Sunday, July 28, 2013

Corn + Cornmeal Soup

Right after I watched Julie & Julia late in the afternoon the other day, I went to the kitchen (which once again proves that the film inspires one to cook something) and opened the first drawer in which I keep the dry ingredients and saw an unopened polenta bag. I remembered the only ear of boiled sweetcorn left in the fridge and the idea of making corn + cornmeal soup came to me. Flickering through the recipes on the net I decided that I would get the best result by pureeing the soup and so have a smooth and thick soup in the end. And I did. However, I must admit that the amount of butter I used for the soup was decided under the film's effect. You'll understand what I mean if you watch the film one day:

"You can never have too much butter."

If you ever give this recipe a try, you'll see how quick it is to prepare with such a great taste and consistency let alone the nutritious values it offers.

1 ear sweetcorn, boiled
3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon polenta
4-5 cups water or vegetable broth

1. Scrape the corn kennels from the con using a knife. Set them aside.
2. Boil the water and let it aside.
3. Melt the butter in a medium pot over medium heat.
4. Add the olive oil.
5. Add the onion and garlic and stir them until translucent for about 3-5 minutes.
6. Add the kennels and keep stirring for another 2 minutes.
7. Add the water or vegetable broth and bring to a boil.
8. Season with salt and pepper.
8. Add in the polenta and keep stirring until the soup thickens and polenta is cooked for 5 minutes.
9. Simmer for another 2 minutes and remove from heat.
10. Using an electric blender/food processor/immersion blender,  puree the soup.
11. Garnish with parsley or any other herbs you like and serve hot and serve hot!

Tip: If you are not confident enough with cornmeal recipes, keep in mind that cornmeal is traditionally mixed with four times its volume of water, broth or milk. So, do not get confused or disappointed when your soup gets thicker when it is colder. It's quite normal since cornmeal continues to absorb water even after it is cooked. What you can do is to add some more liquid and simmer again. I usually add some milk which makes the soup more creamy. 

Julie and Julia

When a colleague heard that my blog was awarded the best blog of the year in Bosnia and Herzegovina, she immediately suggested a film she'd watched and found highly inspiring: The film made her do some grocery shopping and cook for the day. 

Information about the film

It was Julie & Julia which is a 2009 American biographic drama film written and directed by Nora Ephron starring Meryl Streep, Stanley Tucci, Amy Adams, and Chris Messina. Well, I watched the film the same night and liked it. Yes it was definitely inspiring for bloggers and those who consider cooking as a possible savior from the troubles or monotony of life. What is more, the film provides the fairy tale effect which every one of us occasionally need to carry on in life: Dreams might come true. 

As far as my dream is concerned, the film made me start considering blogging as a catalyst for my future plans to publish a cookbook and/or later open my own shop and sell what I cook and bake and make others happy. After my blog, surprisingly, was awarded the best blog of the year, I felt extremely appreciated. How else could I feel? All my efforts to cook and bake in Sarajevo were appreciated by the very Sarajevo people. Cool, isn't it? Accordingly, I started dreaming about my own shop. 

Who knows? It might come true sooner than I expect. 

Friday, July 26, 2013

Cornmeal Muffins with Plum Jam

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup cornmeal 
1/2 cup granulated white sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
Zest of one lemon (optional)
Plum jam 
2 medium eggs
1 cup milk
3/4 cup vegetable oil

1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees C. 
2. Place oven rack in center of oven. 
3. Butter 12 muffin cups, or spray them with a non stick cooking spray. You can also line the muffin cups with paper liners.
4. In a large bowl combine the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt, and lemon zest.
5. In another bowl whisk together the eggs and sugar and then add milk, and oil.
6. With a rubber spatula fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir only until the ingredients are combined.  
7. Spoon batter into muffin cups evenly using two spoons.
8. Add one tablespoon of plum jam into each muffin cup.
9. Bake for about 15 - 20 minutes until lightly browned and a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.
 10. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool for about 5-10 minutes. 
11. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve warm. 

Getting to Know Cornmeal

 A matchbook cover, the Czech Republic

Most of the corn in Turkey is grown in the south, however, it is the people in the northeast thanks to whom cornmeal has taken its significant place in Turkish cuisine. They owe a lot to corn since they use it to make cornmeal, which - depending on the type - is used for almost anything edible including cornbread, baby food, cakes, desserts, cookies, oil, starch and sugar. However widely it is consumed and advertised in the Black Sea region in Turkey, corn products are not so popular in the other parts of Turkey. In supermarkets, the top selling corn products are corn starch, corn oil and cornmeal respectively. The popularity of corn-based foods are restricted roughly to the cities in the north.

Well, here in Sarajevo, they call cornmeal kukuruzno brašno and it is widely consumed. The supermarkets offer a range of different brands and types of quick-cooking cornmeal. Some cornmeal products are labeled as polenta - under the influence of Italian cuisine apparently- indicating that the cornmeal inside is exactly right for making the polenta dish. So, do not get confused about which one to buy while shopping. There is no difference between (processed) kukuruzno brašno and polenta.

Cornmeal has been considered here as the savior of working mothers because it takes only minutes to prepare a delicious and quite filling meal if you have a cup of cornmeal and some butter and milk at home. The fact that it is almost instant also makes it considered in a way superior to (unprocessed) slow-cooked cornmeal which you can also find at street markets and farmer's markets and less frequently supermarkets. However, it takes much longer to get the best result with this type of cornmeal, so do remember to bake or fry it after simmering if you ever try making traditional polenta using this type of cornmeal. 

