“The way to entice people into cooking is to cook delicious things” (Yotem Ottolenghi). One of the most succulently rich and appetizing cuisines in the world reigns in Turkey. Turkish food is extremely diverse with sea of flavours and creative cooking styles. This is a testimony to the Turkish people’s passionate attitude towards their food culture.
The rich diversity in food stems from its influences of the Seljuk and Ottoman empire as well as variety of produce cultivated throughout the country. Now if you are wondering, the Seljuk Empire was a Turk-Persian Muslim dynasty who ruled the Central and Middle-east Asia including, Iran, Iraq and Syria between 11th to 14th century. So, I guess there is no surprise there that there are similarities in the Persian and Turkish cuisines wherein both take influences from the other in making their food culture richer. The Ottoman Empire followed and reigned for over 600 years. This was a time where social, cultural, historic, arts and philosophy etc. were booming along side the gastronomical culture of the region. The palace kitchens of the Seljuk and Ottoman empires greatly shaped and influenced the Turkish cuisine we know today.
The culinary style of cooking varies across the country with their individual historic deep-rooted influences e.g. the Food culture of Istanbul and Izmir regions have many influential elements of the Ottoman Empire and ofcourse there isn’t a soul on earth who is not familiar with the famous Turkish Doner and Adana kebabs as well as Turkish Gozleme. Now, if you don’t know what those are, you seriously haven’t been properly introduced to this prodigious cuisine and if you are ever in Istanbul, that is the one place where the diversity and variety of the Turkish cuisine can be experienced first hand. Istanbul, unlike any other city in Turkey, is multicultural and has a meticulous metropolis structure.
So, when it comes to kebabs, Doner kebab comes to mind first hand and with so many kebab varieties and diverse cooking methods and styles of each, it is pretty evident that the Turkish people absolutely love their Kebabs. If you have had a chance to ever have one, you will know the flavours are outstanding of the cuisine which is obvious of their passionate attitude towards their food. They serve kebabs with everything be it rice, bulgar rice, Turkish pilaf rice or Turkish bread.
I love turkish kebabs and I love the simplicity of spices that collaborate to create succulent flavours. So, I took a Turkish kebab and turned it into a wrap. The star of the ingredients is ofcourse Sumac, a tangy lemony flavoured spice, which is easily found in all the retail stores and if not any Turkish or Asian shop will definitely be carrying it.
Once, I made the kebabs, I made the famous Tatziki sauce and a Turkish tomato salsa, very basic, to add more depth and flavour to the wrap. The Tatziki sauce is a your plain Greek yogurt with crushed and drained cucumber pulp, garlic and dill. Herbs vise, parsley is what makes Turkish cuisine Turkish, in particular salads. It’s true without parsley, their are a variety of dishes that are incomplete, hence making it an integral part of the cooking process. The Tatziki sauce gives the wrap a light freshness and makes the wrap juicier and succulent.
The kebabs can be either baked or grilled and it is important that pureed onions are added to the meat. I have a Turkish friend who told me this neat cooking tip of adding onion juice or pureed onions to the kebabs. The reason being, the onion keeps the meat from hardening and helps retain the moisture which is the sole reason of the kebab being juicy and tender. I did the experiment myself with these Kebabs where I added onion puree to half the mixture. I wanted to see just how big a difference it would make and let me tell you, it makes a huge difference. The kebabs without the onion puree turned out great but they were a little dry and in the wrap, as I took a bite I could easily tell that the Kebabs are dry. Conversely, the ones with the onion puree were moist and succulent and even with the salsa and sauce in the wrap I could tell the juices running out of the kebab. It enhanced the flavour of the wrap alrogether. So, I strongly suggest, try it for yourself. You will realize a massive difference both in flavour and in texture. Also, these Kebabs are a great way to serve on their own as well with couscous or rice as well.
And ofcourse, once you have everything at hand it is literally matter of minutes when the whole meal is ready to be served. I love recipes that are quick and effortless, yet portray as they have been slaved over. This is exactly one of those. These are my go-to side dish for dinner parties because I can prep everything in advance and all that is needed is assembling once ready to serve.
I sternly believe that when it comes to cooking, we should be curious to learn and grow with experimenting with diverse cuisines, experiencing new spices and flavours and cooking styles. It makes us grow and evolve and enable us to understand the fundamental and foundations of the different cuisines, which they are based on and like Thomas Keller says, “once you understand the foundations of cooking, whatever kind you like, whether it’s French or Italian or Japanese, you really don’t need a cookbook anymore”.
Grilled Turkish kebabs loaded with Turkish spice and freshness of the parsley and mint are served on a bed of Turkish tomato salsa and tatziki cucumber sauce. These wraps will make you go all ga-ga for them. A hearty meal with simple and light flavours.
1. Chicken thigh mince with fat -500g
2. Flat Bread — 4-8
1. Tomato — 2
2. Red Onion — 2
3. Salt — A pinch
4. Sumac — 2 tsp
5. Parsley chopped — ½ cup
6. Black pepper — ½ tsp
7. Lemon juice — 2 tsp
8. Mint — ½ cup
Tatziki Yogurt Sauce
1. Cucumber — ½ cup
2. Yogurt — 1 cup
3. Crushed garlic — ½ tsp
4. Sumac — 1 tsp
5. Olive oil — 2 tsp
6. Salt — A pinch
7. Black Pepper — ½ tsp
Turkish Kebab Spice
1. Salt — 1 tsp
2. Sumac — 2 tsp
3. Black Pepper — 1 tsp
4. Cumin Powder — 1 tsp
5. Cayenne Pepper — 1 tsp
6. Crushed Garlic — 1 tsp
7. Cinnamon Powder — 1 tsp
8. Nutmeg Powder — ½ tsp
9. Fresh parsley chopped — 1cup
10. Onion crushed — 2
1. Prepare the Kebab
a. In a bowl, mix together, the chicken mince with the Turkish Kebab Spice Mix.
b. Add the onion in the blender and blitz it to a rough paste and add to the chicken mince.
c. Shape the kebabs in oval shapes.
d. Grease the fry pan with a little oil and grill the kebabs until cooked through.
e. Set aside and cover.
2. Prepare the Turkish Salsa
a. Slice the tomatoes.
b. Slice the onions.
c. Chop the parsley and mint.
d. In a bowl, add the tomatoes, red onions, parsley and mint and season with salt, pepper, sumac and a little lemon juice. Set aside.
3. Prepare the Tatziki Sauce
a. Dice the cucumber into small cubes.
b. In a bowl, add yogurt, salt and pepper, sumac, olive oil and crushed garlic.
c. Add the cucumber and mix to combine.
4. Assemble the wrap
a. Warm up the Flat bread.
b. Add a layer of Turkish salsa and top it with tatziki sauce.
c. Place two kebabs on top.
d. Roll the wrap and wrap in parchment paper or foil paper.
e. Serve warm.
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