Or perhaps I should say heroines! In any case, I have hundreds of cookery books but I only refer regularly to a few, each dealing with a particular country. Nevin Halici is my guru for all things Turkish, Zette Guinaudeau Franc for Moroccan and Diana Farr Louis for Greek island cookery. Her book Feasting and Fasting in Crete is totally brilliant, both to read and to cook from and the same for Prospero’s Kitchen which she wrote with June Marinos and which has just been re-issued by I.B. Tauris. A perfect cookbook that makes the perfect xmas present for those interested in food and/or travel.
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!
This may be the last of my yufka posts unless I find good clips and photographs from my visits to Gulluoglu and Imam Cagdas. Yufka for baklava is much thinner than that for regular or su boreks. Until then, you have to do with these clips I shot in a cafe where we had stopped not far from Safranbolu, a UNESCO world heritage site. It was lucky we arrived as the woman was rolling out yufka for su borek (possibly the most famous of all boreks, a meat or cheese pie that is baked whole then divided into square portions). The yufka for su borek is boiled before being used to make the pie, a little like lasagna, and I had been wanting to see the process from when I had read about it in Nevin Halici’s Turkish Cookbook, which by the way is totally brilliant.
I have known salep all my life. I have had it in ice cream and in the eponymous winter drink which we used to buy on the street in Beirut after late nights out on the town, to have with croissants or ka’keh (sesame galette). Still, it wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I finally saw what salep looks like in its un-powdered form. I was walking through the bazaars of Safranbolu, in Turkey’s Black Sea region with my great friend, Nevin Halici, when I noticed lovely necklaces of dried translucent objects hanging outside several shops. I asked Nevin what they were and she said salep (dried orchis tubers that are ground into a fine powder which acts as a thickening agent). And inside the shop we entered, there was a very large jar of the salep in powdered form.