Almost Turkish Recipes

Ezo the Bride Soup (Ezo Gelin Çorbası)

Zöhre Bozgeyik, aka Ezo the Bride, was a real person who lived in a small village in the south eastern part of Turkey in the city of Gaziantep close to Syrian border in early 20th century. She was called Ezo the Bride because she was very beautiful and at the age of marriage. Although, there are many variations of Ezo the Bride legend/story mostly as a romance in popular folk culture, her story is one of suffering, patriarchal traditions, and homesickness. Ezo had two marriages both of which were berdel, i.e. bride swapping (a marriage arrangement between two or three families in which they swap daughters in order not to pay for the brides). By the time she made her second marriage to a cousin in Syria, the Turkish Republic was founded and had established borders between the two countries. She died young in Syria, homesick. As per her will she was buried in Syria on a hill overlooking Turkey. There are films based on her hard, unfortunate life, the most celebrated one being Ezo Gelin (Ezo the Bride) (1968), based on a story by well-known poet Behçet Kemal Çağlar and featuring one of the most famous and talented actors of the time Fatma Girik as Ezo, which won the the Second Best Film and the Best Actress awards at the Adana Golden Boll Film Festival in 1969.

As for the soup itself, rumor has it that during grim times of poverty Ezo created the soup by using whatever she had left in the house. However, the most important trivia about Ezo Gelin soup is not the bride, but that you cannot find a single Kebapçı (Kebab Restaurant) in Turkey that doesn't serve this soup. Rumor also has it that if you cannot serve this soup you couldn’t get a license for a Kebapçı restaurant in Turkey—just saying! It's the best starter before kebap-you have to have the soup, and whatever you do at home, including my recipe, Ezo Gelin soup is always better at a Kebapçı, even or especially at a sloppy one. Also, it's considered to be a perfect hangover cure, after, of course, the Tripe Soup (İşkembe Çorbası).

traditional ingredients:
1 cup red lentils
1/4 cup bulgur
1/4 cup rice
1 tbsp pepper paste (if not, substitute with tomato paste)
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 onion, very finely chopped
3 cloves of garlic
1/2 tbsp dry mint leaves
1 tsp oregano leaves
1/4 tsp black pepper
pepper flakes, as much as you want
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
~5 cups chicken stock (or water)  
(I sometimes hide from the kids grated carrots in the soup)
-Place bulgur and rice with 2 cups of water in a pot and bring to a boil. Simmer once it starts boiling. Check now and then to make sure it doesn’t run out of water. Add hot water if necessary. Turn it of once bulgur and rice is cooked. Drain excessive water.
-Heat butter and olive oil in a pot and sauté onions and garlic until very soft, ~8-10 minutes.
-Mix in tomato and pepper pastes and cook for 4-5 minutes.
-Add 5 cups of chicken stock or water, whichever you’re using. Bring to a boil.
-Add washed and rinsed red lentils, rice and bulgur. Simmer for ~20 minutes stirring now and then.
-Add dried mint, oregano, and salt. Simmer for another 5 minutes.

-The trick is not to put Ezo the Bride soup in a blender. Once everything is cooked and soft, a whisk could work just fine. So after adding the legumes, whisk the soup for a couple of times until smoothened.
-Always serve Ezo the Bride with a slice of lemon. Splash of lemon juice will bring the best out of the soup.

Some people like to sizzle the mint with butter instead of adding the spices to the soup. For that, heat olive oil or butter (1 tbsp for 2-3 servings) in a small skillet. When oil starts sizzling (if you're using butter, try not to burn it) add mint and oregano (and 1/2 tsp paprika if you wish) and after approximately 30 seconds remove from the heat. Pour over the soup.

Feeling lazy and own a pressure cooker?:
Put everything in the pressure cooker and cook for 15 minutes.

