Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Charted Cheese Wheel

There's still a lot to learn about cheese and I'm still learning. It seems that it will take a lifetime but it makes me feel really excited! Now imagine how wonderful I felt when I came across this charted cheese wheel on wired.com   

Let me quote Liz Stinson in her post on wired.com.

..Thanks to Pop Chart Lab, you can fake it til you make it as a cheese aficionado. In their newest print, Pop Chart organizes the overwhelming world of cheese into a tidy dairy-colored wheel of information. The graphic breaks down 66 varieties based on animal milk and texture and even includes an impressively accurate illustration of each type, just in case you need a little more guidance...
After such a happiness booster, I read on three more pieces of articles on cheese. Good ones. Here are the titles with the links. (Click on the title to read the article.) 

Friday, August 23, 2013

Eggless Chocolate Carrot Cake in Microwave

In my mother's place, the main problem when it comes to cooking and baking is the lack of an efficient oven. You know, biscuits and cookies are burnt at the bottom or they are too dark on top, cakes sides are burnt and/or cakes are not done in the centre and cakes burst on top, etc. This is the only reason why I pause my cooking adventures in Turkey (unfortunately.) 

Once again, I'm in İstanbul and I've stopped baking things and it's been boring and torturing me, but then I fortunately realised (too late though) my mom also has a microwave oven which she uses only for heating or thawing food. All those photos of cakes baked in microwaves flashed through my mind and then I decided to give it try. Why not, I thought. Something snappy-quick would be ready for the afternoon tea table using the avalaible ingredients at home. And if it fails, it fails. After a quick search, I chose a chocolate carrot cake recipe on babble.com under the title of 20 Desserts You Can Make in Your Microwave. The cake came out really moist, soft and delicious. Besides, it's egg-free which makes the cake even more attractive for egg-free diet people craving such an express chocolate cake!


Butter - 1/2 cup, melted
Condensed milk - 1/2 cup
Honey - 2 teaspoons
Castor Sugar - 2 tablespoons
Vanilla essence - 1 teaspoon
Baking Soda - 1/4 teaspoon
Baking Powder - 1/4 teaspoon 
All purpose flour / Plain Flour - 3/4 cup
Cocoa powder - 2 tablespoons
Grated Carrot - 3/4 cup
Walnuts - 2 tablespoons, roughly chopped


1) Grease the microwave safe pan with butter and dust it with flour. Keep aside.
2) Take a mixing bowl, mix all the wet ingredients one by one. 
3) Then, slowly add the dry ingredients and make a batter.
4) Finally add the grated carrot and walnuts. Mix again. Transfer this batter to the prepared microwave safe pan. You can either use paper cups to prepare muffins.
5) Microwave it in HIGH mode for 3 minutes. Allow it to stand for 5 minutes. 
6) Cut into slices and enjoy.


1) If you notice the cake hasn't cooked well, you can cook it again for few more minutes. This step might vary depending on the type of the microwave used.
2) It is important to allow the cake to cool for at least 5 minutes as the heat retained within the cake will gradually continue to cook the cake.
3) You can substitute walnuts with hazelnuts and flavour the cake with spices such as cinnamon, ginger or any other spices you like. 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Turkish Style Bruschettas with Cheese and Parsley

I love my people.

Every time I come to Istanbul, I come to realise this once again. Something heartwarming a friend does, an impatient gesture I spotted in the street or an unavoidably catchy melody from a street musician remind me of how much I am in love with this country and its people. The list of possible reasons for my ever-bursting love for Turkish people is a pretty long one, for sure. However, here comes the latest one I've come to realise: Their unpredictable creativity bursts. 

Let me explain it briefly. If you are a guest in a Turkish house for breakfast, for instance, get ready for surprises even when your visit itself is an unplanned one! The host immediately turns into a rare-to-find imaginative chef using every bit of food within the walls of the house. They surprise you with combinations that you have never thought of before. You never know what you will be served although you know where the person is from. Since I am familiar to the traditions and customs in Turkey and know that another surprise might be waiting for you, I am always on the watch for another local way of bringing different kinds of fruit and vegetables using different cooking techniques. 

