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
Prep Time – 2 hours
10 grape leaves to line the bottom of pan
30-40 grape large grape leaves
1 cup rice
1 large onion
1/3 cup olive oil
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
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.
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.
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.
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
Prep Time – 4 hours
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
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.
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.
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.
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. 🙂