Sunday, 16 October 2011

Türkische Küche für Anfänger - Turkish Cuisine for Beginners

One of the fantastic things about living in a foreign land is how it brings us into contact with other cultures, and I don't mean just German culture. An important part of the Berlin mix is the large number of Turkish people who have settled here, and their contribution to Berlin life is apparent in many ways. Not least of these is the accessibility to wonderful Turkish cuisine, which can be sampled anywhere from the ubiquitous 'Kebap Imbiss' (kebab snack bar) to first class restaurants serving multiple courses of Turkish delights.

I am quite adept at cooking up Indian dishes, but haven't tried much Turkish creations. So, as there is always a first time, I started simply with an adaption of a recipe for börek given to me by my Turkish colleague at work, Ümit.

Here are the ingredients I started with (click for bigger):

Ingredients for making börek
All the ingredients were bought either at the local supermarket, or for the pastry and spices a Turkish shop - of which there are many in Berlin, though maybe none in High Wycombe or Rotherham.

(Please note before I go on - I don't do exact quantities in cooking. It ain't the way I roll. Live with it.)

So, to make börek you need:
  • a packet of ready-made pastry, called yufka in Turkish, and Teigblätter in German, or approximately filo in English.
  • Some feta-type cheese. Here I've used a block of sheep's cheese - or Schafskäse in German. Whatever you do, don't use Stilton or Dairlea triangles - it won't work.
  • Some frozen spinach.
  • one medium-sized onion.
  • a couple of teaspoons or so (depending on taste) of freshly ground cumin seeds. Called kimyon in Turkish, and Kreuzkümmel in German.
  • a good amount of blue poppy seeds to sprinkle on the top, called mavi haşhaşin in Turkish, and Blaumohn in German.
  • A couple of egg yolks.
  • a bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper.
First thing to do is gently warm your frozen spinach in a pan. How much you use depends on how much you like spinach. But if you think of the size of your dish, and you are going to make two layers of it, then that's about how much you need. (Did I mention I don't do quantities?)

Now peel and finely chop an onion and heat in olive oil for a few minutes until translucent.

When the spinach has stopped looking like a green sluch-puppy and the onions are see-through but not starting to brown, take the pan with the spinach off the heat and add the onions.

Now ground up some cumin seeds and add to the mixture. Add a few twists of the pepper and salt mills as well if you want. It's a free country.

Probably about now is a good time to start the oven warmng up: you are aiming for 180 degrees C or whatever your local currency is.

Take a deep dish - I used a rectangular one - and line the bottom with grease-proof/ baking paper, or rub a bit of marge onto it. The sheets of pastry you'll be layering in your dish will probably not be the same size as your dish (it was at this point that I found out my sheets when unpacked were enormous and circular), so you will need to get the kitchen scissors out and cut it to shape. You will need eight sheets.

In a cup, beat up your egg yolks, together with a bit of olive oil (to help the mixture spread evenly) and milk (to make it go a lovely brown colour).

Start assembling your börek!: 

1. Place pastry sheet 1 in the bottom of the dish, on top of the baking paper. 
2. Brush the pastry all over the top side with the eggy mixture.
3. Place pastry sheet 2 on top of that.
4. Add one half of the spinach/onion mixture.
5. Place pastry sheet 3 on top of it.
6. Brush the pastry with egg.
7. Place pastry sheet 4 on top of it.
8. Now get your block of feta cheese and crumble it finely and evenly over the pastry sheet.
9. Next add sheet 5.
10. Brush it with egg. You see the pattern now?
11. Add sheet 6.
12. Now add the rest of your spinach mixture, and spread it out evenly over the pastry.
13. Next add pastry sheet 7.
14. Brush it with egg yolk mixture.
15. Add the final sheet of pastry.
16. Brush this layer as well with whatever egg mixture you have left.
17. Finally, sprinkle liberally with poppy seeds.

Now all you have to do is pop it into your over for 30 mins at 180 degreees C.

After half an hour, take it out of the oven, slice, plate up, and enjoy! Of course, if you want a more substantial meal then whilst you were letting the börek bake then you could cook some vegetables or something. Broccoli in my case, though only one of us had it. (clue: it wasn't me).

A slice of börek should look something like this (at least, mine did!):

My first attempt at making börek!
It was delicious (though not as delicious as the one Ümit gave us to sample at work!), and surprisingly filling. Lecker, lecker, lecker!

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