Almost Turkish Recipes

Easy Moist Chocolate Cake (Kakaolu Islak Kek)


This is my interpretation, or I'd love to say improvement, of an '80s classic, moist cocoa cake which was, beyond dispute, the indispensable part of '80s in Turkey; every mom made it and every kid loved it. I cannot even remember how many times I had this as a birthday cake, for mine and others. In the original recipe, you put a cup of the cake batter aside before adding flour and baking powder and pour that batter over the cake once baked to keep it moist. That one cup of batter never sufficed for my taste so I started experimenting to create my ultimate no-fuss extremely moist cake. 

While this may not be the super chocolatey cake, it is definitely the easiest and one of the lightest ones to make. It is absolutely a kid and grown up favorite in our house.    

for the cake

3 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1 cup milk
1 cup oil, I use sunflower oil
1/3 cup cocoa powder
2 tsp baking powder

for the sauce

1 cup milk
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup chocolate chips
2 tbsp coffee liqueur or brandy or granulated coffee (all optional)
crushed pistachios, hazelnuts or shredded coconut for decoration on top

-Beat eggs and sugar together, then add milk and oil. Mix until smooth. 
-In a separate bowl sift flour, baking powder and cocoa powder. 
-Mix dry and wet ingredients together until well combined.
-Pour in a greased 9 inch round baking pan and bake at 380F preheated oven for ~40-45 minutes until a tester poked into the center of the cake comes out clean. 
-While the cake is baking, mix all the ingredients for the sauce in a small saucepan and bring to a boil until all melt down. Keep it warm. 
-Once the cake is done, give it five minutes on a rack and then place it on a serving plate and slowly pour the sauce on top. You can poke little holes on the surface for the sauce to make its way, kind of wetting a rum cake. 
-The kids like ours topped with crushed pistachios but I would prefer mine covered with shredded coconut. 


Peppers with Cheese (Lorlu Biber)

A great Thracian specialty! Just like menemen, peppers with cheese can also be served as a side dish, main dish, or a breakfast treat. Many people enjoy lorlu biber for breakfast or lunch, but in my family we usually have it for dinner with fresh bread. it's really easy to make, and almost impossible to go wrong.

For this recipe you can use as many peppers and as much cheese as you want; as you can see in the first picture I love mine quite cheesy. Traditionally lorlu biber is made with long green peppers called çarliston, i.e.  Charleston yet no idea why this name. However, there ares so many different kinds of delicious peppers out there shishitoes, sweet Italian, Hungarian, poblanos, banana peppers, just follow your taste buds. 

1 lb green/red/orange/yellow peppers, chopped in rounds (seeds taken out)
1/2 cup ricotta, cottage, or farmers cheese (this can easily go up to 1 full cup)
2-3 tbsp olive oil
salt if needed

-Heat oil in a frying pan.
-When it's really hot, add chopped peppers and saute until they get slightly brown
-Take the peppers out with a slotted spoon and place them on a paper towel to soak excessive oil.
-Add cheese.
-Stir until cheese starts melting.
-Serve hot. 

Poached Eggs with Sautéed Spinach (Ispanaklı Poşe Yumurta)


This is my recipe for merging two of my favorite comfort foods: sautéed spinach with eggs, for which spinach is sautéed with onions on a wide shallow pot or pan and eggs are cracked in little pockets in spinach to cook to perfection with runny yolks and çılbır, which is poached eggs served with garlicy yogurt and topped with olive oil and paprika sauce. And I have to say it is a fine combination with exciting twists. You can use any kind of greens you want or have; spinach, beet greens (see recipes here and here), power greens, etc. 

1 bunch spinach, chopped or 3 cups of any greens
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, minced or chopped
2-3 peppers sweet or spicy, chopped
2-3 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
red pepper flakes

1/2 cup yogurt
1-3 eggs
1 tbsp vinegar
2 tsp salt

-Fill a small saucepan or a pot with water, salt and vinegar and put on low to medium heat. This is for poaching eggs. For poaching eggs, the water should be hot but never boiling. If there's even a slight sign of movement on the surface, you need to turn down the heat and wait for a smooth surface. 
-Meanwhile, heat a pan and add olive oil. 
-Saute onions until soft and add peppers and garlic. 
-Stir for 3-4 minutes and add green and cook on medium to high until wilted. 
-Season with salt and black pepper, and if you wish, pepper flakes.
-For poaching: break eggs one at a time into a small bowl and slowly and gently slide it into the water to prevent whites scattering around. depending on the size of your pot cook no more than two eggs at a time. Approximately 2-3 minutes for soft runny yolks and 4-5 for cooked yolks. 
-Place sauteed greens on a plate, top with yogurt and then with poached eggs. 
-Season with salt, pepper and/or hot sauce.  

