Friday, April 14, 2017

Şekerpare (“sheh-ker-pah-reh”)



It all started when one of colleagues at the university , Emir, and his wife, Dijana, came up with their own version of şekerpare (“sheh-ker-pah-reh”) that they once tasted on their summer vacation in Istanbul a couple of years ago. 

For their own şekerpare, they replaced some of the ingredients wıth the ones they like better; reduced the sugar for the syrup; added chopped walnuts into the dough and made bigger cookies all of which made their şekerpare look unrecognisable to me. They tasted perfect though, I should admit. 

Well, I immediately realised that I had not shared any şekerpare recipe on my blog and so decided to use my sister's failproof recipe for this highly popular dessert from Turkish cuisine. When you give it a try, you will see yourself that şekerpare isn't tricky at all and it is super delicious. Simplicity is often the king when it comes to food after all, isn't it?

INGREDIENTS

For the dough

  • 250 grams margarine/butter, soft at room temperature 
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 4 tablespoons semolina 
  • 2 tablespoons shredded coconuts
  • 160 grams powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon (1 packet) baking powder 
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla sugar (1 teaspoon vanilla extract)
  • 3 cups of all purpose flour (add the last cup gradually)
  • hazelnuts/walnuts/ almonds for top depending on your choice
  • 1 egg yolk, optional, for brushing on top

For the syrup

  • 800 grams sugar
  • 1 litre water
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon


METHOD

1. Prepare the syrup first.

  • Add in a saucepan the sugar, water and lemon juice.
  • Bring to a boil then gently simmer uncovered for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has dissolved and the syrup has slightly thickened. 
  • Remove the pan from the stove and set aside to cool down to the room temperature. 

2.  Make the cookies.

  • Preheat the oven to 180 C degrees.
  • Grease a baking pan or tray with margarine.   
  • In a large mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients and knead them well until smooth. 
  • Take small pieces of the dough and roll them between your palms to make balls about the size of a walnut. 
  • Place the dough balls onto the pan leaving some space in between.
  • Brush on top with beaten egg yolk. This is totally optional. I do this because it gives a golden-brown color with a highly glossy finish.
  • Press an almond, walnut or a hazelnut into the center of each cookie.
  • Bake for about 20-25 minutes until the cookies get golden brown. 
  • Remove from the oven.


3. Soak the cookies in the syrup.

  • Once you remove the cookies from the oven, drizzle the syrup all over the cookies slowly using a large spoon and let them soak in.
  • When you've used up all the syrup, cover the pan/tray with foil and let the cookies soak all the syrup and cool completely. 
  • Garnish with shredded coconut or ground pistachio before serving. 

Monday, March 6, 2017

Mira & Safija

It's been almost nine years here. My family, friends and colleagues in Turkey have kept asking for all those years about how I exactly feel about being a foreigner in Sarajevo. 

Some of them expect me to start complaining about possible homesickness, conflicts with the locals, and/or the language barrier and its fatal consequences. Some others expect me to praise the beauty of the landscapes here, to be carried away by the nostalgia for the former Yugoslavia and/or to trace the presence of the Ottoman Empire in this fabulous land. 

Such expectations naturally require a detailed discussion of my experiences in Sarajevo so far. When I started this blog that was actually what I had on my mind: documenting my individual level of exposure to Sarajevo culture. So, this post, in that sense, will serve as just another story to build my own story in Sarajevo intended to meet some of those expectations.

Well, what I love most about living in this city is that I am surrounded by people from culturally diverse backgrounds. This has its practical consequences for me such as having the opportunity to meet different cuisines and several religious, philosophical, political and ideological views encapsulated in one single city. 

Interestingly enough, this diversity has not resulted in chaos as most of the locals complain about. On the contrary, as a foreigner, I feel like just another pinch of spice  added to this amazing mixture of flavours. 'I too am one of those many 'different' components of life in Sarajevo after all and I am no different then.' This is very welcoming and this is the very feeling I have when I think about my place in this city, which has been confirmed by endless examples in the past nine years.

Please take a look at the two photos below. 

I found the basket full of all those greens in it in front of my door one day after a hectic day at work. It did not take me long to guess who left the basket there because it was not the first time that I had received such gifts from the same person: Teta Mira. She is an elderly neighbour who brings you some kale or Swiss chard leaves from her own garden just because she knows that you are still breastfeeding and greens are good for the baby. 


Teta Mira's treats

And I received some fresh raspberries in that tupperware accompanied by some fresh mint leaves and flowers from Safija, a dear friend, when Asya returned from a playdate at her place. Since she is a dietician and knows the best about combining food, she made my day by sending this little gift to us. 

Safija's afternoon treats 

I believe even these two individual examples of kindness and thoughtfulness on their own would be enough to describe the fantastic people I live among in Sarajevo or how grateful they make me feel every now and then. Yes, this is what I like most about living in Sarajevo.