Çılbır or Turkish Poached Eggs with Garlic Yoghurt and Burnt Butter Dressing

Turkish Poached Eggs with Garlic Yoghurt and Burnt Butter Dressing or Çılbır
Traditionally, Çılbır (pronounced “chilber”) is a starter. It is the harmony of simple ingredients like poached eggs, garlic yoghurt, butter, ground sweet paprika and dried mint. My husband thinks the garlic yoghurt in Çılbır takes away the heaviness of egg yolks. For me, it’s an absolute comfort dish –starter of otherwise.

I believe Çılbır dates back to Ottoman palace kitchen. I remember our cook at one of those hotels I used to manage making Çılbır for our hotel guests. It was always a crowd pleaser. My recipe below is based on his recipe. Only with a twist.

ÇılbırTurkish Poached Eggs with Garlic Yoghurt and Burnt Butter Dressing or Çılbır
Serves 2

4 fresh free-range eggs, at room temperature
2 tablespoons white vinegar or apple cider vinegar

For Garlic Yoghurt:
1 cup plain yoghurt, preferably Greek style (unsweetened)
1 clove garlic, crushed

For Burnt Butter Dressing:
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon ground sweet paprika
1 teaspoon or maybe a bit more dried mint

• Fill a wide saucepan with water until approximately 5cm deep. Add vinegar and bring to a boil.
• Meanwhile, crush the garlic and mix with yoghurt. If the yoghurt is too thick, thin it down with a little bit of water. Garlic yoghurt needs to be a bit runny to make it easy to spread over eggs.
• Melt the butter in a small saucepan. When it starts foaming, add the paprika and dried mint. Swirl it around and remove from the heat.
• Crack eggs individually into a ramekin or a small bowl. You could process two eggs together if you want to. When the water starts boiling, reduce the heat down to medium. Water should be just simmering. Slowly, tip the eggs into water. Poach the eggs for 2 minutes and remove with a slotted spoon. Divide the eggs between plates.
• Return the burnt butter to the heat and heat it up a little. Top the eggs up with garlic yoghurt first and then drizzle with burnt butter. Serve Çılbır immediately.

Recipe Notes:
• Mop Çılbır up with some Turkish bread.
• Most people back in Turkey has Çılbır with Turkish chilli flakes. So, there’s a thought.

Spinach with Eggs or Yumurtalı Ispanak

I have recently introduced my husband to this fantastic Turkish dish called Yumurtalı Ispanak (Spinach with Eggs). Now he keeps asking for it. Yes, I know; I created this monster. Anyway, this is a good example of Turkish comfort food and I sometimes crave it myself too.

The day I made the decision to make Spinach and Eggs, though, I didn’t have any spinach in my fridge –neither did onion. So, on my way back from my singing lesson the other day, I popped in to our local supermarket and grabbed some spinach and onion.

spinach eggs

There are a few different varieties of this dish back home. One of them uses mincemeat which can be substituted with vegetarian mince easily. Some people love it with chilli flakes and cumin and sometimes it is eaten with garlic yogurt, too. What I have here, however, just plain Spinach and Eggs.

Spinach with Eggs or Yumurtalı Ispanak
Serves 2


2 bunches English spinach
1 medium brown onion, chopped
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 eggs
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste

• Wash the spinach in cold water a few times until all the dirt is washed away. Discard the stems and chop roughly.
• Peel the onion and chop.
• Heat 2 tablespoons vegetable of in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until the onion is completely soft. Add the spinach and cook until it starts to wilt. Season with salt and pepper.
• Create two holes for eggs and break them into the holes. I usually try and spread the egg white as it binds the spinach nicely. And when it is time to serve the dish it is a lot easier to lift it with a spatula like a galette or omelette. Put the lid on and cook until the egg whites are set but the yolks are still soft.
• Sprinkle with extra black pepper and serve immediately.

Turkish Stuffed Zucchini or Kabak Dolması

Turkish Stuffed Zucchini or Kabak Dolması

I order our fruits and vegetables –along with some other pantry items –through Harris Farm to be delivered to my door every week. They now have this “imperfect picks” option. Basically, your usual fruits and vegetables that don’t look good on the outside. The ugly guys, so to speak. However, they taste good and are cheaper as well.

We’re having friends over for dinner on Friday night. So I put together a menu after I talked to them if they were allergic to anything or if there’s anything they don’t like –standard dinner party procedure. Based on what I’ll be cooking for them and our weekly menu items, I put my order in. Luckily, the ugly zucchinis I ordered happened to have large bottoms! That means, they are large enough to stuff!

