Saturday, January 19, 2019

Turkish White Cheese (Beyaz Peynir)

This recipe was prepared over a year ago and I had an issue with the program I was using for the pictures after changing computers. I never got a chance to get back to what I was using before, so I decided to publish these not so great pictures as they are instead of waiting any longer. I had a few more pictures illustrating the the process, but it may take another year for me to work on those! I think it's better to publish the recipe before I forget about all together!

White cheese is a very important staple in Turkish cuisine. No Turkish breakfast is complete without white cheese. It is eaten widely through out Turkey whether it is plain for breakfast with bread or as a filling for various types of boreks and pastries. It can also be used in different types of dishes such as Mediterranean salads, zucchini fritters and etc.

Every time I visit a Turkish store, I buy several containers of Turkish white cheese for breakfast and boreks. It can be confused with feta which is very similar but not the same. I used to think they were the same. They keep for a long time so it is convenient in that way.

Th last time my mother visited me, she made white cheese for us and I truly didn’t believe it would be similar to the store bought one. To my surprise, it was pretty close! I loved the taste and the texture. After she left, I made it several times and it turned out pretty well. Now, I rarely buy Turkish cheese anymore.

I have not used the regular store bought milk to make this yet, but I would think it should turn out the same. I use either the raw or the low pasteurized grass fed Jersey cow whole milk that I buy from my local farmer. It makes a difference in the taste for sure but store bought whole milk should be fine too.

Enjoy as stuffing for pastries, as topping on toast or just on Mediterranean salad!

Turkish White Cheese (Beyaz Peynir)

1 gallon whole milk
3 cups plain whole milk yogurt
6 cups water
2 tbsp salt
1 large cheese cloth
1 medium glass jar

In a large pot, boil milk. Monitor milk while boiling to prevent it from spilling over. Placing a large spoon or spatula inside prevents it from spilling.

As soon as it boils, pour in the yogurt and let boil for a few minutes until it starts to get a thick curd.

Turn it off and let it cool for 30 minutes to one hour.

Place the cheese cloth inside a large colander and place the colander inside a pot if you would like to save the whey (all the water from the milk/yogurt). The whey can be used for smoothies, cooking rice or other types of grain and carries good nutritional value. Otherwise, just place the colander in the sink to drain. Pour the boiled milk/yogurt inside the cheese cloth and tie the cheese cloth.

Place the cheese cloth with the curd in a colander and put heavy objects on it to press it and squeeze all the liquid out.

Leave it for about four hours until all liquid has drained out.

In the mean time, boil water. After it boils, add the salt and mix until the salt has melted.
Let it cool completely.

Open the cheese cloth and cut it in squares or rectangles.

Place the salty water in a glass jar. Put in the cheese pieces and close the jar.

Place in the refrigerator. It will be ready to eat in 2-3 days. This will keep in the refrigerator up to four weeks but is fresher if it is eaten within 2-3 weeks.

Note: Do not keep this more than 4 weeks as it will get sour and not edible. Also, do not store leftover cheese in the refrigerator without the salty water. It will go bad immediately!

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Homemade Butter (Ev Yapımı Tereyağı)

For years, I have been craving homemade butter. Growing up, I remember observing my grandmother make butter with a tall, round, wooden butter maker. I call it butter maker, because I do not know the name of it. I remember her shaking it vigorously for a long time to make the butter. The butter making process stayed vaguely with me however my collection of the taste of that butter is still vividly in my mind.

I almost thought it was impossible to make homemade butter like my grandmother here in the United States. Mainly, because I wasn’t sure of the access to raw milk from grass fed cows but after a few years of thinking about it (of course I had other things to think about during those years and not just butter making J), I finally I found the source of raw milk.

After having my children, I became almost obsessed with providing them with real and fresh food. A very bad experience with the famous store that carries a wide range of organic foods, grass fed meats and pasture raised chicken had me in a constant search for an organic food provider. After wowing not to ever shop in that store again, I started searching for farmers around my area. I tried a couple farmers until I stumbled on a farmer that provides raw milk, grass fed beef, pasture raised chickens, free range chicken, duck, goose eggs, organic vegetables and a few other items. Even though the drive is about 35 minutes each way, I visit the farm almost weekly and always buy at least two gallons of raw milk. I make yogurt with one gallon and I save one gallon for my kids to drink after I boil it. When the cream comes up to the top, I add it to the milk saved for yogurt.

