Dilek Abla’s homemade Turkish cuisine

Sure, we’re a bunch of urbanites here with access to Turkish restaurants in Sydney but we still get a craving for good old homemade Turkish dishes every now and again. Our love affair with kebabs and pides are well-known but we all have a soft spot for homemade kuru fasulye, tarhana, manti or sulu kofte.

At her catering service, Dilek serves a diverse range of Turkish mum-kitchen classics. From traditional Turkish stews to hearty regional Turkish soups and from Mediterranean style olive oil based vegetarian dishes to central-Anatolian specialties, Dilek cooks from all regions of Turkish cuisine.

Dilek’s Turkish upbringing created a passion for cooking from a young age.

I discovered I had some passion for cooking at a very early age. My early memories with includes my grandmother cooking with many other women in our kitchen. Everything she cooked tasted just like heaven.” Dilek says.

I spent a lot of times around the kitchen observing how my grandmother and mother used to cook. I suppose their passion passed on to me.

I loved the entire process of cooking, especially watching the people around me sincerely enjoy what I had created.

In Turkish families, food is part of what brings everyone together. I raised my family in Australia and we always emphasized the importance of a home cooked meal in my household when my children were young.

“I had the chance of working along side my husband at our cafe for 10 years where I was able to experiment with many recipes . This also led me to cooking for larger parties so I soon began offering my catering services from home.” Dilek explains.

The creative element of cooking really does it for me. I also believe cooking isn’t always about following measurements, but about how you feel.

Part of our hospitality culture, we are taught to understand that cooking for others, even when they are not present when you are preparing the food, can certainly bring a sense of closeness and representation of care for that person. “ Dilek adds.


What is the most delicious Turkish dessert; Trilece or Baklava?

At the entrance of many bakeries and fast food shops, you can see the following writing: – “Trilece is sold here”. Patisseries in elite sales-places compete in “making” the most delicious trilece and claim that theirs is the most original. Turkish journalists even make their list of “TOP – 10 places to enjoy trilece” in Istanbul or Ankara. Pastry masters offer various recipes in almost all newspapers in order to make the dessert. Likewise, there is “trilece craze” in Sydney and Melbourne Turkish communities too.

In Turkey trilece is known as an Albanian dessert. Some call it “the Old Yugoslavian dessert”.

A lice of trilece

However, “trilece” is derived from Spanish words: “Tres and Leches”, which mean “three kinds of milk”. Spanish cookbooks present recipes for the preparation of this dessert from the 19th century.

According to assumptions, Trilece was transferred to Turkey through Albania, during the war in former Yugoslavia. The “suspects” leading to this transfer are known to be Albanian immigrants which are among Balkan immigrants who settled in Turkey.

In Sydney, you can find trilece in Auburn of course. The most famous outlet is the “Menzil bakery” on Auburn road. Trilece is now also available at Arzum Market, a popular Turkish supermarket also in Auburn.

Whether it is from Latin America or Albania, its consumption and popularity in recent years seriously threatens the throne of Baklava. If you find baklava a bit too sweet and dry, perhaps it’s time to try trilece!


Everything about Baklava

While we were dining at this tourist-filled restaurant across Rome’s Colosseum, we had a little chat with the waiter, who happened to be Romanian.

Do you know what my favorite dessert is?” he asked me.

As he had just brought us plates full of delicious Tiramisu, I looked at him and confidently asked, “Tiramisu?“. He said “No” and surprised my friends and me with his answer.

He said, “My favorite dessert is Baklava. “

Some of us were shocked (especially our Australian friends), and needless to say, the Turks in our group felt a little bit of pride.

My mother,” said the Romanian waiter, “used to make baklava; dolma; sarma..” and the list went on.

Everything about baklava

The origins of Baklava

How did baklava become the most favorite dessert of this Romanian man? And possibly of many Greeks, Albanians, Persians or the Lebanese, Syrians or Georgians or Armenians…

Many nations claim baklava to be theirs. The Arabs claim its history to Assyrians, Greeks claim its roots in the Byzantine heritage, and Turks believe it was one of the many recipes their ancestors brought with them from Central Asia. 

