Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Making Manti

Turkish cuisine had me from my first taste of yogurt and mint - two ingredients that are very common in Turkish food and, for me, were not obvious plate-mates.  (Who knew yogurt and mint could be such a tasty combination?) 

I had my first real Turkish meal on my forth date with my now fiance.  In his tiny university apartment, with an economy-sized stove, he made me Yayla Çorbası (Yogurt Soup), rice pilaf, sautéed meat and vegetables, along with a crisp green salad dressed with lemon and oil.  We ate sitting on the floor leaning against an old couch his friend was "storing" there for the summer with our plates propped on the coffee table.  It was very grad school romance.  I loved every second of it. 

Yayla soup involves this surprising , and very Turkish, combination of yogurt and mint.  The ingredients are fairly simple - a small bit of rice, water, and then the base is yogurt, egg and flour.  The mint and Turkish red pepper are heated in a bit of butter and then added last minute to the soup as a sauce.  (The idea that soup has sauce was also a new idea for me - I remember thinking "how can soup have sauce? They're both liquid!" - it was incomprehensible until I saw it in practice).
A beautiful version of Yayla Soup
 (from http://www.acetestravel.com/Turkey-Recipe.html)

Yes, I am very lucky.  My Turkish man knows how to cook - and pretty gourmet at that.  In the past year or so, I have increasingly had the desire to boost my own culinary repertoire.  I've bought Turkish cookbooks, I follow several blogs written by expats in Turkey (see below for links), but there is nothing like face to face learning. 

During my stay this coming December and January in Turkey I hope to learn tips and tricks from H's mom and sister.  Until then, I'm taking advantage of Turkish cooking classes offered in my town. 

This past weekend I learned to make two Turkish staples:  lentil soup (with the red lentils), and baklava.  I already had experiences making both, but as with everything, there are many different variations and I learned a new way to make the Turkish-style lentil soup.   Though the star dish of the day was the very traditional Turkish dumpling called Manti.  There were six students in the class and two Turkish ladies instructing - and good thing, because we needed all the hands we could get to make these teeny, tiny Turkish dumplings (or also called "Turkish ravioli"). 

Piles of Turkish Manti!
(Source: Turklish)

We watched as the dough was kneaded and kneaded, with small spoonfuls of flour added until the dough bounced back when punched.  Then, after it rested, we watched as it was rolled again and again with a rolling pin about two feet long and the width of a broom handle.  The rolling was definitely an art - and none of us became artists on that day.  

Work in progress...
(You can see the small rolling pin in the middle of the table)
(Source: Turklish)

The experts did the rolling and we then cut the dough into one inch little squares and then added a small speck of meat-onion-parsley and pinched up the dough around the filling to make hundreds and hundreds of the tiny manti.

Lots of pinching meat and dough
(Source: Turklish)

Manti is traditionally a dish served during Ramadan.  Women get together in the weeks before Ramadan begins and spend the afternoon chatting and laughing while rolling and pinching little dough balls.  Then they save the joys of their labor in the freezer until the manti is brought out for a hearty meal to break the fast.

Manti is boiled in water and then the steamy plate of tiny dumplings are served with yogurt-garlic sauce, with a dash of tomato sauce and a sprinkling of mint and sumac.

Ta da!  A beautiful meal.
(Source: Turklish)

The results are as pleasing to the eyes as each savory little bundle is to the taste buds.

If you ever feel like taking on this culinary adventure - the recipe is below.  I recommend you at least recruit some fellow hardworking friends and family to help you with the manti making or you may be in the kitchen all day!

Turkish Manti:

For the dough:
4 cups flour
2 eggs
1 cup warm water
2 tsp salt to taste

·        Mix ingredients together and continue adding flour and water until dough bounces back when punched

·        Divide into 4 sections and roll out each section until uniform and thin

·        Cut into squares, about 1”

1/2 lb ground beef
1 onion, finely chopped/shredded
1/2 tsp salt to taste
1/2 tsp black pepper
chopped parsley (flat Italian)

·        Put small bits of the mixture onto the dough squares and pinch closed to make the dumpling

·        Sprinkle the dumplings with flour to keep them from sticking to each other

For cooking:
8 cups water
1 tsp salt

·        Cook the dumplings in the boiling water until water is absorbed (~20min)

4 cups yogurt
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 tsp salt to taste

·        Mix and add water until sauce has smooth, thin consistency

3-4 tbsp butter/oil
3 tbsp tomato paste 2 tsp paprika
2-3 tbsp water

·        Cook paste in oil and add water to make a sauce

Dried mint

·        Spoon each of the sauces over the drained dumplings

·        Sprinkle the dried mint and sumac on top

Here are a couple blogs with great recipes for both Turkish and non-Turkish food:

My Turkish Joys - A blog written by an American expat and professional pastry chef living in Istanbul

Ozlem's TurkishTable - A website with recipes, and information about Turkish ingredients, cooking classes and culinary tours offered by this Turkish chef living in England. 

A Seasonal Cook inTurkey -  A blog by with regular updates of both Turkish and non-Turkish cuisine - lots of tasty looking cakes I would like to try!

Almost Turkish Recipes - Recipes by a Turkish student living in the states and providing her favorite Turkish and Almost Turkish recipes.

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