I make the yogurt and place it in the refrigerator. Then, each week, I skim the cream from top of the yogurt in small containers and freeze them. When I am ready to make the butter, I remove them from the refrigerator the day before to thaw. Sometimes I make a big batch of butter and freeze some of it, sometimes I make just enough for one week. The freezer always has at least 4-5 medium containers of yogurt cream!

This butter is so delicious, I cannot describe. It’s not even close to what we get from the grocery stores. Before I started my own butter, I used to cook only with olive oil and never with butter. I would only bake with butter because I had to in most cases. Now, I cook with this butter constantly. In fact when I was taking the picture with the bread, half the butter was already gone and I had made it the day before!

It’s easy but a little messy. The first few times I tried making butter, I tried several recipes I found online. I used my stand mixer to do it and oh the mess was so huge it took me longer to clean up than making the butter. First of all, the butter wasn’t successful the first few times and on top of that, my counters, walls, the stand mixer was all splashed with butter. In fact, some parts of the mixer that I didn’t know existed had butter all over it. And I had to get it all out. When I managed to make the butter in the stand mixer, I still had to deal with the clean up.
Then, I found a couple recipes using a blender, but those weren’t successful the first two times. Either I wasn’t patient enough to wait or I let it blend too long and it would melt or I was putting too much water. I went back to my stand mixer butter making and cleaning up the mess. Then one day, I decided to make a small batch with my blender and never went back to the stand mixer. I had to keep stopping it and checking it to make sure the butter pieces were forming. It literally takes two minutes to blend and much less mess.

If you don’t have any of the equipment and you have lots of patience, you could do this in a jar and lots of shaking. Also, cream of milk can be used instead of yogurt cream, but I think yogurt cream is superior in taste of the butter.  Whichever way you decide to make it, it will still be delicious though! In addition, with homemade butter, you will have buttermilk to drink as is or use in baking and cooking. Now to the recipe…

For Butter Making:

4 cups plain yogurt cream (Plain yogurt made with whole milk that still has cream in it. See yogurt recipe here.)
2 cups ice water

For Washing Butter:

4 cups or more ice water

Place the yogurt cream in a blender and add two cups of ice water. 

Blend on high for two minutes on a high powered blender. Some blenders may need more time. When it’s ready, small butter pieces will accumulate on the top of the blender.

Place a mesh colander in a large bowl and pour the contents of the blender. The butter pieces will stay on the colander. 

Slowly, start pouring the ice water over the butter and mix it with a spatula gently so all the water goes down in the bowl. 

Continue this washing process until there is no water left in the butter. The butter will clump up together and form a bowl while doing this.

Remove from colander and shape the butter as you desire. 

Enjoy cooking with it or eat it on warm homemade bread.

Note: The buttermilk from this process can be drank as is or used in baking or cooking.

Monday, May 29, 2017

The Sultan’s Delight (Hünkar Beğendi)

Finally, a recipe to share after a year! Life gets in the way and it becomes difficult to spend time on blogging. My hünkar beğendi recipe has been waiting for almost a year to be published. Now that it’s eggplant season again, I thought it’s a good time to share it.

You may be curious about the name of this recipe. It translates to “The Sultan Liked It”. One of the stories behind this recipe is that during the early 17th century, Sultan Murad IV loved this recipe so much that it was named “Hünkar Beğendi” which means “The Sultan Liked It”. The other story says that the wife of Napoleon III, Empress Eugénie of France visited Istanbul as a guest of Sultan Abdulaziz in 1869 and this dish was on the menu as the Sultan was trying to impress Empress Eugénie. She loved the dish so much that she asked if her chef could go to Palace kitchen and learn to prepare this dish. The Empress’ chef couldn’t replicate the recipe as he said the Palace chef threw out his books, scales and etc. and said, “an imperial chef cooks with his feelings, his eyes and his nose.” The Empress had to return to France without this recipe, but the name was after her liking the dish.

The lightness of this recipe is how it won me over. I wasn't impressed when I tried it at a restaurant the first time I had it. Even after having it again and again, I just wasn’t in love with it. It was just okay. I decided to make it anyway. The first time, it didn’t win me over. But I wanted to love it, so I worked on the recipe several times until I loved it! Even my four year olds liked the eggplant pure. It’s silky smooth and felt very light in my mouth. The summer season is upon us and it means lots of eggplants. I have been getting beautiful eggplants for the past couple of weeks from the farmer’s market here in Houston and experimenting with different recipes. I think this recipe is best with seasonal eggplants, but you can make it any time of the year if you wish. Enjoy with rice or a nice slice of bread.

