Welcome to Chef Crush, our new series where we’re getting expert tips from some of the industry’s finest, as well as some delicious recipes from their remit. First up, Oklava founder Selin Kiazim shares her secrets to success when it comes to Turkish cooking…
The chef: Selin Kiazim, 31
The story: Selin Kiazim developed her love of cooking at an early age. She completed her Professional Chef’s Diploma with distinction at Westminster Kingsway College in 2008 before starting work with acclaimed chef Peter Gordon at The Providores, Marylebone and later becoming head chef at Kopapa, Covent Garden.
In 2015, Selin set up her restaurant Okla in Shoreditch, London, with her business partner, Laura Christie. Selin was one of four winning chefs on the BBC2 series Great British Menu last year. She is also a regular guest on BBC1’s Saturday Kitchen.
The philosophy: For Selin Kiazim, it’s all about ‘bringing Turkish cooking out of the kebab shop and into the restaurant scene’. Her menu takes inspiration from her Turkish Cypriot heritage and is focused around communal eating and encouraging conversations about food by sharing dishes between diners.
The plan: ‘To have a small group of restaurants in London where I can share my modern take on Turkish food.’
The can’t-live-without ingredient: ‘Pomegranate molasses. Use them in dressings, marinades and glazes; goes with meat, fish and a range of veggies.’
Easy way to impress: ‘Platters to share. People love to see an abundance of food in the middle of the table with different colours and textures. Take a trip to a farmer’s market and pick up some colourful veggies.’
How to perk up your lunchbox: ‘I would make some simple böreks with feta, parsley and Baharat spice encased in filo pastry; bake in the morning and serve warm or cold. And my Mum used to put Cypriot köftes in ours, made the night before. Try the bulgur wheat köftes in the recipe here – they’re delicious cold as well as hot.’
Why we love Selin: She runs an inspired, mainly-female kitchen at Oklava in Shoreditch (plus her fabulous date butter makes a slice of home-baked Baharat Spiced Bread and butter a culinary experience in itself!)
The recipe: Spiced Beef and Bulgur Wheat Köftes
sunflower oil, for frying
1 lemon, cut into wedges
FOR THE DOUGH
250g fine bulgur wheat
1 medium egg
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
4–8 heaped tablespoons plain flour
1 teaspoon fine salt
FOR THE FILLING
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 onions, chopped
500g beef mince
1 small bunch flat leaf parsley, finely shredded (a little stalk is good)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon sweet smoked paprika
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon caster sugar
flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Start by making the dough. Combine the bulgur wheat, fine salt and around 800ml boiling water (the water should cover the bulgur wheat by about 1cm; the wheat will start absorbing it immediately but you don’t need to add more) in a large, deep tray. Mix them together thoroughly. Cover with a clean cloth and leave to absorb all the liquid; this will take about 1 hour.
2. Meanwhile, for the filling, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat, add the onions and cook until lightly browned. Remove from the pan. Carefully wipe the pan with kitchen paper and return it to a high heat.
3. Add the remaining olive oil and the mince, breaking it up in the pan. Fry the mince until it has browned all over and any excess moisture has evaporated. This will take about 15 minutes. Return the onion to the pan and season with salt and pepper.
4. Now add the spices and cook for a few more minutes. Add the vinegar and sugar and cook for another minute. Remove from the heat and stir in the parsley. Taste to check the seasoning and leave to cool.
5. To finish the dough, add the egg, olive oil and 4 tablespoons of flour to the bulgur wheat. If you have a stand mixer I recommend using this with the paddle attachment. Alternatively, you can do it by hand, kneading the mixture for at least 5-10 minutes, or until you can form it into a ball without it sticking to your hands. If you feel it is too wet, add a little more flour.
6. If you are using a deep fat fryer, heat the oil to 180C. Alternatively, place a deep frying pan over a high heat and add enough sunflower oil to cover the köftes. Add a small cube of bread to the oil when you think the oil is hot enough; if it sizzles, it’s ready.
7. To shape the köftes, take a piece of dough and roll it into a ball a bit bigger than a golf ball. Then poke your finger in (use slightly wet hands to do this) and turn the dough to shape it into a long tunnel, one end closed, with a 8mm thick wall. Keep the open end facing you a bit wider so that it is easier to stuff. Spoon some of the beef filling in, leaving around 1.5cm empty at the top. Now close off the end and ensure there are no gaps or cracks in your dough. If there are any, remould that bit, adding extra dough if needed, and using damp hands to smooth it over.
8. Place the köftes carefully in the hot oil and fry for about 5 minutes, or until it is dark golden brown. Repeat the process until all the mixture is used up. Serve with lemon wedges to squeeze into the filling.
Oklava by Selin Kiazim is published by Mitchell Beazley, £25. oklava.co.uk
Interview by Rosalind Lowe