The last surprise came during my visit to a very close friend of mine's place a few days ago. While traditional breakfast food such as (at least 2) different kinds of cheese, olives, jam and/or marmelade, honey, tomatoes and cucumbers were arranged on the table, another friend of mine suggested preparing 'bread slices with cheese and parsley'. That's how she calls them and how her late grandma used to. The host immediately got what her guest had in mind and rummaged in the fridge and a bit of this and a bit of that followed. And after 10 minutes 'Abrakadabra!' She pulled a hot baking pan from the oven full of Turkish style bruschettas with cheese and parsley. The water-mouthing slices were so appetizing that I devoured half of the pan as the cheese monster at the breakfast table. 

By the way, the basic difference between Turkish style bruschettas and the traditional Italian ones is that you skip the step of basically grilling the bread after rubbing it with garlic and olive oil. Instead, butter is used to flavour the bread first and it is baked with the topping on letting the cheese mixture melt and get golden brown. 

5-6 slices rye or wholemeal bread
3 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
100 grams freshly grated semi-hard cheese
parsley, chopped roughly
1 egg
vegetable oil for grasing the baking pan

1. Lightly grease a baking pan with vegetable oil.
2. Slice a rye or wholemeal bread into one-centimetre-thick slices.
3. Spread butter onto the slices and arrange the slices on the pan.
3. In a medium bowl, stir an egg with a fork. Add in the cheese and parsley. Stir until all blended.
4. Spread the mixture onto the buttered slices. Be genereous.
5. Bake at 200°C for 10-15 minutes until the cheese melts and the bread gets golden brown. 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Nectarine Salad with Baked Almonds and Mulberry Molasses Dressing

Summer is almost over. The street markets in Istanbul are still packed with all the summer fruits though. A couple of days ago I happened to walk through one market in Uskudar just because the main road on my way was blocked due to some road repair. How lucky I was! At every step I took I was turning my head to each side restlessly in an effort not to miss any colour while enjoying the smell of each fruit on the stalls. After passing by one stall an invisible wave of an inspiring smell hit me and the wave surrounded me until I sensed another smell of another fabulous fruit. Imagine the combination of all those wonderful odours! Figs, peaches, nectarines, melons, watermelons, white grapes, black grapes, apricots and so many others. It was more like a symphony of summer odours! I can't remember how many stalls, how many different kinds of fruit, vegetables or other local foods I counted. I knew that I was walking around just a typical street market, however, the continuum of all those colours, shapes and smells switched on my odour-induced neurobiological mechanisms and I felt happy. Just happy. 

Later on, after such a dream-like experience, it's quite likely to find yourself with a plate of fresh nectarines and almonds for lunch. It's still summer and Istanbul offers you some nectarines. Is there any possible way to ignore it? I couldn't. 

You can tell the difference between my conception of summer season before my errand to the market and the one after that. I started my post saying ''Summer is almost over.'' and in the previous paragraph I concluded saying ''It's still summer...'' That's the unavoidable effect of one single walk around an inspiring street market. 

3 medium nectarines
1 tablespoon almonds, baked and sliced
2 tablespoons mulberry molasses
1/2 tablespoon honey
Powdered sugar

1. Wash the nectarines.
2. Cut the nectarines into four pieces.
3. Put the slices onto a serving plate.
4. In a small bowl whish together honey and mulberry molasses until blended. 
5. Drizzle the dressing on the nectarines. 
6. Top with the almonds. 
7. Sprinkle with powdered sugar just before serving.
8. Bring some extra dressing to the table in a bowl for adding as one wishes.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Fresh Green Bean Salad with Smoked Cheese, Dill and Garlic

I have problems digesting green beans. I've always had. However, I strongly believe in the benefits of eating green beans. I also believe that one should eat what's in season and for this reason I make an extra effort to add seasonal fruits and vegetables to our daily intake. Accordingly, for summer-time dinners, I go for the food combinations which use healthy ingredients with comparatively fattier ones such as salad with fresh green beans and smoked cheese. I do not know exactly how many calories this kind of salads have, but the fact that I know it has cheese inside makes me well-satisfied while eating some seasonal vegetables. By the way, the addition of fresh dill and ground garlic made the salad flavoured enough to enjoy it more during a warm summer evening. 

