The Turkish GP – Improvising in a very small kitchen!

Well, first things first, I have moved to France/Geneva, hence my not writing anything for a while!  Unfortunately I am living in temporary accommodation for the next month and a half and, although the place I’m staying in is nice, the kitchen is tiny!

The kitchen in my temporary accomodation

The sum of my cooking equipment is two hot plates, a microwave, a frying pan and two saucepans.  This means that I am somewhat limited in the dishes I can currently make.  So far we’ve had some pasta, some steak haché with salad and some sausages with crushed potatoes (no masher!).  It’s tough to make terribly adventurous.

But despite this, a while ago when I was deciding what to cook for each of the Grand Prix’s I had the idea of making künefe, an unusual Turkish dessert of cheese inside a sandwich of pastry, which is then covered in sugary syrup and served warm so that the cheese is stringy.  I first tried this about 6 months ago in a Turkish restaurant in London and was fascinated by the mixture of sweet and savoury as it was unlike any dessert I had tasted before.

To my dismay, all the recipes I found online required an oven (something I currently don’t have!).  Doing a bit more research I found that it is possible to cook this in a pan so despite being rather nervous I decided to give it a go anyway.

Cooking equipment aside, my other challenge was ingredients.  Neither the thin shredded filo or the recommended filling of unsalted feta cheese were readily available in the local supermarket.  Instead I opted for alternatives of sheets of filo pastry and some mozzarella.  There aren’t many ingredients for this dish, the only other things I needed were some sugar, a little oil and some butter.

The ingredients

To start things off I made my imitation of the traditional shredded filo.  The filo sheets (feuilles de brick) were quite different to the ones I had seen in Britain.  They came as circular sheets attached to a type of waxed paper and had a slightly bubbly and rubbery texture that reminded me more of rice paper than filo pastry.

My French Filo Pastry

After I had separated out 12 sheets of pastry I then stacked them one on top of the other and proceeded to cut them into ribbons using scissors (my sharp knife wouldn’t cut through!).  Then  I placed the ribbons in a bowl and mixed about a tablespoon of oil through so that they were well coated.

The filo shredded and oiled

It was then time to assemble the künefe.  I spread a layer of butter on the bottom of my frying pan before placing in some of the filo in the middle and building my nest.  I also started to lay lengths of the filo from the middle over the edge off the pan to fold over later.

Assembling the bottom layer

Next in was the cheese.  I used three balls of mozzarella which I tore into rather uneven pieces and spread around on top of the filo.

Adding the cheese

To finish constructing the dish I added more shredded filo on top of the cheese and folded over the side pieces to create an approximation of a parcel.  The künefe was ready to cook!  I turned the hot plate onto high and placed a  pan lid atop the sauce pan, which I held down with a bag of sugar and a  bottle of grenadine to press everything together.

PRessing the kunefe down

I cooked the künefe for about 7-8 minutes until I could see that the cheese was starting to melt and that the filo towards the sides was getting crispy.  It was time for the delicate bit, turning the lot over to cook the other side.  To do this I removed the weights and took hold of the lid before inverting the pan, which left the künefe upside down on the saucepan lid.  At this point, having only two hands, one of which was holding the lid, I needed some help from my partner.  He greased the frying pan again (and took a photo of me holding the lid) so that I could return the künefe to the pan the other way up.

Turning over the kunefe

I then cooked the other side for another 7-8 minutes before transferring the künefe to a plate.  The final step to finish this dish involved covering everything in a sugar syrup.  I made my syrup by heating  approx 100ml of water with a heaped tablespoon of sugar (there are no measuring jugs etc in the kitchen!) until the sugar had dissolved.  This should then have been poured over the whole künefe while it’s still warm, but since the künefe was bigger than the plate I spooned it onto individual portions instead.  The sugar syrup absorbs into the dish giving it a fairly subtle but still noticeable sweetness.

The finished kunefe and sugar syrup

A slice of kunefe

I had a lot of reservations about making this dish given my lack of recipe (the internet had broken when I came to cook it) and cooking equipment, but I’m really please with how my improvised version turned out.  It tasted pretty similar to the version I had in the restaurant and my partner and I devoured the whole lot through the course of the afternoon.  If I was to make this again I think I would try to cook the pastry a little longer to get it to colour a little more, however it was cooked through and had a great crisp texture (I had to cut it with scissors to portion it).  I think I might also experiment with adding some extra flavours such as lemon or rose water to the syrup.

The race itself had Vettel leading easily start to finish to claim his third win of the season.  There was plenty of action going on behind him with the two McLarens battling each other and everyone else squabbling for places.  Kobayashi has a great race finishing in the points after starting 23rd and Buemi did well to finish 8th which should help him secure his place at Toro Rosso.

This was my first time watching the French coverage, and although I was impressed in the build up to see how many of the drivers spoke French, the coverage itself left a lot to be desired.  There were very long advert breaks in which 3 or 4 laps of racing would be missed.  The first break was particularly badly timed missing the first round of pit stops and returning to the action to reveal and end of a replay of two cars racing in the pit lane (I still don’t know who that was!).  I have sorely missed my BBC coverage and will have to see if there is a way I can watch it over here!

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5 Responses to “The Turkish GP – Improvising in a very small kitchen!”

  1. Janice Says:

    Well done on your improvisation! Your kitchen is certainly challenging, but how fab to be in Geneva! look forward to hearing all your adventures.

  2. greedy rosie Says:

    Wow, what a great job with such little equipment. I was really looking forward to see what the Turkish dish would be like.

    • rhiannong Says:

      Thanks! I was hoping to make a savory course as well, but the equipment proved too limited. I have a couple of weeks to come up with something Spanish I can cook now!

  3. Francesca Says:

    Is there a savoury version? I like the idea and I would love to cook something Turkish but I would rather not make a pudding.

    • rhiannong Says:

      I don’t know of a savory version, but I don’t think it would be that hard to adapt since the only sweetness is from the sugar syrup at the end. You could replace that with something citrus or some stock or add some more savory flavours to the filling I guess.

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