you’d have a hard time finding either this dish or the fried liver in modern Albania, where waiters are inclined to say ‘They do that in Turkey—we don’t do it any more’. It’s their loss. If you can’t find goat, use lamb.


835 g (1 lb 13 oz) plain yoğurt

3 French shallots (eschalots)

3 garlic cloves

500 g (1 lb 2 oz) goat (shoulder meat)

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon black peppercorns

1 teaspoon salt

10 basil leaves

1 bay leaf

12 dates, pitted

500 ml (17 fl oz/2 cups) beef stock

3 egg yolks

450 g (1 lb/3 cups) plain (all-purpose) flour

1 tablespoon sweet paprika

mixed cress salad, to serve (optional)

Place the yoğurt on a sheet of muslin (cheesecloth) and tie up the corners. Hang the muslin over a pot overnight to allow the yoğurt to thicken.

Quarter the French shallots. Finely chop the garlic. Remove any fat from the goat shoulder and cut the meat into 3 cm (1¼ in) cubes. Melt the butter in a frying pan over high heat. Add the meat and fry for 2 minutes, turning to evenly brown. Add the shallots and fry for 2 minutes. Add the garlic, peppercorns, salt, basil and bay leaf and fry for 2 minutes. Add 250 ml (9 fl oz/1 cup) of water. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 45 minutes. It should reduce and thicken. Pour the goat stew into a casserole dish. Sprinkle the dates over the stew.

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

Gently warm the stock in a saucepan to about 35°C (95°F). Put the egg yolks in a bowl. Sift in the flour and whisk. Add the flour mixture to the yoğurt. Stir in the beef stock. Warm the yoğurt mixture over low heat, constantly whisking, but remove it from heat as soon as you see bubbles forming (you do not want it to boil). Pour the mixture over the meat and add the paprika. Place the casserole dish in the oven and bake for 40 minutes.

Serve in the casserole dish at the table with a mixed cress salad, for people to help themselves.

Bodrum’s marina and the Castle of Saint Peter, a former Crusader fortress, at night.



Cauliflower, which was known as ‘rose cabbage’ in Ottoman times, is much loved in Turkey—pickled, sautéed or boiled for salads. But in the past, it was never puréed, and certainly never served with parmesan. And you’d hardly ever encounter veal cutlets in Turkey—cattle are mostly used for dairy farming, and the meat minced when the milk runs out.

So we’d have to call this an example of ‘the new Istanbul cooking’.


250 ml (9 fl oz/1 cup) olive oil

4 thick veal cutlets

1 celeriac (or 3 potatoes)

2 carrots

1 onion

1 garlic bulb

4 French shallots (eschalots)

250 ml (9 fl oz/1 cup) dry red wine

2 tablespoons fennel seeds

4 thyme stalks

1 tablespoon salt

1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper


1 cauliflower

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons plain (all-purpose) flour

125 ml (4 fl oz/½ cup) pouring (whipping) cream

1 teaspoon white pepper

1 teaspoon nutmeg

50 g (1¾ oz/½ cup) grated parmesan


4 tablespoons butter

4 tablespoons date molasses (or grape molasses)

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

½ teaspoon salt

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

Heat a splash of the olive oil in a frying pan over high heat. Add the cutlets and sear for 1 minute on each side. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Skin the celeriac and roughly chop. Roughly chop the carrots. Quarter the onion. Quarter the garlic bulb, leaving the skins on. Roughly chop the French shallots.

Pour the wine and remaining olive oil into a deep baking pan, then add the cutlets, in a single layer. Spread the chopped vegetables, fennel seeds and thyme stalks over the cutlets. Sprinkle on the salt and pepper and pour in enough water to cover the vegetables. Tightly cover the pan with foil and bake for 3½ hours.

Meanwhile, chop the cauliflower into florets, discarding the stalk. Put the cauliflower in a saucepan, cover with water and boil for 30 minutes over medium heat. Scoop out the cauliflower pieces with a slotted spoon and transfer to a food processor. Pulse to a thick liquid.

Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat and stir in the flour. Continue to stir for 3 minutes to remove any lumps. Pour in the cream. Stir for 2 more minutes to make a smooth sauce. Add the cauliflower, white pepper and nutmeg. Whisk for 5 minutes over low heat. Add the grated parmesan and whisk for another 5 minutes to make a smooth purée. Divide the purée among four plates.

Remove the baking tray from the oven. To make the glaze, melt the butter in a frying pan over low heat. Scoop out 125 ml (A fl oz/½ cup) of the liquid from the baking tray and add it to the butter. Stir in the molasses, add the cumin, pepper and salt. Lift out the veal cutlets, one at a time, and glaze them in the molasses mixture, about 1 minute on each side.

Place one cutlet on top of the cauliflower purée and serve with the vegetables.



There are as many folk stories about the origin of Turkish dishes as there are combinations of lamb and eggplant. The story I like about this dish is that it was served to the French empress Eugenie when she passed through Istanbul on her way to the opening ceremony of the Suez Canal in 1869. Eugenie’s personal chef got together with the sultan’s chef and added béchamel sauce to the original palace recipe. It then was named Hünkar Beğendi (‘the sultan liked it’)—probably because all possible combinations of the words for lamb and eggplant had been used up.

I solved the lamb-repetition problem by using beef cheeks (rare in Turkish cuisine) and I’ve lightened the mash by not using flour. There are no sultans in Turkey any more, so I’ve changed the Turkish title to ‘the gentleman liked it’, making this dish more democratic—if not gender-neutral.