Mushroom and Green Olive Salad (Yeşil Zeytinli Mantar Salatası)


Back in the day when I used to live in Ankara, on my way home I used to stop by a well-known supermarket right by my house for its extensive salad bar; and the mushroom and olive salad was my favorite. I had it as a side for dinner or on its own for lunch. With all the fresh herbes and acidity coming from green olives and pickles, it clicked all the right boxes for my sour loving taste buds. I learned some tips on how to make it from the supermarket chef and since then it's been a staple for me. 

Nothing is set here; you can use more or less of any ingredient.

for 4 as a side/ for 2 as a main dish

2 cups of sliced mushroom
1 cup of sliced pitted green olives, not the canned olives
1/2 cup corn
1/2 cup finely chopped pickles
1-2 red sweet pepper, finely chopped
4 green onions, finely chopped
1/3 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
1/4 cup fresh dill, finely chopped
1/8 cup fresh mint, finely chopped
juice of 1 lemon
3-4 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

-Mix 3 cups of water and juice of half lemon in a saucepan and boil the chopped mushrooms for 5 minutes. (lemon juice will prevent the mushroom from darkening, so you need to put the mushrooms in the lemony water as you chop) Drain well and let cool down.
-Mix everything in a bowl.
-Salt to your taste and add other half of the lemon juice and olive oil. 
-Drizzle the balsamic vinegar on top and serve. 
It goes well as a side for grilled meat or veggies or as a lunch on its own.  


Sautéed Spicy Beet Greens

Beet greens, stems and leaves, although usually discarded, are in fact quite healthy, sweet, and delicious when cooked in simple ways. There are a couple of different ways of cooking beet greens in Turkish cuisine. The following recipe is a simple one rice and olive oil.

We get beets, red or golden, from the csa farm box almost every week and absolutely love to use them to pickle or for salads and risottos. I save the greens for my lunch.  I love sauteing them a couple of different ways like this recipe, but this spicy one with jalapenos is my favorite. 

beet greens of 1 bunch red or golden beet, stems and leaves chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 or more jalapenos or any hot pepper of your liking, finely chopped
2-3 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper
Red pepper flakes    

-Heat olive oil in a pot.
-Add onion and cook on medium 3-4 minutes until soft.
-Add beet stems, jalapeno, and garlic. Sauté another 3 minutes.
-Add chopped leaves, salt and pepper and keep sauteing on low to medium for ~10 minutes. 
-Salt and pepper to taste. Add hot pepper flakes if you wish.
-Serve at room temperature or cold, preferably with yogurt on top, and baguette on the side. Sprinkle with red pepper flakes and Tabasco sauce for more fun!

Green Lentil Salad (Yeşil Mercimek Salatası)


If you are a lentil lover, this could be one the most delicious and nutritious salads. While studying for my qualifying exams at the library all day as a graduate student, green lentil salad was my lunch for at least three days a week. 

There's nothing written in stone: You can use more or less of anything down below. In Turkey this salad is usually dressed with pomegranate molasses, however I don't enjoy the slight sweetness that comes with it, so I prefer crisp tartness of lemons. 

For 4 people
1 cup green lentils
4-5 scallions, finely chopped
2-3 red sweet Italian peppers, finely chopped
1/2 cup roasted red peppers, chopped
1/2 cup dill or cucumber pickles, or cornichon pickles finely chopped
1/2 cup or a bit more canned corn 
1/3 cup fresh dill, finely chopped
1/3 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
1/4 cup fresh mint, finely chopped

juice of 1 lemon
a generous 1/4 cup of olive oil

2-3 tbsp pomegranate molasses (It's widely available at international or middle eastern stores)
1/4 cup pickled jalapenos, finely chopped (I absolutely love having pickled jalapenos in this salad, sour and spicy is a perfect combination)
1/4 cup pickled peppers, finely chopped
1/3 - 1/2 cup crumbled feta

-Put 1 cup green lentils in a pot with 4-5 cups of water and cook for ~15 minutes. Check to see if they're cooked after 1o minutes. Lentils should be cooked but not mushy. Immediately rinse in a colander or sieve; we don't want the lentil to cook more in the hot water. 1 cup will make a lot of lentils, perfect for company or lunch for everyday.
-Chop everythıng finely as if you're trying to match them with lentils. 
-Salt to your taste. 
-Add juice of one lemon. One lemon is usually good for this many lentils but you can use less as well. I usually add a bit more. (If you would like to add pomegranate molasses balance it with lemon juice) 
-Add olive oil and toss.