For me, a traditional Turkish breakfast, better known as kahvaltı, is the best meal of the day. I could eat it seven days a week. Usually, there’ll be black and green olives, cucumbers, cured meats, dips and sauces, eggs, a variety of fresh cheeses and tomatoes, fruit preserves and jams, honey, sweet molasses, fresh-baked bread and pastries and butter. All of these things can be found in any Turkish supermarket, but at my restaurant, Zahter, we like to make our own breads and pastries and the toppings for them. Lap up this sour cherry jam, mulberry molasses tahini and sweet lor cheese with clotted cream and toasted bread – or even try making your own açma, a soft, buttery Turkish bagel.
Tahin pekmez (mulberry molasses tahini)
Prep 5 min
50g mulberry molasses (I like Koska, which is widely available online)
Toasted sesame seeds or walnuts, to serve
Stir the tahini and molasses until combined. Serve in a dish sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds or walnut pieces. It’s as simple as that! This will keep for a week in the fridge, or for up to a month in the freezer.
Vişne reçeli (cherry jam)
On sunny summer days in Turkey, we make jams naturally in the sun to obtain a great colour and intense flavour. The jam is boiled for a shorter time, before it is spread out on trays under the sun on terraces or balconies for about a week, until it reduces and comes together nicely.
Prep 15 min
Cook 40 min
Makes 4-5 200ml jam jars
1kg sour cherries (or any seasonal fruit), halved and pitted
1kg caster sugar
Put the cherries and sugar in a pan and leave to macerate overnight.
The following morning, bring the cherries and sugar to a boil and simmer uncovered for 30-40 minutes, until it reduces to a jam-like consistency. Be patient, but don’t let the jam turn too dark. When you think it’s ready, do the wrinkle test: spoon a little jam on to a plate that has been in the freezer for two minutes. Leave for a minute, then push the jam with your finger – if it wrinkles, it’s ready.
Spoon the jam into sterilised jars and seal. Store in a dark place for up to a year; once opened, refrigerate and eat within two to three months.
Sweet lor (curd cheese)
In the restaurant, we make our own sweet lor by curdling milk and straining, but it’s a very easy process to try at home.
Prep 5 min
Cook 10 min
500ml milk (pasteurised)
1½ tsp apple cider vinegar
170g Greek yoghurt
Juice of ¼ lemon
Combine the milk, vinegar, yoghurt and lemon juice in a saucepan and bring to a medium heat. When the mix begins to curdle, set aside in a bowl, preferably overnight.
The following morning, strain the contents of the bowl through a muslin cloth to remove the water. This is best stored in the fridge for a day before serving to obtain the sweet flavour. It will then keep in the fridge for three to four days.
Açma (Turkish bagels)
Prep 30 min
Cook 15 min
250g sunflower oil
25g caster sugar
1kg plain flour
130g soft butter, softened
For the glaze
2 egg yolks
15g nigella seeds
Combine the first seven ingredients in a large bowl and knead until it forms a lovely, soft dough.
Divide the dough into 17 balls, each weighing 130g, then shape each one between your palms to a roughly 20cm-wide rectangle.
Spread the softened butter on to the dough and roll into a long sausage shape. Fold the ends together, then twist the dough and form into a bagel shape, sealing the ends together. Repeat with the remaining dough balls.
Place the açma on an oven tray lined with baking paper, making sure there is space between each one. Brush the açma with the egg yolks and sprinkle over the nigella seeds.
Bake in an oven heated to 165C (145C fan)/315F/gas 2¾ for 15 minutes, or until the açma has a rich, golden colour. Serve warm. You can also freeze the açma before baking: remove and leave them to leaven for an hour or two before baking. Afiyet olsun!
Esra Muslu is the chef-owner of Zahter in London