In the past year, I’ve collected numerous cookbooks with different takes on Turkish cuisine, Ottoman food history, the celebration of Ramadan in Turkey and more. Here are my seven go-to books I recommend for you to learn more about Turkish cooking, the history of the very multi-cultural Ottoman cuisine and some very simple recipes you can make any day of the week.
What I love about Turkish cuisine is that the history goes back to original authors of cooking and cuisine were also medical doctors because “…there has always been a strong relationship in Turkey between food and health.”– M. Akkor, something I can attest to from having Turkish friends back in the States with whom always taught me this every time a dish was served.
They’re super delicious, super healthy and have some really great options for living a plant-based lifestyle, for vegetarians and vegans, too. Meat and fish lovers can find an amazing array of recipes, as well. Something for everyone…here goes:
Ottoman Cuisine: A Rich Culinary Tradition by M. Omur Akkor. This is a small book, easy to read and carry along with you. There’s a short intro about the Ottoman Palace Cuisine (one of my favorite topics), and some very interesting tidbits referencing other primary sources of the first Ottoman palace cookbooks (see below). Some of the most intriguing recipes to me are Almond Soup (Badem Çorbasi), Strained Lentil Soup with Turmeric (Zerdeçalli Suzme Mercimek Çorbasi), Chard with Yogurt (Mastabe), Stuffed Grape Leaves with Sour Cherries (Visneli Yaprak Sarma), Stuffed Dried Vegetables (Kuru Sebze Dolmasi). I’ll stop there, but there are so many more, as he basically simplified and brought some of the best recipes from the original books of the Sultan’s Palace.
In his book, Chef Akkor mentions the first ever book written on Ottoman cuisine called Maljau’t-Tabbahin (Shelter of Cooks) 1844, written by Mehmet Kamil who was one of the instructors at the Ottoman’s first western medical school, the Magnificent Judiciary School of Medicine, established by Mahmut II. Surprisingly, the book can be found on Amazon. I’ve not read it, but am interested in doing so as soon as I can get back to the US to have it shipped there. I have not been able to find it in Turkey.
Another book mentioned is Tatlicibasi (Head of Dessert Chefs).
The Turkish Cookbook: The Culinary Traditions & Recipes from Turkey by Musa Dagdeviren. Published by Phaidon. This is the big kahuna of all Turkish cookbooks. If you love the show Chef’s Table on Netflix, you may have seen Chef Musa on Season 5, Episode 2. This is where I first got to know about him and his Istanbul restaurants, one of which is called, Ciya Sofrasi. I went there last year and had an interesting meal. It wasn’t the most extravagant, either, which is what I liked about it- humble food. I need to write more about that experience…But, the reason I got this book is because I want to learn more about the regional, traditional cuisine of Turkey. Chef Musa went around the country talking to aunties about recipes that aren’t even served on tables anymore, so he unearthed a real treasure trove in an effort to preserve and protect the culinary traditions of the country. For that, he deserves a huge amount of respect. I can’t recommend this book enough.
Anatolia: Adventures in Turkish Eating by Somer Sivrioglu and David Dale. Murdoch Books. Sydney | London. I can’t emphasize enough how absolutely beautiful this book is. I would buy it just for the artistically done cover and keep it as a coffee table, but it’s filled with such practical and gorgeous recipes, I just have to use it for cooking, too. It’s really about the celebration of the enjoyment of food, something that Chef Somer talks about in the beginning of the book. There are some really good sections that introduce the novice to Turkish cooking and cuisine, such as “The Fifteen Favourite Ingredients”, “Equipment You Should Have”, and my personal favorite: “The Top Ten Techniques”. Recipes I’m eager to try are: Katmer (Pistachio Pancakes with Clotted Cream), Pestil (Grape Leather Stuffed with Walnuts), Kaygana (Cretan Eggs with Wild Weeds), and Somon Pastirma (Salmon Pastirma and Baby Zucchini). For dessert, the Ayva Tatlisi (Poached Quinces with Sour Cherries and Clotted Cream) sounds divine.
Ramazan Lezzetleri (Delicious Ramadan) by M. Omur Akkor. This is a small book you may only be able to find in Istanbul, as that’s where I got it, but it’s not available online anywhere that I have looked. Full of delicious and unique recipes that famed Chef Akkor has brought to life from the Sultan’s Palace, it’s a little guide for what to cook in Ramadan, especially if you want to have a themed Ramadan, in this case a Turkish one. I should add that this book is in Turkish so you will have to stretch your brain a bit to use it, but if I could do it, so can you. The recipes look too good to pass up because of a language barrier.
Bir Lokma Ekmek Bir Yudum Cay (One Piece of Bread One Sip of Tea) by Dr. Dilistan Cilingiroglu Shipman. I met Dr. Shipman in Istanbul last year upon her invitation and she gifted me a copy of her book. Although it’s not purely about Turkish breads or teas, it is a very good resource for learning the art of Turkish bread baking, as she has become a master of it. Again, this book is in Turkish but a very determined person could figure things out. What’s a little google translation going to hurt?
Dervis Sofralalari (Dervish Tables) by Sahrap Soysal. This is my last book recommendation in Turkish, but I’ve been told there is an English version of it, so you can stop me here and find that one. I picked this book up near the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul where there is a huge are of just books, close to one of the universities. I had to ask one of the booksellers for “Ottoman food” book and he came back with this. I bought it because it has a plethora of information about the manners, techniques and kitchen utensils used in the Sultan’s Palace and I just love that. Great pictures and a pretty long introduction precede recipes that are not typically seen on Turkish tables today, but it’s a fascinating book to have if you like food history and are interested in what was served during the palace period.
Ozlem’s Turkish Table: Recipes from my Homeland with a Tribute to Southern Turkish Cooking by Ozlem Warren. I think this is the best book for the home cook. Ozlem Warren is a Turkish woman living in the UK. She’s a mom and wife and a really excellent teacher of Turkish cuisine with her own blog. She maintains deep ties and connections to her homeland of Turkey, specifically Antakya. I knew about her many years ago but had the pleasant surprise of meeting her when she came to do a book event in Fethiye, so that’s how I got the book. I’ve been using it the most since I’ve been here because it’s so practical and really geared towards everyday cooking in the modern day Turkish kitchen. My two favorite recipes of hers that I make over and over again are Kisir (Spicy Bulgur Wheat Salad with Pomegranate Molasses)- what a kick this has and I love it; Mini Sebzeli Kofte (Mini Meatballs in Tomato & Red Pepper Sauce).
My bonus suggestion is not really a book, but a really good resource, as well as colorful and beautiful. The Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism puts out a lovely large booklet called Turkish Cuisine: Tastes of a Splendid Heritage. You can find it online here.