It has been quite some time since I last posted a recipe. My excuse is that I was busy changing my life as I have explained in my previous post. This put a spanner in my normal working life and throughout the time it took to move and reorganise myself, I was only able to concentrate on work that had a deadline! It is all over now and I have finally resettled in a new home where I can cook again. So, I thought I would share with you one of my favourite vegetarian recipes which has the added advantage of being very simple and quick to make. And the beautiful thing about this Turkish dish which belongs to the zeytinyagli (cooked in olive oil) family of dishes is that you don’t need to serve anything with it, not even a salad. It has a perfect balance of pulses, dairy, vegetables and even herbs to make a perfect ‘one pot’ lunch or supper. And if your mise en place is good, you will be able to prepare it in under an hour. I like to have it warm, but you can also serve it hot or at room temperature. In Turkey, they use regular carrots and their own brown or green lentils. I like to use baby carrots which I buy in my local farmers market in Bute Street and Umbrian lentils from Castellucio di Norcia. The lentils retain a nice bite as well as their shape, and of course they taste delicious, not to mention that they are also beautiful!
This morning I walked up to Hoxton Street to buy some fresh herbs from my Turkish shop — they are cheaper and more plentiful than at Waitrose. On the way back, I decided to check the jerk chicken stand on the other side to see if it was any good but it looked too dirty. So, I skipped my craving and continued back home and all of a sudden I fall on a woman rolling out dough for saj boreks in the window of a very modest café, just like you would see in Turkey. Amazing sight in the heart of east London even if there is a large Turkish community there. It was just after 11 am, so, not too far off lunch. I had to try one and fortunately the lovely looking saj maker took a shine to me and gave me a freshly baked one filled with spinach and cheese — she normally makes them ahead of time and reheats them which I am sure is fine but I prefer mine made on the spot. I had never had such a good saj borek outside Turkey, and she is now my most favourite person in the neighbourhood. All I can say to you is go and have some before she leaves! In the meantime, here are a few pictures of her at work together with a couple of video clips. I inadvertently turned off the camera halfway through filming hence the two clips. I really need to learn how to edit!
So, I went to my local Turkish shop in Hoxton Street and bought some yufka and I have to say, it is not a patch on the one I had in my freezer which a friend had brought me from Gaziantep. What was interesting though is that even though the commercial yufka felt dry and coarse when I was working with it, it was absolutely fine to eat. Obviously not as good as the hand-made one but not a lot worse. In fact, both were pretty delicious with the commercial yufka being more crisp than the artisanal one. This said, I will be going back to using filo for my savoury pastries because I prefer the thinner, finer pastry. It is easier to make good shapes with it and if you buy Turkish filo (which is also called yufka but they use the thin sheets for sweets), it is even thinner than the Greek and way better than any supermarket brand.