4 beef cheeks (about 180 g/61/3 oz each)

1 onion

1 green bullhorn pepper (or ½ green capsicum/ pepper)

1 garlic clove

3 tomatoes

100 ml (3½ fl oz) olive oil

50 g (1¾ oz) cumin seeds

200 g (7 oz) tomato paste

1 litre (35 fl oz/4 cups) beef stock

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

250 ml (9 fl oz/1 cup) dry red wine

200 g (7 oz) green olives, pitted


4 globe eggplants (aubergines)

juice of 2 lemons

120 g (4¼ oz) butter

300 ml (10½ fl oz) pouring (whipping) cream

1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

200 g (7 oz) grated kaşar (or provolone)

½ teaspoon white pepper

1 teaspoon salt

Place the beef cheeks on a board and trim off any sinew or fat. Finely slice the onion. Remove the stalk and seeds from the bullhorn pepper and roughly chop. Roughly chop the garlic and tomatoes.

Heat the olive oil in a large flame-proof casserole dish over medium heat. Add the onion and cumin seeds and brown for 4 minutes. Add the chopped pepper and garlic, and fry for 2 minutes. Add the fresh tomato and tomato paste and stir to combine. Add the beef stock, salt, pepper and red wine. Add the beef cheeks, reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, for 5 hours.

While the beef cheeks are stewing, pierce the eggplants with a fork and char the skins by placing the eggplants directly onto the flame of your cook top. Using tongs, move the eggplant around to evenly blacken and then remove from the flame.

Once the eggplants are cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh into a large bowl. Discard the skin. Add 1 litre (35 fl oz/4 cups) of water and the lemon juice. Leave to soak for 2 minutes, then remove the eggplant, pat dry with paper towel and place in a colander to drain for about 10 minutes. Finely chop.

Melt 100 g (3½ oz) of the butter in a frying pan over low heat. Add the eggplant pieces and whisk together to make a mash. Add the cream, freshly grated nutmeg and grated kaşar. Add the white pepper and salt. Simmer 5 minutes, stirring regularly. Divide the eggplant purée among four plates.

Add the olives to the casserole dish and continue to stew for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat. Put 250 ml (4 fl oz/1 cup) of the beef-cheek cooking liquid in a saucepan with the remaining butter and boil over medium heat for 5 minutes to reduce.

Place one beef cheek on each plate. Drizzle a little of the reduced sauce over each cheek, and serve.



The fashionable modern cooking style called sousvide, which involves cooking in a sealed bag, echoes an old Ottoman technique. We’ve been using pastry to seal the flavour in meat and vegetables for centuries—as evidenced by the title of this dish, which literally translates as ‘enclosed lamb’.

In this case, the lamb is sealed and cooked for so long the meat falls off the bone. I’ve been inspired by the Australian meat pie, and made an edible dough.


1 lamb shoulder (about 1.5 kg/3 lb 5 oz), bone in, shank removed

1 egg

1 tablespoon plain yoğurt


2 garlic cloves

1 tablespoon sea salt

1 tablespoon sweet paprika

½ tablespoon ground cinnamon

½ tablespoon freshly ground black pepper

½ tablespoon lemon pepper

1 teaspoon ground aniseed

125 ml (4 fl oz/½ cup) olive oil


125 ml (4 fl oz/½ cup) olive oil

1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses


2 carrots

1 onion

2 garlic cloves

1 celeriac, peeled

5 small potatoes

2 cardamom pods

1 cinnamon stick

2 bay leaves

1 star anise

125 ml (4 fl oz/½ cup) olive oil

250 ml (9 fl oz/1 cup) dry red wine

1 litre (35 fl oz/4 cups) beef stock


½ teaspoon dry yeast

1 teaspoon sugar

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

2 sprigs thyme, leaves picked and finely chopped

1 clove garlic, crushed

1 teaspoon salt

zest of 1 lemon

50 g (1¾ oz) butter

Trim any large pieces of fat from the outside of the lamb shoulder. To make the rub, crush the garlic, and mix in a bowl with the salt, spices and olive oil. Rub the mixture over the lamb, including in the cavities. Rest the lamb for 20 minutes.

Now make the glaze. Heat the olive oil and the pomegranate molasses in a wide frying pan for 2 minutes over high heat. Place the lamb in the glaze and fry for 2 minutes on each side, caramelising the glaze onto the meat.

Preheat the oven to 140°C (275°F/Gas 1).

To make the filling, roughly chop all the vegetables and place in a large pot with the cardamom pods, cinnamon stick, bay leaves and star anise. Pour in the olive oil, red wine and beef stock to cover the lamb. Cover with the lid and bake for 4½ hours until the meat is very tender. Remove the lamb from the oven and cool to room temperature.

Meanwhile, make the pastry. Mix the yeast and the sugar in 375 ml (13 fl oz/1½ cups) of lukewarm water and 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 5 minutes or until the dough is as soft as an earlobe. Mix the thyme, crushed garlic, salt, lemon zest and butter together, and then add to the dough. Knead for a further 5 minutes. Sprinkle some flour on your work surface and roll the dough into a ball. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with a damp cloth and leave to rest for at least 1 hour. The dough should double in size.

Transfer the lamb and vegetables to a casserole dish. Increase the oven heat to 200°C (400°F/ Gas 6).

Roll the dough into a sheet big enough to cover the casserole dish, with an overhang of about 4 cm (1½ in) on all sides. Separate the egg and heat the egg white. Paint the egg white around the rim and outside edge of the dish. Drape the pastry sheet over the dish, and use the egg white to stick the overhang to the sides. Mix the yoğurt with ½ tablespoon of water. Paint that yoğurt mixture over the dough. Put the pie in the oven and bake for 15 minutes, or until the pastry is golden brown.

Slice the pie crust into four segments and put one on each plate, then scoop out a generous portion of meat and vegetables to put on top of the pastry, and serve.



The most influential modern Middle-Eastern chef of our times is Greg Malouf. originally from Melbourne and now based in Dubai. I am lucky to have him as a friend and mentor, and this is my adaptation of his adaptation of the classic dumpling called manti for the traditional version). I love the complexity of flavours and yet the simplicity of using gyoza wrappers, available in Asian supermarkets, which saves hours of rolling pastry and folding it into tiny parcels. It’s a typical example of Greg’s talent for blending traditional flavours with modern techniques and presentation.


