Tiny plates laden with salty cheeses, eggs, sucuk (spicy sausages), tomatoes, cucumbers, cream, honey, tahini, molasses, jam and cured beef... When it comes to Turkish-style breakfasts, there's a lot to take in. Aside from all these well-considered accompaniments, you'll find the the leader of the pack: a tower of Turkish breads.
Kahvalti, meaning 'before coffee' translates to 'breakfast' in Turkish and for most families, it is a drawn-out ritual, rather than a rushed bowl of cereal or tost on the go.
Whilst I don't have any Turkish heritage, growing up in a Bosnian family meant my mornings included flavours and dishes very reminiscent of Turkey's. Given the geographical proximity, and that Bosnia was part of the Ottoman Empire, this comes as no surprise. Turkish-style breakfasts have been part of my upbringing since I can remember, and for this, I am eternally grateful. I love that food has the power to break down borders, and that this communal eating experience is part of my identity.
Most mornings, like most of my meals, always began with bread. It didn't matter whether you were dishing up potato, rice, polenta or burek, there would always be bread alongside it all. Then a selection of dishes would follow. Think dried cured beef, thick yoghurt, ajvar (a commonly used capsicum sauce); along with the usual suspects: salt and pepper, pekmez (a molasses-like syrup for a little sweetness), and the glue that binds it all, kaymak. A thick cream, similar to clotted, kaymak is buttery, silky and rich tasting. It's perfect as a condiment anywhere I can find a place for it: in bowls of soft polenta, with chargrilled capsicums, or a Turkish favourite – alongside honey on bread. For the record, if you can find homemade kaymak or you can make your own then you'll be storing it in your fridge for life.
The flavours, the immediacy of preparing our table with food, and the fact we would eat savoury, then sweet, then savoury, then sweet and savoury, always delighted me. I love that there were no rules, other than to eat. There was so much to feast on and, like most of our meals, breakfast had us talking over the top of each other, spooning, laughing and eating until we were comatose. I didn't know any better. Whilst I only really tasted Vegemite for the first time in my late-teens, enjoyed a smashed avo in my early twenties, and have only recently tapped into bowls of granola, Bosnian breakfasts stemming from Turkish-style starters will always have my heart and rule my appetite supreme.
So, as the Turkish name suggests, we hold the coffee until the end and explore seven Turkish-inspired breakfasts that are worth getting out of bed for, any (and every) day of the week.
Supremely satisfying is the name of this egg game. The addition of the herb butter and Turkish chilli flakes adds just the right amount of kick to put a pep in your step in the morning.
This circular, sesame seed-coated bread has been baked in Istanbul since the 1500s. Traditionally eaten as a snack or as part of a breakfast spread, simit goes well with chunks of feta or tulum cheese, slices of cucumber, tomato, olives and basturma (air-dried, cured and spiced beef).
There’s a joke about a salad farmer who is having a tea in the village café. A neighbour comes in and says: "There’s a goat in your field." The farmer says: "Don’t worry, he won’t eat much." Shortly afterward, the neighbour returns and says: "There’s a cow in your field." The farmer keeps sipping his tea and says: ‘Don’t worry about it.’ Then the neighbour returns and says: "There’s a man from Crete in your field." The farmer leaps up and rushes back to save his field before everything green has been stripped. People of Cretan background are famous for eating the dark-green weeds that grow wild along the Aegean coast and that were ignored for centuries by Turkish cooks. This egg dish uses the kind of wild (and tame) greens the Cretans have taught the Turks to love.
With pots of tea and little plates ready to dish, this typical breakfast dish of peyniri (Turkish cheese) and sucuk, a spicy, cured beef sausage are a hearty way to start the day.
Sometimes eaten for breakfast as a cure for hangovers, Turkish red lentil soups come in many forms. Fine comfort food right here.
You can add minced beef or lamb to this dish if you prefer a little more meatiness. Finish with a dollop of yoghurt.
These Turkish-inspired puddings are a great breakfast to impress guests and are equally easy to whip up as an everyday dish for yourself. Rosewater, pistachio and honey all make the cup.
Look out for Turkish week on The Chefs' Line.