Vows of Wholesomeness. 

Since the birth of my son I’ve been guilty of grabbing snacks to fuel me through my busy days. Now he’s just that bit older, I can finally set some time aside for myself so I’ve vowed to revert to healthy and wholesome eating. I’ve missed having the time to cook for myself, to rustle up simplistic but delicious soul food. Most mornings can still be so much of a rush that my ‘Breakfast’ tends to actually mean brunch but come that time what better to eat than a hearty Turkish family favourite, Menemen. Wishing all the sleep deprived, selfless and wonderful mothers a very happy Mothers Day. Take some time out for a change 🙂 

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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 aromatic twist.

It can be served hot (with ice cream yum yum) or once cooled, when it can be easily divided into portions. 

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 easily available ingredients; primarily grain, resulting in a gelatinous texture (most typically semolina or wheat flour is used) or ground nuts or pulses which result in a more solid texture. Other more exotic bases for Halva are chickpeas and pulses or carrots and decorations amd accompaniments range from pistachio to chocolate, or honey.

Here is my version of Cardamom and Pistachio İrmik Helvası.

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…

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!!

Borek / Burek / Byrek / Pite / Rustico – Mediterranean Pies

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Warm, crispy and satisfying, filled pies are the ultimate in comfort food. Wherever you go in the Med you’ll find different versions. From Turkish Borek, Balkan Burek / Byrek / Pite and Mantija, Boureki of Greece to the Rustico of Southern Italy – fillings and shapes vary to form indulgent meaty feats, cheesy delights, simple vegetable snacks or sweet treats.  The possibilities are endless and the end result always satisfying.

It’s one of those foods which is loved; a staple from warm-hearted family kitchens or consumed from kiosks and simple eateries with mopeds whizzing by. I’ve always struggled to find the authentic stuff, reminiscent of the Med in London until I stumbled upon Akdeniz Gida Pazari on Station Road, Wood Green. For £1 a pop you can buy different types of Borek fresh out of the oven, made by the hands of two smiling Bulgarian women behind an abundantly stacked counter. Safe in the knowledge I have a place to go for a quick Borek fix, I usually prefer to make my own.

In the Balkans I  watched as women made dough from scratch, tirelessly kneading and rolling with the thinnest of rolling pins. They’d work the pastry to unbelievable elasticity, picking up the delicate sheets and stretching with careful plucks.    The pies were finished with neatly pinched pleats.  Needless to say my first attempt at this was disastrous.  To make pastry by hand is indeed a labour of love. I prefer to buy ‘Yufka’ pastry which is widely available in Mediterranean supermarkets.

Here are my Borek recipes;
Sevkiye’s Borek – Oven baked layered yufka pastry with various fillings (Meat, Cheese, Herby Courgette)

Village Style Borek – basic filo dough layered with white (feta) cheese

Pan Borek – quick borek made in pan with yufka pastry.

Mantija – Meaty Balkan parcels

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.

Poached Quinces NazarBlue Style…

Inspired by my recent trip to Istanbul, I made use of this season’s quinces and poached them in Pomegranate syrup, serving them with Pistachio nuts, marscapone and jasmine flowers. Complicated? No, no. Really easy.

Check out the recipe here.

Lentil Kofte & Menemen

This week, stuck in London when most of my friends and family are away in the Med, I thought to bring a little ray of sunshine to my kitchen. I am off to Istanbul in October, and in anticipation and longing I cooked two of my favorite Turkish recipes; Menemen and Lentil Kofte.

Afiyet Olsun.

Green Lanes, Harringay

Evil Eye Charms in Sama, Harrigay

Want to discover the secret Mediterranean in London?  Check out the new page  about colourful Green Lanes in Harrigay and what it has to offer.