Zucchini, garden peas & labneh with za’atar

Zucchini, garden peas & labneh with za'atar - recipe / A kitchen in Istanbul

Keeping it simple and summery.

The last few months I’ve traded my local Tuesday market with the much larger Wednesday market in the neighbouring neighbourhood Çarşamba. It’s only a five minutes’ walk from home, but it still feels more like travelling centuries in time. Çarşamba is one of Istanbul’s most conservative neighbourhoods, with most people wearing traditional clothing reminiscent of what Muhammed must have worn back in the day. But on Wednesday, they play host to one of the largest weekly markets in Istanbul.

The selection of goods on offer here is quite a bit more plentiful than the one in Balat, and this is what draws me to the market. I’ve also become quite fond of a couple of stalls selling their own produce, so called köy products – village produce and products. Their status is similar to that of organic food in many countries (Turkey has no formal organic certification). However, with köy produce, the attraction is the flavour of home made that draws people – not the method of production (Though undeniably the home made flavour can only be achieved through more traditional methods, many of which happen to be completely organic.)

Pictures from my Instagram Stories. Follow me at @vidiberg for snaps from the markets and daily life in Istanbul.

This week, I was drawn to some beautiful zucchinis, or courgettes, on offer from a group of ladies I often shop from. There are very few women present at the stalls at the market, so I try to make an effort to buy from them when possible. Plus, they’ve always got good looking and interesting produce – often stuff I’ve never seen before.

And the zucchinis were as delicious as their appearance suggested. This simple preparation with some fresh garden peas and a slab of labneh, the Middle Eastern cream cheese made from straining yoghurt, really brought out the subtle flavour of the produce. Topped with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a scattering of za’atar, the Middle Eastern dried herb mix, this turned out a real crowd pleaser!

Serve as part of a meze table, as a starter on its own, or as a side dish with chicken. Serves two as a starter or side dish – or as a lunch for one with fresh bread.

Zucchini, garden peas & labneh with za'atar - recipe / A kitchen in Istanbul

Zucchini, garden peas & labneh with za’atar

Zucchini, garden peas & labneh with za'atar - recipe / A kitchen in Istanbul
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  • 3-4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 zucchini (courgette), sliced into wedges lengthwise and into three crosswise
  • 2 small handfuls garden peas, frozen or fresh
  • 150 g labneh
  • 1 tsp za’atar
  • 0.5 tsp nigella seeds (optional)
  • extra virgin olive oil, to serve
  • 2 mint leaves, finely sliced, to garnish (optional)
  • salt and pepper

My method

  1. If using fresh peas, blanch them in plenty of boiling water for one minute. Transfer immediately to a large bowl of ice cold water. Drain and set aside.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a thick bottomed frying pan over a medium/high heat. Fry the zucchini, turning regularly, until browned, 3-5 minutes. Add the peas and keep frying for one more minute, turning a couple of times. Season and take off the heat.
  3. The dish may be served hot or at room temperature. When ready to serve, add labneh to a plate. Place the vegetables partly on top, partly on the side. Drizzle over some extra virgin olive oil and a scattering of za’atar, nigella seeds and frish mint (if using). Serve immediately.

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