I once created a cooking class, called 'Zen in the Kitchen'. Then wrote a book called the same. Then started the group with that name and the blog came after. All this happened in Turkish. Now is the time for the English version of it. Let's see what will cook here!

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Special tastes from the Blacksea Region of Turkey

Istanbul is a place to be, when it comes to tasting special food from different regions of the country. Not only regional tastes but also the international tastes can be easily found. Do you want to eat Mongolian? You can find it. Japanese? Sure. Chinese? Ooo, so many restaurants! Brazilian, Austrian, Spanish, Korean, Italian... We can look into the international tastes later but today I want to tell about the little and very special cafe and take-away which is owned by a warm and wonderful family.

I met Basar family last year. I was writing for Radikal newspaper then. (I was writing articles on the special tastes of different regions.) On one of my articles, I wrote about a sweet. Just after the article’s published, I got an e-mail from Tanil Basar, who’s the father of the family. He was telling that they’re from Rize (a coastal city on the Blacksea Region) and they opened a small cafe where they sell special tastes from Rize.

Among them are ‘laz tatlisi’ (or ‘laz böregi’ as known by some) which is kind of a baklava but instead of walnuts or pistacios, they put a vanilla pudding in the middle. This sweet is a regional one and not so many people know about it. (By the way, ‘Laz’ is the name of a minority group in Turkey. Most of the groups who live in the Blacksea Region consider themselves ‘Laz’.) ‘Laz böregi’ can therefore be translated as ‘the borek of Laz’s’. They serve ‘hamsili pilav’ (or ‘içli hamsi’ as they say) which is a baked dish (as is shown on the first picture) made with anchovies. This dish has a special rice filling where rice is cooked with currants, pinenuts, greens and some spices. First anchovies are cleaned. Half of it needs to be arranged in a row, then the rice is added and on top of the rice you arrange the remaining of the anchovies (called ‘hamsi’ in Turkish). Then it’s baked in the owen and be eaten with joy. Hamsi is quite special for the Blacksea people. It’s the staple food for them along with corn flour and beans. They have so many dishes that is made with anchovies and this little fish got into jokes, poems, folk songs, stories etc. They even make sweets with it, although I haven’t eaten it. The corn bread that is made with greens and anchovies is another special dish which you can find at Trize, the small cafe of Basar family.

What else do they serve? A special börek which is called ‘su böregi’ (water borek could be the direct translation) which is made with thin layers of dough and cheese or meat filling. The difference then other boreks is this: The dough (after being rolled as thin as possible) is boiled in water then put on the tray. Between each layer, you need to spread melted butter (Basar family mix butter with oliveoil to get better results). After putting few layers of the rolled dough, you spread the cheese mixed with parsley (normally feta cheese is used but Basar family uses good quality mozzarella and this way the cheese melts in your mouth when it’s warm). In the meat filling usually ground meat and parsley is used but at Trize they use meat cut in small chunks, fried with spring onions. Among other sweets are apple baklava, pumpkin-walnut baklava, a special baklava which is filled with dried rose petals and is called ‘güllü baklava’ (rose filled baklava). They also serve ‘karalahana sarma’ (stuffed kale leaves. Kale is another staple of the Blacksea Region. The people of that area use kale in so many dishes from soups to bulghur rice. The kale of that area is different than the kale you can get in the U.S. This is not as curly as the other is.)

Today I took two of my friends there and we had anchovy dish that is filled with rice, cheese borek and stuffed kales. After our meal we tried the ‘laz boregi’ and the pumpkin baklava.All of them were perfect. My stomach is still happy from that meal. Some people do business just to make money. Basar family does it to make people happy and they serve nothing that they wouldn’t serve to their guests. I hope similar people will flourish around the world. I guess the wars will end then and friendship will spread over the world!

Karanfil Sok. No.8
(216) 386 96 72

Few days ago, Arlene (from U.S.) asked about ‘etli ekmek’ which she says was a dish her Turkish-Armenian mother used to make. I promised her to find a recipe for it. It literally is a thin layer of dough (same as used for pasta, except for the eggs) filled with meat. It’s made in most Turkish villages especially on the day where women get together cook (I say cook on purpose since the yufka bread is not baked but is cooked on open wood fire) the monthly ‘yufka’ (cooked thin sheets of dough which is ate instead of bread). This is a work which is done by few women who get together for this. It’s women’s work to bake the bread (as always) in Turkish villages and since it’s quite a labour itself, when a family runs out of bread, the woman calls her neighbors for help. This is called ‘imece’ work. When few women get together, one of them starts the dough, the other one does the kneading and prepares small balls. Another women starts rolling out them with an ‘oklava’ (rolling pin) and gives it to the last women who cooks them one after the other. At the end of a half day work when piles of yufka are cooked and ready, the owner of the house brings a filling which is usually cheese mixed with greens (could be spring onions, parsley, dill, nettles etc.) but sometimes the filling could be a meat one. It can be mixed with greens or if it’s summer tomatoes, peppers and onions. So here is the recipe for ‘etli ekmek’:

Etli Ekmek (Thin breads filled with meat) (serve 6-8)

For the dough:
5 ½ cups white flour
1 tablespoon salt
1 ¾ cups water
For the filling:
2 tomatoes, cut in small pileces
2 peppers, cut in small pieces
2 onions, cut in small pieces
1 ½ cups ground meat
1 teaspoon black pepper
4/5 cup of melted butter or oliveoil