Turkish Stuffed Zucchini Kabak Dolması

A note on vegetarian mince: I used Quorn vegetarian mince in this recipe because I can’t get Linda McCartney’s mince anymore in Australia and I really don’t like Sanitarium’s mince. The other alternative to vegetarian mince is The Redwood VegiDeli Gourmet Meat Free Mince but I find it quite expensive and not so easy to get. Quorn mince, on the other hand, can be purchased from Woolworths or Coles, depending on the branch.

A note on an absent ingredient: The traditional Kabak Dolması has rice in the stuffing mix and we have it with plain buttered pasta as a side dish –very German/Austrian, I know. I didn’t use rice this time because I was planning on making a rice pilaf as a side dish and didn’t want things too rice-y. Well, I didn’t make the rice pilaf in the end but dolmas were already cooking when I made that decision. Let’s not talk about it, shall we?

Turkish Stuffed Zucchini or Kabak Dolması

4 large pieces zucchini

For the Stuffing Mixture:
4 tablespoons Quorn vegetarian mince, thawed (see note above)
½ small brown onion, chopped finely
1 small tomato, peeled and chopped
1 teaspoon Turkish pepper paste (hot)
A drizzle vegetable oil
A large pinch Turkish dried mint
Salt to taste
A pinch ground sweet paprika

For Garlic Yoghurt:
4 tablespoons Greek style plain yoghurt
1 large clove garlic, crushed
1 twig fresh dill, chopped

• Peel and carve out the fleshy part of zucchinis.
• Mix together the vegetarian mince, chopped onion, chopped tomato, Turkish hot pepper paste, vegetable oil, chopped dill, dried mint, salt, black pepper and ground paprika.
• Fill the hollow parts of zucchinis with the stuffing mixture. You will have some extra stuffing mixture.
• Place the extra stuffing mixture in a saucepan and lightly cook. Carefully transfer the stuffed zucchinis into the saucepan and fill up the gaps between dolmas with boiled water. Put the lid on and once it starts to boil, reduce the heat.
• Meanwhile, prepare the garlic yoghurt by mixing together yoghurt, crushed garlic and fresh dill weeds. If it’s too thick, add a few drops of water until you reach the right consistency –it should be a little runny. Set aside.
• When stuffed zucchinis are fully cooked, serve immediately with garlic yoghurt. Afiyet olsun!

Turkish Stuffed Zucchini Kabak Dolması

A Middle Eastern Classic: Babaganoush

A Middle Eastern Classic BabaganoushA Middle Eastern Classic: Babaganoush

Babaganoush is a Middle Eastern classic and it is one of those mezes I learnt from a neighbour back in Turkey. Thank you Asiye Teyze!

Babaganoush showcases smoking eggplant (aubergine) over flame and this is where that distinctive smoky flavour is coming from. However, you could do the same thing with barbeque. The recipe below covers both cooking methods.

A Middle Eastern Classic: Babaganoush

1 round eggplant (aubergine)
Juice of 1 lemon
4 tablespoons tahini paste
2 cloves garlic, crushed
½ teaspoon ground cumin
Salt to taste
Ground sweet paprika, to decorate
Extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling (optional)
Pitta bread, to serve


To smoke eggplant (aubergine): Prick eggplants a few times with a fork or tip of a knife. Over a gas flame, evenly char the skin of eggplant, turning regularly. Transfer to a plate and when cool enough to handle, peel the skin. Drop the eggplant into a bowl filled with cold water. Wait for a few minutes and then squeeze out excess water with your hand.
• Chop smoked eggplant finely and transfer into a bowl. Add lemon juice, tahini paste, crushed garlic, cumin and salt. Stir until smooth and well combined. If the mixture is too thick gradually add a little water. Drizzle with olive oil if you like and serve with pitta bread.

How to Barbeque Eggplant (Aubergine)
The rules are the same as smoking eggplant: Prick the eggplant a few times with a fork or tip of a knife. Place the eggplant directly over the flame and barbeque, turning to char on all sides until the skin blisters and the eggplant is completely soft. Remove from the heat with a pair of tongs. Allow to cool and peel off the blackened skin. After this stage, follow the recipe.

Easy Eggplant (Aubergine) Dip or Patlıcan Ezme

Easy Eggplant (Aubergine) Dip or Patlıcan Ezme

Easy Eggplant (Aubergine) Dip or Patlıcan Ezme
Many of us don’t have the luxury and convenience of having gas cooking facility in our kitchens. And that on its own, makes things a little complicated because if you don’t have gas then you don’t have total heat control which is really important in cooking. I mean, ask any chef; they all prefer gas.