C. Perry explains in his book “The taste for layered bread among the nomadic Turks and the Central Asian” that the tradition of making desserts by putting crushed nuts and sweets between thin layers of pastry went all the way back to early Turkic tribes living in Central Asia.

Istanbul, the flavour hub of the region

One important common point among all these cultures is the fact that they were all part of the Ottoman Empire at one stage. The kitchens of the Imperial Ottoman Palace in Istanbul had become the ultimate culinary hub of the empire. The various recipes, spices, ingredients were all refined in the palace kitchens. As a result, the modern baklava that we delectably consume today was perfected by the Ottomans in the 15th century.

The most popular Baklava-related event in Ottoman history was the Baklava ceremony of the Ottoman Army, which started around the 17th century. In the middle of Ramadan month, the Ottoman king would have a tray of baklava made for each group of 10 soldiers in the Army, which would be served and consumed at this official ceremony.

Loved by many nations, baklava is called بقلاوة in arabic, باقلواin Persian, baqlawad in Somalian, baqlawa in Kurdish, bakllava in albanian, baclava in Romanian, baklava in Hungarian, баклава in Serbian and Bulgarian, baklava in Bosnian and Croatian, bakława in Polish, baklava in Czech, пахлава in Russian, баклава in Ukrainian, μπακλαβάς in Greek, փախլավա in Armenian, ფახლავა in Georgian, বাক্‌লাভা, in Bengali.

Baklava, the national treasure

The “baklava” is a national treasure that should be protected, especially as its origin is disputed abroad. Therefore Turkish authorities published a series of criteria for the famous pastries to benefit from the official designation.

To curb the recent proliferation of counterfeits, inevitably ill-suited in this competitive climate, the very serious Turkish Institute of Standards (TSE) has specified the rules that must absolutely be met in order to obtain the “baklava” label.

It must have a golden color and appearance as tradition dictates; its syrup must not be too thick, it must not cause a burning sensation in the throat and melt in the mouth without having to chew, “explained the TSE.

The last element of these specifications, each baklava must have a minimum thickness of 35 mm.

The Institute regretted that more and more pastry chefs take their ease with the canons of “baklava” by using crushed peas rather than pistachios, or by preferring vegetable oils to butter, or by replacing white sugar syrup with corn syrup.

Baklava from Gaziantep (southern Turkey) is the first Turkish product to achieve the much sought-after protected designation status of the European Union (EU).


Turkish asparagus soup recipe

Associated with Aegean-Turkish cuisine, asparagus has been known to people of the Mediterranean  since ancient times. Asparagus is known as “kuşkonmaz” in Turkish and grows in Central Anatolia, Aegean and the Mediterranean region and recently near Istanbul.

Asparagus is known as kuşkonmaz in Turkish

White, green and purple colours of asparagus grow in Turkey. Asparagus is also known with other local names in the other regions of Turkey. Wild asparagus is known as “dilkemen”.

Fresh asparagus sold at Turkish markets under regional names

Here is a delicious low-calorie soup recipe for “kuşkonmaz” fans.

Turkish asparagus soup

Ingredients for the Turkish asparagus soup

  • 1 dry garlic
  • 500 grams. asparagus
  • 6-7 branches of shallots
  • 1 medium size brown/white onion
  • 2 medium size potatoes
  • 3.5 cups chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons of grated cheddar (or parmesan)
  • 1/2 tablespoon of butter
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon of basil

Asparagus is also known with other local names in the Aegean region of Turkey, as “Tilkişen, tilkikuyruğu or kedirgen”.

Step by step – how to make Turkish asparagus soup

Slash the asparagus pieces into half by separating stems and flowers. Steam-cook the asparagus flowers whilst putting the stems into a separate cooking pot.

Add in shredded onions, shallots and minced garlic with the asparagus stems. Sauté them for a little bit.

Chop the potatoes into cubes and add them in your sautéed vegetable mix. Then add chicken broth (or vegetable broth) and keep cooking.

Once your vegetable mixture is cooked, stir it with basil. Turn your mixture into soup form with the help of a blender.

Serve your soup by with asparagus flowers and parmesan cheese sprinkled on top.

Note: It is recommended you use wooden spoon, which is believed to make asparagus less bitter.