Put 4.5 cups of flour in a big mixing bowl. Add the salt and a glass of water and start mixing it with your hand. Add the remaining flour slowly as you need while you’re kneading. Prepare a soft dough and divide it into 18 pieces, make balls, put a clean kitchen towel on it and leave for few minutes. During this time mix the vegetables with the meat, black pepper and a little salt. Add the remaining water and mix. Spread a little flour on the rolling table and start rolling each dough as thin as possible. Spread a piece of filling on one half of the dough. Then cover the other half on that half and press the sides with your fingers. If you have a large teflon or iron skillet, heat it on medium fire, spread a little bit of melted butter or oliveoil on both sides and cook both sides for few minutes (or until it becomes golden brown on both sides). You can make smaller or bigger pieces depending on how big your skillet is. You can try to bake them in your owen too.


fethiye said...

Tijen, I have never visited Blacksea region and it is definitely on my list!

I am so glad you started writing this blog as I am learning more about the differences between the greens here in US and in TR. For example, I didn't know the difference between Blacksea kale and the ones in US. Having said that, they sale way too many varieties in the seed catalogs, and I wonder if one can get similar ones here, too. I will check :)

YesilErik said...

Coming from a Blacksean family, I grew up eating lots of hamsi and karalahana during winter time. After coming to US, I was in desparate search for karalahana, and living in the south I was lucky to find the collard greens. The taste was very similar but when I made the rolls filled with meat, the famous "karalahana dolmasi", I found out that the leaves were too though. I am really happy to find out that this curly kale has a similar taste. I hope it has a more tender texture. I should try it out! Also the hamsi recipe sounds too good, it's almost a pain to look at the pictures :(

Anonymous said...

dear yesil erik,
as far as I know, collard greens is our 'pazi' isn't it? why would it be tough? did you boil it a little bit? I know kale is tough too and even if you boil it, it still is tough and I didn't like it's texture much. sometimes I find it at Antalya market's. sorry for the pain I gave, I didn't mean to but at least you know where to go when you come here!
may be they have our kind of kale there, I don't recall seeing it. All I remember was curly kale and this is in 1997 and I'm talking about Boston. Although I stayed in a farm near Santa Cruz, CA, it was summer and wasn't the right season for kale. inform me when you get it! you remember how 'karalahana' is don't you?

fethiye said...

no tijen, I have no clue about how karalahana looks like :)

Anonymous said...

I'll try to take it's picture and put here with some other greens. Actually I need to check my archives first, I may find a picture of it!

Anonymous said...

Tijen, I had kale in a deli take-out once and remember it as being curly and somewhat rubbery. It was hard to chew. Collard greens is also from the cabbage family I think and is known to be popular among African Americans.

The Laz tatlisi looks identical to a Greek desert made using phyllo dough for top and bottom with a semolina based pudding in the center. It's great to hear that the Laz make the same desert - one more ammunition for me to use in the never ending Baklava fight against the greeks. Hahaha. :)

Anonymous said...

I think you're right about the tastes Mine. We'll keep arguing about the tastes anyways. I find it amusing!
about kale, I find it difficult to chew as well. I wasn't so crazy for it although it's mentioned a lot in the health food cookbooks and books but we have a lot of the cabbage family members in Turkey so I use the rest of it. As I said before, karalahana wasn't my favorite but I like it's taste in some recipes.

Nilay said...

Hello Tijen Abla, i am very proud and very happy for seeing your new blog in english. Now, everybody goes to know your experiencesthe kitchen. Your new blog is in my links.
With affection

Sorry for my english ;)

yuvakuran said...

Should I write my comments in English or Turkish? English wuld be more appropriate I presume. Good work, congraulations.

Tijen said...

thanks nilay!
it's ok, don't worry for your english. actually I find it silly to write each other in english but since the language of this blog is english, it'd be unfair for the nonturkish speakers to read if we write in turkish.
do you agree with me haluk (yuvakuran)?

Anonymous said...

yayyy!!! something new :) Dearest, thanks for opening a new door to visit...Next time, we'd better drink raki, deal?

Anonymous said...

I was thinking of you few minutes ago my dear zeynep! I just came back to antalya and am trying to get unpacked. your lovely gift was in the pack too! well raki isn't my drink (unfortunately) but we can continue wine drinking with different food this time. chinese??

Anonymous said...

awesome idea, chinese food and wine are next! check my site to see the baloons in Antalya sky! i am sure you'll love the scene. take very good care..

Michelle said...

Hi! I just found your blog from a comment that you made on Kalyn's kitchen, and I'm so glad that I did! It's so interesting to learn about regional tastes and ingredients and the Basar family that takes so much pride in what they make. Thank you for sharing! And congratulations on your new book - it sounds fabulous! What a wonderful idea!

Anonymous said...

thanks michelle!

Anonymous said...

Pazı is chard, though the kind found in the west is usually not the flat-leaved variety that we have in Turkey. Karalahana is a type of kale, but once again it is a (more or less) flat-leave type rather than the curly ones in the U.S. One "secret" in cooking kale/karalahana is to chop it and throw it directly into water that is at a rolling boil. That way it becomes more tender than if you try to steam it, or put it in water that is cool and then heat it.