Monday, July 23, 2012

Milk Pudding with Ground Almonds for Iftar Dinners

 'Kashkul'  which is basically a milk pudding with ground almonds in it goes along well with iftar dinners. Being very simple to make, it surprises you with its great flavour that largely comes from the rice flour and ground almonds, not to mention that it's one of those low-calorie alternatives to typical rich desserts in Turkey. Two days ago, kashkul was on our menu once again but for the iftar dinner this time. 

Well, before preparing  the pudding,  I ground half a package of biscuits (approximately 100 grams) with a handful of walnuts and almonds using a blender, and added ground cinnamon this time. When the pudding is done, I poured some into four medium glasses and then spread some biscuits-nuts mixture on the pudding layer. Then I repeated it until I filled the glasses up. When it was time to garnish them, I chopped some dried figs and walnuts to top each glass of pudding-biscuit-layers. Sprinkling ground cinnamon was the final touch. They looked gorgeous and tasted so. 

Milk Pudding with Ground Almonds (Kashkul) 
750 ml milk
35 gr rice flour
120 gr sugar
25-50 gr ground almonds 

1. In a small bowl, mix rice flour, almonds, sugar, and make sure there are no lumps.  
2. Add this mixture to the milk. Bring to boil over low heat stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, always in the same direction.  
3. When you see the bubbles keep stirring for another 3-5 minutes.
4. Remove from heat and set aside. Pour into serving cups and let it cool down. Refrigerate after 1-2 hours. Serve cold. 

Summer Drinks for Iftar

Noticed the bee?
Ramadan is a happy time for us. To make it more joyous I'm trying my best to enrich iftar dinners with a variety of  appetizers, sauces, desserts and cold drinks. The fruity, refreshing, spicy and healthy coolers we make at home are particularly my favourites. The newest muddle I made was a mixture of dried plums and figs, fresh apples and lemons with cinnamon and cloves. Well, in Turkey, it's very popular to mix dried fruits such as raisins, apricots, and plums in different combinations and boil them until all the aromas fuse together. By the addition of granulated sugar in the last stage of boiling, the drinks often become more sugary than refreshing since they're intended to meet the need for sweets immediately after long hours of fasting as well as getting cooler on such hot summer days. 

With such intentions, I filled a big pan with almost 5 liters of water and added 200 grams of plums, 200 grams of dried figs, 1 big red apple (sliced coarsely), 1 medium lemon (sliced), 1 small cinnamon stick and two cloves. I boiled them together until the plums and figs got swollen and soft and then yielded their colour and flavour to the water and then added 1.5 cups of sugar letting it boil for another 10 to 15 minutes. That's it. Feel free to change the ingredients or the amount of the sugar and remember to refrigerate it before serving. 

Here is the link to the 60 summer drinks by Martha Stewart:

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Zucchini with sultanas and rice

Zucchimi may be at the back of the alphabet but it's at the front of our minds when it comes to summer vegetables. As it is so, people all over the world start cooking zucchini in a variety of imaginative ways once the earliest crops arrive at the markets from the gardens. So did I. 
Cooking summer vegetables with olive oil using no meat at all and serving them at room temperature or cold is one of the most popular ways in Turkey. Removing meat from the recipes during the summertime and substituting it with nuts, currants, and several spices has been preferred for centuries in Turkish cuisine to make those dishes lighter in calories and detoxify the body after the ancient tradition of adding meat into every dish possible during the whole winter. 
Whatever the reason is, zucchini when cooked with olive oil and served cold has been one of favourites. This time, I added dried sultanas and rice to the zucchini I bought at the nearest farmer's market. Although I wanted to garnish it with fresh dill, I couldn't because it's extremely hard to find dill here in Sarajevo unlike Istanbul. With or without dill to garnish, it was a refreshing meal on such a boiling hot day in Sarajevo.

from What Katie Ate

Shopping Tip:

Look for zucchini that is firm and heavy for their size; the skin should be brightly colored and blemish-free. Because they are harvested earlier, smaller zucchini is tender than larger ones and have thinner skins; choose zucchini that is less than eight inches long. Remember that they peak at the end of the season.


3 medium zucchini
3 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
A handful of sultanas
1 large clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup rice, washed and drained
Juice of half a lemon, or more to taste
1,5 teaspoon salt, to taste
1,5 teaspoon sugar, to taste


1. Slice the zucchini into 1 inch cubes. 
2. Heat the oil in a large nonstick frying pan, and add the onions and garlic. 
3. Saute over medium heat for 7-8 minutes, and add the zucchini. Stir gently until the zucchini are becoming slightly translucent and just starting to brown. 
4. Add the raisins, the lemon juice and the rice. 
5. Season with salt and sugar.
6. Add 1 cup boiling water.
7. Stir, and let cook until the rice is done for about 30 minutes. 
8. Remove from the heat and let it cool completely.  
9. Serve at room temperature or cold. 

*Keep in the refrigerator. 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Tomatoes: Pride of the Kitchen

If you ever visited a typical Turkish kitchen during summertime, you'll see lots of ripe red tomatoes in every possible corner. If by chance, it's the winter time, you should look for some jars and cans full of tomato paste and sauce set aside before October arrives. The same scene is common in restaurants which is one of the keys to the healthy and satisfying way of eating in the Mediterranean area including Turkey. 