500 grams fresh green beans
water and salt for cooking
extra water and ice 
ground garlic
olive oil
dill, chopped finely
1 tablespoon lemon juice
smoked cheese

1. Trim the bean ends and cut them into bite-size pieces.
2. Bring a pot of water to a boil.
3. Add the beans and some salt.
4. Cook the beans until just tender. 
5. When done, drain water from the beans and immediately plunge them into a bath of ice and water to stop cooking.
6. Slice the cheese in any shape you like. Put it aside.
7. To make the dressing, put the ground garlic, olive oil, lemon juice and chopped dill into a small bowl. Mix wıth a fork until all get blended. 
6. Drain the green beans and add them to the cheese in a large serving bowl.
7. Gently fold in the dressing. 
8. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour to allow flavors to blend.
6. Taste for seasoning and add additional salt.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013


Pura is one of those specialties in the region. When you search for it on the Internet, you'll come across so many recipes under different titles which might make you get confused about whether the same dish is Bosnian, Croatian or Serbian. No matter which adjectives are preferred for pura, the ingredients are the same and the people here in Sarajevo consume it very often as part of their diet. Well, the most common recipe goes as follows:

1,5 cups cornmeal
4-5 cups water

Bring water and salt to a boil. 
Pour cornmeal into the hot water while whisking constantly to prevent lumps. 
Cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. 
Remove from the heat. 
Cover and let stand for 15 minutes before serving.  
Serve with milk, yoghurt or cream.

As you might guess, once again, I contributed to the original recipe adding in some dairy products without changing the final result. The butter and milk addition to this cornmeal- based dish helps hold the mixture firmly as far as I've observed let alone the fabulous creamy flavour it leads to. Well, here comes my own pura recipe.

1 cup polenta
3 cups water + 1 cup milk
3 tablespoons butter


1. Combine water and milk in a pan.
2. Bring it to a boil.
3. Add the salt.
4. Stir in polenta and keep stirring constantly until it becomes thicker.
5. Add in the butter.
6. Reduce the heat and continue to cook until the water is fully absorbed and the butter melts.
7. Serve hot or warm. 

Remember to add in more boiling water if the mixture gets too thick or more polenta if the mixture is too watery. It's one of the best part of making pura: There's always a way to save it if things go wrong. You never fail. 

My favourite way to prepare this amazingly simple but equally delicious dish is making it thick enough to make balls with in accompaniment to some fresh yoghurt. Anyway, I think this will be the last cornmeal based dish that I'm going to write about, for a while.Enjoy it!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Sour Cherry Juice: How and Why?

Well, if you have time and willingness to learn more about tart/sour cherries, it's just one click away. Google it and you'll be provided with about 1,290,000 results in 0.16 seconds. Almost all the websites give you almost the same information on the health benefits of tart cherries: They are proven to reduce strength loss, protect muscles, lessen pain, speed recovery, improve sleep habits, and increase wellness. Wow, right? However, how many of us bother themselves and make tart cherry juice at home? 

Well, I haven't met a lot. The only people I know making juice at home are Teta Mira (one of my neighbours), Semsa (Asya's granny), my mother-in-law and thank God her son. Emir is the only young person I know that has a heartfelt belief in the benefits of homemade juice and accordingly tries to make juice of whatever in season. The last time I joined him in his trekking adventure to the nearest mountain (Mount Igman) to our place in an attempt not to miss the elderberry season was enough to show me how much he cares about making homemade juice. I do appreciate all his efforts and enjoy the drinks he prepares at every dinner. By the way, I'll write about elderberry juice we made some other time.

