Istanbul, Turkey Recipes
Sat between two continents with vast histories of culinary influence, it’s no surprise that Turkish food recipes are famously unique, exotic and full of flavour. Varying across the country, they are essentially a refined blend and fusion of Central Asian, Middle Eastern, Eastern European, Armenian and Balkan cuisines. Naturally, we couldn’t resist putting a few of our favourite recipes together for you.
First up, one of the most well known and much loved Turkish food recipes - köfte. In other words, meatballs. You’ll find there are many different versions with a variety of shapes (not always round) but more often than not, they’re always made with ground lamb as is the case with our recipe here. It’s a recipe that has been around since ancient times with the actual word deriving from the Persian word ‘k?fta’ which means ‘to beat’ or ‘to grind’, or simply “meatball”.
As you pound the lamb with onion and garlic, you’ll be adding in our ground cinnamon, dried chillies and Baharat spice mix containing paprika, black peppercorns, cumin, cloves, coriander seed, cinnamon, cayenne, nutmeg and cardamom. Middle Eastern chefs and home cooks reach for Baharat to add a pleasant kick of spice with its punchy, bold and vibrant flavours.
Of course, no köfte is complete until you pair it with some delicious festive rice. We made this recipe using saffron threads which, as you may well know, is the most expensive spice in the world, due to its complex harvesting process. Hand-picked from the Crocus Sativa plant on the fertile La Mancha plateau in Spain, it’s estimated that it takes 250,000 flowers to make just one kilo of threads. It’s called festive rice for a reason. Only use it on those special occasions!
The threads add a delicate yet intensely warm, musky flavour with a sweet aroma, whilst the ground allspice brings you a peppery mix of flavours, reminiscent of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.
Next, you’ve got the cucumber and yogurt salad. You’ll find these types of yogurt-based salads throughout Turkish food recipes and with good reason. They’re incredibly easy to make and play the important role of helping to balance out the kick from all those spices, keeping you cooled off. For thousands of years, yogurt has been an indispensable element on Turkish tables, consumed both plain or as a side dish. It’s a crucial part of the cuisine.
As a sweet treat at the end, we’ve got you covered with Baklava. If you’ve been fortunate enough to walk the streets of Istanbul or any other part of Turkey for that matter, you will know all about Baklava. It’s a rich, sweet dessert pastry made of layers of filo filled with chopped nuts and sweetened and held together with lemon syrup. Every bit as delicious as it sounds.
It’s widely believed that its current form was developed in the imperial kitchens of the Topkap? Palace in Istanbul. The Sultan presented trays of baklava to the Janissaries every 15th of the month of Ramadan in a ceremonial procession called the ‘Baklava Alayi’. If it was good enough for the Sultan and Turkish royalty, it’s good enough for us.