The 12 pillars of Turkish cuisine

The Turkish kitchen is clear proof national kitchens can harmoniously combine diverse flavors. Many different peoples and their cuisines influenced Turkish cuisine. Nomadic Turkic peoples lived with the Chinese. They later migrated south and got influenced by the sub-continent cuisines. They afterwards moved to the west and, on their way, interacted with the Persians. As centuries passed, they moved towards the west, interacting with the East European and the Middle-eastern cuisines. Turks finally settled in the eastern Mediterranean and the Balkans.

It is no surprise why there are so many common dishes in Armenian, Greek, Jewish, Lebanese, Italian, Russian, Romanian, Persian cuisines, and Turkish cuisine.

The best-known indispensable features are the meze starters, rich variety of olive-oil-based vegetarian dishes, fresh bread served with each meal, the various kebab dishes, köfte, and of course pide, the Turkish pizza.

If you now feel like swinging your wooden spoon and cooking in a typically Turkish way, start with our top 12 ingredients of Turkish cuisine!


Salca - Tomato paste

Salca makes it easier to add flavour to each dish. There is also a pepper-based version which is called “Biber salca.” This one is elaborately cooked and refined with many spices. Salca is sometimes spicy, sometimes mild, sometimes intense, or less spicy. So every salca is a bit different and provides the typical Mediterranean touch in Turkish recipes. 



Yogurt is the gift of Turkic nomads to world cuisine. Etymologically, yogurt comes from the Turkish verb “yogur” which means “curdling”; thus, yogurt means “curdled milk” in Turkish. In Turkish cuisine, yogurt is used in a variety of dishes and is also used to make the national drink, the Ayran. You can easily prepare this refreshing summer drink at home using water, yogurt and a little salt.


Biber - Chili

You can’t imagine a Turkish kitchen without the biber. Your mum would have a few varieties of dried chilies; black and then shades of red, paprika, etc. But you would also have that fresh chili; green and sometimes hot, sometimes sweet.. Green pepper or Green chili would add that irreplaceable flavor to each dish its added to.

As for dried chili; anyone who has ever ordered “kebab with extra chilli” has certainly come up with the taste of Pul Biber. The Turkish chili flakes are in every spice rack in the kitchens and should be strong dark orange to red, smell like pepper and will turn your fingers red when rubbed. Only with aromatic Pul Biber the right seasoning comes into play! 



Legumes are simply indispensable in Turkish cuisine. White beans, chickpeas and red lentils are among the most used legumes in Turkish cuisines! Large white beans are used in many meze dishes with plenty of olive oil.



Bulgur is easy to prepare and, like noodles and rice, has many uses – but lasts longer and is much healthier. By the way: Bulgur is not to be confused with couscous. Couscous is originating from North Africa and it consists of moistened semolina made of durum wheat, while the Anatolian bulgur consists of pre-cooked durum wheat. A trendy Turkish dish made with bulgur is kisir, a dish similar to Tabouli.



Just like in Italian cuisine, olive oil also plays a major part in Turkish cuisine. But especially the pickled olives, in all their green and black shades, have an essential role in Turkish cuisine as you will find them at every breakfast table!



Yufka is the name given to the pastry leaves used to make Baklava, Börek, or Gözleme. Yufka is similar to traditional puff pastry but is much thinner and less greasy. It is either relatively freshly prepared and rolled out or bought ready and then processed with ingredients such as sheep cheese or spinach.



Your average Turkish national would say that tomatoes just taste different in Turkey. And it’s true – when you walk across a Turkish bazaar, you will see many varieties of tomatoes with more variety in color, a more aromatic scent, and of course with much more intense flavor! Although Tomatoes were introduced to Europe and Turkish cuisine after the discovery of the Americas, Turkish farmers helped create more than 100 tomato species native to Turkey.



Although it is widely known as a Greek specialty in Australia, there are 193 known types of Feta made in different regions of Turkey. Feta is widely used, from boreks to brioches, and is served at every breakfast table alongside olives.



Like hot chili flakes, you will see dried mint leaves in every spice rack. The mint has less menthol than the peppermint. You can find mint in many dishes in Turkish cuisine, but the most general application is found in Cacik (tzatziki).


