Topik Meze from the Armenian Cuisine of Turkey

“For some reason, my parents did not have the habit to buy ready-made Meze but preferred to prepare it by themselves at home. We would rather prepare every meal we had together as a family. While my father insisted that no other woman could cook better than his own mother, my mother absolutely did not compromise what she had learned from her mother regarding in cooking. As a result, our meals became a source for happiness and joy. I think the reason for that was my grandmothers were two very close friends from Çorlu, even before my parents existed. One of them Mrs. Takuhi and the other Mrs. Akabi, or in her husband’s words Akabi Sultan. 

Continue reading “Topik Meze from the Armenian Cuisine of Turkey”

Stuffed Cooked Mussels from the Greeks of Istanbul

“I had never considered living in Athens. When I was in Istanbul I thought the cuisine in Greece and ours would be the same but as I arrived here, I realized it is much different than I expected. Therefor, I started to research our cuisine in Istanbul to find out the connections between our culture and the food we enjoy.”

The Greek cuisine in Istanbul is not only unique to its own but tells also the story of a culture which has been living in the region for 1500 years. Their food history dates back to even before the Byzantine Empire.  Their roots are still visible today in Istanbul through the strong mezze culture. In the past, many from the Greek minority worked as cooks in the Lokantas and Meyhanes (traditional neighbourhood restaurants and Istanbul taverns) who have contributed for the popularity of the meze culture of today. Sula Bozis, a Greek from Istanbul shares her thoughts and knowledge about their food culture and the history of food in Istanbul with Topik:

Continue reading “Stuffed Cooked Mussels from the Greeks of Istanbul”

Marinated feta cubes

marinated feta by irem aksu


  • 150g feta cheese – cut into cubes 
  • ½ tsp coriander seeds 
  • ½ tsp cumin seeds 
  • 1 fresh red chilli – you can substitute it with dried chilli flakes 
  • A handful fresh parsley – chopped finely
  • Zest of one lemon 
  • A squeeze of half a lemon
  • 2 fresh thyme – if not you can use dried oregano, or thyme 
  • 1 garlic clove – skin on 
  • 4tbsp olive oil 

Place a pan on a low heat, add coriander and cumin seeds to toast. Once the smell of the seeds are notable, remove them and crush lightly. Add olive oil, garlic, thyme (dried aromatics if you use) in a pan. Stir gently and keep it on a very low heat for 2 minutes. Take the pan off the heat, add sliced red chilli, parsley and lemon zest. When the marinade is still wam (not hot), add feta, a squeeze of half a lemon and mix. Serve after marinating a few hours in the fridge. Overnight is better if you have enough time. 

Baked butter beans, fennel & orange

baked beans, fennel, orange by irem aksu

That dish is truly a comfort food with the ingredients that you can find easily everywhere. I love cooking vegs and pulses in orange juice which always gives a tangy, zingy flavour to the dish. Olive oil based dishes are very much spring and summer to me as I remember my mum used to cook so many pulses and greens with olive oil, with always lots of onions and a squeeze of lemon, and tomatoes were a must if it was summer time. This spring I am remembering “home” – my memory-rich zone – in my London home. 

We have plenty of time to touch and understand the food, ingredients we eat and manage cooking balanced meals with the limited sources. Each little experience in the kitchen is a part of the evolving relationship with food in human memory these days… It is quite fascinating. 

The recipe makes for 2 servings. 


  • 400g butter beans – one can with its water OR  90g dried butter beans – soaked overnight
  • Half of fennel bulb – sliced 
  • 1 medium brown onion – sliced 
  • 1 celery stick
  • 1 orange, zest first and juice of it 
  • 3tbsp olive oil + 1tbsp for finishing 
  • 2-3 strings of fresh thyme 
  • 1 carrot – grated  
  • 2 garlic cloves – finely chopped
  • A good handful of kalamata olives – 10-12
  • 30g feta, crumbled (2 tbsp ) you can use ricotta as well.
  • A pinch of grated nutmeg 
  • Salt + black pepper to taste 

If you use dry butter beans, drain the dry butter beans soaked in cold water overnight. Place a small pot and add the beans with 3 times more water. Cook around 30-35 minutes until they are soft but not mashy. The cooking time can vary depending on the origin of the beans. So, it is better to check them out after 30 minutes. 