For Marinating the Meat:

½ cup white vinegar or any type of vinegar
1 tsp salt

For the Stew:

1 lb diced lamb
½ cup diced onions
3 medium garlic cloves
2 large tomatoes (peeled and diced)
1 tsp dried mint
1 tbsp parsley
1 tbsp tomato paste
2 ½ tbsp butter
1 tsp red pepper flakes
½ tsp cumin
2 tsp salt
1 cup water

For the Puree:

2 large eggplants
1 ¼ cup milk
½ cup shredded kashkaval cheese (or any type of hard cheese)
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp flour
½ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp black pepper
1 ¼ tsp salt
1 clove garlic (grated)

For the Stew:

Marinate the meat over night or for a few hours in salt and vinegar. Heat a pot or large pan without oil and cook the meat until no longer pink. When all the juices from the meat comes out, discard it. Put the meat aside.

Heat the butter in a pot. Saute the onions until transparent. Add the meat and stir until the meat is brownish on the outside. Add the garlic and tomatoes. Cook for 3-4 minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients including water in the meat pot and cover. When it starts boiling, turn it down to medium low heat. Cook covered for about 2 hours until the meat is tender.

For the Puree:

Cook the eggplants on open fire. To attain the smoky flavor, it needs to be cooked directly over fire such as on gas stove or in an outdoor fire. If not, broiling or baking will work too without the smoky flavor.

Let the eggplants cool and peel them. 

Puree the eggplants with a potato masher and mix the lemon juice. Set aside.

Heat the butter. Add the flour and stir continuously. Add the milk and continue stirring. Add the grated garlic and the eggplant puree-lemon juice mixture. Add the rest of the ingredients for the puree and simmer for about 20 minutes.

In a large plate, place a couple spoons of the eggplant puree and make an opening in the middle. Add the lamb stew inside the opening and enjoy with rice or bread.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Ladies Thighs Meatballs (Kadınbudu Köfte)

It has been way too long since I have published a recipe on my blog. Life is busy with children, work and home. Most of the food I have been cooking is catered toward little children and don’t even have the time to document it let alone to take pictures and post. But this recipe really deserves some space on my blog. My children loved it and I couldn’t keep from having another and then another.

The name of this recipe might get your attention as it is named after women’s thighs. I did some research and tried to find out where it gets its name, but was not successful. I am guessing this was the name given during the Ottoman era because it resembled women’s thighs. In any case, these meatballs are so succulent and flavorful you will not be able to stop yourself from having another one.

Serve with fries or potato pure and salad. 

For the Meatballs:

2 lb ground beef
1 large onion (grated)
½ cup white rice
1½ cup water
1 egg
1 tbsp chopped parsley
2 tsp salt
¼ tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp paprika

For Frying:

1½ cup flour
3 eggs
2 cups olive oil

Wash the rice and place in a small saucepan. Add the water and cook. When the water starts to boil, turn it down to low and cook until all the water is absorbed and the rice is soft. Cool the rice by setting it aside.

In a pan, add half of the ground beef and cook in its own water until it’s no longer pink. Add the grated onions and cook for a 3-4 more minutes and remove from heat. Set aside and cool.

In a large bowl, add the raw ground beef, cooked ground beef, egg, cooked rice, parsley, salt, cumin, paprika and black pepper. Mix well with your hands until all the ingredients are integrated. Pull a golf sized piece of the meat mixture and make an oval shape and slightly press it down. Repeat this until all the meat mixture is used up. Refrigerate for at least two hours so that the meat balls become firmer.

Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan. Beat the eggs in a wide bowl. Place the flour in a wide plate or bowl. Once the oil is hot, take one meat ball, dip in the eggs and then in the flour and drop in the hot oil. Do not crowd the meat balls in the frying pan so they cook quickly. Frying a few minutes on each side is sufficient for the meat. The outside of the meatballs will take a golden color and will be crunchy while the inside will be flavorful, soft and moist.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Turkish Zucchini Fritters (Kabak Mücveri)

I have made mücver throughout the summer without following a recipe and each time making differently. This version, by far has been the tastiest one. Most of the time, I do not add white cheese and I think I will never make them again without it. The cheese adds such a wonderful flavor. I was already full when I made these, but I couldn’t resist so I ate two while making them. These are also great for little children who usually would not eat zucchinis. Enjoy!

