Nobody wants to cook much when they’re on holiday. Eating out is part of the fun – discovering new restaurants, returning to old favourites, and trying out all those wonderful local dishes. Even if the kitchen of your luxury holiday villa in Kalkan is the last word in modern convenience, you won’t want to spend too much time in it.
It’s a different matter if you’ve decided to live in Turkey permanently. You’ll still eat out sometimes of course – the region has an excellent range of dining options from gourmet restaurants and burger bars to traditional lokantas and street vendors. But living in Antalya full-time is not the same as being on holiday, and one of the differences is that you’ll cook at home more often.
It’s a great way to take advantage of the abundant fresh seasonal produce and discover how to recreate some of those delicious dishes you’ve enjoyed. Learning a new cuisine can be daunting, but here are some ideas to start you off – they’re not complicated and will help you gain confidence when it comes to cooking Turkish food. When it comes to recipes, Google is your friend – just find one in a format that appeals to you. (We love Özlem’s Turkish Table, but you’ll soon find your own favourite sites.)
Braised green beans
This is a popular dish – green beans cooked gently with onions, tomatoes, olive oil and seasonings. Delicious served hot or cold as either a main or accompaniment, especially with plenty of fresh bread to soak up the juices. It cooks in one pot, so it’s really easy to make.
The legend around ezogelin (eh-zo-gell-in) soup varies depending on the teller, but all feature a young bride named Zöhre who creates the recipe in a bid to win over her future mother-in-law. It’s a renowned Turkish dish and you’ll find it in just about every lokanta you visit. The main ingredients are bulgur and red lentils, along with butter, olive oil, garlic, tomatoes, mint and spices. It’s served with lemon wedges and plenty of fresh bread.
You might have seen this on menus – karnıyarık (kar-nuh-yar-uhk) is aubergine stuffed with a mix of onions, tomatoes, peppers and ground meat, often topped with cheese, and then baked. It’s traditional to use minced lamb, but you can substitute with beef if you prefer. Perfect comfort food!
You’re bound to have tried köfte (kur-f-teh), or Turkish meatballs, while on holiday in Antalya – and no doubt thought them delicious. They’re surprisingly easy to make, and you can adjust heat and spicing to suit your own taste. The secret is to make sure you knead the mixture thoroughly, to tenderise and break down the meat and create a smoother texture.
This scrambled egg dish is a breakfast favourite – and you’ll find no two recipes are the same, so feel free to make it your own way. At its heart, menemen (men-eh-men) is eggs with peppers, tomato, onion and seasonings. It often has black pepper and chilli flakes sprinkled on top, while some people like to stir in some sucuk (suh-juk), or spicy sausage, or crumble cheese over the top.
These courgette fritters are incredibly moreish – however many mucver (muj-vair) you make, it’s never enough. Traditionally the recipe includes plenty of dill and crumbled white cheese, but you’ll find plenty of variations too – some people like to add a generous dash of chilli flakes, or even finely chopped red and green peppers. Make it your own!
It’s colourful, packed with flavour and really couldn’t be much easier to make. Çoban salatası (cho-ban salat-a-suh) has cucumber, green pepper, tomato and onion, and what really makes it sing is sumac and plenty of fresh parsley, plus lemon juice and olive oil. You might like to add some mint, too, to pack an extra punch.
Desserts can be tricky, but revani – a cake made with semolina flour – is topped with desiccated coconut and finely chopped pistachios. The sponge is traditionally soaked with a simple lemon sugar syrup, but feel free to experiment – you could add some ginger, for example, or orange also works well.
Fluffy and buttery, Turkish rice has a nutty flavour and is a staple of the local diet. The brown grains you might have noticed are orzo, which is actually a kind of pasta. It’s a different method of cooking rice than most of us are used to, but once you’ve tried it you won’t go back.
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