Place an oven-proof pan on a medium heat. Add olive oil, when heated and onions, stir for 2 mins, add sliced fennel, garlic and keep cooking for 5 minutes until they get soft and tender. Add grated carrot, chopped celery and stir around for 2-3 minutes. Stir in the orange juice. 

Add cooked beans – around 250g and 150ml stock ( or just reserve from the water you cook the beans in). If you use a can of butter beans, add the beans with its water. Finally add olives. 

Season it with salt, pepper, touch of nutmeg, thyme and the zest of an orange. Cook for further 3-4 minutes. Cover the pan, place it in the oven – 170C/gas mark 4 – for 40 minutes. 

Take the lid off, put the oven on 150C/2, and add crumbled feta and put it back in the oven for another 10 minutes. 

Turn off the oven, take the pan out after resting 2-3 minutes. Feta must be soft on that stage, just stir through the dish. It will give a creamy consistency to the dish. You can add chopped parsley if you like.

Add 1tbsp of extra virgin olive oil for finishing the dish.

Serve warm. 

*this recipe is created for the first digital delivery of Delfina Foundation‘s traditional Family Lunch series during lockdown.



Ribbon Carrot Tahini Tarator

carrot tahini tarator by irem aksu



  • 3 carrots – peeled 
  • 2 small garlic clove or 1 large – grated
  • 1tbsp olive oil 
  • ½ coriander seeds 
  • A little pinch of salt

Tahini sauce 

  • 2tbsp tahini 
  • 1tbsp yogurt 
  • 1tbsp water 
  • Squeeze of a half lemon 
  • Sea salt and black pepper to taste

First start with tahini sauce. In a bowl add tahini, yogurt and water. Stir until the mixture is smooth. Different tahini brands might change the consistency but we are looking for a smooth, not lampy, quite thick texture. You can adjust the amount until you get the right consistency. Season it with a pinch of sea salt and add lemon juice. Keep aside. 

Then ribbon your carrots with a peeler. You can also grate them if you do not want to bother, but carrot looks prettier as ribbon sliced. 

Place a pan over a medium heat, add olive oil. When it is heated add coriander seeds, toast them for a minute, add carrots and stir around for 2-3 minutes. Add grated garlic and give a gentle stir for further one minute. Turn off the heat. 

Combine ⅔ of your quickly sauteed carrot when it is still warm with tahini sauce. Place on a plate, add the rest of ribbon carrots on top. Drizzle extra virgin olive oil and a tiny sea salt flake. If you like you also add toasted sesame seeds or walnut on top. 


*the recipe is created for Meyhane Elsewhere by Istanbul Elsewhere – is a cultural project exploring acts of ‘Istanbuliteness’ .


Olive Oil Braised Pea & Onions (vegan)



olive oil braised pea & onions by irem aksu



  • 500g pea 
  • 2tbsp olive oil 
  • 1 medium brown onion – sliced 
  • 2 spring onions – sliced roughly 
  • Half bunch of dill 
  • Pinch of sugar 
  • Pinch of salt to taste 
  • 100ml hot water

For topping

  • 1tbsp extra virgin olive oil 
  • Squeeze of lemon and a little zest of it
  • Dill
  • Freshly ground black pepper – optional 

Slowly heat the olive oil and place the sliced onions in a pan. Cook for 7-8 minutes until their colour turns to golden and they are slightly caramelised. Add peas, spring onions, sugar and stir around, then slowly pour the hot water. Close the lid, cook on low heat around 10 minutes. Season it with salt, add chopped dill. Keep on heat for a further 2 minutes. Turn off the heat, add extra virgin olive oil, more dill (if you like you can add fresh basil as well) and a squeeze of lemon juice with its zest. 

Rest the dish for half an hour. Olive oil braised dishes are always better when they are served at room temperature. Enjoy!

