Friday, February 10, 2012

TURKISH BEVERAGE TREATS: How to make "Salep" from scratch and a good cup of Turkish coffee!

Dear readers,

I don't know about you... but from time to time and season to season... I get different urges .... for beverages that is!!! Let's not get off track now! This encompasses both hot and cold and alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages!

If you've been keeping up with my posts, you know that we've had bad weather with lots of snow in Istanbul and the rest of Turkey too... In fact Europe and the Balkans have been hit hard as well!

The first 3 days of this week were okay with cold weather and just rain, but then it started to snow yesterday and it didn't stop until about noon today and now (at about 4:15pm), the sun is out and lots of the snow has already melted!

Anyway... on Wednesday night as I was sitting and watching TV around 7:00pm, I got an urge for salep and shared my thoughts with my friends on Facebook!

It was too late for me to do anything about it because I didn't have the ingredients to make it - in fact, I didn't even know what ingredients to use. They also sell instant salep, but I didn't have that either! And... my friends on FB gave me all sorts of recommendations on where I could have the best salep... now I really didn't want to hear that as I couldn't go out to get it!

I woke up the next morning - looked outside and the streets were covered with snow!

Istanbul - February 9, 2012

Istanbul (my housing complex) - Febuary 9, 2012
Well, it was obvious I wasn't going out anywhere because according to the weather reports it was going to (and it did) snow all day!

But, I still had salep on my mind!!! So, I first got on my PC and went to google to find out how to make salep and found a video that my good friend Dilistan Shipman had taped for a local TV channel on the fine art of making salep! Dili (as her friends call her) is a woman with many many attributes! Besides being a PhD and an instructor at a university, she is a professional in the world of culinary arts too and has appeared on TV shows, written books, taught on the subject, etc.

So, after I watched her video, I clicked onto another site to get the ingredients. For some reason, she showed how to make it, but the ingredients weren't listed - or the video was editted afterwards - who knows!

With the ingredients in hand, I waited for my kapıcı (I guess you can say he's our building's janitor/superintendent - but in Turkey, they also run your chores for you - once a day - if you'd like and it's included in their wages) who swings by at around noon to ask if I want anything from the market...

After Mehmet got my ingredients... I made salep for the very first time in my life (and I've had a long life!) - from scratch no less! He had also gotten me the "instant" salep, just in case I messed up I guess!

By now, you must be dying to know what salep is - if you've never heard of it before! Although primarily consumed in Turkey, salep is also consumed in other countries around the world (just visit 'salep in wikipedia' if you want to get the details).

Simply... salep is prepared with milk, sugar and salep flour (salep tozu), but since this flour is not sold at supermarkets, I had to make my own salep flour! You can find salep flour at specialty shops that carry herbs, spices etc. (like at the Egyptian Bazaar) though.

So, let me now list all the ingredients to make salep! This recipe is for one serving, so just multiply the measurements based on how many you are going to make. Also, make sure you are ready to drink it immediately after preparing because it should be consumed piping hot!

Ingredients for salep (1 serving)

1 cup whole milk (I don't think non-fat or low-fat milk will work well... just go for it and use the real thing!)

2 teaspoons sugar (I prefer brown sugar, but you can use white sugar, but don't use sweetener and add more if you like your beverages very sweet - I personally don't)

1 teaspoon rice flour (pirinç unu)
1 1/2 teaspoons buğday nişaşta (wheat starch)
1 teaspoon wheat flour
1 cinnamon stick
ground cinnamon 

Pirinç unu (rice flour); buğday nişaşta (wheat starch)

Wheat flour (buğday unu)

1. Place all dry ingredients in a pot over low hit and whisk for about 1-2 minutes until they are all mixed...

2. Slowly add in the milk - whisking all the while...

3. Add the cinnamon stick and whisk until the texture starts to thicken up... but be careful that it doesn't thicken up too much (I guess for 1-2 minutes - it should be a little liquidy and a little thick), otherwise, it will turn into pudding! (I overdid it a little the first time I made it, but today I got it right!). Don't forget - you are preparing this over low heat! 

4. Remove the cinnamon stick and pour into cup and sprinkle with ground cinnamon to taste and serve (I like lots of cinnamon).

Voila! You have just made salep from scratch! Enjoy! Salep is the perfect winter drink - especially on a snowy and cold day. I guess you can say salep is to Turks as Hot Chocolate is to Americans! Of course, just like hot chocolate, it's not a low fat treat, so be careful if you're watching your weight and don't have one every day, although you will be tempted too!

I am definitely a caffeine addict! I love my coffee and I drink it black - no milk or sugar for me!!!

I drink at least 3-4 mugs (large) of coffee every day and am NOT awake or very friendly before I've had my first cup of coffee of the day!

