Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Etli İçli Köfte (Stuffed Bulgur Shells with Beef)

İçli köfte is also known as “oruk” in Turkey and in the Hatay/Antakya (Antioch) region where I am from, it is called “kibbeh” a word that comes from Arabic. İçli köfte is very popular in the Middle East and each country may have a different version of it. Even within Turkey or within Hatay, there are many different versions. This recipe is the içli köfte that I grew up with which my mother makes. I have posted another recipe “Stuffed Bulgur Shells” in the past however the shells had boiled potatoes instead of meat.

Since this version includes meat in the shell, it can be boiled instead of fried. I did both this time as I like both boiled and fried but if I had to choose, I would choose the fried ones. 

As this is a very time consuming meal, it is not made often. I think it has been several years since I have made it, although the last time I ate it was 1.5 years ago when my mother was visiting for the birth of my twins. She made it for us several times and the day before she left she made quite a bit for the freezer. Although, I rarely had time to even cook the ones in the freezer after the babies, they stayed in the freezer a few months. If using a stand mixer, the time to make this decreases dramatically. My 17 month old kids loved it so much that a couple days later, I decided to make it again. I prepared two batches of the shell and the stuffing and froze them. When I want to stuff the shells, I will just remove them from the freezer one day before and just make enough for dinner.

This particular time, I prepared the stuffing and the shell one day and stuffed them another day and cooked them the day after. Preparing ahead of time will save a lot of time. Although I am a big advocate of fresh foods and not fond of freezing at all, sometimes it is inevitable due to time constraints, especially with these types of foods.

The illustrated pictures show how the shape is given; however just for fun I did a different (easier) shape for the last four köftes. I also had a little bit shell dough left over so I shaped this into small balls and boiled them and poured some of the olive oil/red pepper paste/garlic sauce to make bulgur balls. See my previous post for “Bulgur Balls with Spinach and Garlic (Sarımsaklı ve Ispanaklı Bulgur Köftesi) ”. This shell dough also can be used for this recipe.

As mentioned in my previous “Stuffed Bulgur Shells” post, an easier version of the stuffed shells can be by making it in a pan. You would spread a thin layer of the bulgur dough on a greased pan, add the stuffing and cover the top with another layer of the shell dough, drizzle with olive oil and bake it. See a couple pictures below from a while back.

I also once shaped the shells like a scoop and fried them. Then the stuffing was scooped with the shells. See a picture below from a while back. 

The other version I tried was making them in the shape of bulgur balls and fried them and added stuffing and mixed them together. Unfortunately, I do not have a picture for this but you can refer to my bulgur balls post.  So as you can see you can be creative to make these.

I would like to add that the ladies who are expert in making these, like some of the older ladies in my hometown, are able to make the shells very thin. Mine were thicker than I would like but I think I am getting better at it each time I make them.

Enjoy with "Cacık" (yogurt with garlic and cucumbers) and salad or any salad greens. As you can see in the pictures above, we had them with the onions, garlic, radishes and arugula from my little garden as well as a "Shepard Salad" and "Yogurt".
For the Shell Mixture:
3 cups red bulgur or white (fine grind)
1 lb ground beef (95% lean)
1/2 cup semolina
1/2 cup flour
2 tbsp red pepper paste
2 tsp salt
2 ½ cups cold water
2 cup oil for frying (or as much as it takes)
For the Stuffing:
1 lb ground beef (95% lean)
1 medium onion (chopped finely)
2 cloves garlic (chopped finely)
¾ cup parsley (chopped finely)
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 ½ tsp salt
¼ tsp black ground pepper
For Boiled Köfte Sauce:
2 fresh stems garlic (or dried if fresh not available)
1 tbsp red pepper paste
½ cup olive oil
To Prepare the Stuffing:
Heat the oil in a pan. Add the ground beef and cook until the beef is no longer pink and releases its water. Pour out the water and add the olive oil. Stir. Add the onions and sauté until onions are transparent. Add the garlic, salt, red pepper flakes and the black pepper. Saute for a couple of minutes and turn off heat. Add the chopped parsley and stir again. Let it cool. This can be prepared one day before and refrigerated.

To Prepare the Shell:
Using Stand Mixer:
Pulse the ground beef in a food processor several times. Set aside.

Slip the flat beater attachment to the beater shaft of the stand mixer while it is still unplugged (for safety reasons). Place the bulgur, semolina, flour, red pepper paste, salt and the beef in the stand mixer bowl.

