There are few, if
any, ingredients used in Turkish cooking which are difficult
to obtain. Cosmopolitan influences have been felt in most
Western countries and such foods are commonplace. One
vegetable, the eggplant (aubergine), which is so much a part
of Turkish cooking, is now widely known; however, recipes
using this vegetable detail the Turkish methods for its
preparation. The preferred variety of eggplant is the long
purple fruit, but as this is only available during the
summer you will have to choose the smallest possible oval
eggplants at other times to produce dishes such as Swooning
Imam (Imam Bayildi). The following text and the glossary
give further details on foods for Turkish cooking.
Bot: Capsicum annuum
Turkish: Tatlı biber
Also know as
sweet peppers, capsicum and pimento, these peppers are green,
ripening to a deep red with a change in flavor when ripe.
The spice paprika is made from the ripe pepper.
steamed until partly cooked, dried then ground. Available in
fine and coarse grades. It has a nut-like flavor.
Bot: Cicer arietinum
Used as a food
since ancient times. They must be soaked before cooking and
some recipes require the removal of the skins. Ready-skinned
chickpeas are also available. Also roasted as a snack food.
Bot: Capsicum frutescens
Turkish: Acı biber
chilies, keep fingers away from mouth and eyes. Dried
chilies or ground chili pepper may be substituted. Before
using dried chili, remove seeds and soak chili in hot water
for 5 minutes. Use ground chili pepper cautiously, adding a
small amount at a time
and tasting until the desired heat is obtained.
Bot: Coriandrum sativum
A member of the
parsley family. Both the fresh leaves (cilantro) and seeds (coriander)
are used. The flavor of the leaves is an acquired taste; the
name derives from the Greek "koris", meaning bug, indicative
of its aroma. It is also similar to the aroma of dried
Bot: Cinnamomum zeylanicum
A popular spice for both savory and sweet dishes; either the
ground form or pieces of bark are used. Cinnamon sticks or
quills are made of fine sheets of the inner layer of the
cinnamon bark, dried and interleaved to form layered tubes.
In recipes, a small
piece of bark refers to a stick about 11/2 in (4 cm) long,
and a large piece is about 3 in (8 cm) long; however, there
is no need to be exact in measuring.
Bot: Syzygium aromaticum
The dried flower bud of an evergreen tree native to tropical
Asia. Used in both savory and sweet dishes. A clove is
sometimes added to simmering chicken to remove unwanted
flavors, perhaps necessary for free-range chickens or
boiling fowls, but not for specially-raised birds. It is
claimed that cloves sweeten the breath after eating garlic.
Turkish: Mısır unu
A white starch used for thickening milk puddings and
essential for making Turkish Delight (Lokum). Not to be
confused with yellow corn flour.
Bot: Cuminum cyminum
Cumin seeds, from a plant native to Egypt, have been widely
used as a spice in Eastern Mediterranean cooking since
Bot: Anethum graveolens
Native to the Mediterranean region, dill was much favored as
a medicinal herb in ancient times. The feathery leaves are
blue-green and give a distinctive, slightly aniseed flavor
to meat, vegetable and rice dishes, and pickles. An
excellent herb with globe
artichokes. Fennel may be substituted.
Bot: Solanum melongena
Recipes give details of preparation in most instances. Stem
is left on if baking or grilling as it provides a convenient
handle. Slice, cube or slit as directed in recipe, and
either sprinkle generously with salt, or place in well-salted,
cold water. Let stand for 30 minutes so that bitter juices
are removed. Drain and pat dry with a clean kitchen towel or
paper towels. The long (Japanese) eggplants do not need
Bot: Vicia faba
Used fresh in Turkish cooking. When very young, the whole
bean is used, topped, tailed and strings removed. Mature
beans are shelled; if large, the skins are removed. Frozen
fava beans are a good year-round standby and are easily
The plain flour used in these recipes is known in North
America as all-purpose flour; whole meal flour is known as
whole-wheat flour. Unbleached all-purpose (plain) flour can
be used in recipes if preferred, especially for bread.
Bot: Allium sativum
Used from ancient times for the medicinal properties
attributed to it, garlic is essential and should not be
omitted from recipes using it. Remember that the flavor of
garlic becomes more pronounced if browned, so avoid browning
if a strong flavor is not desired. Raw garlic, finely
chopped, is often mixed through boiled greens. Any recipe
using raw garlic will leave you with an unpleasant breath.
Chewing on a clove or drinking milk are favorite antidotes.
Bot: Mentha spicata
The mint most favored is spearmint in fresh or dried form.
Used in meat and vegetable dishes, fragrant when fried in
butter or ghee for a final touch to yogurt soups and salads,
mint gives a distinct and appealing flavor. Fresh and dried
mint is readily available.
Bot: Nigella sativa
Often called black cumin, though not related to cumin,
nigella seeds are aromatic with a peppery flavor. Used to
flavor sweet yeast breads and as a topping for pide.
