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Turkish Kitchen - Turkish Cuisine

( from wikipedia ) Turkish cuisine inherited its Ottoman heritage which could be described as a fusion and refinement of Central Asian, Middle Eastern and Balkan cuisines. Together with the french and the chinese one, the turkish kitchen belongs to the 3 largest cuisines in the world.

A typical Turkish breakfast consists of cheese (beyaz peynir, kaşar etc.), butter, olives, eggs, tomatoes, green peppers, reçel (jam/marmalade; a preserve of whole fruits) and honey. Sucuk/sujuk (spicy Turkish sausage), pastırma, börek, simit, pogaca and even soups can be taken as a morning meal in Turkey. A common Turkish speciality for breakfast is called menemen which is prepared with roasted tomatoes, peppers, olive oil and eggs. Invariably, black tea is served at breakfast. Coffee has affected Turkish culture so much that the Turkish word for breakfast, "kahvaltı" literally means "before coffee" (kahve 'coffee' altı 'before').

Eating out
Although fast food is gaining popularity and many major fast food chains have opened all over Turkey, Turkish people still rely primarily on the rich and extensive dishes of the Turkish cuisine. In addition, some traditional Turkish foods, especially köfte, döner, börek and gözleme are often served in fast food style in Turkey. Eating out has always been common in large commercial cities. Esnaf lokantasi (meaning restaurants for shopkeepers and tradesman) are widespread, serving traditional Turkish home cooking at affordable prices.

Summer cuisine
In the hot summer, many Turks prefer to have a lighter meal with summer vegetables and fruits. A summer meal is usually made up of fried vegetables (aubergines, potatoes, courgettes, green peppers) served with yogurt or tomato sauce, sheep's cheese, cucumbers, tomatoes, watermelons, melons, and summer helva which is lighter and less sweet. top of page

Key ingredients
Frequently-used ingredients in Turkish specialities include: meat, eggplants, green peppers, onions, garlic, lentils, beans, tomatoes. Nuts, especially pistachios, pine nuts, almonds, hazelnuts, and walnuts, together with spices, have a special place in Turkish cuisine. A great variety of spices are sold at the Spice Bazaar (Mısır Çarşısı). Preferred spices and herbs include parsley, cumin, black pepper, paprika, mint, oregano and thyme.

Oils and fats
Butter or margarine, olive oil, sunflower oil and corn oil are widely used for cooking. Sesame, hazelnut and walnut oils are used as well. top of page

Use of fruit
In the Ottoman cuisine, the combination of fruit with meat was quite frequent. Plums, apricots, apples, grapes, and figs are the most frequently used fruits (either fresh or dried) in Turkish cuisine. For example, komposto (compote) or hoşaf (from Persian, literally meaning, nice water) are among the main side dishes to meat or pilav. Dolma and pilaf usually contain currants or raisins. Etli yaprak sarma (vine leaves stuffed with meat and rice) used to be cooked with sour plums in Ottoman cuisine.

Milk-fed lambs, the most popular source of meat, have a very low yield today. For example Kuzu çevirme (meaning cooking the milk-fed lamb by turning it above fire) which was once upon a time an important ceremony can not be seen anymore. In some regions, meat which was mostly eaten only at the wedding ceremonies or during the Kurban Bayramı (Eid ul-Adha) as etli pilav (rice with meat) became a part of the daily diet after the introduction of industrial production. Veal, which was usually shunned, became widespread. However, the main use of meat at cooking is still putting minced meat into vegetable dishes. Alternatively, in coastal towns, cheap fish such as sardines (sardalya) or anchovies (hamsi) is widespread. Combining meat with vegetables or rice or putting meat in soups or in Turkish salty pastries börek or gözleme is typical.

Yoghurt is an important element in Turkish cuisine. In fact, the English word yoghurt or yogurt derives from the Turkish word yoğurt. Yoghurt can accompany almost all meat dishes (kebabs, köfte), vegetable dishes (especially fried eggplant, courgette, spinach with minced meat etc.), meze and a speciality called mantı (dough balls containing minced meat). In villages, yoghurt is regularly eaten with rice or bread. A thicker, higher-fat variety, süzme yoğurt or "strained yogurt", is made by straining the yogurt curds from the whey. One of the most common Turkish drinks, ayran, is made from yoghurt. top of page

Vegetable dishes
A vegetable dish can be a main course in a Turkish meal. A large variety of vegetables is used, such as spinach, leek, cauliflower, artichoke, cabbage, celery, eggplant, green and red bell peppers, string bean and jerusalem artichoke. A typical vegetable dish is prepared with a base of chopped onions, carrots sauteed first in olive oil and later with tomatoes or tomato paste. The vegetables and hot water will then be added. Quite frequently a spoon of rice and lemon juice is also added. Vegetable dishes usually tend to be served with its own water (the cooking water) thus often called in colloquial Turkish sulu yemek literally "a dish with juice"). Minced meat can also be added to a vegetable dish but vegetable dishes which are cooked with olive oil (zeytinyağlılar) are often served cold and do not contain meat. Spinach, leek, string bean and artichoke with olive oil are among the most widespread dishes in Turkey.

Alcoholic beverages
Raki becomes cloudy white, when mixed with water. Although the majority of Turks profess the Islamic religion, alcoholic beverages are as widely available as in Europe. However, some Turks abstain from drinking alcohol during the holy month of Ramadan. There are a few local brands of lager such as Tekel Birasi and Marmara34, Efes and a large variety of international beers that are produced in Turkey such as Skol, Beck's, Carlsberg and Tuborg. top of page

There are a variety of local wines produced by Turkish brands such as Kavaklidere, Doluca, Corvus, Kayra, Pamukkale and Diren which are getting more popular with the change of climatic conditions that affect the production of wine. A range of grape varieties are grown in Turkey.

More informations about the turkish cuisine, which is beside french & chinese one of the 3 largest cuisines in the world, you can find at wikipedia. top of page

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