Ezme salad, spicy yoghurt and aubergine dip: Big Has’ recipes for kebab shop classics | Turkish food and drink

Cold kebab-shop aubergine

Big Has’ saksuka aubergine dip.

You know when you sometimes sit down in a Turkish restaurant and you get that cold aubergine and potato thing to dip your bread in? Well, we call that saksuka. I know you lot think that’s got baked eggs in it, but this is the kebab-shop-style one, and it’s way better.

Prep 15 min
Rest 20 min
Cook 45 min
Chill Overnight
Serves 4

Sea salt
aubergines, cut into 2½cm cubes
1½ litres vegetable oil
200g long green peppers, cut into 2½cm cubes
300g potatoes, peeled and cut into 5cm cubes
3 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
60ml olive oil
2 tsp aci biber salçasi (hot Turkish pepper paste)
1 tsp pul biber (AKA aleppo pepper)
good tomatoes, such as beef or ox heart, grated
1 tsp caster sugar

Heavily salt the aubergines and leave them to sit for at least 20 minutes to draw out any excess moisture.

Heat the vegetable oil in a heavy-based, cast-iron pan or saucepan (you can also do this in a deep fryer; just make sure the oil is clean). You want the oil to be about 180C. Pat the aubergines dry, so they won’t spit at you when frying. Fry the aubergines, in batches if need be, for eight to 10 minutes, until brown on all sides, then leave to drain on a rack or on top of some kitchen paper. Although you’ve already used salt to draw out the moisture, you need to season them again now, while they’re still hot.

Fry the peppers in the same oil for five to seven minutes, until they’re soft and the skin is blistered, then drain. Again, season them while they’re hot.

Put the cubed potatoes in a pan filled with heavily salted water, bring to a boil and cook until they’re just done – don’t overcook them, or they’ll break down when you mix everything together later, and make the mixture thick and floury. Leave everything to cool.

Now make a tomato sauce. In a wide frying pan, fry the garlic gently in the olive oil (a wide pan just means it will cook more quickly); you don’t want it to take on any colour, so give it only a couple minutes. Add the aci biber salçasi and pul biber, and fry for a couple of minutes more – you just want to bring the spices up to temperature and cook the rawness out them. Add the grated tomatoes, turn up the heat, bring to a boil, then simmer for about 15 minutes, until you’re left with a smooth sauce. Add the sugar and season with salt.

Leave the sauce to cool, then mix in all the vegetables, trying not to break up the potatoes. Tip into a bowl and leave to sit in the fridge overnight – the longer it chills, the better it gets; however, you have three days maximum to eat it.


Big Has’ atom: a labneh-style yoghurt dip.

Essentially, this is labneh, a strained yoghurt that’s served as a cold starter around Turkey and the Middle East. I find this works best with a clean pair of tights, but if you happen to have something more appropriate knocking about, such as cheesecloth or muslin, then go with that.

Prep 5 min
Strain 2 hr
Cook 10 min
Serves 2

650g thick yoghurt (try to get Turkish stuff labelled suzme)
1 tsp sea salt
3 tsp caster sugar
2 garlic cloves, peeled and grated
Juice of 1 lemon

For the pul biber brown butter
60g unsalted butter
2 tbsp pul biber (aleppo pepper)

Spoon the yoghurt into a bowl, add the salt, sugar, garlic and lemon juice, and give everything a good stir. Scrape the yoghurt mix into your fabric of choice, hang up and leave gravity to work its magic – I hang mine in the garden for at least two hours. The longer the yoghurt is left to hang, the stiffer it becomes; you want it to be a cream-cheese consistency.

Melt the butter in a saucepan on a medium heat and, just as the kitchen starts to fill with butterscotch smells and the butter has a slight golden colour, go in with the pul biber. It’s important to catch the butter just at the beginning of the browning process; if it’s too hot, it will fry off the deep flavours from the pul biber. Give the pan a little swirl, take it off the heat and leave the pul biber to infuse and bleed out its colour and flavour.

When the yoghurt is ready to serve, whack it on to a plate, create a little well in the middle that the hot butter can sit in and serve immediately.


Big Has’ kebab shop esme salsa.

Another kebab-shop classic. I prefer a spicy ezme to bog-standard kebab-shop chilli sauce. I enjoy watching the chef get really pissed off when you order one on a busy night, too. I know how you feel, bro. I feel your pain.

Prep 15 min
Serves 6

2 sweet pointed peppers
2 small cucumbers
2 medium tomatoes
, peeled
4 spring onions
6g sea salt
1 tsp sumac
½ tsp smoked sweet paprika

20g flat-leaf parsley leaves
5g mint leaves
good olive oil
good balsamic vinegar
pomegranate molasses
4 bullet chillies, finely chopped

Finely chop the peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes and spring onions individually, then run the knife over them again until they are super fine and put in a bowl. Add the salt, sumac and smoked sweet paprika. Chop the herbs as finely as you can, then add them, too, before stirring in the olive oil, balsamic vinegar and pomegranate molasses. The chillies make the ezme pretty spicy, so feel free to leave them out and use the ezme more as a salsa than a chilli sauce; otherwise, mix them through and serve.

  • These recipes are edited extracts from Big Has Home: Recipes from North London to North Cyprus, by Hasan Semay, published by Pavilion Books at £20. To order a copy for £17.40, go to

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