Traditional Turkish Breakfast (Geleneksel Türk Kahvaltısı)

Have you ever had Turkish breakfast? Those of you who have visited Turkey or have close Turkish friends or family members, probably have had a taste of what Turkish breakfast entails. Breakfast in Turkey is not only about food, but also about family time and gathering.

In Turkish, breakfast is called “kahvaltı” which is derived from “kahve altı” which literally means “under coffee” or “before coffee”. As you may guess, traditionally Turkish coffee (kahve) is not drunk during breakfast, rather after breakfast or in the afternoon. A traditionally brewed black tea is an indispensable part of breakfast. Along with hot black tea, white cheese (analogous to feta), boiled eggs, green or black olives, çökelek (spicy cheese), Turkish sausage, helva, pekmez (grape or mulberry molasses), tomatoes, cucumbers, honey, jam, fresh butter, an omelet called “menemen” and fresh warm bread complete Turkish breakfast. Occasionally, böreks, pides, fried potatoes and various types of pastries are also served for breakfasts. Soups such as “red lentil soup” or “rice soup” can be a part of breakfast in some households. In my household in Turkey, in the summer months, grapes and watermelon are a must during breakfast.

Simit (similar to sesame bagel) is a very popular snack for breakfast. Most people who go to work every morning, will grab a simit on the way to work and eat it with hot tea for breakfast. Students also tend to purchase simit for a quick breakfast. My first and only attempt to make simit at home resulted in failure. Although, when I have some time, I will put my hands to work until I get it right.

Above are some pictures of a typical Turkish breakfast. The breakfast I have set up is very traditional, however does not include everything I have mentioned above. One by one, I would like to describe each of the items in the pictures. I will use the first picture to describe each item.
In the middle of the picture, we have boiled eggs with toasted bread in the plate. This bread is not the traditional bread we eat in Turkey, but since Turkish bread is not available here, we consume this multigrain bread. However, I am including pictures of homemade (after a couple unsuccessful attempts) Turkish flat bread (pide ekmeği) and Turkish somun bread below that are eaten at breakfast. I will post recipes for these breads at another date.

Turkish Flat Bread (Pide Ekmeği)

Turkish Somun Bread (Somun Ekmeği)

To the right of the red plate is Turkish tea, in a slim belly glass which is very traditional. I personally do not get the taste of tea, unless I drink my tea in these glasses. Right above the tea is apricot jam. Straight above the jam is “yayık tereyağı” which is butter that is strained from fresh yogurt. In some parts of Turkey it can be made from milk. For centuries, women in villages have made this kind of butter. It used to be rarely found in supermarkets since commercial butter has taken their place on the shelves. I used to watch my late grandmother when she used to make this butter at home. She used to have a wooden, cylinder shaped item where she would place the yogurt and then shake it vigorously until the butter separated from yogurt. This butter is in its most natural form; no chemicals or any foreign ingredients. It is the tastiest butter I have ever tasted. I guess it is not surprising since it is all natural. I found this type of butter (made from milk instead of yogurt) at the local Turkish market a few months ago and I was very surprised as I did not realize that it was sold in markets. To tell the truth, my grandmother’s butter was much better, but this particular one is still preferable to the other commercial butter that is so detrimental to our health. I actually looked at the ingredients of this butter when I purchased it and it had only two ingredients; milk cream and milk culture.

To the left of the butter, fried potatoes are waiting quietly in a small plate. Straight above the potatoes, a plate full of Turkish sausage, white cheese and kaşar cheese. White cheese is very similar to feta cheese, but I think it’s a little creamier. It can be produced from cow’s or sheep’s milk. No breakfast is complete without white cheese in Turkey. Kaşar cheese is a yellowish cheese that reminds me of swiss cheese. Usually, it is made out of sheep’s milk.

To the left of the sausage and cheese plate is a plate full of black olives. Either green or black olives accompany every Turkish breakfast. Dressing olives is a very common practice even for breakfast. I will post some dressed olive recipes sometime in the future. Below the olives is a pan with a vegetable omelet. Usually “menemen” replaces this omelet, but again it is a matter of preference. That morning, we felt like having an omelet with the veggies we had available in the fridge.

In the left of the omelet is a box of helva with pistachios. This is a sweet that can be based on flour or semolina. Above the helva is a plate of sliced tomato slices with some peppers. The day I set up this breakfast, I did not have any cucumbers on hand, so just imagine that there are fresh, sliced cucumbers next to the tomatoes.

Right below the helva is honey that came with me all the way from Turkey. This honey is produced by my father’s bees that he raises as a hobby. It does taste much better than the commercial honey.

Breakfasts, especially weekend breakfasts are always eaten together with family in Turkey. That is something I look forward to when I visit Turkey. During the summer months, I especially enjoy my mother-in-law’s breakfast which is very rich in variety, set up in the middle of a rose garden, under the shade of an arched pergola covered in bougainvillea vine. It did not take me long to figure out the reason behind my husband’s wanting to have a big breakfast every Saturday and Sunday. Although, we do not have the beautiful setting of his front yard in Turkey, we have the food and each other. Our longest and most useful conversations occur during breakfast and afterwards while sipping our tea. During the week, we have a banana, an apple and some other fruits that are in season such as orange or strawberries for breakfast which we eat at work. Therefore, the weekend breakfast is something we both look forward to.

Note: The picture on the top of my blog behind the title shows a typical Turkish breakfast. My sister-in-law prepared this inviting breakfast table at her house when I visited her in Ankara, Turkey last summer.

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