The other problem with not having gas is no gas, no smoked eggplant –also known as aubergine. So how are we going to make babaganoush or any other meze which uses smoked eggplant then? Maybe on a barbeque? Still, you may not have the weather to go outside and smoke your eggplant (aubergine), come back inside and carry on cooking. Well, if that’s your reality like it is mine then I have the second best thing to smoked eggplant (aubergine) for you.

Recipe Notes:
• Eggplant (aubergine) is an interesting vegetable: you cannot boil it or steam it; it gets mushy. However, it responds well to baking, stewing, smoking and deep frying. Since smoking is out of the question for me and baking is a drier method which doesn’t work in a meze situation—neither does stewing here—I’ll take deep frying method, thank you very much.
• Eggplant can be very bitter. To get rid of its bitterness, soak the eggplant chunks in salted water for at least 30 minutes—the longer the better. Salt will draw out the bitter juice.
• You will also need to be careful with deep frying eggplant as it transforms itself into an oil-loving sponge if you’re not careful. To avoid that, sprinkle the eggplants with salt just before deep frying. This’ll stop them from drinking all your frying oil.

Easy Eggplant (Aubergine) Dip or Patlıcan Ezme

1 large round eggplant
1 tablespoon Greek style plain yoghurt
1 large clove garlic, crushed
Juice of ½ lemon
1 tablespoon flat-leaf parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper

• Peel the eggplant and cut into small pieces. Soak them in generously salted water for at least half an hour with a plate on top –this’ll stop them from floating above the water.
• Rinse the eggplant well under running water and dry the pieces carefully. Heat the oil in a deep fryer and fry the eggplant until golden brown. Drain on kitchen paper.
• Place the yoghurt and eggplant in a small food processor with garlic and whizz it up until it is dip like, scraping the sides every now and then to achieve more even texture.
• Place processed eggplant in a bowl. Combine with crushed garlic, lemon juice and parsley. Season with salt and pepper.
• Serve with crusty bread.

Spicy Bean Dip, VegFusion Style

Summer is nearly here in Sydney. The days are quite pleasant at the moment; I even managed to spend some time outside during NaNoWriMo, writing my first draft at our front yard with my dog sitting beside me and doing his neighbourhood watch thing. When the weather is better I crave for dips and lighter, fresher foods in general. So this recipe below is the product of a hot day.

Spicy Bean Dip, VegFusion Style

Spicy Bean Dip

1 tin (420 g) cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 tbsp (heaped) Turkish hot pepper paste (home style if possible)
1 large clove garlic, crushed
2 tbsp water
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
Salt to taste

Crudités: Carrot and celery sticks

• Place the beans, water, chilli paste, crushed garlic, cumin, coriander in a food processor and whiz it up on high speed.
• Transfer the mixture in a small serving bowl and serve with crudités.

Note: For extra spiciness, sprinkle the dip with chilli flakes.

Purslane Salad with Yoghurt or Yoğurtlu Semizotu Salatası

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There are many Turkish ingredients I can easily get in Sydney but it means a long trip to a distant suburb called Auburn. Because of that, my husband and I don’t go there very often but when we do, we stock up well –sometimes way beyond our storage capacity. Mostly pantry items though as they don’t go bad in a hurry.

Last Thursday, we were going to be in the area so we thought it would be good to drop in and get some ingredients. After picking up our usual suspects, what did I find at the vegetable section? Fresh purslane! I immediately made my favourite Purslane Salad with Yoghurt and it was so delicious. Although I was so happy to be able to get purslane in Sydney, it is still a treat I enjoy alone because my husband doesn’t like it. Well, you can’t please everyone.

Purslane Salad with Yoghurt

1 bunch purslane
1 cup Greek style yoghurt
1 clove garlic, crushed
A drizzle extra virgin olive oil
Salt to taste
1 teaspoon chilli flakes

• In a salad bowl, mix together the yoghurt, salt, crushed garlic and the olive oil. If the yoghurt is too thick add a little water.
• Wash the purslane and drain well. Remove leaves from the bunch and chop the stalks if they are not too thick. Add the purslane to the yoghurt mix and stir well.
• Place the salad onto a serving plate and sprinkle with chilli flakes and serve.

• Try making this salad with the addition of cucumber and fresh dill.
• Or add some nuts like walnuts.

Green Lentils and Noodle Soup or Bacaklı Çorba

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Coming back from 5 week Europe holiday including Turkey, I decided to cook something Turkish. Since the weather here in Australia is cold at this time of the year, I thought a soup would be the best.

