As much as eliminating gluten from your diet has become a trend over the last few years, there’s one big reality that isn’t stressed enough: celiac disease is a real thing, and many people need not cut out all grains from their lives. Even if you suffer from gastrointestinal issues, as long as your doctor hasn't advised to do so, it is quite unnecessary. But if you do suffer from celiacs, have gluten-intolerance or have been advised to follow an elimination diet to see which food groups you are sensitive to, here is a day's worth of gluten-free dishes, all from the Turkish kitchen, to give you inspiration and treat your taste buds with some good, non-stomach-upsetting food.
The best way to start the day is with a hearty breakfast or a “brunch” if your body likes that better. As much as bread is an essential part of a traditional Turkish breakfast, as well as a few more gluten bombs such as poğaça (a savory pastry with a variety of fillings), simit (sesame rings similar to bagels) or all kinds of böreks (stuffed pastries) – there’s no need to worry. Turks also love their eggs, which are thankfully gluten-free, and one of the most fun ways to enjoy some eggs and veggies is some classic menemen.
There have been heated discussions of how menemen should be prepared, but no matter which side you find yourself on (with onions versus without), there’s one thing that all agree on: Menemen doesn’t look very pretty, but the taste makes up for it! Every region and every family has their own recipe, but there are a few things that don’t change no matter the variations: eggs, peppers and tomatoes. (Though some may even argue about peppers.)
Chop your onions into small pieces and saute them with olive oil in a pan of your choice until they start to soften. Add the chopped peppers and let them get a bit of color as well. While those are cooking, peel your tomatoes and chop them into small cubes, or you could even grate them. Add them to the pan and let all the ingredients cook together for about 10 minutes. Lastly, crack in the eggs and cook until they are no longer raw. Enjoy!
Many people love to prepare menemen beforehand when the tomatoes are the ripest and most delicious in summer. They cook the tomatoes together with the peppers and seal them in jars to be used whenever they have a craving in winter. This will also ensure that you have fresh tomatoes year-round.
Some like to add green onions and even parsley. You can add fried or cooked potatoes into this to make it more filling – the possibilities are endless.
When thinking of lunch, I can’t help but think of a street vendor selling some köfte in a sandwich, in true Turkish fashion – blame my years of university. But if at home, there are a slew of possibilities. Dolma is a great go-to. But what are dolmas? They are basically stuffed vegetables, any kind. Today we’ll share a recipe for stuffed peppers that taste the best when they have cooled off.
'Zeytinyağlı' stuffed peppers
Why keep the “zeytinyağlı” (with olive oil) in the title? Because there are many dishes that are prepared in this manner and are best eaten cold. If you come across any Turkish dish that has this word before it, it will most likely be safe to eat for a celiac sufferer but as always ask just in case.
Chop your onions and saute them with 50 milliliters of olive oil until they have softened and turned translucent. Add the rice into this as well and saute that for two to three minutes more. Add the spices and currants and give it a good stir. Add 200 milliliters of hot water to the rice mix and let it simmer for about 10 minutes. The rice doesn’t need to be cooked through entirely.
Remove the stems of the peppers and fill them to the brim with the rice mixture. Place the peppers vertically in a deep pot. Add the remaining 200 milliliters of water and pour the remaining olive oil over them.
Place a lid on the pot and let them cook for about 30-40 minutes until the rice has softened completely and the peppers are soft as well. Testing with a fork is the easiest way to see if they have cooked enough. Serve warm or cold.
While cooking peppers stuffed with rice, I'd recommend you place slices of tomato on them as lids. It both looks good and gives it a certain flair.
As with all “zeytinyağlı” dishes, this will taste better the day after it is cooked, and straight out of the fridge!
As a day of hard work comes to an end – no matter if you were already at home or not – one deserves something good and filling. Turkish cuisine has many eggplant dishes and while karnıyarık was definitely on my mind while preparing this list, I opted to go with another classic: musakka. Usually, it is paired with rice, but this time I’d advise you to quarter some potatoes, sprinkle them with some oil and your favorite spices and bake them in the oven. The juices of the musakka will go great with some oven-baked potatoes.
Paired with yogurt, this is a dish to die for. Just like with menemen, this dish comes in many different forms and versions that there’s no way to list them all here. The one I’m presenting here is the simplest but experimenting is entirely up to you.
Peel the eggplants lengthwise to create stripes like a zebra's, so that the eggplant's exterior alternates between the light, peeled interior and the dark skin. Cut them into slices about 2 centimeters thick and let them rest in a bowl of salty water to draw out the bitter taste.
Meanwhile, chop the onions and peppers and saute them in a pan with some oil. Once they have softened, add the minced meat, tomato paste and seasonings and cook until the meat is no longer raw. Peel the tomatoes and chop them as well and add them to the meat mixture. Cook them all together for five to seven minutes.
Dry the eggplant off to avoid any splashing and oil-related accidents. Fry the eggplant in oil until they turn a light golden color. Layer the fried eggplant slices in a dish of your choice – this can be a pot or a baking tin depending on how you want to cook it – and add the meat mixture over it. Pour about 200 milliliters of water over it and let it cook for about 15-20 minutes on either the stove or in the oven at about 170 degrees Celsius (340 degrees Fahrenheit).
A menu without dessert seems incomplete to me, and I must admit that I couldn’t think of a gluten-free Turkish dessert right off the bat. Many milk-based ones use at least starch, which is a no-go as well. Then I remembered keşkül, a true classic.
Almonds and milk make for a tasty combination, and not every recipe needs a long list of ingredients to achieve something that’s worth your time.
Put all the dry ingredients in a pot of your choice. First, add only one part of the milk and mix it until there are no clumps. Add the remaining milk and bring it to a boil, while constantly stirring. Let it simmer for about 10 minutes. When you feel that it is beginning to thicken, turn the heat off and pour it into individual bowls. Let them cool off at room temperature and then refrigerate.
Serve them cool with some whole or crushed almonds on top.
You can use different types of nuts to decorate or a bit of cinnamon.
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