... Meliz Berg, cook and recipe developer
For self-taught cook, recipe developer and food content creator Meliz Berg, her love of food and the joy associated with cooking was installed in her from a very young age. From a Turkish Cypriot family, Meliz grew up in London watching her mum make every traditional meal from scratch and where at the centre of every family occasion was a beautiful selection of homemade food.
Having studied Music at Masters Level and then going on to teach secondary school music, Meliz loves the escapism that cooking has always given her. After the birth of her first child, she decided to channel her creativity into a recipe blog, documenting the traditional Cypriot dishes that she was introducing to him. Soon her blog developed into a very successful Instagram account where she now has 90.5k followers, who adore her easy-to-follow recipes which highlight the melting-pot of beautiful cuisines from across the Mediterranean, Balkans and Middle East. With recipes featured in the Guardian and Good Homes to name a few, Meliz is one to watch and a firm favourite of the Magnificent Marrow team. Here she sits down to chat to us about how she goes about creating new recipes, which female chefs inspire her and which restaurant she will be heading to now lockdown is easing.
I love the escapism and creativity associated with cooking. I very much enjoy my own time, and my own company, with the music on, experimenting with new and traditional flavours. And then the joy it brings when the food is presented in a social setting is something I never tire of.
When creating a new recipe I do often have a plan and it’s usually based around a recipe that I already love. I think about ways in which I can perhaps experiment with spices or textures to add a twist to the traditional recipes that I loved growing up, whilst still maintaining their essence.
The variety, the freshness, and flavours that can be elevated through only a handful of ingredients is what I love about Mediterranean/Middle Eastern cuisine. Every meal has an element of “zing” in it, whether it’s a dish that is purely plant-based, meat or fish; a hit of garlic, or a simple salad dressing often only consisting of a good quality extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice base, or perhaps some pomegranate molasses or pul biber that can be used in marinades or in sauces.
There are a plethora of fantastic chefs that inspire me every day, especially with the variety of talent accessible on social media. However, I don’t believe that inspiration is only achieved by something you see, but more so by someone or something who somehow shows you the “way”. I find myself inspired by female chefs who are not only extremely talented, and whose ideas are enough to spark something in my own creativity, but who have also been extremely supportive of my own journey; Refika Birgul, Milli Taylor, Joudie Kalla, Selin Kiazim, Melek Erdal.
I don’t think I’ve necessarily had a major career highlight yet - I was booked into some really exciting events in 2020 (The Ideal Home Show, Supper Clubs in Central London), that all had to be cancelled, so my current highlights happen daily when I receive a simple message from someone to say that they’ve cooked one of my recipes and have loved it.
I like to go out for dinner to restaurants that I really love. It doesn’t have to be lavish or fancy, but the food has to draw me in so if we really love the food somewhere, then we often find ourselves going to that same restaurant again and again. I’d prefer to eat at home rather than go out for dinner and be disappointed.
The first dish I learned to cook was Dolma (stuffed vine leaves). I learned to cook it at home with my mum and aunties.
My most memorable meal was Salt Beef and Latkes. I cooked it for my late cousin Eren and our family.
If I could only pick one of my recipes to eat forever it would be Dolma. I just love that you can stuff and roll any vegetable or leaf with a variety of fillings, it means you can never get bored.
My go-to comfort dish would Magarina Firinda - which is Cypriot beef mince and creamy hellim and mint pasta bake.
My husband would be my favourite dining companion. Going out for dinner is our chance to just pause and enjoy the moment.
My favourite vegetable would be a Potato. Fry it, mash it, roast it, bake it, boil it, dress it, love it.
First restaurant I plan to visit once we are out of lockdown is Nieves Barragan’s Sabor. It’s our favourite London restaurant, and I miss the food and atmosphere so much. The whole experience is beautiful.