*the recipe is created for Meyhane Elsewhere by Istanbul Elsewhere – is a cultural project exploring acts of ‘Istanbuliteness’ .


cacik by irem aksu

“Cacik – according to Ahmet Rasim- is one of the “sine qua non” of Raki mezze tables of Istanbul. The main ingredient of Cacik is yogurt and cucumber. No water should be added to yogurt but garlic is a must. Cucumber should not be grated, but chopped finely. Topping it with olive oil and dill, and sometimes mint as well. For Cacik, Langa’s* glorious huge cucumbers could be the best”… Raki Gastronomy.”


  • 1 cucumber – unpeeled, chopped 
  • 1-2 garlic cloves – smashed with pestle and mortar with a pinch of salt OR grated (you can reduce or increase the amount of garlic depends how you like it)
  • A medium bowl of thick yogurt
  • A good pinch of salt 
  • Extra virgin olive oil – for the mixture and the top
  • A few dill springs
  • An ice cube before you serve it – do not put more as it waters the cacik



Add about 2 tablespoon of olive oil in the yogurt and mix until you get a smooth texture. Add smashed/grated garlic into the bowl. Mix well. Set aside. In the meantime chop your cucumber in cubes, or half moons. Add cucumbers into the garlic yogurt, add salt and combine them. Set it in the fridge for a few hours. Before serving add some dill springs, drizzle of olive oil and an ice cube on top.


* Langa used to be a large field (bostan) provided mainly cucumbers and other vegetables to the local Istanbulites over centuries which was in between Yenikapi and Laleli neighbourhoods. Later the field has become more and more residential area. Those large, juicy cucumbers are still described as like Langa ones by the older generations in Istanbul.


*the recipe is created for Meyhane Elsewhere by Istanbul Elsewhere – is a cultural project exploring acts of ‘Istanbuliteness’ .

Terbiyeli Chicken Soup

terbiyeli chicken soup by irem aksu


Terbiye is an egg and lemon sauce with yogurt and used for binding soups and some stews in Turkey. As well the word is used for various marination techniques for meat, fish, vegetables. This soup is often cooked with orzo pasta for thickening soup. But I made it with a simple roux – flour butter base instead. And adding yogurt to the egg-lemon sauce doubles the tanginess and the spiced butter my final zingy touch in the end.
When I was living in Istanbul, I used to enjoy eating terbiyeli chicken soup in lokantas – tradesmen’s restaurants, where the locals go and eat home-style cooked dishes. My mum used to make a clear broth based chicken soup and she was against adding any flour or pasta in it. No offense mum, but I always love the terbiyeli version of it. Either
way this chicken soup still reminds me “home”. Hope you enjoy, afiyet olsun.

Terbiyeli Chicken Soup

For broth
2 x organic chicken breast – skin on ( legs also do)
1tbsp olive oil
1 carrot – halved
1 medium yellow onion or banana shallot – sliced
1 celery stick – roughly chopped
6-7 black peppercorns
2 garlic cloves – skin on, lightly crushed
a pinch of sea salt
Bouquet garni; a few parsley stalks, 3-4 strings of thyme, 1 bay leave
1l boiling water

For soup
1tbsp plain flour
1tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp yogurt
1 egg yolk
Half of a lemon juice
1/2 tsp sea salt

For topping
1 good tbsp of unsalted butter
1/2 tsp dried mint
1/4 tsp isot – Urfa black chilli flakes (you can use pinch of chilli flakes or pul biber instead)
Chopped parsley – handful

