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How to make Turkish cilbir and simit bread | Dine & Discover

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Serve your cilbir and simit with chilli butter (MEE)

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Hello. I'm Dina Macki. Welcome to the sixth episode of Dine & Discover.

In the coming weeks I'll be taking you through a series of recipes famed across the Middle East and North Africa that you can easily recreate in your own homes. 

This week's recipe takes us to Turkey, a country known for its breakfasts and bakes. 

Cilbir and simit are a very popular duo across Turkey, and I'm certain you'll love the dish. Well, why wouldn’t you? Poached eggs, garlicky yoghurt, chilli oil and some fluffy, homemade, jazzed up bagel-style bread dunked in a grape molasses glaze - yum!

Cilbir and simit are amazing on their own, but if you are looking to treat your family or guests to a homemade brunch at the weekend, then these treats paired with some fresh nibbles is the perfect combination!

With a few tips and tricks you’ll find poached eggs less daunting, and you’ll realise that baking a soft and light simit is achievable in a few, simple steps.


Recipe

Serves: 3-4 people

Preparation and cooking time: Preparation: 3-4 hours. Cooking: 30 minutes

Cilbir

1. Ingredients 

Simit:

  • 650g plain flour (plus extra for dusting)
  • 7g dried active yeast
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • Salt
  • 350ml water
  • 125ml milk
  • 125ml vegetable oil
  • 125ml diluted grape molasses 
  • 400g sesame seeds
  • 300g nigella seeds

Chilli butter:

  • 250g salted butter
  • 1 tbsp chilli flakes
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • Salt
  • Fresh dill and coriander

Cilbir:

  • 160g labneh
  • 2 garlic cloves - minced
  • Salt
  • 3 free-range eggs (organic, ideally)

2. Method

To make the simit:

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

2. In a large bowl, take your plain flour and combine it with dried active yeast, sugar, salt, water, milk and vegetable oil. If using a food processor, use the dough hook attachment; otherwise knead with your hands for roughly 8-10 minutes until all the ingredients form a soft dough. 

3. Lightly oil a separate bowl, transfer the dough into it, cover with a cloth and leave in a warm place to prove for an hour or two, until the dough has doubled in size. 

4. While the dough is rising, dilute the grape molasses with some water to reduce the sticky consistency - use a wide bowl. Mix together your sesame and nigella seeds in another separate wide bowl or plate. 

5. Once your dough has finished rising, knock out the air and turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead gently to bring the dough together until it’s nice and soft. Cut your dough into 12 equal pieces.

Dividing Simit

6. Take each piece of dough and roll out into long pieces, roughly 20-30cm in length. Take two pieces of dough, pinch the top ends together and begin twisting them over each other, forming one long plait. Pinch the other ends and then bring both ends together, forming a circle. Repeat each step until all of your dough has been shaped. 

7. Take each simit roll, dip into your grape molasses until both sides are well coated, and then dip into your sesame-nigella seed mix. Repeat and place on a baking tray once complete. Leave enough of a gap between each roll, as they will rise and stick to each other. 

8. Cover your baking tray with a cloth and leave the simit to prove for another 30 minutes

9. Once proved, bake in the oven for 12-15 minutes until they are golden brown. 

Chilli butter 

1. In a saucepan, melt your salted butter and chilli flakes, paprika, a pinch of salt and a small handful of fresh chopped dill and coriander. Once all your butter has melted, set aside and leave to cool.

Melting butter

Cilbir

1. For the all-important yoghurt base, it’s essential to use the thickest yoghurt you can find. You can find a tub of labneh in the majority of Middle Eastern supermarkets, but if you’re using Greek yoghurt, be sure to strain it first to remove as much liquid as possible. 

2. Take your labneh and mix it with 3 minced garlic cloves and a pinch of salt. Place into a bowl, smooth out the top and make little wells with the back of your spoon for your poached eggs to sit in. 

3. To poach your eggs, you want good quality eggs to ensure the best runny yolks. Bring your water to the boil, and turn the heat down slightly to prevent any movement in the water - you don’t want it to ruin the eggs. 

4. Break each egg into small bowls, and drop them individually into the water. Leave to poach for roughly 2-3 minutes depending on how runny you like your yolk. Using a perforated spoon, remove each egg and place them on a kitchen towel to drain some of the water, then carefully place them into each well you made in the yoghurt.

5. Drizzle your chilli butter all over your eggs, sprinkle with some extra chopped dill. And get ready to serve your cilbir with your fresh simit. 

Dipping the simit

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