Set the speed to stir and add water gradually. Once all the ingredients get wet, set the speed to 2. Let it mix good for 4-5 minutes and then set the speed to 4. Keep adding the water gradually as the stand mixer is running. Let it run for 10 minutes.
You may need to scrape the sides of the bowl in between. The bulgur dough should get soft enough to be workable (give a shape). Cover with plastic wrap or a damp cheese cloth.
Below is a picture of how the end result of the shell mixture should look like.
Add all the shell mixture ingredients including the pulsed ground beef and 1 cup of water and start kneading. Gradually add the rest of the water while kneading. Keep kneading for 30 minutes (longer if necessary) until all the ingredients are mixed well and the bulgur dough is soft enough to give a shape. The reason for this length of time is because the bulgur is not soaked ahead of time. To reduce the kneading time, soak the bulgur in hot water for about 10-15 minutes. See previous recipe for Stuffed Bulgur Shells (İçli Köfte) .
When the shell mixture is ready, follow the instructions below to create the köftes. Below is a picture that shows how the process works starting from number 1 on the left side:
  1. Take an egg sized piece and put it in your left palm (if you’re right handed; otherwise put in your right palm). Make sure your hand is dipped in water before starting to shape the shells.
  2. Wet your right index finger and stick it into the egg sized piece and make a hole in the shell.
  3. Make a half circular movement clockwise and counter clockwise with your index finger into the shell while it is still on your palm to create a thin shell (as thin as possible).
  4. Fill the shell with stuffing and close gently.
  5. Soak your hands in the water and gently pat the köfte to make sure it is smooth and any tears are patched.
  6. The final shell should look smooth and intact.

While you are working with the shells, keep the remaining mixture covered with a damp cloth. As the mixture tends to dry out, make sure you roll each ball in your hands (make sure your hands are dipped in water) before shaping the shells.

If for some reason the bulgur dough is too soft and cannot be shaped, add some flour and that should solve the problem.
For Frying:
Heat the oil in a large pan. When the oil is hot, add the stuffed shells and fry both sides until they take a brownish color as shown in the picture below. This should take only a few minutes.
For Boiling:
Boil half of a large pot of water. Once the water boils, gently add several köftes depending on the size of the pot. Let them boil for 5 minutes. Remove gently. Drain and place in a serving platter.
Sauce for Boiled Köfte:
Chop the garlic if using fresh stems. If using dried, crush them. Mix the garlic, red pepper paste and olive oil until all ingredients are integrated.

Drizzle over the köftes. Also serve the sauce with the köftes.  Drizzle the sauce over the stuffing in the köfte with a small spoon after each bite.


Friday, April 4, 2014

Fried Smelts (Gümüş Balığı Kızartması)

It has been over 20 years since I have had fish this small. I remember eating small fish such as hamsi (anchovy) and izmarit (picarel) when I was small. It has been tempting to buy it when available but since I am the only one who is willing to eat it in the house, I never bought it before. This week when I was shopping I saw the fresh smelts and they looked attractive. I bought them without hesitation. They turned out really good and I satisfied my craving of fried, small fish. Smelts are common in Turkish cooking, but this is my first time cooking them. I think next time I will bake them in the oven in tomato sauce. Enjoy with rice or bulgur pilaf and salad greens.

1 lb smelts

1 tsp salt

1 tsp red pepper flakes

½ tsp cumin

¼ tsp ground black pepper

 For Frying:

1 cup white flour

4 cups canola oil

Wash and drain the smelts. Place the fish in a large bowl and add the salt, red pepper flakes, cumin and the ground black pepper. Mix by hands to make sure all the fish are seasoned well.

Heat the oil. Coat the smelts with flour and fry for about 5 minutes or until the fish take a golden color. Remove from the oil and drain on a paper towel. Serve with lemon wedges.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Chicken Liver Wrap (Tavuk Ciğer Dürüm)

Nutritious and quick to prepare! Those are the first things that come to my mind when I think of chicken liver. Due to the fact that liver is rich in iron levels, I try to incorporate them in the twins diet. In the summer when my twins started eating meats, I had them try liver and they actually liked it. After a long while, I tried it again and they really enjoyed them. However, they only eat it fresh and don’t like to eat it as leftover the next day. So I had plenty of chicken liver to cook with after taking out their portion which led me to make chicken liver dürüm (Turkish wrap) which was wrapped with Turkish lavaş bread that was purchased at a Turkish market. Of course, those packaged lavaş breads are nowhere near the freshly made lavaş breads made in Turkey, but we’ve got to work with what’s available. I actually would love to try to make lavaş bread one day. If I do, I will definitely share the recipe here. Even with the packaged lavaş bread, these turned out really delicious!

For the Liver Sauté:

1 lb fresh chicken liver

1 tsp red pepper flakes

1 tsp dried thyme (ground or crushed)

¼ cup olive oil

½ tsp cumin

1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

¼ tsp ground black pepper

¾ tsp salt


For the Dürüm:

2 lavash breads (or any other flat bread)

Zerzevat (see recipe under previous post Chicken Shish Kebab (Tavuk Şiş Kebab) and Zerzavat (Onion Salad with Sumac and Parsley) ---cut the ingredients in half from the previously posted recipe, i.e. half onion)

Wash and drain the chicken livers. Dry with paper towel and cut each liver into four pieces.

