Turkish Manti

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I distinctly remember the first time I had manti. It was on my first visit to Istanbul. Selim’s cousins took us out to dinner one night at a restaurant I wish I could remember 🤷‍♀️ I was eyeing the mantı, that was described in English as “lamb dumplings in yogurt sauce.” One of Selim’s cousins saw me considering it and explained that is a traditional Turkish favorite. It is such a unique combination… The manti are hot, but then the yogurt sauce is cool, followed by the oil drizzle that’s hot! It seems like the pieces shouldn’t come together, but they do perfectly. The whole table ended up ordering mantı! I was hooked!

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Now I seek manti out whenever we go to a Turkish restaurant. (Probably to the detriment of trying other delicious dishes, but I just can’t NOT order it.) For awhile there, we felt like we were in the secret cool kids club at Sultan Kebab in Charlottesville, because while there wasn’t any manti on the menu, if you knew to ask for it, they almost always had some for you! That quickly became the worst kept secret in town (thanks to chefs exposing the secret via Charlottesville 29 I think…), and now it shows up on the menu. We’ve also learned from experience that if you have a group of people for dinner who can’t decide whether they want a delicious kebab or to try the manti, manti makes a perfect shared appetizer too!

This is one of the dishes that we love so much are were afraid to try at home for fear of messing it up. Not to mention, it is fairly time-consuming as well. But we were SUPER excited at how well this came out. Also, it’s gorgeous! The dough for the dumplings came together easier than other doughs I’ve tried before for similar projects. We had two failings that are quite easy to correct for next time. One, we forgot the dried mint at the store. By which I mean, we picked it up, had it with all our other stuff, and somehow didn’t come home with it 🤷‍♀️ The dish is delicious without it, but don’t skip it if you can. It adds another layer of flavor. And two, we didn’t quite have the dumplings all the way submerged when they were cooking, which made the tops a little dry on some of them. Learn from our mistakes! Another side note – you should be able to find Turkish pepper at a Middle Eastern grocery. If not, substitute Aleppo pepper.

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Turkish Manti

(Minimally adapted from Sultan’s Kitchen by Ozcan Ozan)
Ingredients: 
  • Dumplings
    • 2+ cups AP flour
    • 1 tsp salt
    • 2 eggs
    • 1+ tbsp olive oil
    • 1/2 cup cold milk
    • 1/2 lb ground lamb
    • 1/2 cup onion, grated
    • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
    • 1/2 tsp Turkish pepper
    • 4 grinds fresh black pepper
    • 1/4 tsp salt
    • 2 cups beef stock
  • Yogurt Sauce
    • 1 2/3 cups “Greek” yogurt
    • 4 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Spiced Butter
    • 5 1/2 tbsp clarified butter
    • 1/2 tsp Turkish pepper
    • 1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper
    • 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
    • 1/4 tsp sweet paprika
    • 1 tsp dried mint
Instructions: 
  1. Prepare the dough in a large bowl. Sift together the flour and salt, then create a well in the center. Lightly beat the eggs and pour these, along with the olive oil and milk into the well. Stir together with a fork until the dough starts to come together.
  2. Then turn it out onto a floured counter-top and use your hands to form into a dough ball. Knead for ~8 minutes. Place the dough ball into a greased bowl and cover with a damp cloth to rest for 45 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, prepare the filling and yogurt sauce.
  4. For the filling, combine the lamb, onion, parsley, peppers, and salt in a small bowl. Refrigerate until ready to use.
  5. For the yogurt sauce, stir together the yogurt, garlic, and salt. Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes.
  6. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  7. After the dough has rested, roll it out to 1/16th inch thick. (We used our pasta roller attachment for the stand mixer.) Then cut the dough into 2 x 2 inch squares.
  8. To make the dumplings, place ~ 1/2 tsp of meat filling in the center of each square. Bring the four corners together and then twist to seal. Press down to flatten slightly.
  9. Place the dumplings in a greased deep baking dish (or two, depending on the size you use).
  10. Bake them for 15-20 minutes until lightly browned. Remove the dumplings from the oven and pour stock over until all of the dumplings are just submerged in the liquid. Lower the heat to 325 degrees and return to the oven. Cook for another 10-15 minutes.
  11. Meanwhile, heat the clarified butter in a small saucepan. Add the spices and swirl together. Keep on very low heat until ready to serve.
  12. Once the dumplings are cooked, place some on each plate. Pour the yogurt sauce over top and then drizzle with the butter.
Serves 4

Afghani Spinach & Onion Dip (Sabse Borani)

Most people out there enjoy a good snack, but on Ally’s mom’s side of her extended family, they really embrace the snacking thing. When they’re together for a holiday or any sort of large gathering, they don’t just have three meals in a day. They add a fourth, solely devoted to snacks. Somewhere along the way, someone named this fourth meal “Dip Thirty.” (The alternate, but less popular name is “Dip O’Clock.”) Dip Thirty occurs between lunch and dinner, somewhere in the mid-afternoon. This allows dinner to be pushed back well into the evening, originally so no one had to waste the last hours of summer sunshine on preparing dinner or listen to whines of “I’m staaaaaaaarving!” Dip Thirty is so successful because with such a large family, everyone feels the need to bring something to contribute… which leads to counter-tops and picnic tables covered with a variety of snacks to sample!

Today we had a just-for-fun family gathering at Ally’s aunt & uncle’s home along the banks of the Potomac River, in Virginia’s Northern Neck. Now, Dip Thirty really isn’t the time to be calorie-counting, but we decided to bring a snack that leaned towards the healthier side of the spectrum, knowing there would be plenty of delicious cheese-packed dips from other family members.

