For those who hid behind the door when…

Kandil nights, only several in a year,  are special nights in Islam religion, marking some specific events related to Prophet Muhammed’s life and Islam in general. During those nights, all mosques are illuminated and become very photogenic. Prayers can be heard from everywhere. They are those nights for the people who feel the religion deeply in their hearts and make a sincere connection with their beliefs. To me, it never felt like a big get-together type of night, my family approached it more like “you are on your own to pray and figure out what it is that makes you who you are”. Kandil means light source by definition, typically a lantern. So to me, it was the search of my own inner light.

Of course, like every other special occasion, these nights have some food that makes a special appearance. Kandil simidi comes on the top of that list, the pastries that are ring shaped, dotted with sesame seeds or nigella seeds on top. Sometimes we make it at home, or we buy it in neatly packed dozens from the nearest bakery.

Why am I writing about this food now? I made it a while ago, but never felt like it was the right time to post it for some reason, even though it was one of those nights that come around and passed. One thing that baffles me is that I still make appropriate food when the Islamic festivities come around, baklava, asure, Kandil simidi… You see, I am not a religious person. I was raised Muslim but I have stopped practicing or “being a Muslim” long time ago. I never practiced in a traditional way when I was younger, maybe occasional fasting here and there. But once the questioning starts, it is hard to silence yourself. I have had hard time taking a book’s direction word by word and tell me how I am supposed to behave, dress or eat by not trusting me with my own judgement.

But, Islam is engraved in the culture and the way the society lives, the families get together in my country and any other Middle Eastern country. I guess it is that part of me, the usual celebrations that I miss which involves the people I miss. So I pay a visit down the memory lane by cooking the food I remember during those times.

So why post this now? Because the unrest that has happened over the past several weeks have startled me, surprised and left me wondering about people’s judgement. I felt awful for all the things that have happened through the Middle East, taking innocent lives. And done by people whom I supposedly shared the same religion once upon a time.

I thought I would never bring politics and religion discussion to here but guess what? They are always discussed around my dinner table, and you are in my kitchen by reading this. So here it goes:

I get the freedom to talk about your feelings, beliefs, thoughts and whatever makes you who you are…You can speak. I can speak. I love that this country allows me to say what I believe or do not believe and nobody can judge me for that. Well, they can but who cares. They are free to speak their minds as well.

What I don’t get when we pass the blurry line and start saying things in a very offensive way that we very well know it will create tension and we do it anyway just for the sole purpose of getting a rise out of people. We know we will push their buttons, ridicule their beliefs, make them mad and oh yes, we know all that but we do it anyway.  Because those people with the fiery buttons will do something we want them to do and the whole world will see it. We will prove our point. But don’t consider at what cost!

Then on the flip side, all these people who think and believe that they belong to the greatest religion of all times, who they think they are holier than thou, who preach that their Prophet was peaceful, their religion is the most tolerant will respond to this not the way like the people who belong to that religion  should respond but like a bunch of bandits or gang members. Instead of making peaceful demonstrations, speeches and keeping a cool, level head and say “You believe what you want to believe, we know our religion and we know our Prophet and we are secure in our beliefs. We will not come down to your level”.

To me, what you believe in is not heightened or reduced by others’ beliefs in it or lack thereof – that is if you are confident in it. So why not shrug and move on. Because with the violence displayed, you are behaving exactly how they want you to behave.

I know it is not that simple maybe for some people. Yes, we get angry when we are disrespected. But is anyone on either side of this considering that by being provoked, burning flags, killing people or by provoking these people , they might be playing into somebody else’s bigger agenda. An agenda that might not even be related to the religion at all? Just a thought.

When we did very stupid things in our younger years, the adults in my family would jokingly ask us “Why did you do this? While God was handing out brains, were you hiding behind the door and did not get yours?”

I assume these people were hiding behind the doors. This post might be heavy and out of place. It was building up in me and had to come out. And I love that I can do it and hopefully I did it in a respectful way. Maybe I should leave it on a lighter note with Dr. Seuss:

“You have brains in your head.

You have feet in your shoes.

You can steer yourself

any direction you choose.”

I am a hopeless hopeful and hope that one day all people will steer themselves towards peace and commonsense.

Kandil Simidi

  • 9 oz all purpose flour (plus more if needed)
  • 1 heaping teaspoon mahlab
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter(softened – almost melting)
  • 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 egg – yolk and white separated
  • Sesame seeds and nigella seeds

1. Mix all dry ingredients in a big mixing bowl.Preheat the oven to 350-degrees.

2. Add butter, oil, yogurt and one egg yolk to the dry ingredients. Make the dough. If it is still sticky, add gradually more flour.Should be consistency of ear lobe. (typical Turkish description)

3. Cover and set in the fridge for 20 minutes.

4. Make 10-12 balls. Roll each ball into a log, about 6-7 inch long. Bring the ends together, making it into a ring shape.