2 oxtail discs (about 120 g/4¼ oz each)

100 ml (3½ fl oz) olive oil

2 celery stalks

2 carrots

1 fennel bulb

2 onions

2 garlic cloves

2 teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

125 ml (4 fl oz/½ cup) dry sherry

1 tablespoon capsicum (pepper) paste

2 litres (70 fl oz/8 cups chicken stock

20 parsley leaves

10 coriander (cilantro) leaves

1 teaspoon ground fenugreek

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon allspice

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

1 packet gyoza pastry (about twenty 10 cm/ 4 in sheets), chilled

1 egg white

1 tablespoon cornflour (cornstarch)

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar


½ garlic clove

250 g (9 oz/1 cup) plain yoğurt

pinch of salt

100 g (3½ oz) butter

1 tablespoon sweet paprika

1 tablespoon hot paprika

1 tablespoon dried mint

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

Put the oxtail pieces in a baking tray with the olive oil. Roughly chop the celery, carrots, fennel, onion and garlic and add them to the pan. Add half the salt and half the pepper. Cover with foil and bake for 2 hours.

Remove the tray from the oven and leave the oxtail to cool. Separate the meat from the bones. Shred the meat. Finely chop the vegetables and mix with the meat.

Heat the oxtail mixture and sherry in a large frying pan over high heat for 5 minutes to cook out the alcohol. Dilute the capsicum paste in 125 ml (4 fl oz/½ cup) of the chicken stock. Add the mixture to the pan. Mix the parsley, coriander, fenugreek, cinnamon, allspice, cumin and fennel seeds with the remaining pepper and salt in a bowl. Stir into the oxtail mixture. Reduce the heat and simmer for 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave to rest for 15 minutes.

Take the gyoza sheets out of the fridge 15 minutes before you want to use them. Mix the egg white, cornflour and 250 ml (4 fl oz/1 cup) of water in a bowl. Take one gyoza sheet off the pile and lay it on a board, shiny side up. Place 2 teaspoons of the oxtail mixture in the centre of the sheet. Dip your finger in the cornflour liquid, and swipe it around the edge of the gyoza. Bring the edges together and pinch them four times so the sides stick together, to make a roughly square parcel. Place on a tray and repeat to make twenty parcels. Refrigerate the manti parcels, wrapped in plastic wrap, for at least 30 minutes.

When you’re ready to serve, put the remaining chicken stock in a saucepan and bring to the boil over high heat. Add the apple cider vinegar, then add the manti. Cook for 5 minutes until the skin is translucent.

For the sauce, finely crush the garlic and mix with the yoğurt and salt. Loosen the yoğurt with 2 tablespoons of the chicken stock.

Scoop the manti out of the pan and divide into four bowls. Liberally splash the garlic yoğurt over the top.

Melt the butter in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the two paprikas and sizzle for 3 minutes. Drizzle the paprika butter over each bowl, and decorate with dried mint. Serve.



This gluten-free summer favourite is one of the oldest Ottoman recipes, derived from a dish called Keşkül-ü Fukara (‘begging bowl’), which was generously served to the populace by the sultans to celebrate war victories, religious holidays and other significant occasions.

The word keşkül means a bowl made out of a coconut half shell, which the dervish monks would wear around their necks in the hope people might throw in donations (which would have been difficult if they were whirling dervishes). Nowadays, the poor don’t need to go to the palace—they can find versions of keşkül in pudding shops across Istanbul.

There are several traditional variations—some using only almonds, some using coconut flakes. I like crushed pistachios to give a bright green colour and a crunchy texture.


40 g (1½ oz) blanched almonds

40 g (1½ oz) pistachio kernels

250 ml (9 fl oz/1 cup) milk

250 ml (9 fl oz/1 cup) pouring (whipping) cream

100 g (3½ oz) sugar

25 g (1 oz) cornflour (cornstarch)

pashmak (Persian fairy floss) and pomegranate seeds, to decorate (optional)

Put the almonds in a food processor and pulse finely. Pulse the pistachios separately.

Put the milk and cream in a saucepan and mix. Heat over medium heat, then add the sugar. Cook for 2 minutes, then whisk in the almond meal. Continue to whisk for 2 minutes, then scoop out 125 ml (4 fl oz/½ cup) of the mixture into a bowl. Whisk the cornflour into the bowl, and then slowly add to the cooking mixture, whisking constantly.

Continue to whisk, and bring to the boil. Add the pistachios, reduce the heat and simmer for 3 minutes, whisking. When the mixture starts to thicken, remove from the heat and leave to cool to room temperature.

Divide the keşkül mixture into four bowls or cups. Refrigerate for 3 hours to set. Remove from the fridge, decorate with pashmak and pomegranate seeds, if you like, and serve.



Long before molecular gastronomy was all the rage, Turkish chefs were using chemistry to create sweets and jams. By soaking hard-shelled fruits and vegetables in quicklime, they’d soften the interior and crystallise the exterior. The most common cases for treatment were watermelon rinds and unripened figs, eggplants, walnuts and olives.

You can’t use quicklime in food preparation these days, but you can get a similar effect with pickling lime or burnt lime (calcium hydroxide). You must still be careful to wash off all traces of the chemical before you start the cooking.

This dish is a speciality of Antakya in the southeast, where they use tahini as an accompaniment, under the influence of their Syrian neighbours.


150 g (5½ oz/1 cup) calcium hydroxide (burnt lime)

½ blue pumpkin (winter squash)

1 kg (2 lb 4 oz) caster (superfine) sugar

2 cardamom pods

2 cloves

2 cinnamon sticks

135 g (4¾ oz/½ cup) tahini

115 g (4 oz/1 cup) chopped walnuts

125 ml (4 fl oz/½ cup) thick (double) cream

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

Put the calcium hydroxide in a bucket with 10 litres (2 gal) of water. Leave to settle overnight.

