It was 2005 and we were in transit from Alexandroupoli in Greece, heading back to Istanbul by bus. Traffic was bad and it had been a long journey, so, after crossing the border into Turkey, the bus driver pulled to the side of the road and gave us an hour’s break to stretch our legs.
View Alexandroupoli to Tekirdağ in a larger map
All we knew was that we were now in a Turkish seaside town, overlooking the Sea of Marmara, and the town was called Tekirdağ. Our knowledge ended right there. We got off the bus and headed along a not unpleasant coastal road – a coast road that was lined with scores of köfte restaurants. Why so many köfte restaurants? Nothing for it then but to try some köfte. And we did. And it was the best köfte we had ever tasted!
When we eventually got back to Fethiye, we were chatting with a Turkish friend and enthusing about the number of köfte restaurants in Tekirdağ and how tasty the köfte was.
“Well, you were in Tekirdağ,” he said, with an almost confused look on his face.
“Riiiight…And what’s so special about Tekirdağ?”
“Tekirdağ Köftesi! Didn’t you know Tekirdağ is famous all over Turkey for its köfte?”
Ahh, right. There are so many places in Turkey that are famous for their regional dishes. Looks like we stumbled across one of those places accidentally. We didn’t have a clue. But, lucky us…and if you do ever find yourself up that way, make sure you stop off to try some. It’s a must!
A Tekirdağ Köftesi Recipe
Okay, this recipe is not going to be an exact Tekirdağ köfte recipe for a couple of reasons:
- The first one is because if you live in Thracian Turkey’s Tekirdağ and you fancy a bit of Tekirdağ köfte, you go out to one of the köfte salons and leave the cooking to the usta (the master). Obviously, the ustas of Tekirdağ are not too keen on sharing their recipes with the public at large – well, they want you to cherish their Tekirdağ köftesi recipe by eating at their salon, don’t they?
- And the second reason is because of the quality of the meat. The meat in Thracian Turkey will have a different taste and texture to the meat down south here in Fethiye. It seems the colder, damper climate of Tekirdağ produces a superior meat…and that in turn makes for a great köfte!
Of course, we can still make a fabulous Tekirdağ Köfte here in Fethiye…it just won’t be quite the same as the real thing made up there in Thracian Turkey.
Unlike the perhaps more familiar circular shape in our basic köfte recipe, Tekirdağ köfte is rolled into sausage shapes. We make this for barbecues when we have friends over and everyone agrees that it’s our best attempt yet at getting the texture just right. So, we might not be in Tekirdağ, but we are undeterred. Let’s make Tekirdağ Köftesi.
- 300g orta yağlı (medium fat) minced beef
- ½ large onion, grated on fine setting
- 1 handful finely chopped flat leaf parsley
- 1 dessert spoonful fine semolina
- 2 sachets (or 2 tsp) kabartma tozu (baking soda)
- 1 heaped tsp süzme yoghurt (thick natural yoghurt)
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp chilli flakes (optional)
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- Pinch of salt and black pepper
- Add your minced meat to a large bowl, along with the grated onion.
- Now add the parsley, cumin, chilli flakes, oregano, salt and pepper.
- Get your hands in there and knead for around 10 minutes.
- Now add the yoghurt, semolina and baking soda and mix it all together.
- Once you're happy it's all mixed well, take small golf ball-sized pieces and mould into oblong shapes.
- If possible, leave to chill in the fridge for an hour or so before cooking.
- For the barbecue, allow the initial fierce heat to die down before grilling for 10-15 minutes (depending on the size of your köfte), turning half way through.
- For the grill, grill on a medium to high heat for 10-15 minutes, turning halfway through.
The mixture makes around 16 köfte - obviously, it depends how big you make each köfte.
If you make a lot of homemade köfte or burgers, you might have noticed we haven’t included breadcrumbs or beaten egg in this Tekirdağ Köftesi recipe. That’s because we are looking for a lighter texture so the kabartma tozu and the semolina work perfectly in lightening the meat. As for the addition of süzme yoghurt, a friend told us about this. She said it makes a really smooth texture and she prepares köfte like this for her Turkish husband – he loves it so we had to try it for ourselves. We’re definite converts.
And if you’re wondering why we use medium fat minced meat rather than low fat; well, we always used low fat until we had Turkish friends round for a barbecue one time. We produced our köfte, our friend placed it on the barbecue and immediately announced to everyone that Barry and Julia had bought the wrong meat! Orta yağlı is the way to go for good quality köfte. So that’s what we buy now – we’re not arguing with Turkish barbecue experts!
Eating Your Tekirdağ Köftesi
Once your Tekirdağ Köftesi is cooked, what are you going to serve it with? Hmm, Turkish rice goes well. Any of our summer barbecue meze dishes would go well… But we’ve said it before and we’ll say it again. Köfte (of any variety) goes so well with piyaz. A taste sensation!
We’ve enjoyed köfte and piyaz meals all over the place: when we were a little bit lost in Edirnekapı, when we needed a (very) early lunch in Eskişehir and, of course, köfte and Antalya Piyazı in Antalya. Why not enjoy it at home, too? We’re always wanting to convince our friends that this is a perfect combination, so we serve our Tekirdağ Köftesi with our own Antalya Usulü Piyaz recipe. Mmm, two of our favourite Turkish regional recipes together on one plate.
Well, as far as we’re concerned, heaven is a plate of barbecued Tekirdağ köfte with a side serving of piyaz. If you’ve never tried it before, give it a go and see for yourself – and hopefully, you’ll agree with us! Feel free to let us know what you think in the comments below.
There are loads of regional Turkish recipes in this book, which is available from Amazon…
For all of our dishes, click through to our complete index of Turkish recipes.