"I wrote this book with busy family kitchens in mind, to celebrate and share the food that influenced me as a child and has inspired my cooking style, developing the recipes in the most empathetic, considerate and accessible way as possible. But I also wrote this book to preserve the essence of our cuisine and culture; the communal experience of cooking together, sharing food with others and creating memories that are evoked every time these beautiful dishes are prepared. Whether you have an interest in the dishes because of a favourite restaurant, or a special summer holiday in Cyprus, or whether your connection runs a little deeper than that and the food evokes feelings similar to the personal ones that I have shared, I hope that cooking these recipes will help capture those memories for you”.
Extracted from Meliz's Kitchen by Meliz Berg (Ebury Press, £25) Photography by Meliz Berg and Dan Jones
Spinach & Eggs
This is a Turkish-inspired breakfast dish that I was first introduced to as a child while staying at a hotel during one of our many family holidays to Cyprus.
Serves 4 as side dish, or 2 as main
4 large, ripe plum tomatoes
3 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, halved and finely sliced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
¼ tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp smoked paprika
½ tsp salt
½ tsp coarse black pepper
2 tbsp Turkish sweet red pepper paste (tatlı biber salçası)
400g fresh spinach, roughly chopped
100–200 ml water
4 large eggs
30g unsalted butter
½ tsp sumac
½ tsp pul biber
1 tsp finely chopped fresh parsley
Sea salt flakes and pepper to taste
1 Place the tomatoes into a large, heatproof bowl and carefully pour in enough boiling hot water so that they are fully submerged. After a minute or so, with a large spoon, remove the tomatoes, allow them to cool slightly, then peel and discard the skins. Roughly chop the tomato flesh into quarters, and place in a bowl, reserving all of the juices.
2 Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add the onion slices and soften and brown them for 8–10 minutes so that the edges crisp up a little. Add the garlic, and soften in the oil for a minute, then add the cumin, smoked paprika, salt and pepper and stir well. Add the sweet red pepper paste and the tomatoes and all their juices to the pan, turn down the heat and cook until the tomatoes have softened. You can use the back of the spoon to gently break down the tomatoes a little.
3 Add the spinach leaves straight to the pan, then the 100ml water and cook for a few minutes until the leaves have completely wilted down. If the spinach needs loosening, add another 100ml water, stir through and bring to a simmer.
4 Reduce the heat and make four little spaces in the pan by spreading out some of the cooked spinach. Crack an egg straight into each of the four spaces and cover the pan with a large lid for 2 minutes so that the steam aids the thorough cooking of the eggs. While the eggs are cooking, melt the butter in a small pan until it goes frothy, then take the pan off the heat. Check the eggs, and if the whites are cooked, but the yolks still have a good amount of jiggle in them then they’re ready. If the whites need a little longer, put the lid on for another minute or so, but be careful not to overcook the yolks.
5 Add the sumac and pul biber to the melted butter, carefully swish the spices through, then drizzle over the eggs, trying to get as much on the yolks as possible. Season to taste with a pinch of sea salt flakes, cracked black pepper and parsley.
Halloumi and black olive cake
My hellimli zeytinli kek has to be one of the most popular recipes on my blog and Instagram pages.
3 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for oiling
1 small brown onion, finely chopped
3 large eggs
250 ml milk
200 ml olive oil
400 g self-raising flour
1 level tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1½ tsp sugar
165 g pitted black olives
200 g (7 oz) halloumi cheese cut into 2½-cm cubes
4 tbsp fresh finely chopped coriander
2 tbsp dried mint
1 heaped tsp sesame seeds
1 heaped tsp nigella seeds
25 g halloumi cheese, finely grated
1 Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/400°F/gas mark 6.
2 Line a 23-cm springform cake tin with greaseproof paper and brush the paper with a little olive oil. Place a large frying pan over a medium heat and add three tablespoons of olive oil. Once the oil is hot, add the onion to the pan, and immediately turn down the heat. Soften the onion for 12–15 minutes until beautifully translucent and lightly caramelised. Remove the pan from the heat and transfer the onion to a plate to cool down.
3 In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, then add the milk and oil and stir well. Sift in half of the flour and the baking powder, then add the salt and sugar and whisk everything together, before sifting in the rest of the flour and whisking until there are no visible lumps in the mixture.
4 With a wooden spoon or spatula, gently fold in the caramelised onion, olives, hellim cubes, coriander and dried mint until combined.
5 Pour the mixture into the cake tin, sprinkle over half of the sesame and nigella seeds, then the finely grated hellim, and finally, the rest of the seeds. Bake on the bottom shelf of the oven for 40–50 minutes. After 40 minutes, insert a cocktail stick into the middle of the cake. If it comes out clean, it’s ready. If not, give it another few minutes. Leave to cool slightly in the tin, then carefully remove the ring and base and allow to cool fully on a wire rack for an hour before serving in slices.