When I was growing up, I didn’t really give much thought to what we ate at home. I ate what my mom fed me. There are certain foods that I still don’t cook myself but when I occasionally eat them with my family, the food takes me back to certain memories, sort of like comfort food, but different. After I got married, and started discovering the food of my husband’s family (a Turkish, Persian mix) I tried, cooked and have added a whole new collection of foods to my list of food with great memories.
The first time I ate Turkish food was in downtown Toronto in one of the dirtiest restaurants I have ever been in, and I was very hesitant. My husband, then boyfriend, insisted I eat the döner with the ayran (a yogurt drink) and I fell in love. I knew that my love for Turkish food would be lifelong after one bite.
As my husband and I approach our seventh wedding anniversary, we have had our fair share of Turkish food and the memories associated with it are filled with family and being together after being apart for so long. It’s our engagement party in Turkey with people who are no longer with us. It’s watching my aunts-in-law coddle my young children and give them everything they want. It’s my children’s great-grandfather up and about, and laughing with my joker son. These rare moments come and go so quickly but the cravings for delicious Turkish food come often. Most of the time I get the most authentic Turkish food when my husband’s family comes to visit us from Turkey or we can visit them. And even more rare is the times when we are in Turkey and can eat authentic food. There are a few Turkish restaurants in the GTA but sometimes it is impossible to get to them and better than that is to make the food yourself. I have taken these cravings into my own hands and have started cooking Turkish food at least once a week – whether it’s something for dinner or a quick snack, it satisfies the cravings and brings us all memories of happy times. And, luckily for us, most of the recipes we favour are vegetarian making my daily struggle with the dreaded question, “what’s for dinner” a bit easier!
Poǧaça is a savoury pastry filled with cheese and herbs that is served in Turkey when you are hungry, in between meals. Because there is a yeast dough and it takes a bit of time to prepare, I usually serve this for dinner with a tomato and cucumber salad. If you can find a good quality feta cheese that is very smooth, you will get something close to the cheese they use in Turkey, but regular feta is fine too. For more delicious Turkish recipes, check out Classical Turkish Cooking by Ayla Aglar, her recipes are easy to follow and turn out great. I will definitely be posting more recipes inspired from Aglar’s book in future posts.
Poǧaça, adapted from Classical Turkish Cooking by Ayla Aglar
- 1 tsp active dry yeast
- pinch of sugar
- 1/4 cup warm water
- 1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups plus 1 Tbsp unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 11 Tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature but not too warm
- 1 egg
Cheese and Herb Filling
- 1 cup feta cheese, crumbled
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 1/3 cup chopped Italian parsley
- 1 Tbsp dill, optional
- freshly ground pepper to taste
Glaze and Topping
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 Tbsp milk
- black sesame seeds
- In a large measuring cup or a small bowl, dissolve the yeast and sugar in the warm water and let stand in a draft-free place for 10 minutes. Once bubbly, stir in the flour and cover with a dish towel and let rest for 30 minutes.
- In a large bowl, sift together the flour and salt. Add the sponge, butter and egg and mix together with your hands until the dough comes together. Move to a floured surface and knead until the dough is smooth. The dough is buttery and therefore quite soft but it should not be sticky, put it back in the bowl, covered by the dish towel and allow to rise for 20 minutes.
- In a separate bowl, mix together the cheese, egg, herbs and pepper, set aside.
- On a floured surface, divide the dough into 16 equal portions. Make each portion into a ball and allow it to sit for 15 minutes.
- Using the palm of your hand, make each portioned ball into a circle about 4 inches (10 cm) across. Place about 1 Tbsp of the cheese filling onto one half of the circle and close it tightly to ensure the cheese filling doesn’t come out. Continue in this manner until all your poǧaça are done. Place them on a greased baking sheet.
- Preheat your oven to 375 F. Mix together the egg yolk and milk and, using a pastry brush, paint the top of the poǧaça. Allow them to rest for another 15 minutes. Sprinkle with black sesame seeds and bake for about 25 minutes or until golden brown. You can eat these warm or cool, either way, they are a perfect snack for after school or for a light dinner.