EggplantImam bayildi  and  Karniyarik  are among the most known aubergine-based Turkish dishes. Perhaps the most revered Turkish dish, although not well known outside Turkey, is “hünkar beğendi” (Sultan’s delight) which is made with meat, laid on a mixture of mashed eggplant.



Last but not least: the onion. It is one of the essential ingredients in most Turkish dishes and can be found in all shapes and colors of Turkish markets. You will find them in the meze dishes and in the many delicious soups, stews, and salads. The onion should not be missed in the Turkish kitchen.


Say cheese in Turkish

Cheese (Peynir) is the staple breakfast dish, the inseparable friend of sucuk in toast snack  and the best friend of Turkish mums baking borek and other pastries. You might be surprised to hear that Turkish cuisine boasts around 200 types of cheese. Although you would usually find 20 types of cheese in 5 main categories (Kasar, Tulum, Mihalic, Lor and feta) in supermarket chains, you will find much more variety as you travel in Turkey. Below we have a list of popular Turkish cheese types.


Literally meaning “white cheese”, this is the most popular cheese in Turkey, especially consumed for breakfast. Known as “feta” in English speaking world, it is made by saturating in brine after draining it. It can be extremely creamy, half-creamy or without any cream at all. Beyaz Peynir can be made from cow, sheep or goat milk and can be more or less salty. The Ezine (near Çanakkale) version is particularly famous.

Where to use: You can use it in cold salads (in summer it is often eaten with watermelon) or have it warm in pastries such as Borek and pogaca. If you rest your “beyaz peynir” in cold water for a few hours, it will be desalinated, so you can use it in sweet recipes.

Beyaz peynir - feta cheese


Similar to “Cheddar”, he Kasar is made from cow, sheep or goat’s milk and comes in two versions: fresh (“taze”) or mature (“eski”).


This is the second most consumed cheese in Turkey after Beyaz peynir. It is usually served at breakfast but it also accommodates toast sandwiches, pizzas and börek.

Eski kasar - aged cheese


The “mature” Kasar is also called “old kasar” because it is usually refined in refrigerated cellar of six months to 2 years wrapped in canvas bags. It is a hard cheese, yellow in colour, with a taste appreciated by gourmets. It goes very well with red wine. The version from the Thrace region is renowned for its quality.


Literally meaning “wire chees”, Tel Peyniri is made in central Anatolia and some parts of the Black sea region. This soft cheese is made with skim milk and is hand rolled to take a wiry/filamentary shape which it takes its name from. It is recommended for those who watch their weight because of the low fat and high protein it has but has high levels of salt.

You can use it in omelets and pastries.

Circassian cheese


The “circassian” cheese is a thin crust, light yellow smoky tasting cheese which is low in salt and fat. The smoky flavour comes from exposure to pine wood fire smoke. This process also increases its shelf life.


This fresh cheese takes its name from its shape and texture (Dil means tongue). Made from cow’s milk, it has a fibrous texture and a very sweet but slightly salty taste. It is usually consumed at breakfast. It can also be used in the preparation of künefe particularly in its non-salty versions. If the cheese is braided, it is called Orgu peyniri. Orgu means braid in Turkish.

Kars gravyer cheese


Often called “Kars gravyeri” because of the popularity of the Kars version, this cheese is made from a high-fat cow’s milk. The taste is similar to the French gruyere and texture of the Swiss Emmental. Its manufacture requires more time as it would take about ten months for this cheese to be consumable. It is bright yellow in colour and surrounded by a darker crust with wide and regular holes.

Hellim - Halloumi cheese


As known as “Haloumi” in English speaking world, this cheese is of Cypriot origin. It is semi-hard and unripened in brine. It is made from a mixture of goat’s and sheep’s milk (and sometimes cow’s milk with rennet). Famous for its folded shape where the cheese dough is folded in half during its making. It can be kept in cool for up to one year. Some would grill it very lightly in a pan with water, some would add some hot water to have it sweeten and soften up before serving.


Famous in the Arabic speaking world, this is a type of cream cheese, slightly salty and very sweet. Usually used in cooking desserts and sauces.

Lor peyniri


Lor comes in lumps of soft goat cheese and it is created from whey of kasar and Mihalic cheeses. The whey is boiled and the obtained heavy material is then cut into small pieces.

