Almost Turkish Recipes

Chicken Kebab Marinade (Tavuk Şiş Sosu)


This is a classic tavukçu marinade i.e. grilled chicken restaurant marinade and it is both adult and kid favorite in our house. 

You can use any part of chicken, but I do love thighs for grilling. I cut the chicken thighs into 1 inch-ish cubes and marinade for at least two hours or preferably overnight, and then put them on skewers for grilling. However, if you're strained for time you can also pan-fry them. 

This marinade is for ~1lb chicken
1/2 cup plain yogurt
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sweet paprika
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp dried oregano 
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp turmeric
juice of half a lemon or lime

optional for grilling: 2 onions, tomatoes, peppers chopped in ~1 inch pieces (as big as your chicken pieces)
-Chop chicken pieces and rub them well with lemon/lime juice.
-In a bowl mix all the ingredients and mix well.
-Add chicken pieces and coat them well with the sauce.
-Cover and refrigerate for at least two hours. 
-Thread the chicken pieces on the skewers.  Alternate chicken pieces with onion, tomato, and/or pepper pieces for extra deliciousness. 
-Grill them for ~10 minutes by turning them around. Grilling time would vary based on different grills and the size of chicken pieces. Just don't overcook and dry them out. 
If you don't have a grill, you can also bake these skewers in the oven at 400-420F or broil them. 
-Eat with rice, on its own, or wrapped in warmed flat bread/tortilla or a sandwich bread. 

Sour Meatballs or Meatballs in Egg and Lemon Sauce (Ekşili Köfte)

 Ekşili Köfte, a very popular meatball dish cherished by kids and adults alike has differing  variations in different parts of Turkey; in some parts tomato or pepper paste is used; in some small diced vegetables; and in some eggs are completely left out. This version is from the Northwestern / Western part of Turkey.

1 lb ground beef

1 small onion, grated

1/3 cup + 2 tbsp white rice

1/4 or 1/3 cup very finely chopped parsley

1/4 or 1/3 cup very finely chopped fresh dill

1 egg, white and yolk separated

1 tsp or more black pepper


3 tbsp flour

4 tbsp olive oil

juice of 2 lemons

-Put ground meat, grated onion, parsley, fresh dill, 1/3 cup rice, white of the egg, black pepper, salt in a bowl and mix really well. 

-Flour a tray.

-Make mini meatballs, quarter size, and place them on the tray.

-When all are on the tray, shake the tray back and forth or side to side to roll the meatballs to get covered in flour. This flour on them will make a nice crust and will make the "soup" part of the dish thick. 

-Grab a wide bottom-ish pot and heat. Add the olive oil and once hot place the meatballs at the bottom. 

-Cook the meatballs until they have a nice crust on one side. 

-Add half of the lemon juice, 4 cups of water, and 2 tbsp white rice, and a tad bit of salt, just to your taste.

-Simmer on low for 20 minutes. 

-Mix egg yolk with the rest of the lemon juice in a bowl. Start taking little scoops of liquid or soup from the dish and mix with egg and lemon. We are trying to warm the egg slowly so that it won't curdle when we add it to the dish. Add 3-4 scoops of liquid, one at a time and mix the sauce after each time. 

-Add the egg and lemon sauce to the dish, stir once and let simmer covered for another 15-20 minutes. 

-Serve fresh dill or parsley, or with dry mint flakes on top, and crusty nice bread on the side. 

Tips: If you have picky kids or adults, you can skip the fresh herbes in the meatballs. If you want to add veggies, add diced carrots, potatoes, celery root and peas right after you add the water. 

Savory Cornmeal Pancakes (Mısır Unlu Kaşık Dökmesi)


I love corn in any form and these cornmeal savory pancakes are one of my favorite brunch or lunch specials.

2 cups of cornmeal / corn flour

2 eggs

1/2 yogurt

1 cup milk

2 tsp baking powder

1/4 cup olive oil

1 tsp salt

1/4 finely chopped herbs: parsley, dill, mint, or chives, pick one. 

1/2 cup hard to melt cheese such as crumbled feta, small diced halloumi, or Turkish tulum goat cheese   (I use a mix of Syrian halloumi and Turkish tulum goat cheese) 

1/2 pitted and chopped black olives 

-Whisk eggs, milk, oil, and yogurt. 
-Add cornmeal, baking powder, salt and mix.
-Add cheese, herbs, and olives and fold into the batter.
-Heat a nonstick pan over medium, slightly grease the pan and drop pancake batter with a spoon. These are similar to old-fashion pancakes, a bit thick. Cook for ~1-2 minutes, check bottom and flip. Cook for another minute. 
-Serve with butter or some sort of spreadable cheese on top because there's no such thing as too much cheese. 