Heat olive oil. Add the liver. Sprinkle with salt, red pepper flakes, cumin, thyme and black pepper. Stir well so that all the spices integrate into the liver. Cook for a few minutes stirring continuously or until the liver takes a dark brown color. Remove from heat and add the parsley. Give it another stir.
Heat the lavash bread in the oven for 1 minute or until warm and soft. Divide the liver into two servings and place on the breads. Add the onion salad and roll the bread keeping the liver and the onion salad tucked inside.

Enjoy with salad and plain, cold yogurt.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Walnut Spread with Red Pepper (Biberli Ceviz)

Besides the taste and the simplicity, the versatility of this dish encourages me to make it more often. As it is traditionally served as a spread on flat bread, it can also be served as a spread for sandwiches, wraps and crackers. It is a quick way of getting a healthy, filling and tasty dish. I actually had it with baked flounder and potatoes the next day which turned out really great. Biberli ceviz is made in the city of Antakya, Turkey (the region I am from) very frequently however we did not consume it much in our household. Only recently did I start making it mainly because I was in search of quick, delicious Turkish meals. This one is a keeper!

2 cups shelled walnuts

3 tbsp red pepper paste

1 tbsp tomato paste

1 tsp red pepper flakes

1 tsp cumin

2 cloves garlic

3 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp pomegranate molasses

1 slice of wheat bread cut in small pieces (or white bread)

Dash of salt (adjust to your taste)

Place all the ingredients in a food processor and grind until a paste is attained. Serve on top of bread or crackers as an appetizer, side dish, a snack or as a spread for a sandwich.


Thursday, February 20, 2014

Broiled Chicken Marinated in Pomegranate Juice (Nar Suyu ile Izgara Tavuk)

There was a pomegranate in the fruit drawer of my refrigerator for a long time. For weeks and weeks (pomegranates can keep for months) every time I would open the drawer to grab a quick piece of fruit, it would stare at me and I would stare back at it thinking that it is time to eat it. This repeated almost every day for quite some time until finally I had an idea (certainly not a new one) that I could use its juice in my cooking as it is cumbersome to eat the pomegranate. It is more cumbersome to open it and remove all the juicy seeds! Since I finally went through all that trouble to open it and remove the seeds, I thought I would eat half of it. The other half went into the blender to create the juice.
With my little ones and my job, it is very hard to find the time to cook or enjoy a piece of fruit by myself. As a person who loves to eat good food, I miss cooking and eating well. For a few months, we tried to eat prepared food since we had no choice (either that or we went hungry), but I got tired of it quickly. Now, I try to cook maybe once or twice a week with whatever is leftover from the boys’ meal ingredients. Since my babies started solid food, I have been cooking their meals as I refuse to give them prepared foods. No matter what, I do make the time to cook for them. I just had to reorganize my priorities. I did try to feed them prepared meals only a couple of times, however I know what I cook for them is far better and healthier. Their meals include but not limited to eggs, salmon, dover sole, chicken, beef, lamb, tofu, fennel, leeks, swiss chard, carrots, beets, collard greens, red, brown or black rice, bulgur, a variety of fruits (fresh and dried), nuts and etc. I also incorporate different types of spices as I want them exposed to these spices early on so they will be open to different types of flavors. I use cumin, cardamom, cinnamon, turmeric, curry, red pepper paste (mild), ground black pepper, red pepper (mild), thyme, garlic, parsley and etc. in their meals. They like it all and I am happy to see that as they are only 15 months old.
This chicken recipe was created for them and I added a couple extra pieces. The chicken was delicious. The skin looks burned due to the red pepper paste, but the chicken itself was very moist and flavorful.  With rice and salad, it was just perfect for me. My boys liked it very much too. I hope you will also enjoy it.
4 pieces of chicken legs (any part of chicken works)
½ large pomegranate (or 1 small one)
Juice of 2 lemons
1 tsp red pepper paste
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil
Blend the fresh pomegranate and strain to remove the seeds. Discard the seeds and add the lemon juice, red pepper paste, ground black pepper and 1 tbsp olive oil. Blend again. Puncture the chicken pieces from several places with a fork to allow the sauce to get inside the meat. Place the chicken in the sauce and refrigerate for 2-3 hours.
Remove the chicken from the sauce and place in a baking dish. Sprinkle the salt on both sides of the chicken pieces and drizzle with the rest of the olive oil.
Bring the oven to a broil and broil 5-7 minutes on each side or until the chicken is cooked.
Note: Ovens may vary, therefore there may be a need to adjust the cooking time. Also, the amount of the pomegranate doesn’t really matter that much as long as you have enough juice to cover all the chicken.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Turkish Coffee (Türk Kahvesi)

While organizing some folders, I noticed that I had semi-prepared a post and taken a few pictures of Turkish coffee several years ago. When I saw that, I decided to spend a few minutes to post the recipe for Turkish coffee.

