Pera Garlicky Spinach with Yoghurt and Biber Salçası

After a dark and stormy day we literally fell through the doorway of Asmalı Cavit, a treasured wooden-fronted traditional meyhane in the centre of Pera in Istanbul. Here, the walls are lined with photographic portraits of people from a more glamorous age alongside vintage posters promoting wine, long forgotten theatre productions and the seaside resorts that were popular with the likes of Ernest Hemingway, Agatha Christie and Alfred Hitchcock each of whom made their way to this bejewelled city via Paris, Budapest, Sinaia in Bucharest and Bulgaria on the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express. In a glass-fronted cabinet several shelves are lined with metal trays of cold mezzes including garlicky spring greens covered with yoghurt, a drizzle of jade-green olive oil and toasted slivered almonds. This is my take on that dish the only addition being a swirl or two of biber salçası – a beautiful red pepper paste available in both hot (aci) and sweet (tatli) – some butter-roasted pistachios and zesty lemon.


2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, grated
Half a green chilli, de-seeded and finely chopped
500g fresh spinach leaves (you can also use spring greens)
4 tbsp biber salçası (optional)
Pistachios, to garnish

For the yoghurt:
300g Greek yoghurt
2 garlic cloves, grated
2 tbsp fresh mint, finely chopped
2 spring onions, finely chopped
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 lemon, zested and juiced
Sea salt flakes and freshly ground mixed peppercorns

How I make it

Mix all the yoghurt ingredients together – except for the lemon zest – and refrigerate.

Meanwhile, heat a large frying pan on a medium heat and add the butter and olive oil. Gently fry the garlic and greek chilli taking care not to burn it. Add the spinach leaves and cook for a couple of minutes until they’re slightly wilted but still retaining some bite.

Turn the leaves out into a bowl and cover with the yoghurt mix. Mix gently to combine and add a swirl or two of the biber salçası (if using). Garnish with a few pistachios gently toasted in butter and the lemon zest.

You can buy pretty good jarred biber salçası in good Mediterranean and Middle Eastern supermarkets.

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