I’ve eaten more than my fair share of north London Turkish (Crystal Kebabs, I’m talking about you) but not really explored this huge country’s cuisine. Kalkan, on the western Mediterranean coast, is billed by Lonely Planet as an ‘epicurean centre’, which is laying it on a bit thick. However, it is home to a cooking school at Guru’s Place, a largely vegetarian family run restaurant on the edge of town overlooking the sea on two sides, and me and The Man signed up for a lunchtime course.

Our host and “head chef” Husseyin has his face on the big poster spruiking the place but it’s really his mum who’s boss. They both warmly welcomed us to Guru’s with Husseyin translating for his mum. Slightly unnervingly we had the place to ourselves because it was low season.

Our lesson was making shakshuka, a sort of Turkish ratatouille and homestyle favourite. We weren’t given amounts or volumes for the ingredients; Husseyin said his mum does it by eye and taste but the most important thing is to make it big! No cooking for two here – make an army size batch, or go home!


Me in Turkish headscarf with Husseyin & his Mum - the boss


The process we were taught is:

deep fry in olive oil in this order: cubed potato, peeled and cubed eggplant and chopped green pepper (capsicum). Yes, deep fry in lots of olive oil. This is crucial to the taste.

as each vegetable is ready, lay it in a large flameproof casserole or baking dish.

then in a separate pan, fry chopped onion in more olive oil and when soft add peeled, chopped tomatoes and garlic. Add some paprika for colour and salt. Simmer for a good while to break down the tomatoes to a consistent sauce.

when a nice sauce has developed, pour the tomato-onion sauce over the vegetables and heat through so the flavours mingle and it all gets to know each other on a low-medium flame for about 15 mins.

let it sit for a while. In some parts of Turkey, shakshuka is served as a cold starter, so it doesn’t need to be piping hot.

Meanwhile, prepare a prepare a pilaf of bulgur wheat by soaking it for 10 mins and then drain. Fry more onions in more olive oil and, when soft, add the bulgur and stir to break any lumps and coat in the oniony oil. Add a nice lump of butter, stir through, and then add enough water to cook (sorry I know this is imprecise!). Put the lid on, turn the heat down and let the bulgur cook/ steam till soft.

Serve the shakshuka on the warm (not hot!) pilaf with yoghurt.


Peeling the eggplants



Chopping the tomato, onion and green capsicum



The veges waiting for the sauce



Our shakshuka!


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6 Responses to Shakshuka

  1. Katie says:

    Nothing like a one to one cooking lesson. That’s a good idea to do some sort of cooking thing while visiting another country. So, is the food in Turkey similiar to what you get in London?

    • Yeah, Holloway Rd is actually really good training for eating Turkish in Turkey. When the menus aren’t translated (v common) all that ordering ‘tavuk sis’ or ‘beyti’ back in London comes in handy.

      Better food here though, by a long shot. I have been eating nothing but lahmacun for 2 days. Soooooo goooood!

      • Boba says:

        What is lahmacun? A Question: is there sometimes on the menus onion stuffed with mince beef meet (back in Sarajevo this was called sahan-dolma)…Would be great to get the basis of this fantastic dish from the originators (I guess) … About peeled tomato- I was suspicious.

  2. Boba says:

    This is so fantastic Emica! I feel hungry- I love all these vegetables and can imagine a taste with a lots of olive oil…I would go also with fresh Turkish bread (instead of rise) but look- we are going to try it in Fremantle with Galati’s vegetables in about month and a half- cannot wait.The picture is just great…so Hussein’s mum is actually taking skin off the eggplant (at least she does not require the same for tomato).

    • Hi Boba -actually Husseyin’s mum peeled both the eggplant and the tomato. The eggplant is just peeled in strips, not completely, to reduce the bitterness. She also peeled the tomato with a knife. I usually blanch tomatoes to skin them. She was much more skillful at doing this than me!

  3. Boba – lahmacun is a Turkish pizza. It’s very thin dough covered in a finely chopped (almost paste) of lamb, red and green capsicum, chilli, onion and parsley and baked in a wood oven. The Turks seem to lay on heaps of extra fresh parsley, squeeze lemon over, roll up and eat. It’s really, really good hot out of the oven!

    I have seen stuffed onions on the menu, but I can’t remember what they’re called here.


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