5. Whisk the egg white in a bowl wide enough to dip each cookie.

6. Place them on a cookie sheet lined with Silpat or parchment paper. Sprinkle sesame seeds and/or nigella seeds.

7. Bake them about 30 to 40 minutes or until golden brown on the bottom and top.









  1. by Julie Erickson
    9:15 pm
    Sep 16, 2012

    Well said Ilke… I really appreciate your thoughts and I agree with you 100 percent. Let’s get together, drink some Raki (I actually have some on hand) and solve the world’s problems as you say… Take care,

  2. by Lell Trogdon
    9:22 pm
    Sep 16, 2012

    Indeed, Ilke. Beautiful, thoughtful and respectful post.

  3. by Angie@Angie's Recipes
    10:27 am
    Sep 17, 2012

    A well written post, Ilke, very wise, as a matter of fact.
    I have seen these sesame rings (much bigger though) in most Turkish bakeries over here. Thank you Ilke, for sharing this beautiful post and recipe.

  4. by thyme (Sarah)
    10:25 pm
    Sep 17, 2012

    I must be hard for you to watch/read the new and see the events as they are unfolding. I’m so sorry that this must be causing conflict for you. I feel sorry for all of the Muslim population that must be so confused by what is happening. We talk about it all the time too. We wonder what are the agendas behind the agendas…and then some. There is so much anger…and so much of it directed towards the U.S….but I’m afraid we are so ignorant here as to what can be done or what has been done. We have a wonderful Muslim family that lives next door and I do wonder what they make of all of this. I worry that we look like one big fat culture that only cares about pillaging other countries for their resources. I love that you are embracing your religious “social” heritage. Whatever the sentiments that are carried behind the special foods represent love and togetherness…it doesn’t have to be all or nothing…just the good and wonderful parts that you can share with your family!

  5. by Susan
    4:54 pm
    Sep 18, 2012

    Very profound post, Ilke. It’s hard to put thoughts into words but I have always been a firm believer in live and let live. Allow anyone the freedom to be left alone and believe in what they want. To be violent for sake of religious beliefs make absolutely no sense to me. I am not a devout person either. I just believe in the Golden Rule…do onto others, etc. and peace.

    I’d love to sip tea and eat rolls in your kitchen :)

  6. by kitchenriffs
    5:34 pm
    Sep 19, 2012

    Very well said. For whatever reason, some people (OK, a lot of people) really get into pushing other people’s buttons. Religion and politics are biggies because people take them personally, but it can be all sorts of things (Hellman’s mayo vs. Miracle Whip!). People are just weird sometimes, but it’s sad when their weirdness gets out of control and effects us all. Anyway, nice recipe, great pictures – I particularly like the last two.

  7. by rebecca
    6:51 pm
    Sep 19, 2012

    well written and hugs love you loads your a special person

  8. by Ilke
    7:42 pm
    Sep 19, 2012

    Thank you guys! Wish there were more of us :)

  9. by Parsley Sage
    4:55 pm
    Sep 22, 2012

    It’s a lovely post. Unfortunate events to inspire it though :(

    I enjoy learning about Kandil nights though! I googled some pictures. You’re right! It’s BEAUTIFUL!

  10. by lisaiscooking
    11:34 pm
    Sep 23, 2012

    It is a wonderful thing that we’re free to speak our minds in this country. And, you spoke yours in a completely respectful way. It’s always so interesting how food takes us back to holidays, celebrations, and traditions. Your Kandil simidi look delicious.

  11. by Shelley Lucas
    3:05 pm
    Sep 24, 2012

    Ilke, please don’t ever feel like you can’t share your thoughts on this blog. I know I’ve struggled with how personal is too personal on my blog as well but I’d rather read what comes from your heart than just random blabbing about food. I love your point that if you are confident in your beliefs there is no need to prove anything to others. I grew up in a religious household but don’t practice anymore, either. I feel the same way about the Bible as you described feeling about the Koran. It’s hard for me to take an ancient text, written by men (even if they were divinely inspired), as the literal truth today. That so many religions ascribe their beliefs as the “only way” was my first tip off that they can’t all be right so what else are they wrong about?

    The violence was tragic but rational people understand that it was perpetrated by a small group of individuals and is not indicative of Islam as a religion or Muslims as a people.

    Peace be upon you!

  12. by Mrs Ergül
    9:52 pm
    Oct 2, 2012

    No, it is not out of place. This is your space and you can express whatever thoughts you have. And I do think you did it in a very nice way. No one should have been offended.

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