May 5, 2014 By Shauqeen Mizaj

Why Not a Türk bayram (Turkish Feast) This Time??


During my stay in Gulf, I noticed weekdays flying much faster. However, I always wish for the weekends to arrive, because weekends meant getting out of the usual old routine, breathing fresh air, hanging out with family, trying out new flavors and revitalizing our palettes. Experimenting with new dishes is always exciting, be it local or otherwise. Instead of the usual and lavishly available Arabic and Italian cuisine, one weekend we opted for a Turkish restaurant in Dubai. The ambience was exceptionally hypnotizing just like the allure and aroma of the food. A perfect dining out, we left the restaurant with sweet and delightful memories.

The food reminded me of a country so stunning by its geography and much inviting by its cultural heritage.  The country’s culture and tradition evolved through a great length of time and is greatly influenced by migrants from Central Asia and the surrounding regions like Europe, Middle East and Africa. Turkish cuisine, an amalgam of different cuisine cultures and tastes is regarded as one of the three greatest cuisines of the world other than French and Chinese. It’s said that the cuisine was created mainly to please the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire. History says that the chefs of the Sultan tried hard to create an exquisite cuisine to please the Sultan and this forms the basis of Turkish food today.

Turkish tea is called “cay” which is derived from a Chinese word “cha” meaning tea. The Turks have their own way of preparing and drinking tea, which is an integral part of their culture. Tea is offered at public places, business meetings, on special occasions at home, before or after meal, as a sign of friendship and hospitality. Since tea is brewed for a long time, it is too strong to be drunk in large cups and is therefore served in small glasses. There is a folk saying in Turkey that “Conversations without tea are like a night sky without the moon”.

The main meal usually starts with a meze (appetizer) and soup. Freshly baked bread and rice accompanies every meal with desserts served in the end. Back at my home, I tried out a meze, a main course and a dessert which turned out to be fabulous gifting a wonderful surprise to my family and making it an awesome weekend. Try the dishes at home; they might make your special days more special.  Descriptions of them are followed with recipes


Dolma means “stuffed” and consists of wrapping leaves such as vine or cabbage leaves around a stuffing which includes rice, herbs, vegetables and spices with or without meat. They are sometimes called “sarma” which means to “wrap” and is cooked mainly in olive oil. Dolmas filled with meat are eaten hot, is considered a main course served with yogurt and those without meat are eaten at room temperature with lemon sauce.


The name literally means “Sultan’s delight” and according to legend, this luscious specialty was created for Sultan Murad IV. Legend also says that the dish was made for Empress Eugenie, the wife of Napoleon III, in Sultan Abdul Aziz’s Beylerbeyi Palace during her visit to Istanbul in 1869. It consists of a lamb stew served on a bed of creamy eggplant puree.


It is a popular dessert rich in content and easy to prepare. It is prepared by filling the dough layers with chopped nuts and sweetened with honey or syrup.  A strong cup of Turkish coffee compliments it well.



  • Onion – a handful
  • Lemon zest – ½ teaspoon
  • Pine nuts – ¼ cup
  • Black pepper – ¼ teaspoon
  • Cinnamon – a pinch
  • Long grained rice – ½ cup
  • Salt – ¼ teaspoon
  • Chicken/ vegetable stock – 2cups
  • Parsley, dill – 2 tablespoons
  • Lemon juice – 1 tablespoon
  • Extra virgin olive oil – 4 tablespoon
  • Vine leaves


  •  Heat 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in a pan and cook finely chopped onion for a few minutes, stirring occasionally. Add ½ teaspoon grated  lemon zest and ¼ cup pine nuts and cook for 2 minutes, stirring.
  •  Add a pinch of cinnamon, ½ teaspoon sea salt, ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper and ½ cup long-grain rice.
  •  Add ¼ cup chicken / vegetable stock and bring to boil; simmer for ten minutes and add 2 tablespoons of fresh parsley and 1 tablespoon fresh dill.  Keep aside to cool.
  • Place the vine leaves in a pot of simmering water for 5 minutes, drain and pat dry. Place a small amount of mixture on the leaf, which has to be vein side facing up. Fold the stem end over the filling, and continuing with both the sides. Fold into a cigar like shape making sure not to fold too tight; the rice will expand during cooking.
  • Place the dolmades in a large pot. Pour chicken stock, lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil and bring to boil. Simmer for 11/2 hours with lids closed.
  • Brush the dolmades with extra virgin olive oil when ready and serve warm.




  • lamb (leg or shoulder, diced) – 1 kg
  •  onions, chopped – 2
  • tomatoes, peeled and pureed – 3
  • cinnamon – ½ teaspoon
  • sweet paprika – 1 teaspoon
  •  bay leaves – 2
  • salt – to taste
  • Sugar – 1 tablespoon
  • Eggplants (aubergines) – 4 – 5 pieces
  • cream (thick) – 100ml
  • Cheese – 150 g (cheddar/kasseri)
  • Butter – 100g
  • Nutmeg – ½ teaspoon


For the lamb sauce:

  •   Heat the oil/butter in a pan and sauté the lamb chops until they are brown in color. Remove the lamb pieces, add more oil and sauté the onion till   done.
  •   Add garlic, oregano, tomato puree, pepper, salt, sugar, bay leaves, sweet paprika and stock. Cover and leave for an hour or till the sauce        thickens.

Preparation of eggplant puree:

  •   Place the eggplants on fire after pricking them with fork. Continue until it is charred and soft.
  •   When cooled, remove the skin and seeds and soak in water with lemon to avoid tanning. Drain the eggplants and whisk well to make a puree.
  •    Melt butter in a sauce pan and add cream. Bring to boil, stir in cheese, the eggplant puree, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Add a squeeze of lemon          juice for extra flavor.
  •    Mix well till the gravy is thick and adjust the seasonings as required.
  •    Spoon the eggplant puree onto the serving dish and place the lamb sauce on top. Garnish with parsley and serve hot with bread or/and salad.





  •     Readymade phyllo pastry sheets – 1 packet (keep it damp until it is ready to use)
  •     Unsalted butter, extra for greasing – 1 ½ cup
  •     walnuts, pistachios – finely chopped – 1 ½ cup
  •     sugar, white granulated – 3 cups
  •     ground cloves- ½ teaspoon
  •     ground cinnamon  – 1 teaspoon



  •      Preheat oven to 180 degree Celsius.
  •      Mix walnuts, pistachios, sugar, ground cinnamon and ground cloves.
  •      Grease the baking tray. Place the phyllo sheets in the baking tray brushing each sheet generously with butter so that they would not stick              together.
  •      After 8- 10 sheets, place the walnut mixture and repeat layering the phyllo sheet. Spread the remaining butter on top.
  •      Cut the baklava diagonally to form diamond shapes and bake for 20 minutes or until the pastry is done. Remove and allow to cool.

For the syrup:

  • Mix one cup water, two cups sugar, 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves and either 3/4 teaspoons cinnamon and lemon juice, if u like the flavor, in a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Simmer for 20 minutes until the syrup is ready.
  • Pour the boiling syrup over the cool baklava and allow to cool completely again. It is ready to serve.
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