Monday, July 22, 2013

Crepes with Cream Cheese and Sour Cherry Sauce Spread

"...sprinkled with sugar and eaten hot, they form an exquisite dish. They have a golden hue and are tempting to eat. Thin and transparent like muslin, their edges are trimmed to resemble fine lace. They are so light that after a good dinner, a man from Agen is still willing to sample three or four dozen of them! Crêpes form an integral part of every family celebration. Served with white wine, they take pride of place on all joyful occasions."

Anatole France, (Jacques Anatole Francois Thibault) French novelist, 'Le Temp'


3-4 medium eggs
250 grams flour
1/2 litre milk
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
a pinch of salt
a pinch of vanilla-flavoured sugar or a few drops of vanilla extract) (optional)


1. Whisk the eggs. 
2. Gradually stir in the flour and keep mixing. (Add the vanilla-flavoured sugar)
3. Gradually stir in the milk and then add the salt and oil. The batter is ready. 
4. Leave the batter to stand for 2 hours in the fridge. 
5. Just before making the crepes, give the batter a few more stirs. 
6. Heat a lightly buttered crepe pan over medium high heat. 
7. Pour or scoop the batter onto the pan, using approximately 1/4 cup for each crepe. 
8. Tilt the pan with a circular motion so that the batter coats the surface evenly.
9. Cook the crepe for about 2 minutes, until the bottom is light brown. Loosen with a spatula, turn and cook the other side. 
10. Serve warm spreading first cream cheese and then sour cherry sauce on each crepe.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Fistikli Sucuk/ Churchkhela with Pistachios

If you have read the previous post, you now have an idea about churchkhelas. Well, one of my students surprised me with a few of strings of churchkhela with pistachios he'd bought in Turkey and they inspired me to learn more about churchkhelas or cevizli sucuk as they are called in Turkey.

Churchkhela / Cevizli Sucuk

When I was at primary school, it was my mom who took my younger sister and me to school every morning. Those morning were such hectic ones that my mom would sometimes forget to prepare our lunch boxes and she would realise this only later at a very specific point on our way to school. It was the end of a ramp where a very simple, ordinary grocery shop was located. The owner of the jerry-built shop was a young devoted Muslim who would never send away children without candies or tiny Turkish delights. His kindness would wake us up and make us come back to his shop the next morning again.

Anyway, the Turkish delights were fabulous, however, I always craved something else on the counter. Whenever the good man handed me a few delights, I would steal a glance at the cevizli sucuk or churchkhela as it is called in Georgia. 

It was a mystery to me since I kept wondering how on earth they managed to stuff those pieces of walnuts into those sausage-shaped sweet rolls. Well, time flew by and I learned, of course, how the candy I admired is made but my fascination with the candy has never ended.

Here are a few notes on cevizli sucuk/ churchkhela:

1. It's a traditional sausage-shaped candy originating from the Caucasus region. It's popular in Georgia, Russia, Cyprus, Greece and Turkey where the main ingredients, grapes and nuts, are grown in abundance. 

2. Walnuts, almonds, hazel nuts, raisins and even pisatachios are threaded onto a string and dipped in thickened grape juice which is thickened with flour or other fruit juices until nuts are covered completely. This process is repeated several times until it has the desired thickness and left to dry in the sun for 5-6 days. 

3. It's usually made in Autumn when grapes and nuts are harvested. The nuts are shelled and dipped into water to make them softer before stringing onto threads.

4. No sugar is added to this candy. 

5. Georgian warriors carried churchkhelas with them because they contain many calories. Today research shows that churchkhela helps fight with anemia and is good in cases of exhaustion, malnutrition and diarrhea besides being a great source of energy.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Whole Wheat Bread

I've been trying to get the best recipe for whole wheat bread. Whenever I see a great bread photo on Pinterest, I flick through the recipe to see whether there is something new or anything I've been missing all this time. If it introduces anything new, I give it a try right away. By the way, making bread at home is very common here in Sarajevo so whenever I am offered a slice of home-made bread,  I ask the person for the recipe. After listening to them very carefully, everything seems the same. Well, the type of flour plays an important role in the result for sure, and practice makes perfect, no doubt. However, there must be a recipe with guaranteed results. This recipe below is a very simple one with the addition of an egg. I hadn't seen any eggs in bread recipes before so I wanted to try it immediately. The bread was simply perfect. Good luck and bon appetit!

200 grams whole wheat flour
300 grams all purpose flour
15 grams instant yeast
250 ml lukewarm water
1 egg
1 tablespoon sugar
1 dessert spoon salt
5 tablespoons olive oil

1. Mix whole wheat flour, instant yeast, salt, sugar in a large bowl.
2. Add in milk, egg, and oil and mix all ingredients well.

3. Knead dough on a lightly floured surface until smooth.
3. Place in a well oiled bowl. Cover with a damp cloth. 
4. Allow to rise about 50 minutes-1 hour. It doesn't rise a lot because of the mixture of different types of flour. Do not worry.
5. Punch dough down. Knead for a few minutes.  
6. Shape into loaves, and place into two well oiled loaf pans. 
7. Brush the loaf with olive oil and sprinkle with flour.
8. Cover loosely with a damp cloth again and let rise for another 20 minutes.
9. Heat oven to 190°C. Bake about 20-25 minutes.