Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Day 53: Back in the Middle East!

Middle-east cuisine is something that is very near and dear to my heart. So when I arrived at school Monday morning to be greeted by this amazing piece of art drawn lovingly on the board by Chef T, I felt both excited and a little sad. I really miss this part of the world.

As the chef went over the history of the region, I counted the countries on the map I'd been to. The total came to ten! It dawned on me that I have a lot of knowledge about this part of the world, even more than I realised. I have a dream about travelling back to south-east Turkey and writing a book a la Paula Wolfert about the cuisine of the area. This day made me think it might almost be possible.

This hummus gets 10 out of 10 from me! 
(And another student with Jewish roots who knows hummus,
 BTW no-one does hummus like the Israelis do.)

This tabouleh gets 10 out of 10 from me!

This zaatar gets 5 out of 10 from me because when 
we worked at ADU in Al Ain, this was pretty much the 
only thing we could get from the cafeteria 
after 3pm, bone dry from hours of sitting under hot lights.
 Ugh! Pass!

Lovely pitas. They taste as good as they look.

This mother and daughter team are making mantı. They're sitting out on the porch in the shade in a region of Turkey where mantı is considered their signature dish. And guess who they're making it for? That's right! Me!
If you don't know the dish, tourists call it "Turkish ravioli" and it comes with three sauces, a bit of yoghurt and garlic, a bit of tomato and a splash of brown butter. It's creamy, nutty, tangy and filling all at once. Turkish comfort food.
This is us making mantı, some of the romanticism 
is lost on cold stainless steel.
End product. Not the mantı I know and love, so it was a bit 
disappointing. For me it was good, but this dish was
crispy and served in broth.
Western take on Iskendar Kebab. 
Made with a tamarind tomato sauce which I liked. 
(For the record I have never seen a tamarind in Turkey.)

To die for. 11 out of 10.
 I loved these ricotta and walnut filled pancakes. 
For some reason they reminded me of Damascus. 

I'm posting the recipe for this one 'cause they are dead simple to make.

Stuffed Syrian Pancakes
1 cup flour
1/2 t baking powder
1T sugar
pinch of salt 
1 egg
milk (as needed to make a smooth batter)

I cup ricotta 
2 T chopped walnuts
2T sugar
pinch cinnamon

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1t lemon juice 
1/2t rosewater - Simmer and reduce all until syrupy

1. Cook small pancakes just as you would a pancake BUT DON'T FLIP IT!
2. Place 1t of ricotta filling  on the uncooked inside of the pancake and fold in half pressing edges together firmly.
3. Deep-fry till golden (2-3 minutes)
4. Coat in cold syrup and garnish with crushed pistachios.

Affiyet Olsun! (Turkish for Bon Appetit!)

Middle-east continues tomorrow....


  1. Your stomach gets such interesting food! Did you make the pitas?
    I want to try the pancakes but where do I find rosewater?

  2. Also, is there anything I should know about the pronunciation of Affiyet Olsun?

    Love the map!

  3. Kate! Try the middle eastern store on Bay and Quadra. The owners are Turkish. If they don't have it they will know where to find it!

  4. Turkish is pronounced just as it's written and is very even in stressed syllables. So" affiyet olsun" is pronounced "af-ee-yet ol-soon"!