Have I even cooked yet since my return from Florida? I cannot remember. Time is flitting by on wings…. No, more like time is rushing by on wheels as it is pushed down a steep mountain. Where does it go? I have a bucketful of projects that seem to be standing around my desk, hands on hips, feet tapping earnestly as each waits…demands.. its turn and my attention.
The funny thing is, I brought back a stack of cooking magazines from the US and from Ireland, magazines stuffed from cover to cover with tempting recipes. I sit and flip through each and every one and ogle this photo and that, peruse the recipes and concoct plans to make so many of them. And then I sit back down at my laptop and start writing again. When I finally look up at the clock it is lunchtime or dinnertime, too late to cook. And when I mention baking, my men balk and begin ranting and begging for me to stay away from the sweet treats for just a bit. It is no wonder that I haven’t cooked in ages.
On the other hand, when it comes to my projects and work, I am…cooking! All of those magazines were purchased as resources rather than for the recipes, truth be told. They infuse me with creative energy and get the business juices flowing. I finished turning my Florida interview into a story and sent it off. My interviews of local chefs and food gurus are going swimmingly as I prepare three separate pieces from them. I am now in contact with another editor interested in our work. My head is flooded with story ideas just waiting for the chance to flow out onto the page. And my own personal editor/mentor/friend has now put me on a schedule for my book chapters. Can it get any better, any more productive than this?
Husband and I have the house to ourselves for the week; one son is away sailing as the other sleeps off the effects of a birthday weekend before slogging through two tough project presentations. The sun – finally the sun – splatters through the windows and onto tabletops and carpets, adding a hint of warmth to the June chill. Summer’s stone fruits are now heaped in bowls on the kitchen counter, the sheets crumpled and twisted on unmade beds, the television droning in the background competing with the city’s ordinary, everyday noises bursting joyfully, aggressively through the windows. The hum of the printer, the ringing of the telephone, the clatter of fingers on keyboard come from his office at the back of the apartment as we both work from home. There really is nothing to keep us from cooking.
Yet… one photograph from the BBC Good Food magazine – brought to me from London by my charming and thoughtful writing instructor buddy Jeanne – of Spiced Lamb & Feta Gözleme kept coming back to me, haunting me with the scents and flavors of something exotic, warming, delicious. I so wanted to taste the Gözleme that I finally gathered the courage to go out and pick up the ingredients needed and make them.
What is a Gözleme, you ask? Gözleme is a Turkish savory, filled pastry, the dough hand rolled then wrapped around a filling and sealed. The filled pocket is brushed with butter or oil and then cooked in a skillet or on a griddle. A woman at our market actually makes them, hers filled with feta or herbs or meat. I glanced over the list of ingredients in the magazine, which had a rather Greek spin to it, and decided to change it and give it a more North Africa twist, similar to my Lamb Triangles. I changed out the spices, added in caramelized onions and flavored the browned lamb with tomato purée and pomegranate molasses. Raisins heightened the touch of sweetness, pine nuts added a wonderfully toothsome crunch.
The resulting Gözleme were divine! The dough – just slightly adjusted from the magazine’s recipe – was a snap to make and, once cooked, was light and fluffy with just the right denseness to add a bit of chew. The filling was flavorful, the perfect balance between sweet and savory, meat and feta. One must only be extremely careful in rolling out, filling, folding, brushing and flipping the dough and the pastry to avoid any ripping – the dough is very delicate and any holes in the dough and the filling will escape!
I served this with a spicy and sweet chutney, but it would also be delicious served with an herbed yogurt dipping sauce. But personally, I loved them served as is; they needed nothing at all to be perfect.
I am sharing this with Susan of Wild Yeast for her weekly Yeastspotting!
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SPICY LAMB & FETA GÖZLEME PASTRIES
Makes and serves 4
For the dough:
1 packet (7 g) dry active yeast
1Tbs golden granulated sugar
2/3 cup (175 ml) warm water
9 oz (250 g) flour + more for kneading
½ tsp salt
2 Tbs olive oil + more for brushing the pastry
For the filling:
1 – 2 Tbs olive oil
1 lb (500 g) ground/minced lamb – or a combination of lamb and beef, if preferred
1 small – medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 slightly rounded tsp ground cumin
1 slightly rounded tsp ground coriander
¾ tsp ground cinnamon
¾ tsp ground chili or chipotle chili powder, or more or less to taste
Salt and pepper
2 Tbs tomato purée, more to taste if desired
2 Tbs pomegranate molasses, more or less to taste as desired
2 oz (50 g) raisins
2 oz (50 g) good quality pine nuts
4 oz (100 g) drained feta cheese, crumbled
Prepare the dough:
Place the golden granulated sugar and the dry yeast in a small mixing bowl. Add the warm/tepid (not hot) water to the yeast and sugar and allow to stand for about 15 minutes until the yeast is activated and the mixture foamy.
