These Turkish eggs, çilbir, are so easy to prepare and have a wonderful combination of flavors. Poached eggs are served over a garlicy yogurt base, topped with a warm-spiced butter. It's light and thoroughly delicious.
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While we have dropped out of the habit a bit more lately, weekend brunch is still something we all love in our house. I do try to at least do something a little different for the kids (and me) on one or more of the weekend mornings, if time allows, with Dutch baby pancakes with roasted berries being a current favorite.
But for my husband and I, I imagine it's not truly "brunch" without some eggs (and by that I mean recognizable rather than in pancakes) with us both loving all forms of eggs Benedict. And somehow we don't get round to them as often.
It seems Turkish cuisine shares our love of eggs with various dishes including menemen (a scrambled egg dish with vegetables) and this tasty poached egg dish. The combination in this of eggs with a garlicy yogurt may seem unlikely, but it really works so well.
It's light and perfect as a brunch option in warmer weather. Plus it's easy and pretty quick to make.
What are the origins of çilbir?
Apparently the name çilbir was used to refer to any poached egg dish in the early Ottoman empire. However over time, this particular dish emerged as a favorite of one of the later Ottoman sultans and the name stuck with it.
These days, it's maybe less typical on the breakfast menu in Istanbul restaurants but it's very much something you'd make at home, and more popular in Eastern Turkey as well. Plus unlike our association of eggs and brunch, this is something you might have any time of day.
Spice it up! (or not)
Traditionally, the topping is made with Aleppo pepper which gives it a bit of a spice kick, or else some red pepper flakes. However if you prefer a less spicy dish, you could swap this for paprika. I would, however, suggest using smoked paprika for a better flavor.
You'll find some other variations in this dish as well. Some don't use garlic in with the yogurt, though it's in most. Not all use dill. I really like both as they each add a lovely flavor that works so well. The odd versions fry the eggs, though I think the softness of poached eggs fits much better.
While the combination of yogurt and eggs may seem unusual, believe me these Turkish eggs are definitely worth giving a try. It's easy to make, light and has a wonderful combination of flavors. Perfect for a summer's brunch or light meal.
Try these other favorite egg dishes:
- Baked eggs with asparagus and mushrooms
- Shakshuka with meat (can also make meat-free, delicious either way)
- Eggs Florentine (a tasty spinach twist on a Benedict)
- Plus get more brunch recipes in the archives.
Turkish eggs - cilbir
- ½ cup Greek yogurt or other thick plain yogurt
- ½ clove garlic small
- 1 teaspoon chopped dill plus a little more to garnish
- ⅛ teaspoon salt approx
- ⅛ teaspoon pepper approx
- 1 tablespoon butter or a little more, to taste
- ½ teaspoon Aleppo pepper or smoked paprika for non-spicy version
- 2 eggs (or less, if you prefer)
- Finely grate the garlic into the yogurt. Add the chopped dill, salt and pepper and mix well. Pour into a wide bowl and create a slight well in the middle of the middle of the mixture. Set aside. Prepare a wide pot with boiling water to cook the eggs.
- Warm the butter in a small skillet/frying pan over a medium heat until melted. Add the Aleppo pepper or paprika and cook a minute or two, stirring, then remove from heat.
- Add the eggs to the boiling water and poach for around 2-3 minutes until the white becomes translucent but the yolk is still soft. Remove from the water with a slotted spoon (or a regular large spoon and drain).
- Place the eggs in the middle of the yogurt mixture then drizzle the pepper/paprika butter over the top. Garnish with a couple pieces of dill.
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