When I go out, I like to have a cup of espresso or machiato (yes... I like frothy milk in my coffee once in a while, but still no sugar) after my meal, but since I don't have an espresso machine, I stick to regular coffee at home.

However, the majority of Turks are major teatotalers and start their day with a cup of brewed tea (no tea bags for Turks!!!). But, since I grew up in NYC, I rarely drink tea, so I'm not your typical Turk!

When Turks drink coffee - 9 times out of 10, they prefer Turkish coffee - or Türk Kahvesi. Surprisingly, although I am a caffeine freak, I rarely if ever drank Turkish coffee (don't know why) - until a couple of weeks ago!

Suddenly, I have an urge for Turkish coffee and must have one cup a day! Although I'm a "novice" to our local treat, I make a mean cup of Turkish coffee! Let me tell you - it takes talent to make a frothy cup!

This time, let's start with the end result and then I will give you the ingredients and how to prepare it...

Turkish coffee - Türk Kahvesi
Must Turks do not drink Turkish coffee is such a big cup. The "standard" or normal size of the cup is similar to an espresso cup, but, it's not just enough for me.. after a few gulps you are done! I need more of a kick, so I make mine a double serving, but the ingredients I will give you below can be adjusted for any size cup.


1. Using the cup you will pour your coffee in, fill it up with water and pour it into the cezve (a special pot used to make Turkish coffee).

2. The most important thing is the amount of ground turkish coffee used and although there are "standard" measurements to use.. I prefer to prepare it to personal taste. So, for the size of cup I use, I use 1 1/2 heaping spoons of ground coffee (see the spoon in picture below)

Ground Turkish coffee

3. Add sugar to taste (white or brown - don't use sweetener - it changes the taste).

4. Stir all the ingredients, but not until it gets soupy... make sure some of the ground coffee remains.

5. Place the pot over LOW heat and let it do its thing - do not stir anymore.

6.Make sure you don't walk away as the coffee is being prepared because it can boil over very quickly! Once it starts boiling and starts to rise, pour half of the pot in your cup and then let the remainder boil and pour in the rest.

As we would say in Turkish - afiyet olsun or enjoy!

Just a final note on Turkish coffee... one of the best brands is called Kuru Kahveci Mehmet Efendi (

They have a shop at the Egyptian Bazaar (Mısır Çarşısı) and just follow the smell of the coffee to find the shop! You can buy coffee beans or ground in a variety of sizes. But, most importantly, you can find this brand at all supermarkets and grocery stores around town.

Recently, a major international brand came out with "Instant Turkish Coffee" and I included the news on this in a "What's "UP" in Istanbul" post, but to be quite honest - I suggest you try the "real" thing... the instant has a whole bunch of additives and preservatives and you won't get the real taste! I'm sure you can find Turkish coffee in most major cities throughout the world too...


Thursday, February 9, 2012

Cevahir Shopping Center: A "Quick" visit...

Dear readers,

"Officially" called the Istanbul Cevahir Shopping Center (but when you call their number the pre-recording says Istanbul Cevahir Shopping & Entertainment Center) is located right on Büyükdere Caddesi in Şişli.

Istanbul Cevahir Shopping Center
As I mentioned in past posts, I'm not really a "shopping center/mall" person for many reasons, but I do go to them from time to time like everyone else! My favorite is Kanyon because it is an "open-air" mall... and you can read about Kanyon if you click on my post re: the subject.

Istanbul Cevahir opened about 7 years ago and the 6 story shopping center has 280 shops and eateries, a 58,000 square meter entertainment center and car park for 2,500 vehicles.

Frankly, I've only visited Cevahir about three times and I find it difficult to really called it a "visit" because I've never made it past portions of the first floor!

Istanbul Cevahir Shopping Center (first floor)
I only go to shopping malls with a "purpose"... I'm not one of those people that goes to pass the time and just walk around.

My purpose for going yesterday was to go to Koçtaş - a home improvement store - similar to Home Depot (in the USA) and Bauhaus.

Koçtaş (at Cevahir Shopping Center)
 Actually, I had wanted to go to Ikea... but it is really far from my house and I couldn't get a ride. Also, the weather was bad yesterday with winds, rain, sleet and snow, so I didn't want to take the chance of going somewhere far with a taxi and getting stuck on the roads... so, I did the next best thing.

JUST A LITTLE SIDE BAR BEFORE I CONTINUE (my readers know I love to add little tidbits here and there...) After..the rain and sleet of yesterday, woke up to a snow covered Istanbul this am!!! And.. it is still snowing heavily and will continue until about noon tomorrow. Besides Istanbul, all of Turkey, the Balkans and Europe have been hit with the worst winter in years in the past month... let's hope it clears up soon)! Here are some photos to give you an idea!

