Christmas is such an exciting time of year, especially if you’re lucky enough to be spending the festive period abroad! But if you’re still at home shivering like me, it’s not too late to mix things up a little and perhaps add a bit of international flare to your festive period – particularly in terms of your Christmas recipes, because I think it’s fair to say we’re going to be doing a lot of eating over the next few weeks. One of my favourite destinations due to its rich and varied cultural influences is Turkey, which just so happens to have some of the world’s most diverse and flavoursome cuisines. Christmas (as we know it at least) isn’t traditionally celebrated in Turkey, but many recipes can still serve as great accompaniments to your Christmas dinner. Here are some of my favourites:
Creamy Celeriac Soup
Throughout Turkey, celeriac is a traditional vegetable used throughout winter and is often seen served with olive oil, or lemon. I’m looking at this delicious winter warmer – celeriac soup (kereviz çorbası) – which can be enjoyed as a starter before your festive feast.
Ingredients (serves 4):
125ml Olive oil
1 Onion, finely diced
3 Garlic cloves, finely diced
2 Carrots, diced
3 Tomatoes, diced
1l vegetable stock
2 Teaspoons sugar
1 Large handful of chopped parsley
1 Lemon, juiced
Salt and pepper to taste
Peel and dice the celeriac and mix in to the lemon juice. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan, then fry the diced onion and garlic for around 10 minutes, until softened.
Add the chopped carrots and continue to cook for about 3 to 4 minutes, before adding the celeriac, tomatoes and vegetable stock. Use your salt and pepper to season and taste to check flavouring. Cover the saucepan and simmer until the vegetables are tender, which should take around 20 minutes.
Serve in warmed bowls and sprinkle over some chopped parsley and a small amount of lemon juice to finish.
Pilaf Rice Stuffing
Many people love eating turkey at Christmas, but this year, why not try using a different type of stuffing? Inspired by traditional Turkish pilaf rice, this stuffing is bursting with flavour and will give your Christmas turkey an interesting twist. Try using fresh Turkey stock in this recipe for the ultimate taste sensation!
400g Uncooked basmati rice
4 Teaspoons unsalted butter
125g Shelled pistachio nuts
1 Onion, chopped
2 Sticks of cinnamon
5 Cloves, pushed into a piece of onion
700ml turkey stock or chicken stock (or more)
1 Tomato, chopped
100g Golden raisins
40g Fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
1/2 Teaspoon allspice
1/2 Teaspoon cinnamon
Salt to taste
Melt 2 teaspoons of butter over medium heat in a heavy skillet. Stir in the shelled pistachios and toast until aromatic for about 4 minutes. Remove nuts from the pan and put to one side.
Add the remaining butter to pan and melt on low heat. Stir in the onion, cloves and cinnamon sticks and cook for about 7 minutes.
Add the uncooked rice and leave over a medium-low heat, allowing the grains to turn slightly translucent. Stir in the stock and add a little salt to taste if needed, then stir in the remaining ingredients (tomato, raisins, mint, allspice, cinnamon and pepper).
Cover the pan and cook on low until the liquid is absorbed, for just over 15 minutes. Stir with a fork and add more liquid if the rice isn’t tender. Remove from the heat and put to one side for 10-15 minutes.
Remove the cinnamon sticks and cloves from the rice and gently stir in the pistachio nuts before serving, or saving for later.
Köfte is a dish that’s especially popular in Turkey and you’ll find many different varieties when exploring local food markets. This recipe is great to cook at your villa too, because it’s delicious cooked on the barbecue – you can even ask the kids for help when making the mince!
Ingredients (serves 4):
2 Onions (small)
1 Handful of parsley, finely chopped
1 Small handful of mint, leaves only, finely chopped
750g Lamb, finely minced (ask a local butcher which cut of lamb works best for mince, leg or shoulder work well as they have a higher fat content)
50g Toasted pine nuts, roughly chopped
1 1/2 Teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 Teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 Teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 1/2 Teaspoon black pepper
1 1/2 Teaspoon salt
Natural yoghurt to serve
Grate the onions and squeeze out any excess liquid using a sieve, then put into a large bowl. Add your finely chopped parsley and mint, then thoroughly mix in the meat, nuts, and spices.
Here’s where you can get the kids to help! Shape the mince into even shapes, such as fingers or meatballs, or around BBQ skewers, then cover and chill in the fridge for a few hours.
Heat up the villa barbecue greased with a little oil and cook the kebabs until golden brown and cooked through. Eat with natural yoghurt and enjoy as a side with your festive feast.
Other tips for tucking in Turkish style
Turkish cuisine is full of rich flavours and a light salad can be a great Christmas side dish. Try adding a pomegranate dressing, or sprinkle some fresh pomegranates onto your salad to give it a Turkish twist that’s easy to recreate at home.
If you are actually out in Turkey on your villa holiday, don’t forget the local bazaars are great places to pick up traditional delicacies. For those with a sweet tooth, baklava is one of Turkey’s most well-loved treats! When you’re buying ingredients, pick up some baklava from a market for a traditional Turkish end to the meal. For those who enjoy a coffee after dinner, look out for the ground beans. There are four types of sweetness for coffee in Turkey, ranging from sade (no sugar) to çok şekerli (almost two teaspoons).