This was one of my Dad’s favourite soups growing up in Northern part of Turkey where the cuisine heavily relies on legumes, especially during winter months. Later on, it became my favourite soup. Because of eriste sticking out of spoon with every spoonful of this soup, my Dad named it Bacakli Corba (leggy soup).

The recipe below is my grandmother’s recipe. It was difficult to come up with the right measurements as she never measured anything while cooking. I managed to put it together during one of our conversations. Hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Green Lentils and Noodle Soup or Bacaklı Çorba
¾ cup green lentils, picked over, washed and cooked
1 cup eriste, cooked
2 tbsp plain flour (heaped)
1 egg
3 generous tbsp yoghurt, in room temperature

For tempering:
2 tbsp butter
3 tsp dried spearmint

• Whisk together plain flour, egg and yoghurt in a large pan. Add 8 glasses of water and boil. Once it is boiled, add cooked lentils and eriste. Season with salt.
• In a separate small saucepan, melt the butter and add dried spearmint. Let it smoke a little without burning.
• Add it to the rest of the soup and serve warm.

Turkish Coffee and Galeri Set

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Placemats in this photo were made by my mother who passed away four years ago.

I know, I haven’t been around for some time but I am not ignoring or neglecting VegFusion Peoples. The truth is I just got home from a five-week trip to Istanbul, London, Paris, Munich, Vienna, Prague, Berlin and Istanbul again. The main reason for this holiday was Toto concerts. We bought tickets to go and see them live some time ago after exhausting our hopes of seeing them play in Sydney –by the way we went to two concerts in the end (Paris and Berlin). So the whole trip was shaped up around their concert dates. Now that I have done my laundry, got over my jet-lag although it keeps coming back and even sorted out some of the holiday photos (only some though), I am ready to share my culinary experiences with you.

In today’s post, I have goodies from Turkey. Four years ago, during one of my trips to Turkey, I was flying from Istanbul to Izmir and reading an in-flight magazine during take-off. In that particular issue there was an article about a shop at Spice Bazaar in Istanbul called Galeri Set. They sell hand-made Turkish coffee cups –among other porcelain objects. What’s so special about them is they are made using traditional methods which means it takes twenty-one days to make one coffee cup.

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A postcard from Istanbul.

Before I left Sydney, I watched videos about the shop, history of Turkish coffee and these particular cups as well. When in Istanbul, we had to track down Galeri Set in Spice Bazaar –thank God, Spice Bazaar is not as big as Grand Bazaar. I must admit, I still find that part of Istanbul quite confusing but anyway we found the place and bought a set of two for us and a set of two for our dear friends in Sydney (as promised). While talking to their sales person, one of the owners started chatting with me. He turned out to be Uğur Atik –the very person in the videos I watched on YouTube before the holiday! He is an incredibly polite and soft spoken person just like he is in the videos. He offered us a special cologne –produced only for the Sultans, not for common folks like us. It was different to straight forward lemon cologne which is widely used in Turkey. Mr Atik then told us a little story about a Sultan who used this cologne and the story came with a demonstration too. In the end, he gave us a pack of Turkish coffee as present, a pack of rose flavoured Turkish delight and a DVD of his TV appearances. We are also invited to have coffee with him next time we’re in Istanbul.

OK, let’s talk about the shop. Galeri Set was established in 1972 and it’s at number 78 in the heart of Spice Bazaar (Mısır Çarşısı). Every object they sell there is hand-made and produced with the same techniques used 650 years ago. You could safely say that there is a long history behind everything. Obama, Queen Elizabeth, George W. Bush, Fidel Castro, King and Queen of Jordan, President of the Republic of Austria, Beşar Esad, President of Syria, Zeid Al Suderi, Prince of Saudi Arabia, and Kevin Costner are among their clientele.

IMG_4919 (908x1024)Now, let’s talk about the coffee cups or ‘fincan’ as we call them in Turkish. The ones I have are 17th century, coral red ones. I was going to get yellow fincans but a friend of mine from Turkey gave me a beautiful yellow set as a present (photo above) so, I decided to get the red ones instead.

Colours represent a certain era or century in Ottoman history. For example:
Turquoise and pink: 16th century
Coral and midnight blue: 17th century
Yellow and green: 18th century

A good quality Turkish coffee fincan (cup) should be wide down the bottom and narrow at the top. This way, the foam will not disperse easily. The handles have a special angle so whether you are left-handed or right-handed, this particular angle makes it easy for everyone.

