In Egypt today most people are concerned with getting bread to eat. Only some of the educated understand how democracy works -Naguib Mahfou, Egyptian novelist
(Thanks to Jean-Philippe de Tonnac for posting these timely words by Naguib Mahfouz!)
Watching the Arab Spring Revolution, it makes me wonder about the impact of food on politics, especially bread. It made me think of their classic breads, basic sustenance that suggests cultures that are enduring, imaginative, and rich.
My closest experience to Egypt comes from visiting Istanbul, where I quickly grew to admire the local pide or pizza vendors. Working with just a stove and small island to prep, along with a long peel to feed the dough into the ovens, I remember wanting to ask them if they would teach me. Their output was consistently delicious.
Thinking about their baking this weekend, I decided to see if I could replicate some of them. Below are shots of some of the creations. They turned out well. It's worth a try on your own.
What intriguing about pide and lahmacun ( a spiced meat paste on pide dough), are the flavorful toppings and the oddly attractive shapes. The pizzas are not your usual rounds. Rather they are oblong, shaped like a canoe with folded edges holding the filling.
Lahmacun, on the other hand, is a round meat pie that is covered and baked. The various toppings can be whatever you like, but traditionally it's sumac-smothered onion slices. Or sometimes it is topped with coriander and parsley.
Finally there is the versatile and wonderful "khubz Za'atar," a flat bread from the Levantine. A variation of pide, it's a close cousin to pizza, and a great wrap or dipping bread.
Brushed with oil and scattered with the heady zataar spice, it's either baked on a stone or a pan.
It's also a great foil for my favorite lamb and beef kofte.
All alone on Valentine's Day. My honey is away. I need comfort. What should I do? Eat! But exactly what should I eat?
when my friend Dilara phones and happily surprises me, I realize the
Valentine's Day cure. In fact, I had just bought some suçuk last week.
Time for a Turkish meal! Having a levain on full throttle, I proceed
to make some pide!
Here is my effort. It's getting better all the
time. What helped was a tip from my Turkish friend Selen, who during my
trip to Istanbul had me crack an egg on top while my pides baked. And
why not? The French do it on their hamburgers. Whatever...I'm digging
Like most nations, Turkey's cooking is varied so far as flavors, textures, etc. More interesting are the range of culinary influences, other cultures brought in to the mix during the historic Ottoman empire. Since coming back from Istanbul, I've missed the plethora of street food, yearning for the flavors I sampled but also missed (there was so much I wanted to try!).
Dilara, who runs Istanbul's excellent restaurant Abracadabra, sent me
home from my recent trip with a gift basket full of delicious things. One such delicacy was suçuk, a dried sausage known around the whole of the former Ottoman empire. It's a dried sausage made of beef or lamb, redolent with flavors and scents that are a reminder of the spice route that ran through Anatolia. Since I have been slaving at work, that suçuck has been hanging out in my fridge waiting to be sampled. My cat has been eyeing it for some time, so yesterday I took it off the hook from which it was hanging on the
side of my baker's bench, afraid it would be gnawed to bits by my cat if I waited.
Meanwhile I set about converting the pide hamuru (dough) recipe from my friend Gökhan the baker, throwing in some old fashioned intuition, not to mention some useful videos in Turkish on You Tube. Together, this assortment of ingredients and user-help led to a fair recreation of the great street food I've been pining for since returning from Istanbul. The result is a winner, and it sure beats that tired take out pizza from your local where you're lucky if they bake the pie rather than just reheat.
Gökhan’s Pide Hamuru with suçuk
Serves two (Unless your hungry and don't want to share!)
285 g Flour 8 g Salt 5g yeast(optional) 14g sugar 170 g water or as Gerkan said, squeezing his index and thumb to ear (gauge hydration by feel.) 68g levain
I used a combination no knead like Jim Lahey with a couple fold like Dan Lepard, but left the dough for about 8-10 hours or so to rise, while I went shopping at the market for the rest of the ingredients!
I cut the dough into two equal portions and rolled them out into oblong shapes covered with the fillings and pinched up the side of the dough like the shape of a canoe. Brushed with extra virgin olive oil and baked in a 450 F oven for about 15-20 minutes till nicely colored, finish with another coat of olive oil, can't get enough of the stuff!
Fillings: In this I used
1 sliced onion slightly sauted with 2 green peppers, also sliced. ( green frying Italian style peppers)
1 beautiful red ripe tomato, quatered and slice about a 1/4 inch wide
Suçuck chopped up, you could substitute any good sausage really, chorizo, merguez etc...
I didn't have any mozzarella, instead I used grated ricotta salata.
With this delicious pide I had a wonderful Hog Heaven Barley winestyle- ale from Avery Brewing Co. in Boulder, nice.