Meliz Berg grew up watching her mum and aunt cook delicious, traditional, Turkish-Cypriot food and spent her holidays visiting family in Cyprus. Now the food content creator @MelizCooks with a blog and a massive instagram following, she has just published her first book – and it’s fabulous! Meliz’s family recipes had never been written down, just passed through generations via observation and participation. Now she has her own children, it became important to her to preserve these recipes and family traditions and back in 2013 she started her blog, adapting these family recipes to suit her own busy kitchen. And now Meliz’s Kitchen (£25 Ebury Press) is a celebration; a celebration of the food that influenced her childhood plus some new twists on favourites. Meliz is a self-taught cook who is loved for her easy-to-follow recipes. If you want to bring some more sunshine into your life, do buy yourself a copy.
Here are a couple of delicious recipes from Meliz’s Kitchen to tempt you and it’s perfect for this BBQ weather we’re enjoying at the moment:
Izgara Jumbo Karides ve Galamar (Grilled Tiger Prawns & Squid Serves 4–6)
“I absolutely adore the tender flesh of beautifully barbecued tiger prawns, my preference being Madagascan tiger prawns (pictured opposite) as they are so much bigger, and this has been one of my most cooked recipes on the mangal (barbecue) in the past couple of years. The marinade is warmed through first so that the flavours really get a chance to infuse together, and once cooled, half of it is used to marinade the seafood and the other half is reserved to slather all over the prawns as soon as they come off the mangal.”
12 tiger prawns, raw, shell-on (1 kg/2 lb 4 oz)
2 whole squid, tubes and tentacles cleaned (500 g/1 lb 2 oz)
½ tsp sea salt flakes
½ tsp cracked black pepper, plus extra to serve
Sunflower oil, for brushing (optional)
For the marinade
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp smoked paprika
2 tsp pul biber
1 tsp crushed garlic
2 tbsp Turkish sweet red pepper paste (tatlı biber salçası)
4 tbsp pomegranate molasses
1 tsp clear honey
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice, plus extra to serve
1 tsp finely chopped fresh flat leaf parsley leaves, plus extra to serve
1 tsp dried oregano
In a small pan over a low heat, add the olive oil, and once hot, add the smoked paprika, pul biber and garlic, and cook for 30 seconds, before adding the sweet red pepper paste. Spread out the sweet red pepper paste with the back of a wooden spoon so that it starts to sizzle, then add the pomegranate molasses, honey and lemon juice and cook until it begins to bubble. Remove from the heat and allow to cool a little.
Prepare the prawns. Do not peel, but gently score along the back of one prawn with a sharp knife, slicing through the shell and a little into the flesh. Remove the vein, discard it, and carefully open up the back of the prawn slightly to half-butterfly it; this will enable the marinade to soak through into the flesh. Repeat this with the remaining prawns.
Score the squid tubes slightly in a criss-cross pattern with the sharp knife and keep the tentacles whole.
Take two tablespoons of the marinade and gently rub over the prawns and squid. Season the seafood with salt and pepper. Add the parsley leaves and oregano to the remaining marinade.
On the Barbecue
Light your barbecue. Make sure that the coals are at a high heat and the grill is very hot as the prawns and squid need fast cooking.
Barbecue the seafood for 3–4 minutes on each side until the prawns turn pink inside and the squid is chargrilled on the outside. Slice the chargrilled squid into rings, and coat everything in the reserved marinade. Serve with an extra squeeze of lemon juice, fresh parsley and cracked black pepper.
On a Griddle Pan
Brush a griddle pan with some sunflower oil and heat on the hob until very hot. Cook the seafood for 3–4 minutes on each side until the prawns turn pink inside and the squid is chargrilled on the outside. Slice the chargrilled squid into 1-cm (½-inch) rings, and coat everything in the reserved marinade. Serve immediately (as above).
Hellimli Zeytinli Kek (Halloumi & Black Olive Cake – Serves 8–10)
“My Hellimli Zeytinli Kek has to be one of the most popular recipes on my blog and Instagram pages. My mum always makes her zeytinli (olive cake) separate to her hellimli (halloumi cake), but the combination of both the dry black olives and halloumi together, with the freshness of the coriander and the sweetness of the onions and dried mint is basically the best kind of double whammy, so I’ve merged my mum’s recipes into one epic cake. Is it a breakfast dish? Sure, why not, because when people ask me what to serve it with, my response is simply ‘a cup of tea’. Since so many breakfast times in our house have been spent with a slice of this cake in one hand and a cup of Spiced Cypriot Tea, in the other, its deliciousness seemed perfectly fitting for this chapter.“
3 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for oiling
1 small brown onion, finely chopped
3 large eggs
250 ml (9 fl oz) milk
200 ml (7 fl oz) olive oil
400 g (14 oz) self-raising flour
1 level tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1½ tsp sugar
165 g (6¾ oz) pitted black olives
200 g (7 oz) halloumi cheese cut into 2½-cm (1-inch) cubes
4 tbsp fresh finely chopped coriander
2 tbsp dried mint
1 heaped tsp sesame seeds
1 heaped tsp nigella seeds
25 g (1 oz) halloumi cheese, finely grated
Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/400°F/gas mark 6. Line a 23-cm (9-inch) 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 for12–15 minutes until beautifully translucent and lightly caramelised. Remove the pan from the heat and transfer the onion to a plate to cool down.
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. With a wooden spoon or spatula, gently fold in the caramelised onion, olives, hellim cubes, coriander and dried mint until combined.
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.
Extracted from Meliz’s Kitchen by Meliz Berg (Ebury Press, £25)
Photography by Meliz Berg and Dan Jones