You can spread it on bread and serve it with nuts or tomato paste and various condiments. You can also use it in Boreks


Hard, yellowy cream-colored, round with holes, granulated with a crust this sheep’s milk cheese is a specialty of Balikesir region in the Western Anatolia. This type of cheese can be stored for long.

Tulum peyniri


Tulum peyniri is made with sheep’s or goat’s milk and it takes its name from the goat/sheep skin bag it is saturated in. The saturation time is at minimum three months. The cheese is white or cream in colour and it has a bold and salty flavour. The most famous Tulum peyniri comes from the Erzincan region in the Eastern Anatolia.


It’s pretty much Dil peyniri but in braided form. Orgu means braid in Turkish. The cheese has a fibrous appearance and a very sweet and slightly salty flavour. Consumed at breakfast, it often is used as a replacement of mozarella in salads or pizza.


Otlu peynir is made in the Van region in Eastern Anatolia and it is prepared with sheep’s milk (sometimes mixed with milk cow or goat) and local herbs. Fresh garlic is added at the time of fermentation which gives Otlu peynir its unique flavour.


Turkish spices

Turkish cuisine is a particularly spicy cuisine enhanced by different spices that make this kitchen a delight for our taste buds. The Turkish cuisine served in restaurants might feature only a few spices; mainly chilli, mint and sumac but the Turks at home use a wider variety of condiments.

Here is a list of different spices that make up the traditional Turkish recipes:



In Turkey, the pepper is king, in fact the local spice shop in a Turkish city would have pepper shovels in large pepper bags. You will find all kinds of peppers ; sweet or hot (“aci or tatli”), red peppers (kirmizi biber) or black pepper (kara biber) as flakes or in powder form. There are also yellow and green peppers, thin, elongated, stuffing and fleshy.



Sumac is a decorative flower ornamented with very astringent leaves. The red berries of the flower are harvested and then dried. Its flavour is slightly vinegary and can replace a dash of lemon in a recipe. In the Middle East, sumac is widely used to add a touch of acidity to dishes, as it is done with lemon juice or vinegar. This spice is particularly good with lamb or onion. It can be sprinkled on the meat before grilling or you may use it to marinate fish. It is also used in salads, especially tomato and onions, sprinkling sumac on onions make your salad look a lot more attractive.



Spices used to make Kofte can be used for many other meat dishes. The main kofte spices are; cumin, coriander and chili. This mixture works wonders with most meat dishes. The other spices that are used in making kofte are; black pepper, fenugreek and cloves.



Turkish mint has an intense fragrance that will delight all lovers of mint, and even those who are not. This makes it the ideal complement for the garlic dishes. Add to these two spices some lemon juice and olive oil and you have a delicious marinade for grilling. If you mix mint with plain yogurt and diced cucumber, you get the famous Turkish meze; cacik ! You can use it as an infusion in Turkish tea, and you can also use it to prepare a delicious cold drink for summer!


Oregano is used in many cuisines of the Mediterranean region, from the French to the Turkish cuisines.  You can use oregano in your favorite soups: green vegetables or minestrone. You can use it on BBQ steaks. Oregano also has beautiful affinities with legumes and cabbage dishes.



Anatolian thyme is a different variety from the thyme sold in supermarkets in Australia. Thyme is an herb often associated with Mediterranean cuisine, but it is also used extensively in many countries of the Middle East. The Anatolian thyme, grown in Turkey, gives flavour to grilled meats or vegetables of any kind. One can also add in legumes stews, beans, chickpeas for example, or in the lentil soup.


Indispensable in the cuisines of India, the Middle East and North Africa, fenugreek is a slightly bitter spice that is often used as a fragrant in vegetable dishes and pickles. When cooked in butter or olive oil, it acquires a slightly sweet side, reminiscent of nuts. Its fragrance goes well with green vegetables like broccoli and cabbage dishes. It is used as a remedy for many things in Anatolia. Some women use the fenugreek seeds to increase the size of their breasts. It is also recommended for people with baldness and hair loss.  Please bear in mind, body odour becomes very strong after taking fenugreek.



