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August 18

Saint of the day:

Saint Helena 

Patron Saint of new discoveries

Saint Helena's Story

Empress mother of Constantine the Great. She was a native of Bithynia, who married the then Roman general Constantius I Chlorus about 270. Constantine was born soon after, and in 293, Constantius was made Caesar, or junior emperor. He divorced Helena to marry co Emperor Maximian's stepdaughter. Constantine became emperor in 312 after the fateful victory at Milvian Bridge, and Helena was named Augusta, or empress. She converted to Christianity and performed many acts of charity, including building churches in Rome and in the Holy Land. On a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, Helena discovered the True Cross. She is believed to have died in Nicomedia. Her porphyry sarcophagus is in the Vatican Museum. Geoffrey of Monmouth, England, started the legend that Helena was the daughter of the king of Colchester, a tradition no longer upheld. In liturgical art Helena is depicted as an empress, holding a cross.





The shrine to Saint Helena in St. Peter's Basilica

Chapel of Saint Helena, Jerusalem

Finding of the Cross Chapel :

   At the lowest chamber, 13 stairs under the Chapel of St. Helena (and towards east), is a cave called the "Finding of the Cross".

See plan of the church on the right; the location is marked by a red marker on the most eastern side of the church, two levels below the main floor.

This is the place where Helena, mother of Emperor Constantine, found the fragments of the cross (on the right side).

 On the left side of the chapel (see photo above) is a statue of Helena, holding the cross. Under it is an altar with the inscription seen on the right side. It was donated by the Austral-Hungarian Prince Maximilian, which later became the King of Mexico.  This was erected in 1857 and restored in 1965.

   The remains of the cross were relocated to Rome, and are on display in the "Holy Cross in Jerusalem" church

("Basilica di Santa Croce in Gerusalemme").

Latin - Nails of the Cross:


The Latin (Franciscan) altar on Golgotha is called the  "Nails of the Cross Altar", and is adjacent to the Greek-Orthodox chapel. Here, according to tradition, Jesus was nailed to the cross.

The plan of the church is seen on the right, with the location of the Latin altar marked by a red marker on the south-east side of the second floor.


 The altar is marked as station 11 on Via Dolorosa, and is located just behind the wall of the 10th station (Chapel of the Franks).  The mosaics on the ceiling preserved a 12th C mosaic figure of Jesus. The more modern mosaics above the altar illustrate the crucifixion, the holy women at the foot of the cross, and the sacrifice of Isaac. This nave was constructed and designed in 1937  by Antonio Barluzzi, the famous Italian church architect who built many Franciscans churches in the Holy Land.

  According to tradition, Jesus was tied up to a pole. Under the altar, within a glass box, is a section of a pole/stone column.


Her sarcophagus is on display in the Pio-Clementine Vatican Museum, although the connection is often questioned.  

Her skull is displayed in the Cathedral of Trier, in Germany.



Noble Grapes Day: September 15


The Noble Grapes festival is a 10-days festival of Saint Helena that is celebrated since 1787. This is one of the best wine festivals in Europe and on Saturdays, the wine-producing families from across the province gather in their historic costume to celebrate their auspicious grape harvest. You can witness the stunning carts here decorated with grapes, vines, palm fronds, ribbon, tinsel, and bells. 



We are celebrating with Turkish recipes because our Saint was from Bithynia.


İmam bayıldı

The name supposedly derives from a tale of a Turkish imam, who swooned with pleasure at the flavor when presented with this dish by his wife, although other more humorous accounts suggest that he fainted upon hearing the cost of the ingredients or the amount of oil used to cook the dish.

Another folktale relates that an imam married the daughter of an olive oil merchant. Her dowry consisted of twelve jars of the finest olive oil, with which she prepared each evening an eggplant dish with tomatoes and onions. On the thirteenth day, there was no eggplant dish at the table. When informed that there was no more olive oil, the imam fainted.

The aubergines are gently poached in this dish with a generous mixture of onions, tomatoes and garlic. This dish is in the category of Vegetables cooked in olive oil, Zeytinyaglis in Turkish cuisine, where the vegetables are poached in olive oil and little water and served either cold or room temperature with a slice of lemon aside. It is delicious and refreshing for hot summer days, just melts in the mouth.

You can prepare Imam Bayildi ahead of time and the left overs can keep in fridge for 2-3 days. I used a little less olive oil here and added dried mint to the filling; the result was a light, utterly delicious and refreshing vegetarian course.