Me and Luka during our morning walk

view from my apartment
I took a taxi from my home in Levent to the Gayrettepe metro station (only five minutes away)...

Gayrettepe Metro Station
And... a 2 TL fare and one stop ride later (get off at Şişli stop), I was at Cevahir! In fact, I didn't even have to leave the metro station: there is an entrance to the first level of the shopping center from the metro station!

Although I am a "novice" to this mall, I noticed that the first floor is mainly allocated to shops specializing in products for the home... from bedding to furniture to household accessories and more.

Cevahir Shopping Center (first floor)
There is also a cafe (Değirmen), juice bar, supermarket (Migros) and a few concessions stands along with some other shops off the main strip...

I quickly did my shopping at Koçtaş (a couple of small throw rugs for Luka, my 16 month old Maltese at only 8 TL each; a door mat, candles, towels, etc.) and then headed straight to Malatya Pazarı ... (parallel to Koçtaş)

Malatya Pazarı
Malatya Pazarı has been around since 1870 ( and is a well known name in the world of "dried nuts, dried fruits, spices, etc." with numerous branches all over town. I just visited their website which is available in English too and noticed that you can now also shop online.

I was only planning on just "looking" and not buying anything, but it didn't turn out that way!

I purchased three items, which I normally do not buy at all, which included two types of "pişmaniye" and "Beypazarı Cevizli Sucuk"

Pişmaniye - called "floss halvah" in English (well, at least according to what it said on the box, but not so sure if this is a good translation) is prepared with wheat flour, sugar, vegetable oil, vanilla aroma and citric acid. It is stringy and has an interesting taste and kind of sticks to your mouth... The reason I purchased pişmaniye is because I want to use it to dress up a pear compote dish which I plan on making. I had visited my good friend Zeyno's house (Zeyno Gürses Dolay - a foodie, gourmet, wine expert, journalist, etc.) for dinner a while back and I plan on stealing her recipe! She placed a couple of spoonfuls of pişmaniye to the dish and it was excellent (see below!)

Zeyno's pear compote with pişmaniye
I purchased the chocolate covered pişmaniye because I had never tried it before and was curious as to how it tasted... and, I justed tasted it and it's very good although very sweet - you definitely need some liquid to wash it down!

Chocolate covered pişmaniye
The traditional pişmaniye was 5 TL and the chocolate covered one 6 TL, so they were a bargain!

The last thing I got at Malatya Pazarı was the Beypazarı Cevizli Sucuk... which means a sausage (sucuk) shaped treat prepared with grape juice and walnuts and a specialty from an area called Beypazarı, which is about 350 km from Istanbul and 100 km from Ankara.

Beypazarı Cevizli sucuk
The texture of this treat is similar to licorice, not very sweet and the walnuts make it heavenly. I purchased the pre-packaged sausage for 11 TL, but you can get more or less if you'd like.

My next stop was a stand with all sorts of organic products called EKO Naturel Organik...

EKO at Cevahir Shopping Center
They had a very good selection of items (from foodstuffs to creams, shampoos, etc.) and I was particularly happy to see that they had organic wheat germ (very difficult to find even if not organic) and oat bran, but didn't purchase them because I already had too many packages in my hand. EKO doesn't have a branch anywhere else, so I have to head back to Cevahir at some point and pick them up!

My last stop before heading home was Esse ( .. a Turkish brand that carries all sorts of housewares under their own name and others (domestic and international)...

Esse at Cevahir Shopping Center
Esse has lots of branches all over town, but I think this shop is one of their largest ones... and there was a sale, so I couldn't help myself and made a couple of purchases (water pitcher and cheese slicer).

Bogged down with packages, I headed to the metro and was home in no time... as always I spent a little more money than I had planned!


I would like to add a few more notes on Cevahir to give you a general feel of the place although I personally didn't get a chance to tour the whole place...

Cevahir is open daily from 10:00am to 10:00pm and the very spacious shopping center has numerous eateries (cafes, fastfood, etc.) and some of the larger brands under their roof include Tepe Home, Marks&Spencer, YKM and Debenhams. Other major brands include everything from Zara to C&A to Dockers and L'Occitane. There is also a movie complex.

One of the things that makes Cevahir different from other shopping centers is the 58,000 square meter entertainment center called Atlantis and a real treat for kids of all age groups. The following are some photos of the amusement areas (downloaded from Cevahir's website)...but, there's so much more!

Atlantis - Cevahir

Atlantis - Cevahir

Atlantis - Cevahir
There is an admission fee and prices vary according to the activities selected.Due to construction on some of the floors, Atlantis is currently open Tuesday-Sunday from 11:00am to 10:00pm.

Unfortunately Cevahir's website is only available in Turkish.

Büyükdere Caddesi No. 22 Şişli

Have fun!