Skim any skin off the surface of the bucket of water and discard. Scoop 3 litres 105 fl oz/ 12 cups) of water from the top, without disturbing the sediment at the bottom, and transfer to a large bowl. Discard the rest of the liquid. Peel the half pumpkin and cut into about thirty square pieces, roughly 4 cm (1½ in) across and 1 cm (½ in) thick. Put the pumpkin in the bowl and soak for 24 hours.

Thoroughly wash the pumpkin under cold running water for 5 minutes. Put any pumpkin offcuts in the bottom of a wide saucepan, then spread the pumpkin squares on top. Add the sugar. Close the lid and leave to rest for another 24 hours.

Crack the cardamom pods. Add all the spices to the pumpkin and sugar mixture. Put the pan over medium heat and cook for 5 minutes with the lid off. Cover with the lid, reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove the lid and boil for 5 more minutes on high heat. Remove from the heat and leave to cool. Discard the cloves, cardamom pods and cinnamon sticks.

To serve, stack five squares of pumpkin on each plate, in a pattern that pleases your eye. Drizzle tahini over the top. Mix the cream and cinnamon together in a bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of the cream mixture on top of each pumpkin pattern, sprinkle with walnuts and serve.



You could have eaten this dish 2000 years ago in Anatolia. The world’s first cherry growing and the world’s first quince growing happened there. Writings from 72 BC discuss how the military leader Lucullus brought a cultivated cherry to Rome from a part of the empire called Pontus in northeastern Anatolia. The Romans at the time were happy to combine it with their quinces stewed in honey.

The Ottoman chefs made a habit of stewing fruits with sugar syrup and combining them with kaymak. The secret here is to cook very slowly and include the skins and the cores of the quinces while simmering, to enhance the pink colouring the Ottomans loved.


100 g (3½ oz/½ cup) frozen sour cherries

4 quinces

juice of 1 lemon

1 cinnamon stick

5 cloves

660 g (1 lb 7 oz/3 cups) sugar

16 walnut kernels

125 g (4½ oz/½ cup) kaymak (or thick/double cream)

Take the cherries out of the freezer about 1 hour before you want to serve the dish.

Peel the skin off the quinces and reserve the skin. Halve the peeled quinces, lengthways, and remove the hard cores. Reserve the cores.

Put the lemon juice and 1 litres (35 fl oz/4 cups) of water in a bowl. This will stop the quinces from going brown.

Lay the quince skins, shiny side down, in the bottom of a wide saucepan. Place the cinnamon stick, cloves and cores on top. Put the quinces, cut side up, on top of the spices. Put 3 tablespoons of the sugar on each quince half. Pour 500 ml (17 fl oz/2 cups) of water into the pan around the quinces, being careful not to cover the quinces or wash the sugar off. Put the lid on the pan and simmer for 1 hour until the quinces are pink and soft.

Mix 110 g (3¾ oz/½ cup) of the sugar with about 25 sour cherries. Take the lid off the pot and place three cherries in each half quince. Cover again and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave to cool for 30 minutes—with the lid off if the quinces are soft, lid on if the quinces are still slightly firm.

Place the quinces on a serving platter. Put two walnuts on top of each quince.

Add a dollop of kaymak or thick cream on top of each quince. Drizzle about 1 tablespoon of the cooking liquid over the quinces and serve.



There is constant debate about the ownership of this dish between the neighbouring cities Antakya, Adana and Mersin. I prefer to eat the Antakya version (bigger and cheesier), but I will not take sides in the origin argument, because all three cities have many citizens of Syrian ancestry and there are versions of this dish all over the Arab world. So the Turkish ownership debate maybe academic.

There are cheeses made in those towns specifically to go inside künefe. The challenge in making the dish outside Turkey is to find the right cheese—fresh, low in salt and able to ooze when heated. I like to use buffalo mozzarella.



440 g (15½ oz/2 cups) sugar

1 tablespoon lemon juice


300 g (10½ oz) fresh buffalo mozzarella (or unsalted mozzarella)

500 g (1 lb 2 oz) kadayıf pastry

200 g (7 oz/1 cup) ghee

125 ml (4 fl oz/½ cup) grape molasses

70 g (2½ oz/½ cup) finely ground pistachios

First make the syrup, so it has time to cool. Put the sugar and 500 ml (9 fl oz/2 cups) of cold water in a saucepan and bring to the boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat and simmer for 8 minutes. Add the lemon juice and simmer for 1 more minute. Remove from the heat and leave to cool to room temperature.

Roughly chop the mozzarella. Roughly cut the kadayıf pastry into chunks. Put the pastry in a bowl with half the ghee and mix with your hands until completely combined. Divide the buttered pastry into two balls.

Brush the grape molasses and a little ghee onto the base of a frying pan (or divide into smaller frying pans to make individual künefe). Spread half the pastry over the pan, pressing it down with the (clean) base of another pan. Spread the mozzarella evenly over the pastry, and spread the other half of the pastry over the mozzarella. Press down again on the second layer of pastry.

Place the pan over medium heat. After about 6 minutes, as the bottom is turning golden brown, turn the künefe out onto a plate, and then put it back into the pan with the uncooked side down. Cook the second side for a further 4 minutes. Turn off the heat and slice the künefe into four segments. Pour the cold syrup over the segments.

Divide the künefe between each plate, sprinkle with pistachios and serve.

Across Turkey, restaurants with 500 seats are not uncommon. This one is Bayazhan in Gaziantep.



More than half the world’s dried figs and dried apricots come from Turkey, so of course we have to stuff them. Turkey is the fourth-biggest producer of walnuts in the world, and the number-eight almond producer. So of course they’d be the best nuts for the stuffing.


