Borecik

Turkish savoury pastries come in many flavours and shapes, using different pastries, fillings, styles and cooking techniques. These Borecik roses were one of the dishes we made in Istanbul, when we participated in the Cookistan cookery school. 

The pastry that we used was prepared in a small shop in a traditional way, sold as large round circles of thin and pliable pastry. These sheets are called yufka, and are a bit more robust than filo pastry. They are available from Turkishop, but you could substitute filo. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 sheet of yufka
  • 150g mince
  • 2 small onions, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 150ml milk
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 egg
  • 250g plain yoghurt
  • salt and pepper
  • red pepper flakes
  • Butter

METHOD:

  • Cut the sheet of pastry into four.
  • Kneed the meat with the onions, pepper and salt. 
  • Mix the milk with the olive oil, and use this to wet one side of the sheet of pastry. 
  • Put a quarter of the mince mixture in a line along the curved edge of each segment of the pastry sheet. Roll the sheet around the mince to form a snake. These snake pastries can be frozen for use later, handy for making a feast at short notice.
  • Coil each snake to make a snail shape. 
  • Put the snail shapes onto a greased baking sheet, brush with beaten egg, and bake in the oven at 200C for 35 to 40 minutes. 
  • To serve, mix yoghurt and garlic, and put a dollop on the top of each pastry. 
  • Next, melt the butter and fry the chilli flakes, and drizzle this on top of the yoghurt. 

Persian rice, beef and cabbage

This is a truly delicious meal, I keep sneaking back for extra portions. It uses a surprisingly small amount of meat to make a meal for around eight people. 

I derived the recipe from the astonishingly good book, Nightingales and Roses by Maryam Sinaiee. There are a couple of tweaks to match local circumstances and my store cupboard. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 400g basmati rice
  • 400g white cabbage – I used a whole sweetheart cabbage
  • vegetable oil
  • 2 small onions, finely chopped
  • 200g mince
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 5 tbsp tomato puree OR 250ml passata
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 20g butter

METHOD:

  • Put the rice in a large bowl, and cover with water, stirring to loosen any surface starch. Drain, and repeat this step three times, then leave the rice to soak in salted water for 30 minutes or more. 
  • Fill a large saucepan with water and bring to the boil. Drain the soaked rice and add to the pan. Bring the water back to the boil, and cook uncovered until the rice grains are on the surface of the water. This takes about six minutes or so. The rice should feel cooked, but still with a little bite to it. 
  • Drain the cooked rice and rinse with cold water to separate the grains and stop them cooking. 
  • Chop the cabbage coarsely and saute it in 1 tbsp of oil over a medium to high heat, seasoned with the black pepper. After five minutes, as it starts to brown, remove from the pan.
  • Add a bit more oil to the pan, and the chopped onions, fry for around 10 minutes until starting to brown. 
  • Add the mince, turmeric, and cumin, and fry until the mince is well browned. 
  • Add the tomato paste, salt and cabbage. If you are using tomato paste and not passata, then add 200ml boiling water. Cover and simmer gently for 30 minutes, stirring from time to time. If the mixture is looking a little dry, or starting to catch, add another drop of water. 
  • Using the large pan, put a couple of tablespoons of oil at the bottom, and heat it. Then add alternating layers of rice and cabbage mixture, starting and ending with a rice layer. Wrap the pan lid in a tea towel and jam it firmly on top. 
  • Put the pan over a medium heat and cook until the outside of the pan is hot. 
  • Melt the butter in 2 tablespoons of boiling water, and pour this over the top of the rice mountain in the pan. Put the pan into an oven at Gas 3, 170C, and bake for 30 minutes. 
  • When the dish is done, it should be turned out onto a platter, and served with yoghurt, pickled vegetables, and a salad of herbs. At this time of year, not that many delicious herbs in the garden, so I skipped that bit. 

 

Turkish candied pumpkin with tahini

We learned how to make this extraordinary dessert when we were on holiday in Istanbul. The first night we went out, I ordered this, thinking it looked really unusual, and then the next day, it was one of the dishes we prepared at our Cookistan cookery class. Our teacher explained that this was a dish invented at the end of the Ottoman empire, for the palace.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 500g peeled pumpkin cut into large cubes, about 2 inches across.
  • 450g granulated sugar,
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 3 cloves
  • 100g tahini (about 7 tbsp)
  • chopped walnuts.

METHOD:

  • Place the pumpkin cubes into a large saucepan and cover with the sugar, and leave overnight.
  • Add a little water if required, so that the liquid in the pan reaches about half way up the pumpkin. Add the cloves and vanilla.
  • Put the lid on the pan and cook for 30 to 35 minutes, until the pumpkin is soft and absorbs all the water it initially released. Check regularly to ensure that the syrup doesn’t stick. Baste the pumpkin in the syrup.
  • Let it come to room temperature. This dish can be kept in the refrigerator.
  • Garnish with tahini and chopped walnuts to serve.