Green Pea Stew with Beef (Etli Bezelye)

Green pea stew is one of the most common stews in Turkish cuisine. It was usually made in the summer months when the peas are in season and deliciously fresh. However, with freezers becoming staple households people start to pod them and freeze for the winter months. And, no, canned peas are really not a thing in Turkey. The green pea stew is made in three different ways: vegetarian, with ground meat (it's waste of peas if you ask me), and with stew beef. When it is made in the summer, the stew is usually accompanied by cacık, yogurt mixed with minced garlic, grated cucumbers, fresh dill, a bit of olive oil and water, a sauce similar to tzatziki). However, it's good with just plain yogurt as well.

1/2 lb stew beef
1 lb fresh podded green peas (you can use frozen peas as well)
2 carrots, diced or halved about 1/3 or 1/4 inch thick
1 big or two medium potatoes, peeled and diced
1 medium onion, diced (I love red onions in stews, but any kind is fine)
3-4 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
3 tomatoes, grated or diced (fresh tomatoes or great but 1 can diced tomato would do as well)
1 tbsp tomato paste and 1 tbsp pepper paste (available at Middle Eastern stores-if you cannot find it double the amount of tomato paste)
1/2 bunch fresh dill, finely chopped
3-4 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper

-Heat olive oil in a cast iron pot or a heavy bottom pot on medium heat. Add stew beef and cook until it releases and absorbs its juice-approximately 15-20 mins.
-Add onions and garlic and cook 5 minutes.
-Add carrots and tomato&pepper pastes and stir for another five minutes.
-Add tomatoes (or canned tomatoes if you're using them) and bring to a boil.
-Add potatoes, peas (see the note below), 1/3 of the fresh fill and hot water just enough to cover them all.
-Salt and pepper to your taste.
-Once it boils, cover and simmer on low for an hour.
-Sprinkle the remaining fresh dill on top and serve with white or brown rice or a crusty wholesome bread.

Note: I love using fresh peas. I buy them in pod from a local market and pod them or buy them fresh and podded (I like Trader Joe's Fresh English peas!) But you can definitely use frozen peas as well. If so, add them to the stew half an hour before you turn it off.

Easy Phyllo Pie (Kolay Peynirli Börek)

Turkish phyllos are thicker, a quality which makes it much easier to deal with them. The ones sold here at the markets are very starchy (great for desserts), really thin, and dry and break at every chance they have. If you're working on a börek [a general name for all savory phyllo pies in Turkish], that has a specific shape for instance rolls, rose böreks, the job becomes very challenging. Here's a recipe I've been working on, testing and tasting (what a torture!) for a while. Even if phyllos break it is fine, because the recipe requires to break them anyway.

10-12 sheets of phyllo sheets (usually one box has 20 sheets) I'd recommend to follow the instructions on the boxes for dealing with and thawing phyllos.
1 big egg or 2 small ones
1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tbsp butter
1 cup white cheese/feta
2-3 tbsp finely chopped parsley
red pepper flakes, optional
1.2 tbsp sesame seeds

-Grease a pan. I used a 9 inch round pan with relatively high sides, but you can use a rectangular or square pan provided the pan is smaller than the phyllo sheets.
-Place two phyllos on the greased bottom. It's ok if they break while doing this; just make sure the bottom is covered.
-Take 4-5 sheets, rip them into 3-4 pieces each and place them in the pan.
-Whisk egg, milk, and oil with 1/2 teaspoon of salt in  bowl.
-With a spoon sprinkle 1/3 of the milky mix on the ripped phyllos.
-Mix crumbled cheese and parsley and pepper flakes if you want some spice, and layer them on top of phyllos.
-Cut the butter into small pieces, and layer them on top of white cheese.
-Take another 4-5 sheets, rip them like the previous ones and layer on top of the cheese.
-Pour another 1/3 of the milky mix on top.
-Cover the pan with 2phyllo sheets,  tuck the overhanging parts of the phyllo in with the help of a knife.
-Pour the remaining milky mixture on top making sure it wets the corners as well.
-Sprinkle the pie with sesame seeds.
-Bake in preheated 390F for 30*40 minutes, or until golden brown.