If you haven’t tried Turkish coffee, mostly likely you have heard of it. Turkish coffee is very popular where most Turks enjoy it daily; in the morning, afternoon and even at night. It’s part of the Turkish life style. Turkish coffee is always served to guests. Visiting friends and family always includes Turkish coffee and afterwards, the fortune telling (not with formal guests). After the coffee is finished there will be a residue in the bottom of the cup. Covering the cup with a saucer, the coffee residue is spread around the cup by shaking the cup and turning it over where the saucer is in the bottom and the mouth of the cup is right on top of it. After waiting for a short while the coffee cup is removed and the symbols inside the cup are translated to the person who drank from the cup. It is always fun to listen to these fortune telling. Some people take it seriously but most do it just for fun. I remember when I visit Turkey we would drink our Turkish coffee in the morning and then ask my mom to read our fortune. She’d say a few sentences and then she would finish and when we protest, she would say “I know your whole life, what do you want me to tell you?” In the afternoon, we drink our coffee again and we turn our cups upside down and ask mom to read our fortune and then she would say, “Honey, I read your fortune this morning, nothing changed since then”. We would have our laugh with this as we only did it for fun. Of course there are people who pay money to have their fortunes read and some who take advantage of these people. In any case, we have a saying in Turkey that says “Fala inanma, falsız da kalma”, meaning “Don’t believe in fortune telling, but don’t stay without it either”.  

Personally, I have never been an avid coffee drinker, however the past six months it has been my best friend. Not the Turkish coffee, but the American coffee. I have to drink it every morning since I don’t get enough of sleep because of my beautiful boys. The American coffee is easy to make so that’s the route I go and it works. In the afternoon, if I am not too busy at work (I am fortunate enough to be working in a home office for the past couple of years) I go and make myself a nice cup of Turkish coffee. This really alerts me and helps me get through the day well accomplished. I just sometimes get lazy to make the Turkish coffee as you have to attend to it. But I just bought a container of Turkish coffee from a Turkish store and I plan to enjoy it in the afternoons when I feel like I need an extra kick to get me running.

Enjoy your coffee.

2 tsp Turkish coffee (available at Mediterranean stores)
1 tsp sugar (optional)
1 Turkish coffee cup of water (approximately 2.5 oz)
Pour the water in a cezve (Turkish coffee pot) and put on low heat. Add sugar and the Turkish coffee and stir.
Remove from heat when the foam starts to come up just before boiling. Pour a little of the coffee in the Turkish coffee cup or spoon the foam into the cup.
Either way, the foam will be in the bottom of the coffee cup. Put the rest of the coffee back on heat and remove when it starts to boil. Pour the coffee over the foam in the Turkish cup.
Enjoy alone or with chocolate.
Note: The sugar in the coffee is optional. Some people like it şekersiz (bitter), medium (with little sugar) and şekerli (sweet). I personally like it ‘medium’ and have never liked ‘bitter’ coffee. Şekerli Turkish coffee is also attractive to me. You may adjust the sugar amount to your taste.

Sunday, October 20, 2013


Add to Technorati Favorites
Simit is one of the foods that I miss from Turkey. Especially, the kind that is sold on the streets. I had been wanting to make it, but I knew it was time consuming so I never got around to making it. The other night, I decided to try a recipe from a blogger (Farida from AZ Cookbook) who publishes many Turkish recipes which really represent Turkish food. Although, it took me longer to make this recipe as I only worked on the dough when the twins were sleeping, so it rested longer than suggested (the dough was refrigerated overnight), it still turned out fantastic. I actually didn't believe it would taste like the simit in Turkey, but it really did. With a glass of Turkish tea, it was all I needed. It was so good that I couldn't resist the urge to take a picture and post it here. Thank you Farida!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Taking a break from blogging...

Add to Technorati Favorites
I feel that I owe my readers an explanation as to why I have been absent from posting recipes on my blog. My life has changed so much in recent months. Now, I have adorable and amazing twin boys who fill my life with more joy and keep me very busy. With a full time job and my sweet little angels, let alone to blog or cook, I barely have time to eat anymore. If I do cook, I cook the fastest meals possible and if we’re lucky we will eat before 9:00 p.m. Most of the time, we take turns to eat with my husband. I no longer have time to set up beautiful tables and enjoy a meal slowly. But, I am not complaining, it is all worth it.
For these reasons, I will put a hold on blogging for a while with the hope that in the future, (probably not the near future), I will come back and share more recipes. I still have so many Turkish recipes to share.  I want to thank all my readers who have been following my blog and hope that it will continue to serve as a resource for Turkish recipes.