This dish, sabse borani, is an Afghan spread which is more commonly eaten on flatbread. We decided to use it in more of a dip fashion with pita chips. It’s actually quite simple to make, with only a few ingredients, but your result is a lovely and flavorful yogurt-based dip/spread. I see why it’s used as a spread, but it definitely works as a dip too! We made a larger amount to share, but this recipe is easily halved.

Afghani Spinach & Onion Dip (Sabse Borani)

(Adapted from one of my faves – Global Table Adventure, with tips from the rest of the Internet in general)
Ingredients:
  • 2 cups plain Greek yogurt (or any yogurt, strained)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 medium sweet onions, sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 heaping cups fresh spinach
  • Salt & pepper
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
Instructions:
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the onions and stir to coat in the oil. Top with a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook for 20+ minutes, until the onions are deeply golden brown, soft, and nearly caramelized. Stir frequently.
  2. In the last few minutes of the onions cooking, add the garlic so it can soften
  3. Remove the onions and garlic to a large bowl.
  4. Lower the heat to a low-medium and then add the spinach to the same pan. Cover and wilt the spinach. Add a splash of water if needed. This only takes a minute or two.
  5. Allow the spinach and onions to cool and then stir them in with the yogurt.
  6. Add a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes if desired. Adjust salt if needed.
Yields ~ 3 1/2 cups

High Plateau Soup

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Do you love soup as much as I do? Are you looking for a little variety in your soup life? Then this might be the soup for you. A few years ago, we were in Turkey visiting Selim’s family. Over there, I basically hit the soup jackpot. Not only does Turkish cuisine include soup with most meals, which I think is a great idea, but I also got to taste several homemade varieties from Selim’s aunts and grandmother. These women sure know how to cook. While they didn’t make this particular soup while we were there, the flavors bring me right back to their kitchens in Istanbul.

If you’re reading the ingredients, you might be thinking two thoughts… 1) “Umm… isn’t yogurt supposed to be cold?” Or 2) “Uhhh… that sounds pretty simple. It’s probably not worth my time.”

Move past those thoughts. This soup is delicious! It’s creamy and comforting. It also has amazing flavor, belying its few ingredients. The flavor profile is unique, one not particularly familiar to the American palate. Give it a whirl; I’ll bet you’ll appreciate the introduction.

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Update 9/19/16: We were invited by Genie, at Bunny Eats Design, to add this recipe to her monthly link-up. Once I got over the surprise that someone out there actually read our blog (much less someone who’s blog I’ve enjoyed reading prior to this point!), I read about her link-up. It’s called Our Growing Edge and encourages participants to attempt food-related personal challenges. I love this! This post and recipe certainly fit into that goal, as I’m always wanting to create dishes true to Selim’s Turkish heritage. This month’s link-up is hosted by Chrystal at The Smallwood Parsonage, with the theme of Family Recipes. You don’t have to be invited to join – see here. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be reading through posts from past link-ups instead of studying. 


High Plateau Soup

(Recipe adapted from Sultan’s Kitchen: A Turkish Cookbook, by Özcan Ozan)
Ingredients: 
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 1/2 cup uncooked rice
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 10 fresh mint leaves
Instructions: 
  1. Place the stock, rice, and butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer. Stir in the paprika and salt.
  2. Decrease heat and cook at a low simmer for 20-30 minutes, until rice is cooked.
  3. Meanwhile, mix the yogurt, egg yolks, and flour together.
  4. Stir the yogurt mixture into the soup slowly. Chop up the mint leaves and add to the soup. Turn the heat down to low and cook for another ten minutes, stirring occasionally.
Makes 2 meal-sized servings or 4 servings as a starter or side to another dish.

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Roasted Garlic & Cucumber Raita

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For those who don’t know, raita is a very versatile Indian yogurt dip/sauce. A dollop on top of spicy hot dishes cools them right off. Naan dipped in raita makes delicious naan even better. I say versatile because raita basically is a blank canvas that can be modified in a million different ways. You start with plain yogurt and go from there. Herbs and spices, vegetables, even fruits, can be used to make unique raita! For those looking for a maybe more familiar comparison, cucumber-based raita is popular and very similar to Greek tzatziki. That’s what I was going for today for this recipe and then was inspired by this delicious-looking recipe too!

Roasted Garlic & Cucumber Raita

Ingredients: RoastedGarlic
  • 2 cups plain yogurt
  • 1 whole head of garlic
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 2 large pickling cucumbers
  • 1/2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp salt – divided
  • 10 turns of pepper
Instructions:
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Meanwhile, slice the top off of the head of garlic (so tips of individual cloves are exposed).
  2. Drizzle the oil over the exposed parts of the garlic head. Wrap the garlic head in aluminum foil and place in the oven on a middle rack. Enjoy the amazing smell of roasting garlic.
  3. Roast for 45 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, prepare the cucumbers. I spiralized about half of the cucumbers and grated the other half, because I like different textures.
  5. Set the cucumbers in a colander and sprinkle with 1/2 tsp of salt. This will draw water out of the cucumbers. Allow them to sit there for at least 20 minutes. You can squeeze them too to get even more of the water out.
  6. Remove the garlic from the oven when it’s done and allow the garlic to cool until you can handle it.
  7. Pull apart the individual cloves and squeeze the garlic out of its skin into a small bowl. After you’ve squeezed all of the cloves out, then use the back of a fork to mash the more intact cloves up.
  8. Add the garlic, cucumbers, the rest of the salt, and pepper to the yogurt. Mix everything together.
  9. Serve with Indian food, on a wrap, as a dip for crudites or pita chips, or whatever you want!

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