Turkish stuffed vegetables

This is the first of several recipes from Turkey, from our cooking class at Cookistan. I was really impressed with the quality of food that we produced. Some of these recipes are seasonal, so if you were to book with them, you’re sure to learn something new. 

We made stuffed dried aubergines, stuffed vine leaves, stuffed courgettes. The dried aubergines, pepper puree and vine leaves are available from Turkishop online, but peppers, beef tomatoes, or onions could be used. 

Ready for the oven

INGREDIENTS:

  • 8 dried aubergines, or 8 good sized courgettes, or a jar of vine leaves in brine. If you can’t get vine leaves, then chard leaves would do. 
  • 100g mince
  • 50g rice or fine bulgar wheat
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 tbsp pepper puree
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 tsp dried mint
  • 1/2 tsp sweet paprika
  • 1/2 tsp chilli powder or chilli flakes
  • 1 handful of chopped parsley
  • Plain yoghurt to serve (you could add garlic, salt and pepper to the yoghurt)

METHOD:

  • If you are using dried aubergines, these need to be soaked in boiling water for around 5 minutes. They need to be weighed down to ensure they are completely submerged, and then rinsed in cold water. If you are using courgettes, use a teaspoon, melon baller (or a special Turkish courgette knife) to hollow them out. First, cut them in half across the way, not lengthways, and trim the end to make them steady to stand up in the pan. Then, hollow them out carefully. Other vegetables can be prepared in a similar way. 
  • Mix all the other ingredients, and mix them together with your hands.
  • Stuff the vegetables to about 3/4 full. During the cooking, the rice expands, so you need to leave a little bit of room. 
  • To stuff vine leaves, put each leaf shiny side down with the pointy bits pointing away. Put a line of mince about the size of your little finger across the bottom of the vine leaf. Start rolling the leaf round the mince, working away from you, folding in the sides as you go. There are lots of versions on youtube to check for the method. 
  • Put the stuffed vegetables in a casserole dish large enough for them all to fit with the open ends up. Put a plate over the top to keep them in place, smaller than the pan. Pour in around 500ml boiling water, and simmer the vegetables until they are cooked, around 45 minutes. 
  • Serve as a meze dish with yoghurt flavoured with garlic. 

Scrambled egg with mushrooms, Spanish style.

I got some free range eggs from Linda, and then Kenny bought me some too – all wonderful, but that was a lot of eggs. So I made this. It is from the Moro cookbook, by Sam and Sam Clark .

INGREDIENTS:

  • 500g mushrooms (a mixture, could include chanterelles, other wild mushrooms)
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
  • 25 butter
  • 6 eggs, broken into a bowl. Do not beat the eggs. 
  • 3 tbsp milk
  • 40g serrano ham, cut into small strips
  • 1 tbsp chopped parsley
  • salt and pepper

METHOD:

  • Clean the mushrooms and slice them roughly. 
  • In a large frying pan, heat the olive oil over a medium heat. Add the chopped garlic, and fry for only a minute, then add the mushrooms. It will look like you have too many mushrooms, but don’t worry, all will be fine. Fry for around 5 minutes or so, stirring, so that the mushrooms are soft. 
  • Add the ham, salt and pepper, cook for another minute, and then transfer the mixture to a bowl. 
  • In the same pan, melt the butter and then add the eggs and mil. Stir the eggs with a fork or wooden spoon so that the eggs break up a bit. 
  • When they begin to set, return the mushrooms to the pan, along with the chopped parsley, and continue to cook until any eggwhite has set. 

Serve with fresh bread. 

Wild goose with carrots and pomegranate molasses

This is a bit of a riff on a Persian recipe, but as I didn’t have some key ingredients, I went off-piste. This is probably frowned upon by the purists, but it was delicious. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 wild goose breasts, sliced into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 20g butter
  • 500g carrots, cut into batons (about the size of your little finger)
  • 1/2 tsp saffron water (a tiny pinch of saffron in boiling water)

METHOD:

  • Heat the oil in a large casserole dish, over a medium to high heat. Add the chopped onions, and fry for around 10 minutes until they are browning. You’ll need to keep an eye and keep stirring to stop any sticking or burning. 
  • Add the goose, turmeric, cinnamon and cumin, and fry until the meat is browned. 
  • Stir in the tomato paste, salt and pomegranate molasses, and cook for another couple of minutes, until it is all hot through.
  • Pour in enough water to cover everything by a couple of centimetres. and bring to the boil. Season with salt and pepper, turn the heat to low, cover, and simmer gently for an hour and a half. 
  • Heat the butter in a frying pan. When it starts to foam slightly, add the carrot batons, and lower the heat. Gently fry the carrots until they start to brown slightly around the edges. 
  • Add the carrots to the stew with the saffron water. If needed, add a little more water to the stew. Bring back to a simmer, and then keep cooking until the carrots are very soft. 

Serve with basmati rice. 