Bot: Myristica fragrans
The hard inner kernel of the fruit of a tropical tree grown
in the West Indies, Sri Lanka and South-East Asia.
Bot: Abelmoschus esculentus
gumbo. Native to Africa, okra is an angular pod tapering to
a point. Young okra are preferred. The vegetable has viscous
properties. The preparation of the vegetable is so devised
that these properties are lessened. If you like the
glutinous texture, then do not use the vinegar treatment
given, though a brief blanching will firm the vegetable.
Okra is also available dried, canned and frozen.
Wash well, handling okra gently. Trim stem end without
cutting pod. If desired trim around conical stem attached to
pod, removing a thin layer. This is the correct way to
prepare okra, but it is time-consuming and only serves to
remove the fine brown ring just above the pod and the outer
layer of the stem. Dry okra well in a kitchen towel, or
spread out and leave until dry. Place in bowl and add 1/2
cup (4 fl oz/125 ml) distilled vinegar to each 1 Ib (500 g)
okra. Toss gently so that vinegar coats okra. Let stand for
30 minutes, drain and rinse well. Dry and use as directed in
recipes. The vinegar treatment prevents okra from becoming
slimy during cooking.
Bot: Olea europaea
The fresh fruit is bitter and must be treated to make it
edible. Though recommended methods use a lye solution
initially, home-cured olives are prepared in other ways.
Ripe olives are dry-salted in wicker baskets and left for
several days until the bitter juices have run out, then
placed in wooden casks to mature, giving olives a wrinkled
appearance. Another method for both ripe and green olives
requires soaking in water for 3-7 days (the longer period
for green olives) with water changed daily; they are then
left in brine to mature. Slitting or cracking green fruit
hastens curing. Oil is extracted by pressing, the first
pressing yielding the finest oil which is greenish in color.
The pulp is treated and subsequent pressings give oil of
gradually lessening quality. Better quality oils keep
ORANGE FLOWER WATER
Turkish: Portakal çiçeği suyu
A fragrant liquid distilled from orange blossoms and used to
flavor sweets and pastries. If a concentrated essence is all
you can obtain, use in drops rather than the spoon measures
PARSLEY, FLAT - LEAF
Bot: Petroselinum crispum var, neapolitanum
In all recipes fresh flat-leaf (Italian) parley is used.
Curly parsley may be used for garnish.
Pastourma is the most widely used term for this dried,
highly-spiced beef popular in Turkey. Fenugreek, garlic,
paprika, black pepper and chili are the main ingredients
used in the thick, spicy coating. Slice very thinly and eat
with bread, or fry in butter and serve with fried eggs. It
is available at Greek food stores.
Turkish: Gül suyu
Distilled from fragrant rose petals, rose water is used for
both savory and sweet dishes. As the strength varies
according to the quality, when using a new brand, add
cautiously and taste to judge how much is required. Price is
usually indicative of quality, with the more expensive
brands being stronger. Rose water essence is a concentrate;
it should be used in drops rather than the spoon measures
Bot: Crocus sativus
It takes the stamens of almost a quarter million blooms to
produce 1 lb (500 g) of saffron, which makes saffron
expensive. Buy a reliable brand as there are cheaper
versions sold which are not true saffron. Pound threads in a
mortar and soak in liquid specified
in recipe to bring out the fragrance and color.
A fawn-colored powder from the dried tubers of various
species of orchids (Orchis). It has a gelatinous quality
similar to corn flour (cornstarch) or arrowroot. In Turkey it
is made into a hot beverage with milk and sugar: 1 teaspoon
sahlep to 1 cup (8 fl oz/250 ml) cold milk, stir then heat
until boiling; serve with a dusting of ground cinnamon.
Street vendors sell it in winter. It is also available at
Middle Eastern markets.
SCALLIONS (SHALLOTS /
Bot: Allium cepa
Turkish: Yeşil soğan
Also known as shallots, spring onions and green onions,
these are the long green shoots of an immature onion. Unless
otherwise specified in recipe, use some of the tender green
tops as well as the white section.
Bot: Sesamum indicum
Pale cream seeds of a plant grown in tropical regions.
Sesame seeds are oily and highly nutritious. The seeds are
used on breads and cookies, for halva and for tahini.
SPINACH AND SWISS CHARD
Spinach (Spinacia oleracea) should not be confused with
Swiss chard (Beta vulgaris)—two vegetables are not even
related botanically. Spinach, also known as English spinach,
is widely used in the Middle East. As spinach has a short
season, from midwinter to late spring, frozen leaf spinach
may be substituted at other times. Swiss chard can be used
instead of spinach, but in some recipes the result is not
quite the same. It is preferable to cook spinach or Swiss
chard in a stainless steel or enamel pan, as aluminium can
Dried, crushed red berries with a pleasant, lemony flavor.
These come from particular species of sumak tree and it is
important to purchase sumak from Middle Eastern markets as
related species of tree can be poisonous.