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Cook from the Book: Meliz’s Kitchen

by Alice Palmer Brown

published on 23 June 2022

Meliz Berg is a self-taught cook and recipe developer who champions simple, fresh and accessible Turkish Cypriot recipes. Meliz’s debut cookbook, Meliz’s Kitchen, hits shelves this week and is packed with everything from well-known classics like moussaka and hummus to Meliz’s own creations with a Cypriot twist. To find out just how easy-to-follow these recipes really are, The Happy Foodie team has been stocking up on halloumi, dusting off our kebab skewers and getting friendly with filo. Read on to find out how we got on…

Who: Clara Triboul, Head of Data Product

What I made: Chicken Kebabs

What I thought: How amazing to be able to make your own kebabs! I found Meliz’s recipe well detailed and easy to follow. The marinade brought deep flavour to the chicken, and the meat stayed really tender on the barbecue. They were perfect for a barbecue and I’m curious to try them in the oven next.

Who: Sam Crisp, Commissioning Editor, Ebury

What I made:  Kızarmış Börek with Mantar and Hellim (fried pastries with mushroom and halloumi filling)

What I thought: This was such a fun recipe to make! I don’t trust my pastry skills so I used pre-made good quality Yufka (filo) as recommended by Meliz in the ingredients and suppliers section of the book. It was easy to find the big circular sheets of pastry – I got them in Asda! Chopping up all the ingredients for the filling and cutting out the parcels was actually very therapeutic and although I was a bit worried about frying in the hot oil, it was actually fine. You just need a slotted spoon and a plate ready to pile them on when they’re done. You can really taste the parsley in both of these filings so it’s nice and fresh when you bite into the thin and crispy pastry.

Who: Ellie Auton

What I made: One-pot Minced Lamb and Conchiglie Pasta

What I thought: I made this dish twice in one week, and if that isn’t a testament to how good it is I don’t know what is! The flavours were just insane – I’d have never thought to add garlic yoghurt to pasta, but now I don’t think I could eat pasta without it! The halloumi and mint were so delicious and I don’t want to eat it any other way from now on. To make this even better, I only needed one pot to make this whole dish, so there was hardly any washing up to do afterwards. Yay! I will be making this again next week (and the week after).

Who: Abby Watson, Head of Campaigns, Lifestyle

What I made: Chickpea and Tahini Dip and Halloumi, Olive and Herb Loaf

What I thought: I’ve made hummus once before and thought why on earth do people make this when you can buy it for a pound?! The reason is that they’ve yet to discover Meliz’s recipe. This was incredibly easy to make and delivers a delicious and satisfying end result, which is much better than the shop-bought stuff. I love the fact you can add whatever toppings you fancy – I topped mine with extra chickpeas, olive oil and paprika. I think it would make for a brilliant centrepiece at the dinner table decorated with whatever you fancy – I’m keen to try pomegranate and pul biber next.

For dipping purposes, I also made the Halloumi, Olive and Herb Loaf. I love to bake but I’m not a bread expert and feel more comfortable with sugar than yeast. Meliz’s instructions were clear and easy to follow and even better – the recipe makes two loaves. I got a bit scared when it came to incorporating the filling and need to be more vigorous next time to ensure even filling distribution throughout the loaf. That said, despite my patchy flavour distribution, this tasted amazing!

Who: Mia Oakley, Campaigns Officer, Ebury Publishing

What I made: Tahini and Carob Molasses Baklava

What I thought: As someone who doesn’t usually bake let alone make anything with pastry, I decided to make this baklava to get out of my comfort zone, and I am really happy I did! I found the process of making them and the various steps very calming as the recipe requires low-medium heat and simmering stages. Also, Meliz’s introduction to each recipe is a lovely addition as she tells you all about the family history behind these Turkish-Cypriot dishes as well as tips she has learnt from making them. My favourite part was adding the crushed pistachios on top and ladling the syrup over the stacks, it felt very satisfying. I am quite chuffed with how they turned out for a first attempt at baklava.

Who: Chloë Johnson-Hill, Director, Penguin Live

What I made: Pan-fried Sea Bass with Asparagus and Butter Beans

What I thought: This recipe comes under Meliz’s ‘Quick Cooking for Busy Weeknights’ section so I really shouldn’t have been surprised by how simple it was to throw together, but given how little time it takes to prepare and cook it was a total joy to find it was quite so delicious. We eat a ludicrous amount of asparagus when it’s in season and so are always looking for new ways to incorporate it into our meals, and this is one that will now be a regular each June (and probably year-round, taking Meliz’s tip of switching the asparagus for green beans).  It’s unexpectedly sweet and fragrant and the addition of butter beans makes it substantial too.  And now that we know that these recipes really are quick, it’s Sautéed King Prawns next!

Who: Alice King, Senior Campaigns Manager

What I made: One-Pot Tomato and Halloumi Pasta

What I thought: This has become a weekly staple for me since I first made it a few months ago. I would never have been brave enough to put cinnamon, dried mint and grated halloumi in pasta, and this recipe has convinced me that I have absolutely been missing out. The salty halloumi cuts through the rich tomato sauce perfectly, and the one-pot element makes this the perfect dish to make for friends, you can just leave it to cook whilst you socialise!

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