Two Times Tart - A Trans-Cultural Culinary Exploration

Last month I received an email from Julie Upmeyer in Istanbul who was asking whether I would like to contribute a tart filling recipe for her project called Two Times Tart. The project was a trans-cultural culinary exploration of tastes and geographies, created from the contributions of 9 individuals from Turkey, and its eight neighboring countries -Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Syria, Georgia, Greece, Iran, Iraq and Armenia.

Julie created half-circle shells in collaboration with the local bakery in Istanbul. These shells held the 9 sweet fillings, made from recipes submitted by the participating individuals. The idea behind was that two half tarts (each 4.5 X 3 cm) were eaten simultaneously. At the tasting ceremony, the combination was chosen by the eater, who decided his/her own pair of flavors and geographies.

I was to represent Azerbaijan with my recipe. Since we do not have open tarts and therefore a filling for them, I had to come up with something of my own. I did not want to deviate much from the ingredients we use in Azerbaijan, so I used the familiar apricots and walnuts. The result? Creamy Filling with Dried Apricots and Walnuts. I encourage you to look at the recipes from other contributing countries too.

The project and the tasting event was a huge success and was hightlighted in the press.

In English:

Todays Zaman 27/03/08
Love Difference 27/03/08
Turkish Daily News 21/03/08 – with the mention of me and my recipe
Kitchen Caravan 19/03/08
New media Fix 14/03/08
Babelmed 04/03/08
Kopiaste 19/02/08

In Turkish:

BirGun 27/03/08

The project was fun and every time Julie sent a reminder about the venue and the time of the exhibition and the tart tasting, my mouth watered and I wanted so much to be in Istanbul and taste those tiny tiny pastry shells with “multicultural” fillings that held so much more in them than just a taste!

Thank you, Julie!

And here is Julie, tasting the tarts:)

Note: All the pictures on this posting are from the project’s web site.


Potato or Meat Pies a.k.a Pirojki

Potato Pirojki

This is a hands down winner in our family. Pirojki. They are believed to have originated from Russia, but have well blended into the cuisine of Azerbaijan and are popular both among the grownups and children alike. These dough pockets, stuffed with savory fillings such as cabbage, mashed green peas, potato or meat, can be either deep fried or baked in the oven. Usually deep fried “pirojki” is sold as fast food in bakeries, cafeterias and by street vendors.

I am posting the recipe for the baked pirojki with 2 fillings to choose from – one is a vegetarian delight and the other is sure to satisfy meat lovers. Follow this recipe to make potato OR meat pockets, and enjoy them with a cup of hot sweet tea or just plain! I know one thing for sure, once ready, these golden delights go fast! So… don’t miss your share! The recipe for the dough comes from Deniz, our family friend in Turkiye (this dough is very similar to the Russian pirojki dough).


Preparation time: 30 minutes, plus 1 ½ hours dough rising time
Cooking time: 25 minutes
Makes 22-25 pies

For the Dough
½ cup (4fl oz / 125ml) lukewarm water
1 package active dry yeast (1/4 oz / 7g)
3 cups (15oz / 470g) all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoon sugar
½ cup (4fl oz / 125ml) milk
1 egg + 1 egg white (reserve the yolk for glazing)
½ cup oil (4fl oz / 125ml)

For the Filling

Potato filling:
3 tablespoons oil
1 small onion, chopped
4 medium potatoes, boiled and peeled
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro (coriander), or parsley or dill
salt, to taste
pepper, to taste

Meat filling:
3 tablespoons oil
1 small onion, chopped
13 oz (375g) ground beef
salt, to taste
pepper, to taste

For Glazing
1 egg yolk

VARIATION: Another delicious variation would be to stuff the pockets with crumbled white cheese, such as feta, mixed with chopped fresh parsley.

COOK’S TIP: For the yeast to work best, all ingredients should be at room temperature. Remove the eggs from refrigerator about 30 minutes prior to adding them to the dough.

COOK’S TIP: If you used up all of the filling and still have some dough left, you can make small dinner rolls. Brush the remaining dough ball with egg yolk, sprinkle with some poppy, nigella or sesame seeds and bake in the oven for about 25 minutes or until golden.

1. Prepare the dough. Dissolve the yeast in lukewarm water and let stand for about 5 minutes. In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, salt, sugar, and mix. Add the yeast mixture, milk, eggs and oil and stir using your hands until a rough ball forms. Scrape the dough onto a lightly floured surface, and knead until smooth and elastic, about 5-6 minutes. Put the dough into a large bowl, cover with a kitchen towel or a plastic wrap and leave to rise in a warm place for about 1 ½ hours, or until doubled in bulk. The dough should look puffy and be soft when poked with a finger.

Dough Ball

2. In the meantime, prepare the filling. To prepare the potato filling, in a medium non-stick frying pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for about 7 minutes, or until lightly brown. In a mixing bowl, mash the boiled potatoes (I like to leave it slightly coarse). Add the fried onion, fresh herbs, season with salt and pepper, and mix well.

To prepare the meat filling, in a medium non-stick frying pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for about 5 minutes or until translucent. Add the meat and stir-fry together for about 10 minutes, or until the meat is brown. Season with salt and pepper to taste. If you prefer a smoother filling, grind the mixture in a food processor until you obtain a desired consistency. (That’s what I usually do and I love the result).

3. Gentry press down on the dough to release the gases that have built up during the rising. The dough should not be sticky. Divide the dough into small balls about 1 ½ inches (3.8 cm) in diameter You should be able to make 22-25 balls.

Risen Dough

Small Balls

4. At this stage you can use either method to shape your pirojki- whichever you are comfortable with. Method A: Using a wooden rolling pin, roll out each ball into a circle about 4 inches (10cm) in diameter. Place a tablespoonful of filling on the circle, lift the edges towards the center and press to seal. Gently pat the pocket to flatten it slightly. Continue with the rest of the dough. Method B: Since the dough is very elastic, it is easy to handle with hands. You can flatten, stretch, fill and seal the dough, holding it in your palm and using your other hand. Just like in the pictures below. I use this method. It’s quick and easy.



5. Place the dough pockets on a baking sheet seam side down, about 1 inch (2.5 cm) apart, and allow to rest for about 15 minutes.

6. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 350F (180C).7. Brush the pockets with egg yolk and bake for about 25 minutes or until golden. NUSH OLSUN! ENJOY!



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