Put the flour in a medium to large mixing bowl and stir in the salt. Make a well in the center of the flour and add the yeast mixture and the olive oil. Using a wooden spoon, stir until blended and all of the dry ingredients have been moistened. Scrape the dough out onto a floured board or work surface and knead for 8 – 10 minutes, flouring the work surface and the dough only as needed. After 8 to 10 minutes, the kneaded dough should be smooth, soft and elastic, not dry but not sticky.
Lightly oil the inside of a medium to large bowl and place the round ball of dough into the bowl, turning the dough to oil evenly. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and then a clean kitchen towel and set aside to rise, at least doubled in size, about an hour.
Meanwhile, prepare the lamb filling:
Have everything prepared – the onion and garlic chopped, the spices, raisins and pine nuts measured out, etc.
Heat a skillet over medium heat. Add the pine nuts and cook very quickly, stirring constantly so they do not burn, just until toasted (they will begin to turn a golden brown). Remove quickly from the heat, scraping the pine nuts into a waiting bowl.
Return the skillet to the heat and add a tablespoon of olive oil. Add the chopped onion and cook over medium heat, stirring often, until the onion is tender and golden brown around the edges. Add the chopped or minced garlic and cook, stirring, for another couple of minutes until the garlic is tender (but not colored). Add another tablespoon of olive oil and then the minced/ground lamb and cook, stirring and chopping the meat to break up any lumps, until cooked through and browning, no longer pink.
Stir in the spices as well as the salt and pepper until evenly coating the meat and cook, stirring, for a minute or two. Add the toasted pine nuts, the raisins as well as 2 tablespoons each of the tomato purée and the pomegranate molasses, stirring to blend. Cook, stirring, for a few minutes until the meat is done and the flavors are melded. Remove from the heat and allow to cool just for a few minutes until just cool enough to handle. If prepared ahead of time, gently heat the filling through until warm before preparing the Gözleme – adding just a bit of water while reheating will help to keep the mixture from burning as well as bring back moisture to the meat.
Prepare the Gözleme pastries:
Have both the warm (but not hot) filling and the crumbled feta ready. Also have ready a small bowl with several tablespoons of olive oil and a clean pastry brush as well as a good skillet or grill.
Scrape the risen dough onto a floured work surface and divide into four even pieces. Working one piece of dough at a time, pat the dough into a rectangle and place on the board in front of you lengthwise perpendicular to your body. Gently roll the dough into a 8 x 10 inch (20 x 25 cm) rectangle, being very careful to keep the dough an even thickness and not to tear, split or weaken the dough.
Place ¼ of the lamb filling on the bottom half of the dough rectangle, leaving a ¾-inch (2-cm) edge on the 3 sides of the dough of the bottom half of the rectangle (the space covered by filling). Pat the filling until it evenly covers the space.
Place ¼ of the crumbled feta cheese on top of the lamb filling, dispersing it evenly over the lamb. Do not forget the feta!
Very gently and lightly brush a very small amount of olive oil on the edge of the dough - the 3 sides around the filling - and then bring the top half of the rectangle of dough down over the filling to create a pocket or turnover. Match the edges, pressing the top dough to the bottom and sealing. Very gently brush the sealed edges with a bit more olive oil and gently roll the edge over onto itself to form a rim. Very gently brush/pat a bit of olive oil all over the top of the Gözleme pastry, including the rim.
(I keep repeating very gently because the dough is incredibly light and fragile and it must not rip!)
Heat the skillet or grill over medium heat. Very gently and carefully (the dough is soft and fragile and must not rip) lift the pastry off of the work surface (I used a pastry/cake lifter and my fingers) and, once the skillet is hot, flip the pastry into the pan olive oil side down and press all around with the back of a spatula for even cooking. As the pan-side of the pastry cooks, gently brush/dab the flip side (now facing up) with olive oil. Cook the pastry until the pan side of the dough is a deep golden brown – the dough will puff as it cooks – and then very carefully flip the Gözleme over to cook the other side until golden brown.
Serve immediately, eat joyfully.