500 ml (9 fl oz/2 cups) milk

1 cinnamon stick

4 cloves

8 dried figs

60 g (2¼ oz/½ cup) walnuts

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

2 tablespoons grape molasses

2 tablespoons sugar

8 dried apricots

1 tablespoon almond meal

1 teaspoon icing (confectioners’) sugar

2 tablespoons pouring (whipping) cream

2 tablespoons pistachio kernels

Heat the milk, cinnamon stick and cloves in a saucepan over medium heat and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat. Remove the stalks from the figs. Rest the figs in the warm milk for 30 minutes.

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

Roughly chop the walnuts. Remove the figs from the milk with a slotted spoon and place on a board. Open the figs with a teaspoon and stuff 1 teaspoon of chopped walnuts inside. Mix the oil and molasses together in a bowl and then brush over the figs. Place the figs on a baking tray and cook for 10 minutes until soft. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.

Meanwhile, put the sugar and 250 ml (9 fl oz/ 1 cup) of water in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Add the apricots, reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave to cool. Remove the apricots from the syrup and leave to drain on paper towel.

Mix the almond meal, icing sugar and cream together in a bowl. Make a pocket in each apricot with a teaspoon and stuff 1 heaped teaspoon of the cream and almond mixture inside. Use the teaspoon to smooth the exposed stuffing. Finely chop the pistachios and roll the cream side of each apricot in the pistachio pieces.

Serve two figs and two apricots per person.



This is not a deconstruction of a traditional dish, but a sensible reconstruction of a bastardised one. Some fashionable restaurants in Istanbul are now serving ice cream (either vanilla or sahlep) covered with a dome of warm semolina helva. Some of them even name it ‘Sultan’s helva’ to add vintage credibility. I don’t get it. For me, a good semolina helva should be warm and crumbly, so you can’t make a dome out of it. And a good ice cream should be firm and cold, not half melted.

I’ve made the assumption that most home cooks don’t have an ice cream machine, so I’ve explained here how to make what the Italians call a semifreddo, using raspberries and yoğurt.



6 eggs

220 g (7¾ oz/1 cup) sugar

500 ml (9 fl oz/2 cups) whipping cream

2 tablespoons plain yoğurt

1 punnet (200 g/7 oz) raspberries


200 g (7 oz) butter

2 tablespoons pine nuts

285 g (10 oz/1½ cups) fine semolina

250 ml (9 fl oz/1 cup) milk

220 g (7¾ oz/1 cup) sugar

First make the iced yoğurt. Separate the eggs. You are going to use all six yolks and three of the whites. Blend the egg yolks and the sugar together in a bowl. Put the cream in a kitchen mixer and blend until thick. Fold the egg yolk mixture into the cream. Whisk three egg whites until peaks form. Gently fold into the yolk mixture. Fold in the yoğurt. Finally, fold in the raspberries, reserving a few to serve.

Line four cups (half-filled if you want dome shapes), a rectangular tray (if you want to slice the iced yoğurt to serve), or any container you prefer, with plastic wrap, making sure the wrap overhangs the sides. Using a wooden spoon, push the mixture into the moulds and then place in the freezer overnight.

About 30 minutes before you want to serve this dessert, make the helva. Melt the butter in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the pine nuts and cook for 3 minutes, tossing constantly to evenly brown. Add the semolina and brown for 10 minutes, stirring constantly.

In a separate pan, mix the milk, sugar and 250 ml (9 fl oz/1 cup) of water, and bring to the boil over low heat. Immediately pour the boiling mixture over the semolina and continue to stir for about 10 minutes, until all the liquid is absorbed.

To serve, put one iced yoğurt dome (or a thick slice) on each plate and surround it with warm helva. Decorate with fresh raspberries and serve quickly, so the iced yoğurt does not melt.



Güllaç is thought to be the original form of baklava, which was turned into a more elaborate dish by the chefs in the palaces of the Ottoman sultans. For eleven months of the year in Turkey it is almost impossible to find sheets of güllaç—a fine dried pastry made of cornflour (cornstarch). That’s because it’s an ingredient associated with the banquet served after sunset during the fasting month of Ramadan.

I used to serve güllaç in my restaurant for one month of the year. Then Owen, a Chinese chef who had worked with me since I opened my restaurant, showed me a round of rice paper that was readily available in all Asian supermarkets. It’s smaller than the traditional güllaç sheets, but combined with milk, rosewater and nuts, it makes a desert which, to me, tastes even better than the cornflour version and is probably healthier. It’s also appropriate that a Chinese person was responsible for my improved recipe. The first recorded mention of güllaç in the world was in a fourteenth century Chinese text called Yinshan Zhenyao, written by a doctor of Turkish origin in the court of the Yuan dynasty.


75 g (22/3 oz/½ cup) hazelnuts

75 g (22/3 oz/½ cup) pistachios

500 ml (9 fl oz/2 cups) milk

110 g (3¾ oz/½ cup) sugar

½ teaspoon rosewater

½ pack (12 sheets) rice papers, about 20 cm (8 in) wide

25 pomegranate seeds

Using a grinder or a food processor, coarsely crush the hazelnuts. Finely crush the pistachios.

Put the milk and sugar in a saucepan over low heat and gently heat for 5 minutes to combine, being careful not to let the mixture boil. Remove from the heat and stir in the rosewater.

Put 2 tablespoons of the milk mixture in a deep round serving dish, then layer the rice papers, one at a time, shiny side up. Spread 2 tablespoons of warm milk mixture over each sheet as you go.

After the first three layers, sprinkle on half the hazelnuts. After three more layers, sprinkle on half the pistachios. After three more layers, sprinkle on the other half of the hazelnuts and, three layers after that, sprinkle on the remaining pistachios. Sprinkle the pomegranate seeds over the pistachios. Put the lid on the dish, then refrigerate for 1 hour.

Slice the milky baklava into quarters and then serve chilled.



