Semolina Halva with a Twist

İrmik Helvası - Semolina Halva with Cardamom & Pistachio

İrmik Helvası – Semolina Halva with Cardamom & Pistachio

After significant absence from NazarBlue, my apology comes in the form of an easy to make, tasty treat; Turkish style semolina helva with my own special twist.

It can be served hot (with ice cream) or once cooled in slices as the perfect accompaniment to tea (in our case, çay!).

The various words for  ‘Halva’ derive from the Arabic Halawa, meaning sweet. Halva / Helva / Halawa is a typical Mediterranean / Middle Eastern / Asian / Balkan / Eastern European confection which can be made from various ingredients; primarily grain flour resulting in a gelatinous texture (most typically semolina or wheat flour is used) or ground nuts which result in a more solid texture (you’ll be familiar with sesame halva.)  Other more exotic bases for Halva are chickpeas and other beans or carrots and flavourings vary wildly from pistachio to chocolate, honey or simply plain.

Here is my recipe for Cardamom and Pistachio İrmik Helvası.

Meaty Stuffed Vine Leaves

My mother in law is visiting us, and with her came an array of gifts and packages of food straight from the city of dreams. Amongst the numerous baby clothes, jewellery and candied chesnuts (Murat’s favorite) came a mysterious, humid bag. To my delight, the heavy package contained vine leaves.

When I first visited Murat’s family in Istanbul, his three sisters and mothers gathered around at tiny table, crafting Yaprak Sarmasi in honour of my visit and his return. They chattered excitedly, stuffing and rolling what seemed like hundreds of leaves.  Quite the excuse to get together and pitch in, I’ve now mastered this traditional recipe much to Murat’s delight.

The family in law in Istanbul.

This recipe results in succulent meaty rolls with a subtle heat. It is absolutely authentic and often eat in Turkish households. This version is best served warm with a dollop of cooling strained yoghurt. Stuffed vine leaves can also be made without meat and with the addition of pine nuts, sultanas and dill, usually served cold.

Click here for my recipe.

Comfort Food… My Quick & Easy Kuru Fasulye Recipe

As the blustery Autumn winds whip and lash, what better to do than hide under layers of snug clothing and eat wholesome comfort food?

My quick and easy beef & bean stew is wholesome and hearty. The recipe usually calls for dried beans and braising steak, but for those of us who can’t spare the time to soak beans over night and braise meat for hours, I have used sirloin steak and tinned cannelini beans thus cutting cooking time to a mere fraction.

I’m assured on good (and fussy!) authority that my version is just as tasty and satisfying.

Click here for my Kuru Fasulye recipe…

Old Wives Tales…

It’s the time of year when germs start swarming and colleagues begin to drop like flies. Unfortunately I was also struck by the change of season cold virus, but unlike my peers I didn’t have the option to take the usual medicinal comforts.

I went to the chemist and practically begged a seemingly unsympathetic assistant for a huge tub of vapour rub and some Lemsip; he assured me that in my ‘condition’ bed rest and the occasional paracetamol was the only answer.

Determined to shake the virus, I turned to natural remedies and old wives tales.

Drinking grated ginger with lemon juice, honey and hot water combated the physical effects of the cold.

Sipping a good strong Chicken soup nourished the soul.

Click here to see how I made my hot and sour, Turkish style ‘Tavuk Çorbası’…

Haydari

Whenever I go to eat in my favorite Harringey restaurants, I always make sure haydari is part of my mixed meze. I get so carried away, scooping it up with fresh steaming bread, that by the time the main course arrives I’m full. Perhaps I’ll never learn!

Now that I’m living back in West London I have no choice but to make my own haydari. The thick cheesy yoghurt dip is so simple and delicious I have no problem with making vat-loads.

Click here for my recipe… Afiyet Olsun!!

The Perfect Pudding

Rice and Almond Pudding

..for many reasons! I’m stuck at home having been struck down with a mystery throat infection. Almost crying at the thought of surviving on broth and yoghurt until this thing clears, I knocked up a rice and almond pudding yesterday.  Needless to say I managed to lift my spirits with this cooling, sweet dessert.

It’s a cross between a Turkish rice pudding, Sutlac, and Middle Eastern Muhallabi,  milk & almond pudding, which are both served chilled. Most recipes call for full fat milk and cream but I have used semi-skimmed milk which makes this pudding lighter and guilt free.

Click here for my recipe… 

Yeliz’ Lentil Kofte

Murat & Yeliz

My future sister-in-law, Yeliz, made lentil kofte the first time I visited her at home. With her sons whizzing around the house excitably, she brought the kofte to the dinning table narrowly avoiding the stray toy cars in her path. What better way to welcome someone not only into your kitchen, but into your life by preparing a hearty meal and sharing knowledge passed down by my future mother-in-law. I took the knowledge away with me and now my own Mum often asks ‘When are we going to eat those lentil patties again?’

This is the type of meal prepared for large families so it’s no wonder then that my future in-laws eat lentil kofte often. They are your typical large, warm Mediterranean family who come together around the table, conversing late into the night and getting drunk on laughter.

Lentil Kofte

Despite being healthy and substantial, these kofte allow a fun, carefree way of eating; forget knives and forks! Lay one in a lettuce leaf, squeeze a few drops of Lemon juice on top, wrap and enjoy. As always, best eaten in good company!

Click here for my recipe.

Una Faccia, Una Razza!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

It’s a saying which shaped the foundations of NazarBlue and a philosophy in which I have always believed; One face, one race.