Baked Beef Curry

We are still enjoying the supply of beef from Louise’s Askernish herd, just delicious. We made this very easy beef curry last night, and reheated it the next day. It is from Madhur Jaffrey’s Curry Easy. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 6 tbsp olive oil, or vegetable oil
  • 6 cardamom pods
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 kg stewing steak
  • 1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
  • 225g chopped onions
  • 300ml plain yoghurt
  • 2 tbsp ground coriander
  • 2 tsp grated fresh ginger
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne
  • 1 tsp salt

METHOD:

  • Heat the oven to 180C
  • Heat the oil in a casserole dish, and when the oil is hot, add the cardamom and cinnamon, stir once and then add the meat. Keep moving the meat until is browned all over, then transfer to a bowl. 
  • In the same pan, add the cumin seeds and onions, on a medium to high heat. Keep stirring and cooking for 10 minutes, until the onion is browning. Turn off the heat when the onion is cooked. 
  • Return the meat to the pan, and then add all of the other ingredients, and bring to a simmer. Cover the pan with the lid, and put it into the oven to bake for at least an hour and a half, until the meat is tender. 

I served this with almonds browned in a little oil, and with baked potatoes. 

Sweet and Sour wild goose with almonds

We have some wild goose breasts in the freezer, and I am always looking for good ways to cook them. Somewhere I have a traditional goose soup recipe to try, but before I could test it,  I came across a recipe for a lamb dish in Nightingales and Roses by Maryam Sinaiee. 

I must tell you, it was sensational, best recipe ever for wild goose. Spices are available from Seasoned Pioneers, and the other ingredients I got from Persepolis in Peckham. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 100g slivered or flaked almonds
  • 2 dried limes
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 small onions, finely chopped
  • 3 goose breasts, sliced into strips
  • 1 teaspoon of ground turmeric
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1/2 stick cinnamon
  • 100g dried barberries
  • 30g butter
  • 1/2 tbsp rose water
  • a small pinch of saffron, ground and steeped in 1 tbsp boiling water
  • a teaspoon of brown sugar or date syrup
  • a large pinch of salt, to taste

METHOD:

  • Cover the almonds in cold water, and leave to soak. 
  • Cover the limes in boiling water, and put something on top to weigh them down so they remain immersed
  • Heat the oil in a heavy pan, and fry the onions over a medium heat for around 8 minutes, stirring frequently to make sure they don’t stick as they fry – they should be sticky and beginning to brown. 
  • Increase the heat to high, and add the goose meat and turmeric. Fry until the meat is browned on all sides. 
  • Add the tomato paste, cook for a couple of minutes, then add the cinnamon and enough water to cover the meat. Bring to the boil and then simmer for half an hour. 
  • Rinse the limes, and pierce them in three or four places. Add them into the stew along with the drained almonds, and simmer for another half an hour. 
  • Fry the barberries in the butter. 
  • Just before serving, when the goose is cooked, check the flavour. Add salt and sugar to balance the sourness, and boil off any excess water. 
  • Add the rosewater, saffron water and barberries, and serve with plain rice. 

My favourite recipe books at the moment

This is a list of my favourite recipe books at the moment, from the shelf in my kitchen, and based on the books I am referring to the most. 

Cookistan

We went on holiday to Istanbul, and at the start of the week, we went on a cookery course to learn more about Turkish food. I had been inspired to do this my a friend of mine, who went on a cookery course in Morocco earlier this year. This is a fantastic way to find out more about the cultural history of food in a foreign country. It seems to be a growing part of tourism; just look on TripAdvisor. 

We booked with Cookistan, and had a great day, preparing six traditional dishes. Aysin met us in the morning and our group of six were introduced to the neighbourhood, to the shops and street stalls. We saw traditional breads being prepared, and seasonal vegetables being stacked up at the roadside. We bought pastries, artichoke hearts, and a few other essentials as we went. 

Once we’d made a few purchases, we settled into the well-equipped food prep area, starting with a cup of tea, some pastries, and a chat about food culture in Turkey, the origins of recipes and our aims of booking on the course. 

Once we were all relaxed and ready, we collaborated to produce six dishes, preparing the ingredients, and showing off our skills. I had no idea that Malcolm, my lovely spouse, had such great skills with chopping herbs and onions. Liva, Aysin’s colleague, helped with all of the vital background tasks, such as watching the pots, basting dishes and producing the ingredients we needed when we needed them. 

On the day we prepared: 

  • Meat-stuffed yufka pastry in the shape of roses
  • A delicious chicken and walnut salad
  • Lentil and wheat meze balls
  • Stuffed artichoke hearts poached in orange and dill
  • Stuffed vegetables and vine leaves
  • Sweet caramelised pumpkin with tahini and nuts

We learned about the joy of eating from a table loaded with delicious meze dishes, sipping on raki and solving the problems of the world, late into the night. Later, Malcolm and I got back to our apartment and sat on the balcony, watching the sky darkening over the Bosphorus, drank wine and continued to eat through the evening.

The whole experience was more than just recipes, it was learning about the cultures in which the cooking originated. Highly recommended.