How to make Turkish coffee
First of all, you need to know how everyone has their coffee which means how much sugar you will need to use as there is no add-sugar-later-on kind of thing in the making of Turkish coffee. There are four sugar levels:
• Şekersiz or sade: no sugar at all
• Az şekerli: with little sugar (½ Turkish teaspoon)
• Orta şekerli: medium (1 Turkish teaspoon)
• Şekerli: 2 Turkish teaspoon

Note: 1 Turkish teaspoon equals 1 level teaspoon.
Second, you will need a ‘cezve’ to make Turkish coffee. Cezve is a narrow necked pot with a long handle. Usually made out of brass.
Turkish coffee should be quite fine and you can only achieve that by using a traditional grinder. Regular electric grinders don’t do the job properly. It’s better if you have a brass one and do it yourself but you can buy your coffee already ground too. I have my grandmother’s antique coffee grinder (photo below) in case you’re wondering what it looks like. However, all of that is not practical; I can hear you. In that case, you can buy pre-packaged ones from Middle-Eastern stores.

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My grandmother’s coffee grinder.

Preparing Turkish coffee in a cezve:
Add coffee and sugar to the cezve (1 heaped teaspoon of coffee per person).
Top them up with cold water and stir. Always use your fincan as a measuring cup for water.
When stirring the mixture of coffee, sugar and water, the spoon should be held with an angle to create finer foam, not bubbles. If you hold the spoon in a 90 degree angle, you get bubbles.
Bring it to a boil, quickly remove from heat and pour the foam into your coffee cup. Return the cezve to the heat. Boil again and quickly pour more coffee into your fincan but not all of it. Boil the coffee one more time and pour the rest of it into cup. Do not, under any circumstances cook your coffee.

How to Drink Turkish Coffee
First of all, you start by drinking water which is served with your coffee to cleanse your palate. Then, wait for the sediment to settle to the bottom of your cup which should take about 30 seconds. I remember the first time my husband tried Turkish coffee. Of course, he didn’t know and thought he was drinking mud. He still hasn’t recovered from that memory.
Afiyet olsun Peoples!

So, if you ever find yourself in Istanbul, go to Galeri Set and get yourself some Turkish coffee fincans. Next time, I’ll get a tray too!

Galeri Set
Mısır Çarşısı İçi No: 78
Eminönü – Istanbul
Website: www.galeriset.com

Spice Bazaar in Istanbul

A shop at Spice Bazaar in Istanbul

Breaded Cauliflower with Garlic Yoghurt and Burnt Chilli Dressing

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Can deep fried food be light and fluffy? With the help of right ingredients, the answer is yes. The “right” ingredients here are lemon juice and Pellegrino or any mineral water. Somehow, they add this lightness to a breaded and deep fried cauliflower or any other vegetable without the unbearableness. I hope you know which book/movie I’m referring to…

This recipe is originally vegetarian and it has become one of Dad’s favourite dishes during his trip to Sydney. The trick here is adding lemon juice to boiling water to blanch the cauliflower. This way, you don’t stink up the kitchen with that sulphurous smell and you keep white colour of cauliflower white, too.

Here’s the recipe:

Breaded Cauliflower with Garlic Yoghurt and Burnt Chilli Dressing

1 medium sized cauliflower, broken into florets
Juice of ½ lemon
Sunflower oil for deep-frying

2 eggs, beaten
½ cup Pellegrino
1 tbsp lemon juice
¾ cup plain flour
Bread crumbs (I use a Jewish brand which is the best I’ve tried so far: Solomon)
Salt and pepper

Garlic Yoghurt:
250 grams plain yoghurt (Greek style)
2 large cloves garlic, crushed
A little water in case yoghurt is too thick

Burnt Chilli Dressing:
15 grams butter
1 tsp dried chilli flakes

• Wash the cauliflower and break it into florets.
• Boil enough water. Add juice of ½ lemon. Drop the cauliflowers into the water and blanch for 10 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water to stop them from further cooking. Drain again and set aside.
• Heat the oil to 180 degrees C.
• To make the batter: mix together the flour, beaten eggs, lemon juice and Pellegrino. Season with salt and pepper and whisk until it is smooth.
• To make garlic yoghurt: mix together crushed garlic and yoghurt and add water if necessary (it should be runny but not too watery). Set aside.
• Drop blanched florets into batter first. Allow any excess to drip off and then roll into bread crumbs.
• Deep fry all of the breaded cauliflower until golden brown and place on a large flat plate lined with kitchen paper. This’ll absorb excess oil.
• Meanwhile, melt butter in a small saucepan and add the chilli flakes. Heat it until it is slightly smoky.
• Arrange deep-fried cauliflowers on a serving plate. Cover with garlic yoghurt and drizzle with burnt butter.
• Serve warm.