Do It Yourself: Turkish Food, Part Four

Words by Pete Heck / Photography by Pete Heck

I could never be a true food critic, Dalene tells me all the time.

And she’s right. There are very, very few things that I don’t like, and so any review by me would be positive 99.9% of the time. My (tramp) stamp of approval has already endorsed such things as fried guinea pig and stewed iguana.

I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I believe it gives me a deeper appreciation of the culture, to try everything put before me. It also has definitely expanded my horizons with regards to cuisine and how ingredients are used.

For example: chicken as dessert? In pudding? Who’d have thunk it?

(Read on for our verdict on this classic Turkish dish.)

But first, a dish that even my picky wife likes…

Yaprak Sarma – Stuffed Vine Leaves

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Prep Time – 2 hours

Ingredients
10 grape leaves to line the bottom of pan
30-40 grape large grape leaves
Half lemon

Filling:
1 cup rice
1 large onion
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tomato
25 grams pine nuts
1/4 bunch fresh mint or 1/2 Tbsp. dried mint
1/2 bunch fresh dill
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. salt
3 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. all spice

Directions:

Filling – In a pot add the rice and cover with lukewarm water and let cool. Once cooled, pour out the water, wash the rice well and then drain.

Finely chop the onion and add the pine nuts, 1/2 tsp. of salt, and the olive oil. On medium heat brown the mixture by stirring constantly for about 20 minutes.

Add the drained rice and toast for approximately 10 minutes. Cut the tomato in small pieces and add to the mix. Also add the remainder of the salt, the pepper, the sugar and 1/2 cup of water. Mix well and cover with a lid. When it comes to a boil reduce the heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes until all of the water has been absorbed.

Remove from the heat and mix in the spices and chopped herbs. Cover the rice with a cloth underneath the lid and let steam for about 30 minutes. Mix well before using.

Put the grape leaves in boiling water for 5 minutes. Drain and remove the stems. Line the bottom of a saucepan with leaves for base.

Turkish Food - Vine Leaves

Place each leaf on a plate. Put half a tablespoon of rice mixture onto the leaf and fold in the edges then roll the leaf like a cigarette. Place the roll into the saucepan and repeat tightly arranging the rolls together.

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Once all the rolls are complete, put juice from the half lemon over everything and add 3/4 cup of water. Cover and cook the stuffed grape leaves for approximately one hour on low heat.

Remove from the oven and let cool. Arrange on a serving dish and serve with fresh lemon slices.

THOUGHTS:

This is one of our favorite Turkish mezes and ours turned out really tasty. They make a wonderful appetizer or side for a meal. The only difficult thing was finding the right balance of stuffing and leaf. Some of our rolls did not have enough filling and the taste of the vine leaf overpowered.

Kazandibi – Burnt Chicken Breast Pudding

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Prep Time – 4 hours

Ingredients
2 cups milk
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup rice flour
1/2 cup water
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 chicken breast
Cinnamon to taste

Directions

In a saucepan boil water then place chicken breast in for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes turn off the heat and cover the pot and leave for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and cut the breast into chunks. Rub the pieces between the palms of your hands and separate the chicken into thin fibres.

Shredded Boiled Chicken

Wash the chicken fibres three or four times in warm water, making sure to change the water each time. After each washing, squeeze all excess water from the meat. Set aside.

Combine the milk, sugar, and salt in a saucepan. Melt the sugar and let simmer on medium-low heat. Slowly add the rice flour and stir constantly until it turns into a thickened paste.

Add 3-4 spoonfuls of the paste to the chicken and stir. Combine this mixture back with the remaining paste and stir well.

Pour the paste and chicken pudding into a fry pan. On medium-high heat (preferably gas flame) burn the bottom of the pudding, approximately 7-8 minutes. Be sure to turn the pan often.

Turkish Food - Burnt Chicken Over Flame

Remove from the flame and let cool 3-4 hours in the pan. When cool, remove the pudding from the pan in strips. Roll up and cover the rolls with cinnamon. Enjoy.

THOUGHTS:
I really enjoyed the blend of flavours, which is a good thing, as I ended up eating it all myself.