The Italians use the term zuppa inglese (English soup) for a dessert made with custard and sponge finger biscuits (known to the English as trifle). The French use the term crème anglaise for what the English call custard. In Turkey, the dish called supangle (pronounced ‘soup anglais’) is made with slices of sponge and chocolate custard. Therefore I feel entitled to torture the language further by calling my mixture of chocolate custard and coffee-soaked biscuits zuppa turca.



2 teaspoons Turkish coffee

50 g (1¾ oz) sugar

30 ml (1 fl oz) mastic liqueur (or white Sambuca)

30 ml (1 fl oz) Kahlua

12 sponge finger biscuits (also called ladyfingers or, in Turkey, cat’s tongues)


500 ml (9 fl oz/2 cups) milk

110 g (3¾ oz/½ cup) sugar

2 egg yolks

3 tablespoons cornflour (cornstarch)

1 tablespoon plain (all-purpose) flour

3 tablespoons dark cocoa

150 g (5½ oz) dark chocolate (70 per cent cocoa)


1 tablespoon ground pistachios

½ tablespoon shaved coconut

12 roasted coffee beans

First make a Turkish coffee in a cezve or small saucepan with 70 ml (2¼ fl oz) of water, the Turkish coffee and 1 teaspoon of the sugar. Place a piece of muslin (cheesecloth) in a tea strainer. Strain the coffee through the muslin four times, to remove all the grains.

Now make a sugar syrup. Stir the remaining sugar and 80 ml (2½ fl oz/1/3 cup) of water together in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave to cool to room temperature.

Combine the coffee with the mastic liqueur, Kahlua and sugar syrup. Spread the sponge fingers in a single layer in a baking dish. Pour over the coffee mixture and then rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.

To make the topping, warm the milk in a saucepan over low heat. Add the sugar to 125 ml (4 fl oz/ ½ cup) of the warm milk mixture in a bowl and whisk in the egg yolks and two flours, until smooth. Pour the egg yolk mixture into the pan, stirring constantly. Add the cocoa. Simmer for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Shave the chocolate into the mixture and stir. As soon as the chocolate has melted in, turn off the heat.

Place a layer of soaked sponge fingers in the bottom of four pudding bowls (glass, ideally). Pour the chocolate mixture over the top.

Chill the bowls in the fridge for 1 hour. Decorate with shaved coconut, roasted coffee beans and pistachios, and serve.

The pebbly shoreline and a big high tide at the end of the day in Bodrum.



This is a kind of answer to the question, ‘Do they cook with turkey in Turkey?’ The normal answer is ‘not often’, and then only on New Year’s Eve in westernised families. There is, however, a traditional Ottoman desert called tavuk göğsü, apparently with ancient Roman origins, that uses shredded chicken breast. I decided to see if turkey breast would work as well.

But first let’s talk about the bird. It originated in South America, and the first Europeans who saw it thought it was a form of guineafowl—a game bird they imagined came from Turkey. So they brought it to England under the name ‘turkey fowl’. The French thought it came from India, so they called it dinde (which translates as from India’). When the bird first arrived in Turkey, it was known as Egyptian fowl’, but the Turks later followed the French and ‘corrected’ the name to hindi, which means ‘Indian’. In India, the bird is called peru, which is the closest to its real origin.

Anyway, the bird under any name works better than chicken in this dish, because of its bland taste, and we can safely call this a turkey pudding as well as a Turkey pudding.


1 turkey breast (the fresher the better)

1 litre (35 fl oz/4 cups) milk

1 vanilla pod

220 g (7¾ oz/1 cup) sugar

2 tablespoons cornflour (cornstarch)

2 tablespoons rice flour

1 teaspoon butter

2 pieces mastic crystal

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Wash the breast under cold running water for 2 minutes. Pat dry with paper towel, then wrap in plastic wrap and freeze overnight.

Put the frozen turkey breast in a saucepan, cover with water and boil for 50 minutes over medium heat until fully cooked. Transfer the turkey to a bowl of iced water for 1½ hours. Change the iced water every half hour, rinsing the breast each time. Put the turkey in the freezer for 1 hour to chill. Remove and set aside for 1 hour.

Shred the rested turkey meat into hair-thin pieces, discarding any thicker, tougher shreds. (It’s no problem if you have to discard half the breast.)

Put the milk in a large saucepan. Slit the vanilla pod and add to the milk. Add the sugar. Warm for 5 minutes over medium heat. Scoop 250 ml (9 fl oz/1 cup) of the milk into a bowl, add the cornflour and rice flour and whisk to combine. Pour the flour mixture into the pan, constantly whisking. Add the butter and mastic, and whisk for 2 minutes, or until the mixture thickens. Remove the pan from the heat. Remove the vanilla pod and discard. Add the turkey shreds. Whisk for 5 minutes. Pour the mixture into a 20 x 30 cm (8 x 12 in) baking tray and rest in the fridge for 3 hours to set.

Remove the tray from the fridge. You should now have a soft rectangular mat. Slice along the mat, once, and across the mat twice, to make six slabs. Transfer the slabs onto six plates. Use a spatula to fold each slab in half. Decorate with cinnamon powder and serve cold.


This is not a definitive list of the ‘best’ visiting experiences in Istanbul, but a rough guide to the places I like to visit when I return to my home town. Bear in mind that Istanbul is divided by the Bosphorus Strait, between ‘the European side’ and ‘the Asian side’. I grew up on the Asian side (in the waterside suburb of Kadıköy). Most tourists stay on the European side, which is their loss.


Van Kahvaltı Evi is the restaurant that started the big breakfast phenomenon in Istanbul. Arrive early and arrive hungry! I’m yet to see anyone yet who can clear the entire meal, but it’s the best introduction to the eastern Turkish way of starting the day.

