Gratinated brined cheese with tomatoes, pickled hot green chillies, olives and garlic with Turkish flatbread (pide or pita) and good olive oil is one of my classic dishes. The recipe is prepared extremely fast, delicious, vegetarian, and an ideal companion for a glass of red wine.
Instead of preparing the bread yourself you can - of course - buy it next door in a Turkish bakery or replace it with some other bread recipe of your taste. But it takes very little time and effort to do it yourself. You just need patience for letting the dough rise.
By the way, the inspiration for the dish came from the pub Schnokeloch in Saarbrücken that I used to frequent as a student. The pub has relocated from the center to the outskirts in the meantime but still has a similar dish on the menu.
The below ingredients serve four persons.
Prepares in 5 minutes, cooks in 20-25 minutes.
- 4 slices Bulgarian brined cheese (or Feta), 200 g each
- 4 medium-sized tomatoes
- 200 g juicy black olives (e. g. Kalamata) with rock
- 200 g hot pickled green chillies
- 12-16 cloves of garlic
- olive oil
- Pul Biber (Turkish red pepper or alternatively chili flakes)
Turkish Pita (Pide)
Prepares in 20 minutes, cooks in 2 1/2 hours.
- 20 g fresh yeast (half a block)
- 200-250 ml tepid water
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- one heaping teaspoon sugar
- 450-500 g white flour
- one rounded teaspoon salt
- two level tablespoons yoghurt
- two tablespoons milk
- olive oil
- three rounded tablespoons white sesame
- three rounded tablespoons black-caraway aka black cumin, nigella or kalonji
Turkish Pita (Pide)
The bread is prepared in no time at all but needs two hours of patience. You can bake it in advance and deep-freeze it without any loss in quality. After thawing you should bake it again shortly to crisp it.
If you decide to buy the bread at a Turkish bakery or replace it by another type of break, you can jump directly to the recipe for gratinated feta.
- Heat the oven to 50-60 °C.
- Crumble the yeast into a little bowl and stir it with a rounded teaspoon
sugar and a tablespoon of tepid water. Add a tablespoon of flour. Do not
worry too much about lumps, they will vanish while kneading. Leave it in the
oven or another warmish place to prove until it has doubled or tripled in size.
That will take about ten minutes.
- Pour 450 g of flour into a bowl. Add one rounded teaspoon of salt, two level
tablespoons of yoghurt, two tablespoons of olive oil, and the
yeast and mix it with a spoon or your fingers. Slowly add a little tepid water
and then continue kneading with the kneading hooks of a mixer or a kitchen
machine and slowly add the rest of the tepid water. If you knead by hand
you have to take a little less water or the dough will become too sticky.
After you have used as much water as necessary keep on kneading the dough for
another ten minutes with the machine or 15 minutes by hand. The dough should
still be a little sticky, not as dry as pizza dough.
- Transfer the dough into a bowl and cover it with a warm, damp cloth and
leave it in the oven or another warmish place to prove for an hour or a
little more. If you prefer put a little flour into the bowl and over the
dough. I personally think that this is not necessary.
- After an hour the dough should not be too heavy and only have a slight
scent of yeast. Preheat the oven to 230 °C. Do not forget to leave the
baking tray outside! Briefly knead the dough again and form a pita about 2 cm
thick. Put baking paper on the baking tray and leave the pita to prove under a warm,
damp cloth for another 20 or 30 minutes in a warmish place.
- Just before the dough is ready, roast the sesame in a non-stick pan without grease until it starts smelling. If you want you can also add the black-caraway at the end for an instance.
Put two tablespoons of milk into a small bowel and stir it with two tablespoons
of olive oil until it emulsifies. Press little holes with your fingers into the dough.
two to three centimeters away from each other. Brush the
milk-oil emulsion on the pita and spread the sesame and black-caraway
- Bake for 20 to 25 minutes at 230 °C. If you prepared it for
another day let it cool down in a damp cloth and deep-freeze it in freezer bags.
After thawing, carve it lengthwise a couple of times and crisp it at
230 °C without fan.
Important! Black-caraway, sometimes called black cumin, nigella or kalonji is neither cumin nor black sesame. You can get it in Turkish or Indian grocery stores. If not available, rather omit it or use black sesame although this will just give you the color, not the taste. But honestly, the black-caraway is very important for the authentic taste of the bread.
- Preheat the oven to 230 °C.
- Put one slice of feta into fire-prove ovenware.
- Cut the tomatoes in eighths and add it to the feta with the pickled hot green peperoncini, and olives.
- Dice the garlic and spread it over the cheeze and drizzle it with plenty of olive oil.
- Spread pul biber or alternatively chili flakes over the cheese. Pul can be pretty hot, so be careful with seasoning. Do not add any salt. The cheese and the peperoncini already contain plenty of salt, even for salt junkies.
- Transfer the ovenware into the preheated oven (lower third) and bake for 15 to 25 minutes. The cheese should be entirely soft inside but not melt. This is usually the case when the tomatoes and peppers start browning.
Serve the cheese right out of the oven because it tastes best when still hot. Whether red wine or a cool beer goes better with the dish is a hard decision left to the reader.
Pul biber is not pepper powder but the spice you know from döner kebab. You can get it in every Turkish grocery store. Alternatively you can use chili flakes. They maybe even taste better with this dish.
You do not necessarily have to use sheep milk cheese. Any feta style brined cheese will do, also from goat milk, cow milk, or buffalo milk. Bulgarian white cheese (сирене, spoken seerene with the emphasis on the first syllable) is made from all kinds of milk, has excellent quality and taste, and buying it, you support the economy of the poorest EU member state.
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