Özlem Warren On The Turkish Food That Inspires Her

Born in Turkey, Özlem is passionate about sharing her homeland's culinary heritage. Her journey began in 2005 when she taught Turkish cookery classes at the Central Market Cooking School in Texas.

Moving to England in 2009, Özlem launched her Turkish recipe blog, "Özlem's Turkish Table," connecting with food lovers worldwide. Today, she teaches in many prestigious cookery schools, and has written several cookbooks about the food of Turkey.

Here she gives us an insight into the food and dishes she treasures, and what makes a truly memorable meal for her.

Out now: Sebze by Ozlem Warren (Hardie Grant, £28), Photography by Sam A Harris.

What’s the one dish to make anyone fall in love with your new book? 

There are many; one of them is the Antalya Style Bean Salad with tahini sauce – it is so easy to make, substantial and packed with flavour 

What ingredients are always stocked in your pantry? 

Tahini, olive oil, pul biber, cumin, sumac, lemon, fresh herbs – they all guarantee great flavour! 

What is one kitchen tip everyone should know?  

Be flexible in the kitchen, use up ingredients in hand and don’t be afraid to substitute – make it your own! 

What are the components of a fantastic meal for you?  

Seasonal ingredients, good olive oil and moreover, good company to enjoy it with

Who do you most like to cook for?  

I am a huge fan of Diana Henry and Nigella Lawson, I would love to cook for them. 

Where do you find inspiration?  

My homeland, Turkiye, my dear belated mum Gulcin and father Orhan. They inspired us the love of cooking and sharing. Going to the farmers markets with my father; surrounded by the glorious fresh produce, olives, cheese, nuts galore, it is impossible not to be inspired. 

What do you cook, when you’re cooking for yourself?  

I adore eggs, and all day Turkish breakfast. I will most likely cook Turkish poached eggs with garlicky yoghurt and pul biber oil, Cilbir. 

Can you tell me about a particularly memorable meal you have had and what made it so special?  

It was a few years ago, before my father passed away. We all gathered at my parent’s flat in Istanbul, around the table, eating mum’s signature muhammara dip, dolmas, flatbreads with zaatar and cheese. It is that being together with the family, enjoying each other’s company in an unrushed way, stays with me. Very grateful for these memories. 

What dish do you make most often?  

There is the Chard cooked in olive oil with peppers, rice and onion, in my new book SEBZE, that I cook on repeat. It gets ready under 30 minutes and so delicious; flexible too, as other leafy greens can be used. 

Where do you find inspiration?  

Traveling, trying new cuisines and dishes. My children love food and trying new dishes and they inspire me greatly too. 


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