Address: Defterdar Yokuşu No. 52/A, Cihangir, Beyoğlu

Phone: 0212 293 6437

Çakmak Kahvaltı Salonu is one of the oldest breakfast houses in the Beşiktaş area, still pumping with locals and a few tourists who discovered this gem. It specialises in clotted cream with honey, local cheeses, eggs with spicy sausage and kavurma (a kind of meat stew) and it stays open for brunch and lunch.

Address: Akmaz Çeşme Sokak No. 20, Beşiktaş

Phone: 0212 227 25 65

Kale Café opened in 1982 and started the trend of breakfast on the Bosphorus—classics such as mememen or eggs with sucuk. Views are to die for.

Address: Yahya Kemal Cad. No. 2 Rumelihisarı

Phone: 0212 265 6563

Website: www.kalecafe.com


Çiya means not one but three restaurants under the command of Musa Dağdeviren, whose research and skill put regional Anatolian food on the map long before any other chef in Turkey cared for it. The three Çiyas alone are enough reason to visit the bustling markets of Kadıköy, but I suggest you sample the many food wonders there, if you have any room left after Musa’s menu.

Address: Caferağa Mh., Güneşli Bahçe Sk No. 43, Kadıköy

Phone: 0216 330 3190

Website: www.ciya.com.tr

Kantin has a beautiful room, style and service, but it’s the uncompromising honesty of Şemsa Denizsel’s food, based on season and freshness, that impress me most in this local bistro in the posh suburb of Nişantaşi.

Address: Akkavak Sokaği No. 30, Nişantaşı

Phone: 0212 219 3114

Website: www.kantin.biz

Hacı Abdullah is a traditional Ottoman/home-style eatery, run for 120 years by the same family. Their olive oil-braised vegetable dishes (zeytinyağlılar) are particularly good.

Address: Ağa Camii Atıf Yılmaz Cad. No. 9/A Beyoğlu

Phone: 0212 293 8561.

Website: www.haciabdullah.com.tr

Sultanahmet köftecisi Selim Usta is a cheap and delicious lunch pit-stop for köfte (meatballs), in the middle of the tourist hub called Sultanahmet, the oldest part of the city.

Address: No. 12 Divanyolu, Sultanahmet. Phone: 0212 520 0566

Website: www.sultanahmetkoftesi.com


Çiya Kebap is one of Musa Dağdeviren’s three restaurants in Kadıköy, offering char-grilled treats that change with the season and are authentic to their region of origin.

Address: Caferağa Mh., Güneşli Bahçe Sk No. 43, Kadıköy

Phone: 0216 330 3190

Website: www.ciya.com.tr

Antiocha is a small but very popular char-griller in the grungy and trendy area of Asmalımescit, with no reservations, specialising in the kebaps of southeastern Turkey.

Address: Asmalı Mescit Mah. Minare Sokak No. 21 Beyoğlu.

Phone: 0212 292 1100

Website: www.antiochiaconcept.com

Zübeyir caters for people who love to sit around the grill and receive whatever the chef passes over the counter.

Address: Şht. Muhtar Mh, Beyoğlu

Phone: 0212 293 3951


Poseidon offers top views of the Bosphorus, creatively grilling delicious local fish such as lufer, kalkan and levrek. Like anything in the affluent suburb of Bebek, it’s expensive. You can also dine at the Bebek Balıkçısı next door, if Poseidon is booked out.

Address: Cevdet Paşa Cad. No. 58 D:1 Küçük Bebek

Phone: 212 287 9531

Website: www.poseidonbebek.com

Karaköy Balıkçısı—Grifin has a beautiful vista of the old city and the Bosphorus, and has served high-quality fish and mezes for ninety years.

Address: Tersane Cad. Kardeşim Sk No. 30

Phone: 212 243 4080

Website: www.tarihikarakoybalikcisi.com

Bebek Balıkçısı is at Cevdet Paşa Cad. No. 26 Bebek

Phone: 212 263 3447

Website: www.bebekbalikci.net

İsmet Baba, on the Asian side of the Bosphorus, has a less spectacular view but great atmosphere: wooden walls, fish nets, pictures of generations of owners and local customers who look older than the restaurant (founded in 1951).

Address: Carsi Cad. iskelesi Yanı 1A, Üsküdar, Kuzguncuk

Phone: 0216 341 3375

Website: www.ismetbaba.com.tr


Özkonak is one of the few pudding shops that still use real chicken breast in their tavukgöğsü pudding. The chicken-free version, called kazandibi (bottom of the pan), is ideal for the less adventurous.

Address: Akarsu Caddesi 46B, Cihangir

Phone: 0212 249 1307

Markiz, in the tradition of the Orient-Express era, is one of the longest surviving Parisian style patisseries in Istanbul.

Address: İstiklal Cad. No. 360-362, Beyoğlu

Phone: 0212 245 8394

Güllüoğlu Baklava Shop in Karaköy is justly famous as one of the most authentic baklava houses outside Gaziantep.

Address: Katlı Otopark Altı, Karaköy

Phone: 0212 293 0910

Website: www.gulluoglu.biz


Imroz is the most interesting meyhane in a district where many meyhanes have second-rate food and gypsy musicians blowing trumpets in your ear.

Address: Nevizade Sk. No. 24 Balıkpazarı/ Beyoğlu

Phone: 0212 2499073

Website: www.krependekiimroz.com

Sofyalı 9 is my local when I visit Istanbul, because the food is consistent and it’s away from the bustle of the main Beyoğlu district.

Address: Asmalımescit Cad. Sofyalı Sk. No. 9 Beyoğlu

Phone: 0212 252 3810

Website: www.sofyali.com.tr/en/

Koço is a typical Greek meyhane, with the surprise of a small church inside the building. It was a drinking place for my grandad and my dad. I had many rakı-filled nights there and probably my son will follow the family tradition when he is of age.

Address: Moda Cad. No. 171 Kadıköy

Phone: 0216 336 0795

Website: http://kocorestaurant.net

Despina was a rare breed of female meyhane owner, who opened her place in 1946. Madame Despina is dead now, but her place kicks on with live traditional Turkish music every night.

