In the Kitchen with Fatoş

Fatoş is another mother to me, and every time I come to Adana, in southern Turkey, she cooks my favorite vegan Turkish foods. Most recently, I spent an afternoon in the kitchen with her as she prepared homemade ıspanklı börek.

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There are many different types of börek, which makes it a difficult food to describe. It consists of thin savory pastry dough and a filling—whether meat, cheese, potatoes, or spinach. Some börek is stuffed and rolled into crescents or circles, another is tightly layered and baked in a water bath, but Fatoş’s börek is more like a stuffed flatbread.

She starts with fresh chopped spinach and onions, adds some salça (see this post for more information on this staple of Turkish cuisine), oil, salt, and a touch of cumin. Everything is raw, as the filling will cook inside the bread.

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Here you can see the workspace. On the left is the dough—a simple dough of flour, water, yeast, and salt which has risen once—then some flour for rolling, two rolling pins, and the spinach filling. In this part of Turkey it is very common to prepare food and eat on a checkered cloth like this one on the floor. When eating, you simply make sure that your feet and body are next to or under the cloth, often tucking the cloth into your lap. I once made the mistake of walking across the cloth the first time that I ate like this, but the cloth is like a table. You wouldn’t put your feet on the dining table!

In the following video you can see how the dough is rolled out into the perfect thin circle in preparation for stuffing.

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Here you can see Fatoş arranging the filling in the very thin circle of dough, folding the dough over and sealing the börek.

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Next we cooked each piece of börek in a special flat, wide pan, snacking and chatting as we did. Normally, many women would gather together to make börek, as it is a time-intensive dish. From preparing the dough and letting it rise, making the filling, rolling out the dough until it is paper-thin, then stuffing, sealing, and cooking each piece of börek, the process often take an entire day. And when you make börek, it would be a waste to only make a small batch, so as you can see in the picture above, we made a little mountain of börek and I was happily eating it for the next two meals.

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