Knowing my love of travel and passion trying new international foods, Expedia recently invited me to participate in their World on a Plate challenge featuring Turkey. I’ve not yet had the opportunity to visit Turkey, but I’ve heard great things and seen some amazing photographs that left me in a state of serious wanderlust. When I thought about Turkish food, the first thing that came to mind were Kebabs and kofta’s. Now I enjoy a good kebab every now and again just as much as the next person, but I decided to delve a bit deeper and see what other foods Turkish cuisine has on offer.
Emek olmadan yemek olmaz.
Without effort there is no food.
~Turkish food proverb
While nibbling on a Turkish meze of olives and yaprak sarma (wrapped vine leaves filled with rice, onion and various spices such as mint, pepper and cinnamon) I decided to cook a main dish using eggplants that fit somewhere between two traditional dishes, kuru Patlıcan Dolması and karniyarik. Vegetables are used in many Turkish dishes and are known as sarma if they are wrapped (like the vine leaves) or dolma if they are stuffed.
In the Southern part of Turkey when it is peak eggplant (aubergine) season, they are dried into hollowed shells to use in winter when they are out of season. Typically they are rehydrated and then stuffed with either a rice or meat-based filling – known as dolma. I wasn’t able to get my hands on any dried eggplant shells so I used fresh eggplants that I hollowed out, similar to other parts of Turkey.
Traditionally karniyarik (meaning split belly) are heavily fried in oil. I made mine less greasy but by no means less tasty by roasting rather than deep frying. I first split the eggplants in half and removed the centre which I chopped up finely and added to the meat filling (along with some finely chopped zucchini). I heated the oven to 180°C with a few tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in a roasting pan. Once the oil was hot, I added the hollowed eggplant and capsicums into the roasting tin and let them cook in the oven for 5-10 minutes, using a pastry brush to spread a little bit of the hot oil over the vegetables. Once they began to soften slightly I then filled them with the meat filling and returned into the oven for another 5-10 minutes to complete cooking.
The meat filling used an intriguing combination of sumac and lemon zest which was absolutely fantastic and left a mouth watering aroma in my kitchen. They aren’t ingredients I would have previously thought to have combined with beef mince, but it was definitely a combo I’ll be adding to my recipe book to make again another day.
I’ve had a some freekah siting in my cupboard to try for quite a while, so when I realised that this ancient grain is commonly eaten in Turkey I thought it a perfect excuse to try it out. A side dish of Turkish freekah pilaf was made loosely based upon this recipe with chickpeas and some kale thrown in for some added green goodness. Served with some Taze Fasulye (green beans cooked with onion, tomato and cumin), this was a delicious and flavoursome meal.
Dessert was some sweet treats of with a cup of Turkish tea. Baklava with it’s flaky pastry and pistachio was a must, and also some fried sweet dough called tulumba. I opted for ready-made versions on this occasion but perhaps one day I’ll put my hand to making these myself! They are syrupy sweet so a couple tiny pieces is definitely enough.
I love the flavours and intensity of Turkish cuisine and since I’ve been working my way cooking around the world in my Taste the World series, this challenge definitely suited my taste buds!
Let me know where you think I should travel to next and feel free to share some local recipes if you have some!
- Pilaf with sweet peas – Binnurs Turkish Cookbook
- Adana Style Stuffed Eggplants and Zucchinis (Adana Usulü Patlıcan ve Kabak Dolması) – Almost Turkish recipes
- Dried Eggplant Dolma (Kuru Patlıcan Dolması) – Almost Turkish recipes
- Dried eggplant & pepper dolma with ground meat and spiced rice – Ozlem’s Turkish Table
- Split aubergine with minced meat filling (Karniyarik) –
- Stuffed eggplants (Karniyarik) – Almost Turkish recipes
- Turkish pilaf with chickpeas – Chef in disguise
- Turkish freekah pilau with chickpeas and wild greens – The Taste Space
- Turkish Green Beans (Zeytinyağlı Taze Fasulye) – Almost Turkish recipes
Disclaimer: Expedia sponsored this post as part of their ‘World on a Plate‘ challenge featuring Turkey. As always, all posts represent my own opinions and have not been swayed in any way. Please see my disclosure policy for further details.