Ground Meat Bread Rolls (Kıymalı Rulo)

A yeasty dough rolled with ground meat and walnuts and a dash of cinnamon is what we all need for afternoon tea.  It takes a while to make regarding the yeast and the wait for the rise, but it is easy and delicious. You should definitely try this one!

for the dough
1/2 cup lukewarm water
1 tsp yeast
1/2 tsp sugar
2-2 1/2 cup flour (or more)
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup oil (olive oil, sun flower, whichever you feel comfortable with)
1 tsp salt
yolk of one egg (we'll use the to brush the dough, you can add the white into the dough)
black nigella seeds or sesame seeds

the stuffing
3 tbsp oil
2 medium onions, finely chopped, ~1,5 cup
1/2 pound ground meat
1/2 cup walnuts, finely chopped
1/2-1 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp salt

-Mix yeast, sugar, and water with a spoon in a bowl and let it dissolve for 15-20 minutes. Yeast will start to expand and bubble.
-In a pot on medium heat cook ground meat stirring constantly until it soaks its juice.
-Add 3 tbsp oil and onions to ground meat and stir until onion is cooked. Turn it off and add walnut, cumin, cinnamon, black pepper.
-Sift flour into the bowl of yeast. Add milk, oil, and salt. Add flour as necessary to make dough easy to handle. Dough should not stick to your hands.
-Let the dough sit in the bowl covered with a kitchen towel or whatever you use in a warmer place to rise twice its size, depending on the season and the warmth if your house this might take from 40 minutes to 2 hours.
-After it rises, divide the dough into two.
-With a little bit of oil and your hands make each piece into a 15 X 15 cm circle or a squarish circle. Don't worry it doesn't need to be a perfect shape.
-Place the half of the stuffing on your first circle-ish dough. Roll the dough like a cigarette without squeezing it too hard. Do the same for the second dough.
-Brush egg yolk on each roll and sprinkle black n'gella or sesame seeds or don't sprinkle anything.
-Bake at 375 F in a preheated oven for ~25 minutes or until golden brown like a loaf of bread.
-Let cool down for 10 minutes. MAke tea while waiting and dig in. Bon appetit!

Turkish Scrambled Eggs with Vegetables (Menemen)

Turkish style scrambled eggs, is enjoyed both as breakfast or a wholesome meal. It is best in summer when sweet green chilis and juicy tomatoes are in abundance. Best part of menemen is whether you are a great cook or an aspiring one, you cannot go wrong with menemen; the ingredients secure the taste. Must-have traditional ingredients for menemen are eggs, tomato, peppers (preferably sweet green peppers), parsley, and the controversial "onion": People of Turkey are divided when it comes to having menemen with ot without onion. I am a lifelong member of the "no onion" camp. 

Here's how I make menemen for four:

6 eggs, well-beaten
4-5 juicy tomatoes, diced 
4 fresh peppers, finely chopped (if you cannot find sweet green chilies, you sweet Italian peppers or shishitos, banana peppers or any pepper you like)
1/2 bunch flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
1/3 cup feta/white cheese, diced fresh mozzarella, cottage cheese or any kind of cheese you want to try.  
1-2 tbsp oil or butter
2 tsp spicy pepper flakes
1 tsp black pepper

If you must: 1 small onion, finely chopped 

Nothing is written in stone, so you can use more or less of anything above. 

-[If you would like to try menemen with onion, in a frying pan heat oil and add onion. Cook on medium until they're soft but not browned.] 
-Add fresh peppers and cook 2-3 minutes.
-Once they're cooked, add tomatoes and salt. Wait until tomatoes change color to a dark red and cook down a little. 
-Stir in beaten eggs. Stir constantly.
-Right before eggs are cooked, add your choice of cheese and chopped parsley.
-Serve with bread.

Baked Chicken and Rice (Tavuklu Kapama)

For every eid/bayram one of my aunties used to make "the traditional" version of this dish, common among Balkan immigrants in Thrace, north western Turkey: lamb pieces cooked in white rice. In time lamb was replaced with chicken due to increase in the number of picky children in the family. I tried hard to avoid eating the dish simply because it was blend and oh so uninteresting; white rice and slightly dry chicken. 

I started experimenting with it once the main cook of my favorite "esnaf lokantasi" (trademan's restaurant) in Ankara shared his tips to keep the chicken moist and the dish interesting. I think I nailed it (even my picky 7 year old compliments me when I make this) and this version is absolutely delicious, but you can create your own switching rice with other grains or chicken with lamb. I like it also with bulgur or buckwheat, but this version is the kid favorite in our house.  

6-8 chicken drumsticks (or any part you want) 
1 bay leaf
3 cloves of garlic 
1 tbsp peppercorns 
some parsley
2 tbsp olive oil + 2 tbsp butter
1 onion, finely chopped ~1/2 cup  
2 cups white rice 
1 cup grated tomatoes 
2 tomatoes, sliced in 4
~8 shishito peppers (or any kind you want)
1 tsp dried mint (optional)
salt & pepper
1 tbsp or more yogurt
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp paprika 

-Put chicken drumstick/pieces in a big pot cover with water 2 inches over. Add bay leaf, garlic cloves, peppercorn, parsley, and 1 tsp salt. Cook for 30-35 mins until chicken is cooked. Do not discard the water. Drain and save. 

-In a wide bottom cast iron or steel pot (that can go in the oven) heat olive oil and butter. (the one in the picture is 11.75" diameter, 2.13" deep)

-Add onions and cook until soft on medium, ~7-9 minutes.

-Add grated tomatoes and cook for 3 minutes.

-Add rice, stir for a couple of minutes, until it soaks the tomatoes. 

-Add 4 cups of chicken stock that you saved. Add dried mint, salt and black pepper, and wait until it starts to boil.

-Once it starts bubbling, turn in off. Place drumsticks in any pattern you want.

-Place peppers and sliced tomatoes in between chicken pieces. 

-Mix yogurt, tomato paste and paprika. Spread this mixture on drumsticks with a brush. This will help them have a nice color and keep them deliciously moist. 

-Bake in a preheated oven at 380F for ~30 minutes, until rice absorbs all the water. 

-Take out and let rest 5-10 minutes before serving.