Address: Açıkyol Sk. No. 9, Kurtuluş

Phone: 0212 247 3357

Duble mezebar is on the terrace of the Palazzo Donizetti Hotel in the historic Pera district, famous for modern mezes (well translated on the English menu), cool crowd and wonderful views.

Address: Palazzo Donizetti Hotel, Asmalımescit Caddesi No. 55, Kat 7, Beyoğlu

Phone: 0212 2440188


Sensus Şarap & Peynir is a wine, cheese and olive oil shop in a basement under the Anemon Hotel near the Galata Tower. They claim to have 300 Turkish wines available for tasting, along with interesting snacks to line the stomach.

Address: Bereketzade Mah. Büyükhendek Cad. No. 5, Galata

Phone: 0212 245 5657


Mikla is the best known 'New Anatolian’ fine diner in the city, created by Mehmet Gürs on top of the Marmara Pera Hotel. Go just before sunset and have panoramic pre-dinner drinks on the rooftop.

Address: The Marmara Pera Hotel, Meşrutiyet Cad.Tepebaş Beyoğlu

Phone: 0212 293 5656

Website: www.miklarestaurant.com

Yeni Lokanta translates as ‘new bistro’, but its chef, Civan Er, ran the famous Changa restaurant before switching to a more relaxed style.

Address: İstiklal Caddesi Kumbaracı Yokuşu No. 66, Beyoğlu

Phone: 0212 292 25 50

Website: www.lokantayeni.com

Asitane is the best and most authentic of the Ottoman revival restaurants, located next door to Kariye museum.

Address: Derviş Ali Mh., Kariye Cami Sk No:6, 34240 Edirnekapı.

Phone: 0212 534 8414

Website: www.asitanerestaurant.com

neolokal is the creation of Maksut Aşkar, who is brave enough to display his team in an open kitchen, creating light adventurous dishes with a focus on regionality and sustainability.

Address: SALT Galata Bankalar Cad. No. 11, Karaköy

Phone: 0212 249 8930

Website: www.neolokal.com


The eating never stops in Istanbul. There are street sellers with queues around the block at 4 o’clock in the morning. But the best of late dining is in places called işkembeci—offal eateries that sell everything from tripe soup to whole roasted sheep’s head.

There are iskembeci in every neighbourhood, generally open from dusk till dawn. The best is Apik in the suburb called Dolapdere. This is not a tourist destination, so you should go there in a cab, have your soup, and get out of there in a cab.

My favourite street-hawker dish is kokoreç, a kind of sausage made with sheep intestines spiced with chilli flakes, oregano and cumin..

Other stalls sell midye dolma—fresh mussels in their shells, stuffed with aromatic rice.

And then of course there’s simit, sourdough pretzels dipped in molasses and sesame, which cure the munchies at any time of the day.

And these are the top three foodie things to do that don’t involve eating.

The Spice Market is overwhelmingly touristy with hagglers and pushy storekeepers, but an oasis can be found at Area 51—Bilge Kadıoğlu’s Ucuzcular shop. Bilge is the only female shop owner and speaks perfect English. She does not have higher prices for tourists and the quality of her spices is exceptional.

The Topkapı Palace kitchens keep closing for renovations, but they are supposed to be opened in 2015.

Kadıköy Market is not your average shopping mall. It’s crammed with specialist shops selling nuts, pickles, offal, oils and pastries.


Expensive: If you’re rich and have an interest in twentieth-century history, try the Pera Palace in Beyoğlu, where the travellers on the Orient Express, including Agatha Christie, stayed in the 1920s.


Also at a high price, you might prefer a former prison, the Four Seasons in Sultanahmet (www.fourseasons.com/istanbul), or a former Ottoman palace, Ciragan Palas, on the Bosphorus

Website: www.kempinski.com/en/istanbul/ ciragan-palace/welcome

Medium price (and stylish design): There are four House Hotels, in Bosphorus, Galatasaray, Nisantasi and Karakoy.

Website: www.thehousehotel.com


Metanet, near the central market, is a lokanta where you can eat fiery lamb soup (beyran) for breakfast, and where they also do an excellent lahmacun (thin-crust pizza) closer to lunchtime.

Address: Kozluca Mahallesi, Kozluca Cad. No: 11

Phone: 0342 231 4666

Yörem, under a suburban apartment block a short cab ride from the old town centre, is where Hatice Kalan serves a variety of home-style dishes, including the legendary storyteller soup (yuvalama).

Address: İncilipınar Mah. 3. Cad. 15. Sk. Ali Bey Apt. No.2/C

Phone: 0 342 230 5000.

Zekeriya Usta is where Mehmet Ozsimitci makes crisp katmer pancakes stuffed with pistachios and clotted cream. He closes at midday. It’s in an arcade in the new part of Gaziantep, so you’ll need to get a cab and show these details.

Address: Katmerci Zekeriya Usta. Çukur Mahallesi, Körükçü Sk, B. Hilmi Geçidi 16/C-D, Gaziantep

Phone: 0342 230 0971

Ali Haydar makes liver kebaps for breakfast. He opens at 6 am, closing before 8 am just on the outskirts of the castle.

Address: Yaprak Mh. Dere Kenarı Sk, Tabakane Mevkii

İmam Çağdaş does great kebaps and perfect baklava near Gaziantep’s central market.

Address: Uzun Çarşı 49, Sahinbey

Phone: 0342 231 2678


Orfoz, just off the main beach, is where the Bozçağa brothers play endless variations on local seafood in convenient meze portions.

Address: Kumbahçe Mah. Cumhuriyet Cad. No.177B

Phone: 0252 316 4285

Website: http://www.orfoz.net

No longer grinding flour for pide, these eighteenth century windmills are scattered over the hills behind Bodrum, on the Aegean coast.

Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia and surrounding mosques at dusk.