The breakfast of Ottoman sultans, Turkish eggs with yoghurt and chili butter is a fantastic way to start the day. It may sound a little odd, and its flavour difficult to imagine. But I promise you, everyone finds this unexpectedly tasty and keep coming back for more.
Çılbır is one of those culinary rags-to-riches dishes. Originally a simple breakfast staple of Eastern Turkey, it’s a humble and incredibly tasty dish of poached eggs in yoghurt dating back to early Ottoman times. At some point, chili butter was added. This is what we know as çılbır today.
Before long, it reached the Ottoman palaces, where it became a favourite among sultans. Rags-to-riches indeed!
What makes Turkish eggs so tasty
But while the preparation is quick and simple the resulting flavours are not. The flavours and textures melt together seamlessly for an incredible depth of flavour. Especially if you’re having a nice piece of sourdough bread or toast on the side.
No wonder brunch restaurants around the world are adding this to their menus alongside the more famous avocado sourdough toast and shakshuka.
While it’s the combination of flavours that really elevates these Turkish eggs to something altogether majestic, it’s still simple enough that care should be taken for each ingredient.
Choose a good quality yoghurt. I like mine creamy with a slightly sour tang. Many add garlic to the yoghurt, but I find it a little too much for first thing in the morning. But you do you and choose your favourite yoghurt – and whether to add or omit the garlic.
The eggs should also be of superior quality. I always buy organic and local when I can. It really makes a difference, both for the animals and for the flavour of the eggs.
The key to a good çılbır is still, in many ways, in the butter. Not only does it add a splash of colour. It also brings a superb and comforting depth of flavour.
Aleppo pepper (or pul biber, as is its Turkish name) are the best chili flakes to use here. They’re not super spicy (around ⅓ the strength of cayenne pepper, for example), but have an unrivalled depth of flavour that goes beyond spiciness.
If you can’t find pul biber, substitute smoked or regular paprika. It won’t be anywhere the same, but still quite tasty.
The recipe serves two for breakfast, brunch or lunch with fresh or toasted sourdough or regular bread.
- 4 eggs
- 3 tbsp butter
- 2 tsp pul biber/Aleppo pepper or smoked or regular paprika (with a pinch of chili flakes or cayenne pepper, if you liker)
- 200 g yoghurt
- Poach the eggs. This is how I do it: Bring plenty of water to a boil. Add a splash of vinegar and swirl with a spoon until you have a mini maelstrom. Crack the eggs into the swirling water and leave to simmer until firm on the outside but with a very runny yolk, 3-4 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon.
- Meanwhile, make Aleppo butter by melting butter in a small pan or pot on medium/low heat. Add pul biber or paprika, stir well and take off the heat.
- Serve the eggs on top of the yoghurt, topping with Aleppo butter and a little salt (I use flaky sea salt). Serve immediately.
- Add a small garlic clove, crushed to a paste with a little salt with a pestle and mortar, to the yoghurt for a slightly different flavour.