A few days ago, my friend Nadia, after going through my posts, suggested I write a post about common spices and ingredients used in Turkey…and what a great suggestion that was :)) Most of the ingredients used in Turkish cuisine is available in all kitchens..however, there are a couple of things that you may need to make a trip to your local Turkish grocery store for! Below I have photographed and written about the most common ingredients I use…and I will be adding and updating more as I remember..thanks Nads for the suggestion :))
Onions: Onions, onions and more onions! All Turkish dishes have onions…well, almost all! :) Some dishes more than others. We use all kinds of onions, white, yellow, red, spring, baby…you name it, we use it! We eat them raw, depending on the dish, we have them sautéed, we have them chopped, diced, sliced…sometimes, we claim that a dish is only tasty if it has a lot of onions!
Garlic: Garlic!!! Of course garlic! I personally use garlic in everything I make…and sautéed garlic doesn’t really give you the ever-so-dreaded bad breath! :))
One thing you may and will notice if you go to Turkey is our love of yogurt mixed with garlic…a very common and famous sauce that goes with many yummy Turkish dishes, especially in the summer! Refreshing!
Black Pepper: Black Pepper…also an addition in Turkish dishes that goes hand in hand with salt…whatever has salt, most probably has pepper :)
Thyme: In Turkey, we use Kekik (in Turkish)…or Thyme. Now I’m not sure if Thyme is another type of Kekik..but I use Thyme on this side of the world and it works just as good. Of course, this is not used in everything…mainly meat and chicken dishes.
Basil: Reyhan (in Turkish); not very commonly used but there are specific dishes that call for it..so it’s always available in my kitchen :)
Mint: Dried or fresh, is used in abundance in a Turkish kitchen. One main and common thing we use it for is sauces for soups. Melt butter, add dried mint…cook for a minute or two, and it makes an amazing addition to soups!
Red Pepper Flakes: (Pul Biberi in Turkish) The ever so mysterious Red Pepper Flakes…comes in all varieties..sweet, mild, hot…and they all taste amazing. I use this in almost everything I make. I love the aroma, I love the taste. This is one of the things you need to get from a Turkish grocery store. I bring mine, (or mom brings it for me) from Turkey. If you have the chance, take my advice, and get some Red Pepper Flakes..I also suggest, after filling a small jar with it, store the rest in the freezer. After all, you do want to use it for a long time :)
Tomato paste: we use tomato paste either alone, or accompanied by chopped and minced fresh tomatoes. Adds color and taste :)
Red Pepper Paste: This is another ingredient you have to get from a Turkish grocery shop! Pepper Paste, or Red Pepper Paste (or Biber Salçası in Turkish)..take my advice…get your hands on this and use it and fall in love with it….you will, trust me! :)) Again, like the flakes, it comes in varieties; sweet, mild, hot..the one I have at home is hot…it adds a bit of spice to my dishes.
Once you get it, smell it! Yes that’s right..I said smell it…breath in deep and take a whiff of this addictive aromatic paste! You will thank me! ;)
Calrose Rice: This is the closest rice available here to rice used in Turkey. To be honest, I don’t really know the difference between calrose rice and rice from Turkey…mom does and that’s why she prefers to get Turkish rice.
Bulgur: Bulgur is a healthy and nutritious grain…it is the base ingredient for quite a bit of foods. The picture below is of finely ground bulgur…but we do use coarse and medium ground bulgur too.
Feta Cheese: And the cheeses :))! Feta cheese (also known as Beyaz Peynir or White Cheese in Turkey) is a very essential breakfast cheese! In addition, it is the main cheese used in cheese stuffed pastries! I use low fat feta cheese…many would disagree with this choice :) but that’s alright…you gotta do what you gotta do!
If you can’t find Turkish feta, according to what I remember, French feta is quite close.
Kaskaval Cheese: Kasar Peyniri (pronounced Kashar peyniri) is a very popular Turkish cheese…here, the closest we get to Kasar peyniri is the Hungarian Kashkaval cheese. This cheese goes amazing in grilled sandwiches (one of Mohammed’s favorite treats!) ;)