Sour cherry juice has become one of my favourites recently. Until this Ramadan, I've always avoided drinking sour cherry juice (the regular ones you buy at supermarkets) since they make my stomach go gassy although I love the sourness and the inspiring colour sour cherries offer us. Anyway, two weeks ago Teta Mira told Emir to pick the cherries in her garden just because she wanted to share the extra cherries her trees yield every summer. And he did. However, we didn't know actually how to get the juice at first but then we thought it couldn't be so much different from making juice using other fruits. After a quick search on the net we learned that the recipe for sour cherry syrup requires:

1/2 kg cherries
1 kg sugar
250 ml water

And then,

Step 1: We washed the cherries and removed their seeds.
Step 2: We put the cherries into a big pan with some sugar. (The amount of sugar all depends on how much sweet you want the juice to be, so feel free.)
Step 3: We let the cherries take up the sweetness of the sugar overnight.
Step 4: We added water and stirred until the sugar dissolved.
Step 5:We brought the contents to a boil and simmered it for fifteen minutes.
Step 6: We strained and squeezed all the moisture from the cherries into a separate saucepan
Step 7: We simmered the juice until it thickened. 
Step 8: We ladled it into hot, sterile pint jars.
Step 9: We processed the jars for 15 minutes in hot water bath. (Alternatively, you can keep them in the oven at 175°C for 15 minutes to seal them.)

Do remember that the syrup you get following these steps forms the base of your cherry juice. For the very juice, you need to dilute a spoonful or two of it in a glass of water or sparkling water.

Well, why sour cherries? 

For the nutritional and medical value sour cherries possess, I recommend the following article. You'll learn a lot more about sour cherries.


And here is another one about the sour cherry trees:



Saturday, August 3, 2013

Cocoa Cake with Strawberries and Chocolate Cereal Flakes


It looks attractive, doesn't it? How else could it be when the combination of fresh strawberries, cocoa and heavy cream is so irresistible? Well, it's the last cocoa cake I made decorated with strawberries and all those chocolate cereal flakes. The final touch came when I remembered to dust some powdered sugar over it. What an effect! It looks as if it's snowed over a strawberry field! 

The recipe below for the cake itself is from BBC Food and the one for the cream is from Martha Stewart. Bon appetite!

~ Ingredients ~

For the cake

225 g flour

350 g caster sugar

85 g cocoa powder

1½ tsp baking powder

1½ tsp bicarbonate of soda

 2 free-range eggs

250 ml milk

125 ml vegetable oil

2 tsp vanilla extract

250 ml boiling water

Fresh Strawberries

Powdered sugar

For the whipped cream

1 cup heavy cream

1-2 tbsp granulated sugar or confectioners' sugar


Preparation method

For the cake

1. Preheat the oven to 180C.
2. Grease and line two 20cmX12.5cm cake tins. 
3. For the cake, place all of the cake ingredients, except the boiling water, into a large mixing bowl. Using a wooden spoon, or electric whisk, beat the mixture until smooth and well combined. 
4. Add the boiling water to the mixture, a little at a time, until smooth. (The cake mixture will now be very liquid.)
5. Divide the cake batter between the tins and bake in the oven for 25-35 minutes, or until the top is firm to the touch and a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.
6. Remove the cakes from the oven and allow to cool completely, still in their tins, before decorating.

For the cream

7. In a deep mixing bowl, beat the heavy cream until soft peaks form.
8. Sprinkle the sugar over cream; beat until soft peaks return. Do not overbeat. Keep it in the refrigerator until the cakes are cool enough to assemble.

To assemble the cake

 9. Run a round-bladed knife around the inside of the cake tins to loosen the cakes. Carefully remove the cakes from the tins.
10. Split the cakes into two layers. 
 11. Spread some cream over the top of one of the chocolate cakes. 
12. Slice the strawberries into two halves.
13. Place the strawberries on the creamed cakes and then carefully top with the other cakes.
14. Transfer the cakes to serving plates. 
15. Spread some cream over the top.
16. Decorate with the rest of the strawberries and chocolate cereal flakes.
17. Dust with powdered sugar.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Mid-summer Fruit Salad: A great substitute for traditional Ramadan desserts

It's definitely not easy to adapt yourself to the totally new eating routine of Ramadan. 

Keeping this in mind, I've been trying to replace the traditional desserts in syrup that we usually make and devour after iftar by lighter and more nutritional ones such as fruit salads or low-fat milk puddings. Since the first group contain high amounts of  refined sugar, it seems much more logical to substitute them with the latter. 

Well, here is the photo of one that I enjoyed to the last bit a few days ago. There is no recipe and no dressing is required. All you need is some fresh blueberries, redcurrants, apricots, yoghurt and a pinch of ground cinnamon. It is both refreshing and delicious on a warm mid-summer evening.