Wherever I am in the Med I’m overcome with the same emotions: a sense of nostalgia invoked by musical laments, a sense of exhilaration from pulsating cities, and insatiable hunger spurred on by tempting street food. The air is thick and perfumed with pine resin, the crickets rasp in arid shrubbery and socialising is almost always centered around good food and wine. A plate of fried Calamari on the seafront is a must, cats with huge begging eyes lurk under taverna tables and swipe at falling scraps. Siesta time ceases with the whirrs of moped engines. People converse on lantern lit terraces with waving hands and raised voices. It doesn’t matter whether I’m in Italy, Greece or Istanbul, the scenes are always the same.

‘One Face, One Race’ is a saying which acknowledges the similarities between Italians and Greeks. In fact, I believe it can be said for any of the Mediterranean’s people who have been both unified and separated by slithers of sea. With the shifting of borders as empires advanced then retreated, cultures intermingled and languages, music and food were shared.

Some may patriotically claim Baklava, Turkish Coffee, and Falafel to be theirs, but in disregarding language barriers we can see a common knowledge and mutual love.                                   Ouzo, Raki, Arak and Sambuca may go by different names but essentially it is a liquor made with anise, consumed in the same way. Shakshuka to the North Africans is as Uova in Purgatorito to the Italians. Meze, Mezzeh, Tapas and Antipasti are a way of life, essientoal to the sociable ways of eating. Pizza as we know it hails from Napoli, yet what influenced this iconic food? Well, how about Greek Pitta bread or Turkish Pide – flat breads with various toppings. Then there is Manoush from the Eastern Med. Could the most famous dish from the chaotic port city have its origins further East?

Even the most frugal of dishes add a sense of pattern to the Med’s colourful mosaic. Farinata di Ceci, wet dough made from seasoned chickpea flour and baked with plenty of olive oil, is particular to Liguria. However Karantita from Algeria and Calentita from Gibraltar are both of uncanny similarity.

It’s rainbow season in London: The blustery winds are relentless and storms seem to roll pass often, appeased once in a while by brilliant bursts of sun. Last Saturday as I took shelter in my flat I sorted through my DVD collection and decided to watch Mediterraneo, a hilarious Italian film about a group of soldiers who are sent to a Greek Island during WWII. They find themselves stranded when after becoming intoxicated with Opium supplied by a Turkish fisherman, they come too, discovering their arms and transport have been stolen. The Italians soon forget their duties and ease into Island life, accidentally missing the fact the war ended some three years before.

‘Una Faccia, Una Pancia!’ one soldier says mocking the hefty appetite that Greeks and Italians share. One face, one belly! It’s not only appearance which unifies the Mediterraneans, it’s their mutual love of food too.

Here’s a more in-depth explanation of Una Faccia, Una Razza, written by my lovely sister.

A Breakfast Ritual – Turkish / Balkan Style

During a blistering Balkan summer, mornings greeted me with a delightful breakfast spread. Coffee, sizzling beef sausage, fried eggs and buttery peppers perfumed the air and awoke me from my heat induced slumber before I could even open my eyes.  Empty water drums clanged excitedly waiting in turn to be filled by a temperamental tap. Strays barked from dusty dirt roads in the near distance and the family Cockerell ended his doolde-doo on a bizarre flat note as if the heat had exhausted him too. As a guest I didn’t want to out stay my welcome as I was used to pulling my weight but my offer of a helping hand was politely refused. Eating in the open air under the shade of vines, we picked from a spread which took up the entire length of the table. Red and white checks poked out from small gaps between sun dappled plates.  The elderly bumbled to and from the table as they pleased and kids unable to sit for long were soon distracted by the rural landscape’s hidey holes.

In Crete, the ritual of breakfast continued. Even bigger, more elaborate spreads became us complete with a backdrop of sparkling sea. Then in Istanbul as we sat at the table bleary eyed from perhaps a touch too much Raki the night before, the early afternoon call to prayer floated on the air reminding us we’d risen later than intended.  After the food was cleared away Murat’s sister prepared syrupy coffee, serving not only as a digestif but as a talking point as she read our fortunes from the empty cups.

The breakfast ritual is one worth keeping as long as it’s practiced in good company. Here’s how I intend to keep it going in not so sunny London..

Read on…

Vote Now! There could be a trip to Turkey in it for you too…

Dear readers, I am shamelessly begging you to vote for one of two of my photographs below taken in Istanbul, which I have entered in YouinTurkey‘s photographic competition run by GoTurkey.com and WOW Istanbul.

It takes just seconds to register, and if you vote you’ll be entered into a lottery whereby 100 lucky voters will win return tickets to Turkey from ANY European destination (how generous!) or Digital Camera – You have nothing to lose and a holiday to gain!

My photos have been submitted to ‘Life & Culture’ category (category 2) are named ‘Istanbul City of Dreams’ and ‘Nazar and Kahve’ seen in the slideshow below.

Step 1: Firstly you’ll need to register with the website, which will take just a minute. The login/register tab is at the top of this page: http://www.youinturkey.com/en

Step 2: Please go to this link: http://www.youinturkey.com/en/mediagallery/slideshow/category/2#

When you put your cursor at the bottom of the screen there is the option to scroll down even further as a big white arrow pointing down appears. Scroll down once – my photos ‘Istanbul City of Dreams’ and ‘Nazar and Kahve’ should be the third and fourth row up. Click on the photo you wish to vote for and press ‘vote now’

Done!

Voting closes on 15th April 2012. THANK YOU & GOOD LUCK!!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.