Recipes from the Black Sea

We share three dishes from Caroline Eden's new travelogue, which features food inspired by her travels around Bulgaria, Romania and the Crimea

Food and Drink 14 Dec 2018

Black Sea börek
Banker's fish soup
Baked sesame halva

Shot through with wanderlust inducing stories and photos from her travels around the Black Sea (picking tea in the Crimean, talking to traders by Romanian mosques, driving along twisty Bulgarian coastal roads), author Caroline Eden’s travelogue would leave you satisfied even without the recipes. With them, though, it’s truly special. Read it and you’ll be itching to dig out your passport, but until then you can rustle up these delicious recipes from the book in the comfort of your own home.

Black Sea Börek

A deeply savoury börek filled with rice, sultanas, pine nuts and chard. It is baked as a large pie rather than as small pastries, making it ideal for a lunchtime gathering. The fleshy sultanas give it a lovely sweet note. Yufka pastry, often for sale in Turkish/Mediterranean shops, is slightly thicker than filo pastry and usually comes in generously sized sheets; if you can find it, buy it.

Ingredients (serves four, generously) 

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 shallots, finely diced

100g/½ cup plus 1 tablespoon

basmati rice

50g/1¾oz sultanas

200ml/generous ¾ cup chicken stock

6 Swiss chard leaves

(kale works as a substitute)

100g/3½oz feta, crumbled

2 medium eggs, plus 1 extra egg, beaten, to glaze

40g/3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus extra for greasing

30g/1oz pine nuts

12 sheets of yufka/filo pastry, cut to

18 x 24cm/7 x 9-in rectangles

2 teaspoons nigella or sesame seeds

salt and freshly ground black pepper


1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/gas mark 6.

2. Heat the oil in a large saucepan and gently sauté the shallots with a pinch of salt. When softened and translucent, stir in the rice and add the sultanas, coating it all in the oil, then add the chicken stock. Season with plenty of ground black pepper and bring to a boil.

3. Cover, reduce the heat and simmer gently for 15 minutes, until the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is cooked. Set aside to cool. While the rice is cooking, cut off the tough tips of the chard but keep the stalks, rinse well and chop into bite-sized pieces. Combine the chard with the cheese and eggs in a bowl, and season with salt and pepper. Add the cooled rice. Next, thoroughly grease a 20cm/8-in square tin and toast the pine nuts gently in a hot, dry frying pan until golden. Remove and leave to cool slightly before adding to the chard and rice mix.

4. Layer four sheets of yufka/filo in the greased tin to cover the base, with two sheets forming a layer one way, another 2 the other way (as your tin is square and the sheets are rectangular), brushing each sheet with a little melted butter as you go. Add half the filling mixture, then add another four sheets of pastry in the same way, brushing with melted butter again. Add the remaining filling and, finally, add a top layer of 4 pastry sheets in the same way. Trim the excess, tucking under the corners and edges as you go so you have a neat top.

5. Brush the top well with the beaten egg and sprinkle over the seeds. Bake for 30–35 minutes or until golden and cooked through. Leave it to rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Banker’s Fish Soup

One freezing morning in January, I wandered into a tiny fish café in Karaköy. There, I met cousins Muhareen and Muhsin, a chef and waiter, respectively, from the Black Sea city of Ardahan, near the Georgian border. They left their home city over a decade ago to serve the bankers around Bankalar Caddesi – Istanbul’s answer to Wall Street and the financial centre of the Ottoman Empire – what they know best: fish. Their café is so popular, and the turnover so fast, that no ice is used for the little fish counter in the window. As it was winter, my soup came with scorpion fish, but for this recipe any firm white-fleshed fish will do. Monkfish works well. Many of the banks have now relocated from here but this balik corbasi (fish soup) remains the best fish soup I’ve ever eaten. It is very hearty and is somewhere between a stew and a soup.

Served with warm white crusty bread it makes for a decent lunch.


Ingredients (serves 2) 

2 tablespoons olive oil

½ medium onion, roughly chopped

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

2 carrots, diced

250g/8¾oz celeriac, peeled and diced

500ml/generous 2 cups fish stock

grated zest of ½ lemon

handful of ripe cherry tomatoes, halved

250g/8¾oz monkfish, chopped into bite-sized pieces


To serve

2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

white pepper (optional)

lemon wedges



1. Heat the oil in a pan and gently fry the onion and garlic with a pinch of salt for a couple of minutes until softened. Add the carrots and celeriac and continue cooking for a further 8 minutes.

2. Pour in the fish stock and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down and simmer with the lid on for around 20 minutes, or until the vegetables are firm but nearly cooked through. Then add the lemon zest, cherry tomatoes and chunks of fish and cook until the fish is cooked through.

3. Stir in the chopped parsley, dust with a little white pepper, if you like, and serve with the lemon wedges.


Baked Sesame Halva

A baked halva pudding for Timur, which just as he told me, is perfect after a fish and raki supper.

Ingredients (serves 2) 

150g/5¼oz block of plain or vanilla halva

1 tablespoon date syrup

100ml / ⅓ cup plus 1 tablespoon milk

small pinch of salt

5g/scant ¼oz pistachio kernels, finely chopped

a few edible rose petals (optional)

1 teaspoon lemon juice



1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4 and have ready two 10cm/4in ramekins.

2. In a large bowl, break up and smash the halva until you have something akin to breadcrumbs. Add the date syrup, milk and salt and then transfer to a food processor and blend until creamy and smooth. Pour the mixture into the ramekins and bake for 10 minutes or until the top is bubbling and golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes, then sprinkle over the crushed nuts, and rose petals if you fancy them, and top each ramekin with just a few drops of lemon juice. Serve warm, in the ramekins.

Black Sea by Caroline Eden (£25, Quadrille), out now