Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Yufka Re-Visited --- A Bit of a Stretch

I had met Yufka a few years ago. She was hiding in the fridge in the delis of Footscray market. [see Kamal below]

Yufka is a Turkish pastry mentioned in previous dispatches. Thin but not as thin as Phyllo. Rustic, gutsy- really useful as a wrapping for just about anything. There are many brands, much of it handmade and excellent. At Bas Foods in Victoria Street Brunswick about 2 years ago, I found and bought two of the long thin pins used to roll them but I had never plucked up the courage to try to make Yufka. Then of course she disappeared for a while: not available from the usual suspects. So we worked on the pastry for a while and realised that none of the printed recipes would work. Getting the pastry to stretch as much as Yufka needs to requires something special.

My mother made very fine strudel, in fact the first work she did after we arrived from Hungary in 1957 was to open a strudel shop in the old St.Kilda market in Acland St. I remembered that she always added a little vinegar to the dough and this made it very easy to stretch. When the Ottoman Empire added Hungary to its range of influence it brought with it many culinary delights including Paprika, and Phyllo and although some historians still argue the point it is widely thought that strudel also came with the Turks.

After a little trial and error we had the dough right but stretching it with the long thin pins proved to be a little difficult. We wrongly assumed that the uneven surface of our workbenches was why we could not roll them out easily. But when we got to Istanbul the secret was revealed. If you look closely at the rolling pins they are not flat but ever so slightly thicker in the centre tapering out gently on both sides. The dough is rolled out roughly then rolled carefully onto the pin and the stretching is done while the pastry is rolled up on the pin with a gentle rolling and outward pressure. As it gets thinner a little flour is sprinkled onto the inner surface so it does not stick together on the pin. To get a round shape you need to rotate the pastry 90 degrees each time between rolls. With a little practice we were soon making quite acceptable Yufka and now incorporate it into our cooking classes if the occasion is right.

The flour should be of medium strength, half bakers’ flour and half plain flour with a little wholemeal flour. The shapes of the finished product can be cigars, triangles, semicircles, rolls, spirals or even full round pies about half a metre in diameter. Most of the fillings we tasted in Turkey were a variation of cheese and cooked and or raw greens. Wild weeds, purslane, cress, unique varieties of spinach and the cheeses were just as variable some crumbly and dry, others fresh and moist. The pastries can be fried or baked and the leftover scraps can be used fresh or dried as a pasta.

At the moment we are making Yufka rolls with Celariac, Pumpkin and Kale flavoured with garlic and orange zest and serving it with a side dish of smokey eggplant and pomegranates.

Recipe for the Pastry
150g Strong Flour 150g plain flour 50g wholemeal flour
200 to 250g water
10 g Salt and 10ml of vinegar or lemon Juice
Knead into a smooth dough and roll into small balls the size of a lemon and rest for one hour.
After rolling out the pastry as described above lightly seal on a warm hotplate or an upside down wok. We like to brush each sheet with melted butter and sprinkle some dried home made breadcrumbs over it, to separate and keep each layer crisp before rolling— but that’s just the Magyar in me.


Nina said...

Very intriguing phyllo pastry making. I actually made spanakopita with the generic store bought phyllo today for the first time and thought of my grandmother making the pastry in the old country when she made strudel. Homemade phyllo really is so wonderful and made with a lot of skill. The yufka rolls sound amazing! My father arrived in Australia in 1957, via refuge in Italy. I wonder if you ever crossed paths?

Sunnybrae and all who sail in her said...

Hi Nina
We came in June 1957 on the good ship Toscana from Trieste? There were many Italians on board who knows maybe he was on that ship?

Thermomixer said...

Good work with Postcards. It's about time they featured you.

Also, great to see the yufka work. Reminds me of Janni at Vital Ingred many years ago doing filo by hand. He had a little stick, which I thought was thicker in the middle, though not sure from pics in Stephanie's Shared Table.

I remember Loretta Sartori making strudel dough and just stretching over the backs of her hands - that was nerve-racking to watch. I don't think that is for me.

Hope all is well in the garden with recent rains.

Nina said...

Nana said that they were staying in Odina and they came on the Flamenia army boat taking refugees. They also arrived in June of 57 in Sydney. Not the same boat but still fascinating!

Sunnybrae and all who sail in her said...

Hi Nina
It is fascinating especially in the light of the current refugee situation. Did they escape over the border?

Nina said...

Definitely is. My Nana, Tata, and father lived very close to the Duna, nearby Zombor which is now Serbia and they escaped by foot to Italy. I will never get sick of listening to Nana tell me the stories about when they were escaping, their time in Italy and their very long boat trip to Australia. She always says to me, "As old as I am, these things you just never forget." I feel so lucky to have such an amazing family history (and extremely grateful that my family could escape the communism and settle in Australia). I will definitely travel to Zombor and to Odina one day. Where did you and your family come from?