The reason why Turkish people consume such amounts of tomatoes in all their variety is very simple actually: They are bursting with health and goodness. Tomatoes are a top power food - nutirent-packed  and great tasting, with barely 40 calories per piece. Feel free to encourage yourself to eat plenty of tomatoes whose versatility makes them even more beautiful.

Tomatoes have the power of Phytochemicals*
Tomatoes are a strong ally in your healthy diet largely because part of their power comes from their rich array of phytochemicals that work together to protect your cardiovascular system. That makes tomatoes a classic heart-healthy Mediterranean food.
The carotenoid that gives red tomatoes their bright colour is tomatoes' most powerful component. It's also one of the most-studied nutrients in the last decade. The evidence has repeatedly shown that it reduces your risk of several cancers - including breast, cervix, prostate, pancreas, and lung cancers.
That puts tomatoes in a unique category. For most foods, the scientific case for their heart-protective benefits is solid, while evidence for their cancer-fighting property is strong but incomplete. Not so for tomatoes. Their anti-cancer action is even more proven than their heart benefits.
Eating tomatoes, then, will help you lose weight, keep your heart healthy, and stay cancer-free as you grow older.
Try tomatoes in all their many forms: fresh, canned, as a sauce, or as a paste. All forms are highly beneficial. Fresh tomatoes are best in the summer, so stock up and enjoy them at their peak. In the colder months, make your own tomato sauces and soups with canned tomatoes. Some canned tomatoes come with added flavours to make your cooking even easier.

Shopping Tip
Try to buy vine-ripened tomatoes. "Vine ripened" simply means the tomato reached full maturity before it was picked. Commercial suppliers generally harvest their tomatoes early and let them ripen in the store or on the way to it. That reduces spoilage but robs the tomatoes of much of their nutritional value and most of their naturally delicious flavor.

Cooking Tip:
Take advantage of tomatoes as a weight-loss food in all their variety - cut raw into salads, diced and sprinkled over lean meat, as a soup or stew base, bubbling in a flavorful tomato sauce, and in countless other guises. Canned tomatoes are a good option in the winter months. Unlike some other foods, tomatoes lose little of their nutritional potency when cooked. The research even tells us that tomatoes' cancer-preventing properties are more active in cooked tomatoes than in raw ones. Tomato paste and sauce, for example, are excellent sources of carotenoid.

Phytochemicals* are primarily responsible for the unique colors, flavors, and textures of fruits and vegetables. There are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of phytochemicals with an overwhelming vocabulary of hard-to-pronounce names and ways in which they provide health benefits. But two broad categories of phytochemicals are worth knowing: flavonoids and carotenoids. These nutrient types are responsible not only for the distinctive coloring of most of foods but also for their extensive health benefits.

From The Sonoma Diet by Dr. Connie Guttersen, R.D., PH.D.   


Monday, July 16, 2012

Phyllo stuffed with Swiss Chard

It's summertime once again in Sarajevo. My neighbours have already started to share their Swiss chard and other vegetables from their gardens which  made me realise it's high time I baked some phyllo with summer vegetables - once again. By the way, whenever I make some phyllo, I remember the afternoons we had 5 o'clock tea in Istanbul in the balcony of my parents' place enjoying the setting sun. My mother or sister used to bake or deep-fry some traditional foods to accompany the unique delight we would take in these 5 o'clock teas that I do miss now with the arrival of summer days. 

Five O'Clock Tea by Mary Cassatt
Well, Sarajevo people don't have the tradition of 5 o'clock tea. Let me put it straight -  Bosnian people don't drink black tea at all. Instead, coffee - both Turkish and instant - rules in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Starting from early in the morning until late at night it's pretty normal to drink it for any occasion which makes things even harder for me. 
Anyway, here come the photos of the latest phyllo I made with Swiss chard, onions and garlic. Garnishing it with poppy seeds - for a change - proved to be a really good idea in the end. The phyllo was juicy and soft enough inside and the very thin layers blended with the beaten egg yolk made the crust crunchy enough. So we devoured it all to the  accompaniment of some Turkish tea - as usual. 

1 package phyllo (500 grams)
1 bunch Swiss chard
4 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 medium onions, peeled and chopped
3-4 cloves garlic
1,5 cups warm milk+1/2 glass oil
salt and black pepper
sesame and poppy seeds

To glaze
1 large egg yolk beaten

Step 1:
  1. De-rib the chard, wash well, and let the chard drain on a kitchen towel (or some paper towels) for a few minutes, so that there’s no excess water on the leaves. Coarsely chop the chard, and set aside. 
  2. Heat vegetable oil in a saucepan. Add the onion and garlic and saute for a few minutes. Add the chard, mix everything together and cook for five minutes, stirring, until almost tender. Add some salt and pepper. Remove from heat and set aside. 
Step 2:
  1. Place a layer of phyllo in a lightly greased ovenproof dish and spread some chard mixture over the phyllo. Repeat layering until all of the chard mixture, and phyllo have been used up. Do remember to pour some milk-oil mixture on the layers while assembling the pie which definitely helps the pie become juicy. Brush the top layer of phyllo with the blaze and sprinkle with sesame and poppy seeds. Bake for around 30 minutes or until the top   is golden