Want to learn about Turkish food? Looking for Turkish recipes? Read Yasmin Khan's guide.
Recipes extracted from Ripe Figs: Recipes and Stories from the Eastern Mediterranean by Yasmin Khan (£26, Bloomsbury). Recipes are supplied by the publisher and not retested by us.
Turkish food is bright and flavoursome, bursting with zing from pomegranate molasses, fiery kicks from pul biber pepper flakes and the warming notes of cumin, paprika and cinnamon.
Wandering around the streets of Istanbul is a treasure trove of incredible flavours. You can feast on sumac and lemondoused fish kebabs, drink cartons of tangy sour cherry juice and pick up dense, sticky squares of pistachio baklava, soft, glistening and drenched in syrup.
The Mediterranean sunshine and rich red soil produce a glut of fruits and vegetables such as aubergines, tomatoes, bell peppers and wild greens, which form the bedrock of Turkish food. Add on to this excellent olives and olive oil, aged sheep’s and goat’s cheeses, thick natural yogurts, fresh nuts such as walnuts, hazelnuts and pistachios, alongside copious amounts of fragrant herbs such as parsley, dill and mint, and a particular affinity for barbequed meat grilled over hot coals.
Storecupboard essentials are chickpeas, white beans, brown lentils and plenty of white rice, orzo pasta and bulgur wheat. My favourite is the most famous dairy product of the region, the iconic white brined cheese known as beyaz peynir in Turkey, which adorns salads and sandwiches, meze platters and breakfast spreads.
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Walking along the Bosporus in Istanbul, one of the most iconic sights is that of people standing at the side of the water behind small barbecues, grilling fresh mackerel for these tasty takeaway sandwiches, that are best eaten staring out at the bobbing waters.
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Classic Turkish meatballs (kuru köfte)
Wherever you are in Turkey, you won’t have to look far to find cafés that specialise in different types of meatballs, and there are dozens of regional specialities that vary from town to town. This is perhaps the most stripped down and simple köfte, the kind your mum might make when you get home from school. Just be sure to pound the meat together to get the right consistency – this will take at least a few minutes by hand. Put some elbow grease into it and you won’t be disappointed! Recipe available in Ripe Figs: Recipes and Stories from the Eastern Mediterranean by Yasmin Khan
Hot yogurt and spinach soup (yayla çorbası)
This rich and creamy soup is inspired by the high mountain meadows in northern Turkey, where the country’s best dairy comes from. It’s incredibly simple, quick and comforting, and, as such, is on steady rotation at my house. To make sure the yogurt doesn’t split while you are cooking it, add it in stages and warm it up gently, and use the best-quality full-fat natural yogurt you can find. Recipe available in Ripe Figs: Recipes and Stories from the Eastern Mediterranean by Yasmin Khan
Get a taste of Turkey
A vivid red, warming spice made from dried and crushed peppers.
The famous Turkish kebab is made using these impressive long, flat skewers. These are extralong and brilliant for BBQs.
This sweet but tart syrup is a winner for marinades, stews and salad dressings.