WE should get “beyond the idea of Turkish cuisine,” according to Robyn
There isn’t a single definition, just as we have discovered the
same about Italy.
Eckhardt, author of Istanbul & Beyond — Exploring Turkey’s Diverse
Cuisines, says in Van, the province near Turkey’s border with Iran,
villagers use foraged herbs to flavour cheese made with milk from
their sheep and goats.
In this predominantly Kurdish area, cooks use sumac rather than
lemon juice to give a tangy flavour to such dishes as cabbage rolls
in tomato and sumac sauce.
Fish and cooked leafy greens are important to the diet in the
Black Sea area of northern Turkey. In contrast to other parts of
the country, people in this region eat beef rather than lamb; in
neighbouring Georgia, their diet includes a lot of corn.
With its location between Syria and the Mediterranean, Hatay,
which just won an award from UNESCO for its gastronomy, has Levantine
cuisine, with vibrant flavours of chillis, fresh herbs, tomatoes,
olive oil and pomegranate molasses.
When marking the shaped bread, be sure your fingerprints are
deep and clearly visible, advises Eckhardt; otherwise they will
disappear during baking.
For the dough:
Put water in a large bowl and sprinkle with yeast. In another
bowl whisk flour with salt. Pour flour over water and use your hands
or a dough scraper to mix and cut ingredients together.
When they begin to come together, lightly flour a work surface,
turn the dough out, and knead, using a dough scraper to remove bits
of dough from work surface and returning them to the mass.
In eight to 10 minutes dough should be smooth and elastic.
Transfer dough to a lightly oiled large bowl, cover with plastic
wrap and let rise for 1½ to 2 hours or until doubled in size. Fold
dough over itself three times while it is proofing, after 30, 60,
and 90 minutes.
Meanwhile, make wash: Put flour in a medium deep bowl and add
boiling water in a slow stream, whisking.
Continue to whisk to eliminate as many lumps as possible. Let
cool completely; then beat in egg and set aside.
One hour before baking, place a baking stone or heavy baking sheet
on middle oven rack. Heat oven to 220º.
To shape bread: Turn dough out onto a lightly-floured surface.
Divide it in half. Form each half into a loose ball. Cover with
plastic wrap and let dough relax for 15 minutes.
Gently pat each ball of dough into a 15 to 18cm disk about 2.5cm
thick. Cover and let relax another 15 minutes.
Whisk wash again. It should have consistency of heavy cream; if
it is too thick, whisk in room temperature water one tablespoon
at a time, to achieve the right consistency.
Pour into a shallow bowl big enough to dip your hand into.
Liberally dust a baker’s peel or upside-down baking sheet with
bran. Transfer one of the disks to peel or sheet.
Dip your palms and fingers in the wash and gently pat disk to
a circle about 2cm thick, washing its surface as you go.
To score the bread, dip sides of your hands in wash and use them
to score outer edge of dough in an approximate circle, leaving a
1.3 to 1.9cm-wide border. Start by positioning your hands at opposite
sides of dough, palms facing each other.
As you push the sides of your hands into the dough to score it,
gently move them outward to stretch the dough 1.3cm or so. Dough
will now be a rough oval.
Work your way around the bread, dipping your hands in the wash
as needed to keep them from sticking, until dough is roughly circular
Don’t worry about creating a perfectly scored circle, but be sure
that the scores join to make a continuous line around edge of bread.
When you’re finished, bread should be 22 or 23cm in diameter.
Dip your fingertips in the wash and place your hands side by side
on the dough, about 2.5cm from the circular score along bottom edge
Push your fingers deeply into dough (don’t tear it) and then repeat,
moving your hands apart to create a score in a single line that
does not extend beyond outer scored border.
Repeat to create parallel scores about 2.5cm apart on dough, dipping
your fingers in wash as needed. Use same technique to create roughly
parallel cross-hatch scores at about 45 degrees to the first set.
Your scores needn’t be perfect, but they should be deep — fingerprints
clearly visible — or they’ll disappear during baking.
Sprinkle loaf with half the seeds and slide onto baking stone.
Bake until golden with pale spots, 25 to 30 minutes, rotating
it once at the halfway point.
Transfer to a wire rack to cool or serve hot after allowing bread
to rest for a few minutes.
Brush excess bran from bottom of loaf with a kitchen towel or
stiff brush after it has cooled for a few minutes, if you wish.
Shape and bake remaining dough.
THIS dish is a Kurdish twist on a comfort food favourite, wrote
Eckhardt. The spicy filling of this stuffed cabbage is flavoured
with chillis, pepper flakes, garlic and dried mint.
For the filling:
Filling: Put rice in a medium bowl, add water, and swish
with your fingers to remove excess starch. Carefully drain off water
and repeat two or three times, until water runs clear. Set aside.
Begin sauce: Place ground sumac in a small bowl and pour
two cups of hot water over it. Set aside to infuse.
Cook cabbage: Bring a large pot of water to a boil and
add the coarse salt. Remove any torn or damaged outer leaves from
cabbage. Cut a 1cm- deep X in stem end(s) and add cabbage to water.
(If using two cabbages, you may need to cook them one by one.)
Bring water back to boil, partially cover, and cook cabbage until
a knife inserted into core meets no resistance, about 15 minutes,
depending on size of cabbage. Do not let it become mushy.
Meanwhile, prepare an ice bath. Plunge the cooked cabbage into
the cold water. When cool enough to handle, remove it from water,
core it, and carefully separate leaves, stacking them on a plate.
Line bottom of a wide three-liter lidded pot with a layer of small
and/or torn leaves.
Make filling: Place drained rice in a large bowl. Add meat,
onion, garlic, parsley, tomato, pepper paste and chillis and mix
with your hands or a fork.
Sprinkle with mint, pepper flakes, salt and black pepper and mix
Place a cabbage leaf on work surface with interior of leaf facing
up and bottom of leaf toward you.
With a sharp knife cut out the thick rib, making an inverted V.
Place a mounded tablespoon of filling at tip of V and shape into
a log, leaving at least 2.5cm between it and edges of leaf.
Fold left and right edges of leaf over filling, then fold bottom
flaps of leaf up and over and roll it away from you to make a parcel.
Don’t roll too tightly; leave room for rice to expand.
Place cabbage roll seam side down in the pot and repeat until
filling is used up, laying rolls side by side when possible and
close together but not snug.
Make two layers if necessary, laying rolls in second layer in
opposite direction from those in first.
Line a sieve with cheesecloth or a damp large paper coffee filter,
set it over a medium bowl, and pour in the sumac water.
Gather cheesecloth around sumac and squeeze our as much liquid
as possible. Discard sumac. Pour 1¾ cups sumac water into a small
bowl; add water if necessary to make 1¾ cups.
(Set aside any extra sumac water to add during cooking if needed
or for reheating leftovers).
Mix in tomato paste, olive oil and fine salt, stirring to eliminate
lumps. Pour sauce over cabbage rolls.
Set pot over high heat and bring sauce to boil. Cover rolls with
a piece of parchment paper and a heatproof plate on top of paper.
Reduce heat to low, cover and cook for 30 minutes, checking after
15 minutes (use tongs to lift plate and paper) to make sure there
is still some liquid; add ½ cup sumac water or plain water if bottom
is nearly dry.
You want to end up with just enough reduced sauce to lightly coat
the cabbage rolls.
Let cabbage rolls rest, covered, for at least 10 minutes. Serve
hot or warm.
Serves eight to 10 (34 to 40 rolls)