Heat a small soup pot over medium heat. Add the olive oil. Add the onions. Saute until tender and slightly caramelised about 5 minutes. Then add the carrot, celery stick, garlic cloves and cook for further 2-3 minutes. Add the boiling water, and chicken breasts. Turn the heat low, add aromatics, a pinch of salt, peppercorns and simmer for 30-35 minutes with lid on until the chicken meat is tender. Remove the chicken and carrot. Pull the chicken meat, and chop the cooked carrots. Set aside.
In the meantime strain the broth through a fine sieve. Keep aside until cool down..
For the soup, bring your soup pot back on a moderate heat add the butter along with olive oil, once the butter is melted add the flour and stir constantly with a wooden spoon until the smell of flour changed and the colour is golden brown. Then slowly add the broth a little at a time while keep whisking. Add remaining broth and simmer.
In a small bowl add the yogurt, egg yolk, lemon juice and mix until they are all combined and smooth. Before combining this mixture with the soup base, temper it adding from the soup base a little at a time. Once the egg-yogurt mixture is hot enough, pour it to the soup pot and stir for a few minutes. Add your chicken, carrot, salt and black pepper to taste. Close the lid on and cook for further few minutes. In a sauce pan, melt the butter until it bubbles. Add the dried mint, chilli, and finally parsley. Turn off immediately.
Pour the soup in a bowl and stir the spiced butter on top while it is hot.


* the recipe is created for Chicken Soup Project by photographer Patricia Niven

Paskalya Coregi – Istanbul’s Easter bread

One of the staple breads baked during Easter time in Istanbul. The original recipes always consist of ​mastic gum​ – which is a unique product from the mastic trees grown on Chios Island in Greece. And ​mahlep​ is also a key ingredient to have an irresistible smell while baking. I do not have any of them in my larder, but I have used cardamom instead. This bread is a very good example of a common baking practice in neighbouring regions and cultures under different names. It is called Paskalya Coregi in Turkish, Tsoureki in Greek, Challah in Jews culture… Happy Easter!

Makes 2  x braided Easter bread


●  7g quick dry active yeast (1 pack or a flat teaspoon)

●  100ml lukewarm water

●  100ml warm whole milk

●  170g caster sugar

●  500g-550g plain flour + handful for kneading and shaping – sifted

●  110g unsalted butter – melted & cooled

●  2 medium free range eggs

●  1tsp and 1⁄2 tsp cardamom seeds – coarsely ground

●  A pinch of sea salt

For topping

●  1 egg yolk and a few drops of water

●  Hazelnuts – or – poppy seeds, almond flakes whatever you have in your cupboard


Place a small bowl, add melted butter along with the 2 whole eggs. Mix them until combined. Make sure the butter is cooled enough before you add the eggs.

In a large bowl add half of the flour, cardamom, sugar, dried yeast and mix until combined. Make a little whole in the middle of the dry mix and slowly pour warm milk and water, stir slowly with a fork. Then add butter and egg mixture, give another round of stir. Start combining all the mixture by your hand and knead.

Continue to add the remaining flour and knead until the dough is smooth, elastic and not sticky.

You can adjust the amount of flour until you achieve this texture.

Remove the dough from the bowl, add a drizzle of olive oil in your bowl and grease it with your hand. Put the dough back in the bowl, cover it with a kitchen towel and place the dough somewhere warm and dark for an hour to rise and double its size – can be the middle rack of your oven.

Take the bowl out after an hour, it must be doubled its size, and punch it down a few times to remove the air.

Turn your oven on to preheat.

Flour a clean surface, knead your dough few times and add flour it feels sticky. Ready to braid! Make 6 equal balls from the dough. Three balls you use for each bread. Check the video to see how to braid a dough​ here​. (note that the dough in this video is a different bread dough, I am adding this just to show you the technique )

After you braid two equal breads, place them on a baking parchment paper laid tray. Make sure there is 5-6cm space between the breads. Cover the tray with a clean damp kitchen towel and leave it for a final rise about 20 minutes in a warm place.

In a small bowl add your egg yolk, splash of water.

Brush the braided bread with egg yolk and sprinkle your choice of nut on top. Place the tray in preheated 175C oven and bake for 35 minutes. Check if it needs further 5 minutes. At this stage it should smell great. Served either warm or cooled, sliced and toasted.



Chef In Residency at October Gallery

Topik London’s six months residency at October Gallery was between September 2018-March 2019, successfully run by Irem, the founder of Topik.

Topik London “food without borders” is a food culture project; works on Istanbul’s diverse culinary history and ongoing contributions made by urban’s different communities, old and new migrants.

Thanks to everyone who visited Topik’s residency, enjoyed the food and of course saw the remarkable art works exhibited at October Gallery during my residency time.