In western cuisines, particularly in French cuisine, tarragon is used in sauces such as béarnaise. Its fresh and aniseed-ish flavour works wonders in poultry dishes and is excellent with white fish of any kind. Tarragon gives an extremely fragrant, fruity aroma slightly reminiscent of apple. You may use in your leek soup or simply in a vinaigrette for a green salad.



Mastic is an Aegean condiment obtained from the mastic tree. It comes as a yellowish resin which is in the form of small crystals in the pine scent. It is used mostly to flavour desserts and sweets, but it is known to be used in flavouring meat dishes as well. Mastic brings a delicate and resinous flavour and gives a fresh essence that can remind the mint. Turks use mastic as chewing gum flavour, milk-rice pudding and even in Turkish coffee to give it a unique flavour.



Nigella seeds are small black grains similar in appearance to the black sesame. It is found in the Turkish breads and other traditional pastry. The taste is rather sweet and reminds you of nuts. The condiment goes well with potato dishes, vegetables or with a beet salad. It can also be used in marinades and other vinegary preparations such as preparation of chutneys.


Sage has a strong fragrance, traditionally used in the preparation of poultry. It is also customary to find in recipes for stuffing the chicken or turkey. It can also be used to meet the preparations tomato or a simple pasta dish with olive oil. Turks love their sage infusion drank as tea. The Turkish word used for sage, ada cayi, literally means “the island tea”.


To enhance your recipes with fish, use coriander spices, cumin, black cumin and saffron. Grind them together and spread them on your fish fillets, for example, just before putting in the oven. The citrus notes of coriander allied to the rich scent of saffron delight you for sure!


There is also the other spices in Turkish cuisine:
Dill ( Dereotu ), Anis ( Anason ), Basil ( Feslegen ), Cinnamon (stick / powder), Clove ( Karanfil ) Cumin ( Kimyon ), Ginger ( Zencefil ) Laurier ( Defne ) Nutmeg ( Muskat ), Rosemary ( Biberiye ) Pine nuts (Dolmalık Fistik ) Sesame ( Susam ), Saffron, Vanilla ( Vanilya ) Chives ( Yesil soğan ) Celery salt ( Kereviz tozu ), Curry ( Kori ) Parsley (Maydanoz ) Coriander ( Kişniş ), fennel ( Rezene ) and many more.


Our popular Turkish Bread Recipe

The foundation of Turkish food is, if anything, the dough made of wheat flour. Besides “ekmek” – the ordinary white bread. The bakers of the Ottoman period believed that Adam, the Patron Saint of Bakers, learned how to make bread from the Archangel Gabriel, after his expulsion from the Garden of Eden. Obviously, the secret is still held dearly by the present-day Turkish bakers; no other bread tastes as good as even the everyday Turkish bread.

One realizes the wonderful luxury of Turkish bread upon leaving the country. This blessed food is enjoyed in large quantities and is respected by all, rich and poor, simple and sophisticated. Every neighborhood has a bread-bakery that produces the golden crisp loaves twice a day, morning and afternoon, filling the streets with their irresistible and wholesome aroma. People pick up a few loaves on their way home from work, and end up eating the crisp ends by the time they get there. After a hard day’s work, holding the warm loaf is the best reward, convincing one that all is well.

Turkish bread recipe

Ingredients for Turkish bread

  • 1 table spoon of yeast,
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water,
  • pinch of sugar,
  • 1 1/2 small spoon of salt,
  • 3 table spoons of oil,
  • 4 cups of flour.

Melt yeast and pinch of sugar in warm water; let it rest for 10 minutes.

When it’s frothy, stir it in salt, oil and flour (2 cups). Gradually add the left over flour, mixing it well.

Squeeze 8-10 minutes or until it gets smooth and elastic.

Place the mixture in a greased bowl and let it rise until it doubles (1/2-1 hour.)

Punch down and let rise again until it doubles.

Punch down and divide into 1-4 pieces.

Roll into a diamond shape and then roll up and pinch to seal to form long loaves.

Place it on oiled cookie sheet. Slice the top of the dough with your knife 3 times diagonally down each loaf.

Brush with water and let rise until it doubles again (about 1 hour). Bake at 190 C for 30 minutes.

Use within one day or double wrap and freeze.

Afiyet olsun !