3 zucchinis
1 medium onion
2 cloves garlic (optional)
½ cup chopped fresh parsley
½ cup crumbled Turkish white cheese (or feta)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp dried mint
1 tsp crushed red pepper
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp cumin
2 eggs
1 cup flour
1 cup olive oil

Peel the zucchinis in stripes and grate them along with the onion. Squeeze all the juice out from the zucchinis and the onion. Add the rest of the ingredients except the olive oil. Mix well.

Heat about ¼ cup of oil and place spoonful of the zucchini mixture. 

Cook several minutes on each side until both sides are golden brown. 

Remove and add another ¼ cup of olive oil for the next batch. Repeat this until all the olive oil and the zucchini mixture is used up.

Serve with yogurt garlic sauce (crushed garlic mixed with yogurt) at room temperature.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Kebab Stuffed in Eggplant Pots (Saksı Kebabı)

I could not resist posting another eggplant recipe before the summer season is over. By chance, I found these beautiful looking, organic eggplants and I had to buy them. There are so many Turkish recipes with eggplants, so I like to try something different each time. This recipe I have not made before, but after tasting its deliciousness, I will make it more often. It goes excellent with crusty bread or rice or both!

5 large eggplants (black beauty found in most grocery stores works perfect)
Pot of salty water
2 cups olive oil for frying

For Kebab Stuffing:

1.5 lb cubed beef
8 shishito peppers (or 2-3 long, slim green peppers)
4 medium tomatoes (peeled and diced)
1 large onion (diced)
2 large cloves garlic (chopped)
¼ cup olive oil
½ tsp cumin
½ tsp thyme
2 tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper
2 cups of water

For Sauce:

2 cups water
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp salt

For Garnish:

2 sliced tomatoes (optional)
10 shishito peppers (or 2-3 long, slim green peppers)

Heat a pan and place beef cubes. Cook until they release their water and remove from heat. In a pot, heat up olive oil. 

Add onions and sauté for 3-4 minutes. Add peppers and diced tomatoes. Saute another 3-4 minutes. Add beef and garlic to the pot. Add two cups of water. Add salt, cumin, black pepper, thyme. Stir, cover and cook for 1 hour or until the beef is tender.

Wash and dry eggplants. Cut in half and clean inside to create a pot from each half. 

Add to the salty water and let sit for 1 hour. 

Wash eggplants and sprinkle the inside and the outside with salt. Dry and fry until all sides take a golden color.

Place all eggplants in a baking dish with the openings facing up. Fill each pot with stuffing. 

Garnish green peppers and if desired with tomatoes.

In a bowl, whisk the water, tomato paste and salt. Pour over the eggplants. If there is any juice left from the stuffing, pour it over the eggplants also. Bake at 350º F for 1 hour or until the eggplants are completely tender. Serve hot with rice.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Eggplant with Green Lentils (Mualla/Yeşil Mercimekli Patlıcan)

Eggplant is one of my favorite summer vegetables. I don’t seem to be cooking with it as much now since my kids don’t love it. One day, I really craved eggplants so I decided to make something saucy with eggplants. This recipe is traditionally made in Hatay/Antakya (Antioch) region and it is just incredibly delicious. The pomegranate molasses gives it such a good kick. It is particularly delicious with flat bread, but I served it with rice, instead of bread.

2 large eggplants
3 large tomatoes (peeled and diced)
3-4 green peppers (cut in fourths and sliced)
1 large onion (cut in fourths and sliced)
4 cloves garlic (chopped)
1 cup green lentils
1 tbsp red pepper paste
2 tsp crushed red peppers
1 tsp dried mint
1 tsp sumac
2 tsp salt
¼ cup pomegranate molasses
½ tsp thyme
¾ cup olive oil

Peel the eggplants in stripes. Cut each eggplant in eights and slice diagonally. 

Fill a large pot with cold water and add salt. Place the sliced eggplants in salty water and let sit for an hour.

Wash the lentils and place in a small pot. Add two cups of water and boil for 35-40 minutes or until the lentils absorb all the water and are soft.

In a large bowl, combine the cooked lentils, green peppers, tomatoes, onions, garlic, sumac, mint, crushed red pepper, red pepper paste, thyme and pomegranate molasses. 

Drain the eggplants and set aside. In the bottom of a large pot place half the lentil mixture. 

Place the eggplant slices on top of the mixture and pour the rest of the lentil mixture on the top. Drizzle with olive oil.


Cook on stove top for 15 minutes on high heat and then turn down the heat and cook for 1 hour. Enjoy with rice.