İmam bayıldı


  • 2 large (and slim, if possible) eggplants/aubergines

  • 1 large onion, halved and finely sliced

  • 3 tomatoes, finely chopped

  • 3-4 garlic cloves, finely chopped

  • 1 bunch of flat leaf parsley, finely chopped

  • 60ml/4 tablespoons olive oil

  • Juice of ½ lemon

  • 10ml/2 teaspoon sugar

  • 5ml/1 teaspoon dried mint

  • Salt and black ground pepper to taste

  • Light olive oil (or canola oil) to shallow fry the eggplants/aubergines

  • Extra wedges of lemon to serve


  1. Using a vegetable peeler, peel the aubergines length ways in zebra stripes, then cut the eggplants / aubergines in half lengthways. In each half of eggplant, cut a deep split length ways without cutting through to the skin on the opposite side and leaving 1/2″-13 mm- uncut at either end. Sprinkle salt (this will help the moisture come out) over the eggplants and leave for about 10-15 minutes to leach out the moisture and bitter juices of eggplants. After that, thoroughly drain and pat dry the eggplants with paper towel to get rid of this moisture, otherwise they will be soggy.

  2. Place the sauteed eggplants on a paper towel to absorb excess oil.

  3. Heat about 1cm/1/2in light olive oil or canola oil in a deep sided pan. Place the eggplants in the oil and shallow fry quickly on both sides until they are softened and have a light brown color, for about 3-5 minutes. Place paper towel on a tray and transfer these eggplants there; the paper towel will absorb the excess olive oil.

  4. Dried mint brings a refreshing flavor to the filling of the eggplants.

  5. Now let’s prepare the filling. Stir in the sliced onions and garlic in a bowl, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil, dried mint, salt and ground black pepper to taste. Knead this mixture with your hands for the dried mint and seasoning to blend well (this will also help the onions to soften). Stir in the tomatoes and parsley to the mixture and combine well.

  6. Lift the eggplants to a chopping board and open up the split in the middle to create pockets. Spoon the mixture into these eggplant pockets, packing it in tightly so that all of the filling is used up (if you have any left over filling, I would simply cook them in the same pan next to these eggplant pockets).

  7. Spoon the filling mixture into the eggplant pockets.

  8. Place the stuffed eggplants side by side in a wide, heavy pan. Mix the remaining olive oil with ½ cup water, lemon juice and sugar and pour it over the eggplants.

  9. Cover the pan with a lid and place over a medium heat to get the oil hot and create some steam. Once the cooking liquid is hot, cook the eggplants for about 45-50 minutes. Once cooked, they should be soft and tender, with a little of cooking liquid left in the bottom of the pan.

  10. Leave Imam Bayildi; stuffed eggplants in olive oil to cool and rest in the pan after cooking.

  11. Leave the eggplants to cool and rest in the pan for the flavors to settle, then carefully transfer them to a serving dish and spoon the oil from the pan over the eggplants. Serve at room temperature or cold, with a wedge of lemon aside and extra garnish of parsley over them.

  12. Imam Bayildi; eggplants, aubergines, stuffed with onions, garlic and tomatoes and poached in olive oil; a delicious vegetarian course, just melts in the mouth

  13. Tips for buying eggplants: Although these days eggplants are available all year around, July, August and September are their prime time.  When buying, choose eggplants with smooth, shiny skin, heavy for their size, and having no blemishes, tan patches, or bruises. Wrinkled, loose skin is an indication of age, and the fruit will be more bitter. Smaller eggplants have fewer seeds, thinner skin, and tend to be sweeter, tenderer and less bitter.





Gavurdagi Salad Variation with watercress, pomegranates, walnuts


Named after the Gavur mountain, part of Tarsus mountains in Southeast part of Turkey, this delicious salad originates from the Gaziantep region, where many wonderfully delicious and spicy Turkish dishes come from. This time, I made a variation of this wonderful salad and I added watercress walnuts and pomegranate seeds for extra freshness and texture, worked really well. You can enjoy this delicious and easy salad as a starter or accompaniment to grills, kebabs like my home made Iskender Kebab and casseroles.



  • 3 medium tomatoes, finely chopped

  • 200 gr watercress

  • ¼ onion, finely chopped

  • Handful of flat leaf parsley, finely chopped

  • 50gr/2oz/1/3 cup walnuts, crushed – about pea size each –

  • 15ml/1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

  • 30ml/2 tbsp pomegranate molasses

  • 5ml/1 tsp red pepper flakes

  • 5ml/1 tsp sumac – optional-

  • Salt and ground black pepper to taste

  • ⅓ pomegranate seeds to serve


  1. In a large bowl, rub the chopped onions with the spices and

  2. seasoning; salt, sumac, red pepper flakes and ground

  3. black pepper –that will soften the onion and enable the
    spices to blend in well.

  4. Add the tomatoes, parsley and walnuts to the onions.

  5. Then stir in the pomegranate molasses and the
    extra virgin olive oil and give them a good (but gentle) mix.

  6. Stir in the watercress and combine well.

  7. Sprinkle pomegranate seeds over the salad and serve.

  8. Afiyet olsun.





Stir fried spinach,
Sprinkled with sesame seeds, orange zest, sesame oil, smoked salt flakes




Breakfast, sautéed chard, soft boiled eggs, walnuts

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