Dalene did not mind it and enjoyed the sweetness overall, but could not get over the chewy texture of chicken as a dessert and stopped after one bite. I do blame myself for this, as I made the mistake of not reading the recipe correctly and adding about four times too much chicken. Oops.

No matter to me, as I enjoyed every bite. This gets my tramp stamp of approval. πŸ™‚

22 Comments... Read them below or add one of your own
  • May 22 2013

    I love both of these dishes. I’ve been making yaprak sarma for years, never tried to make the Chicken dessert. I do love it, though…it’s so surprising when you bite into a chicken chunk. Don’t you think? Beautiful photography!

    • Pete
      May 25 2013

      I didn’t know what to expect, but I really enjoyed it. Even if I added way too much chicken πŸ™‚

  • May 22 2013

    Chicken breast is so flavorless, for the most part, that I can see how it would be used in dessert without standing out too much. It’s a weird concept to wrap my head around, but I don’t think it would be too offensive (I say that now…).

    Definitely making those stuffed grape leaves.

    • Pete
      May 25 2013

      The stuffed grape leaves were one of my favorite dishes from Turkey. Best of luck making them!

  • May 22 2013

    Four times the chicken sounds like you had designs on a dessert platter for one from the get-go mate.

    Like the addition of pine nuts in the Yaprak Sarma.
    Pasture Braised recently posted..Peruvian Pisco Sour Recipe

    • Pete
      May 25 2013

      The pine nuts do add a very nice flavour and texture to the stuffing. Cheers!

  • May 23 2013

    Delicious food. Thanks for the recipes. Cooking while traveling is a bit… complicated. But I’ll have to try them at home.
    Laura @Travelocafe recently posted..The Real Cost of Trekking the Inca Trail

    • Pete
      May 25 2013

      It definitely can be complicated while traveling to find time to cook. From finding ingredients to having a kitchen. But worth it if you can πŸ™‚

  • May 23 2013

    I remember eating Sarma in different countries. Good to know it’s in fact of Turkish origin.
    James recently posted..3 Travel Tips for Backpackers

    • Pete
      May 25 2013

      To be honest James, I bet you a lot of different countries will say they are from their country. In this region there are so many variations of the same type of food it is difficult to say who came up with it.

  • May 23 2013

    The chicken pudding sounds a bit odd, but I’d give it a go! The wrapped vine leaves look delicious!

    • Pete
      May 25 2013

      That’s the spirit! I really enjoyed the chicken pudding. You can also make it without burning it, but I like the flavour this creates.

  • May 23 2013

    Ah the old classic.. “added four times too much chicken to my dessert”. Happens all the time!
    Laurence recently posted..A day in Bergen

    • Pete
      May 25 2013

      Haha, I have a feeling that’s not quite the case, but despite the error, it was still pretty tasty πŸ™‚

  • May 23 2013

    Ohhhh dolmades are so good – and now you know how to make them so you can stroll those taste buds down memory lane any time. Well done!
    Maria recently posted..Wordless Wednesday – Peru

    • Pete
      May 25 2013

      Thanks Maria, I’m hoping I have the chance to make these for my friends back in Canada, I just have to find some grape leaves… I don’t think that will be too difficult.

      • May 25 2013

        While you’re there grape leaves would be a cinch to find. In Canada you should be able to score some from Whole Foods (or a similar upscale grocer). They are worth the effort!

        • May 28 2013

          Yup. We could even just pick them out of our yard in Turkey. πŸ™‚

  • May 24 2013

    My mother in law would love you two for making the Sarma! I had lessons on how to do it but failed miserably and now she just sends a pan over every month!
    Natalie recently posted..The Colourful Greek Island of Meis

    • Pete
      May 25 2013

      Thanks Natalie, it was a bit labour intensive, but I’m so happy that they turned out. One of my favourite Turkish dishes for sure!

  • May 24 2013

    The Kazandibi looks delicious. Thanks for the recipe!
    Thomas Dembie recently posted..8 Things I Can’t Wait To Do In Italy This Summer

    • Pete
      May 25 2013

      You’re welcome Thomas, enjoy!

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