/Island Tweeting Turns into Istanbul Eating

Island Tweeting Turns into Istanbul Eating

It started with a tweet. I was at a cafe in Bozcaada in August and ordered peynir helvası (a dense mixture of flour, butter, sugar, and cheese) for dessert. Maybe this wasn’t the best choice considering the sweltering Turkish summer heat, but damn was that helva good. I posted a picture to twitter and my friend Hande’s response was instantaneous; I should try her mother’s version of this starchy cheesy treat, was her tweeted reply.

A week later, with the kind organizational skills of Hande’s brother Emre, I was sitting at the Kutlar family table in Istanbul for the first time. It was Ramazan and we waited until the prescribed time to eat. But peynir helvası wasn’t the only thing on the menu that night. The already generous offer to make me dessert had morphed into a massive feast of southeastern Turkish specialities.

The table was filled with dishes typical of Antep, one of Turkey’s food capitals and the place where Hande and Emre’s father was born. Their mother, of German origin, had mastered the recipes of her husband’s birthplace and offered a steady parade of traditional mezes and a slew of other dishes.

We had a yogurt, lamb, bulgur ball and chick pea soup. There were several types of dolma made from the reanimated dried husks of squash, eggplants and peppers. There was an olive and walnut salad, (my personal favorite) red pepper and walnut paste, and minced meat börek. Everything was exquisite.

The grand finale was the peynir helvası, which Hande and Emre’s mom retired to the kitchen to prepare. She stirred and stirred the bubbling mixture of butter, flour and sugar, adding milk to achieve the correct consistency. Before serving she folded in a soft cheese. I had two servings of it, one for me and one for Hande, who was in Rome but on our minds.

The food and experience was amazing and, once again, twitter and my maniacal need to document my caloric intake led to a lovely evening spent in wonderful company. Thanks Kutlars! Elinize sağlık!

2017-02-17T15:23:16+00:00 November 27th, 2011|Categories: Food & Wine, Gastronomic Traditions, Istanbul, Sweets & Dessert, Turkish Cuisine|9 Comments


  1. Michael Housewright November 28, 2011 at 1:02 am - Reply

    This is the kind of amazing experience we want in Turkey this coming spring. I am envious as usual of your experience.

  2. Jessica November 28, 2011 at 12:00 pm - Reply

    Ah, I’m jealous! I remember that dessert and it was delicious, so I can only imagine how tasty this version was.

  3. Sara, Ms. Adventures in Italy November 28, 2011 at 1:47 pm - Reply

    Lucky duck! Looks yum, especially the walnut – red pepper paste.

  4. My Turkish Joys November 28, 2011 at 6:53 pm - Reply

    Looks like you had a wonderful spread for Ramazan. Didn’t you just love Bozcaada too? We visited this summer as well, just driving our car around, swimming in the coves, drinking Turkish wine, and so we hope to return again.

    Afiyet olsun!

  5. s November 28, 2011 at 7:28 pm - Reply

    how utterly fantastic- the best food comes from the mamma’s kitchen- and what an honour to eat in Hande’s mamma’s kitchen. wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. x s

  6. Emre November 29, 2011 at 2:54 pm - Reply

    Hello Katie,

    We are flattered with your generous comments. It was a great pleasure for us to have you at Kutlars’ table and you are welcomed anytime you like. You should have seen my mother’s face while I was translating your post. I think she is more in love with you than you are with her. We all hope to see you soon in Istanbul or who knows may be in Rome.

    PS: You didn’t say anything about my father, he got jealous.

    Ciao, Emre

  7. Níl December 1, 2011 at 6:40 pm - Reply

    I think, I would like to be an the table of Kutlar and try those delatied dishes. We usely hat the oppurtunity to have different kind of food by Kutlar but those an the picture we also would like to eat. Bravo Mrs. Kutlar.

  8. semsa denizsel December 2, 2011 at 11:10 pm - Reply

    Katie, I think you should arrange both for you and for me to be invited to that table again! Please ask Hande.

  9. […] Home Cooked Dishes: Hande Leimer’s Walnut Wedges of Decadence, Hande’s mom’s peynir helvasi, Hande’s mutton tail fat […]

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