Friday, December 10, 2010

Laz Boregi - Phyllo sheets filled with custard

Here is another recipe from Eastern Black Sea Region of Turkey, and this time it is a dessert.. This dish is a specialty of Rize region, and simply a baklava like dessert filled with custard instead of nuts..

Laz Boregi has a very interesting (weird) name for those Turkish people who are not from the region, since the name 'borek' is usually used for different types of pastry dishes with variety of savory fillings, except Laz Boregi.. And Laz is, according to Wikipedia, the name of the "ethnic group native to the Black Sea coastal regions of Turkey and Georgia".. Then, the English translation for this dessert would be 'Borek of Laz People'...

I am also from one of the small towns around Rize, and one of Laz people, and grew up eating this dessert.. Although, it is very easy to prepare when you can buy phyllo sheets from the grocery store, traditional way of doing it involves preparing the dough and rolling thin sheets out of the dough.. This is why it is never an everyday food, but more a specialty prepared for festivals, bayrams, important events like weddings, or for special guests..

Try this sweet pastry and you will love it.. For those of you who are familiar with Portuguese Custard Pie, it has a very similar taste to it.. Actually that is why I like buying custard pie once in a while, it reminds me this dessert of my childhood.. Hazelnuts go really well with Laz Boregi, so please take my advice and put some ground hazelnuts on top while serving - to spoil your taste buds.. With hazelnuts, it is like eating a baklava with custard - I don't know if it sound kind of awkward but tastes delicious...

(for rectangular oven dish - 9'' to 13'' (22,5cm to 33cm))

1 pack of phyllo sheets (16 sheets)
90gr unsalted butter to brush the sheets

- Syrup -
1,5 cup granulated white sugar
1 cup + 2 tbsp water
1/2 tbsp lemon juice

- Custard -
1 lt 2% or whole fat milk
2 cups of granulated white sugar
140 gr ground rice or white flour
Pinch of salt
3 eggs


1 - At the very end of this preperation, you have to pour cold syrup over hot pastry.. That is why you should start the recipe by preparing the syrup.. Boil 1,5 cup sugar with 1 cup plus 2 tbsp water. When it starts boiling, add 1/2 tbsp lemon juice.. Continue boiling until it takes a thicker consistency.. (When cools down, it has to have honey consistency. Once cold, if it is more liquid than that, boil again for a bit more.)

2 - For the custard: mix 1 lt milk, 140 gr white flour (or rice flour) and 2 cups of sugar and start cooking over medium heat, and mix continuously.. When it tickens to a custard consistency, take it off the heat, and add 3 eggs one by one, mixing continuously after every egg. When you get a homogenous mixture, set the custard aside..

3 - Preheat the oven to 190 Celcius (374 Fahrenheit)..

4 - Melt the butter, and brush an oven safe rectangular dish (9'' to 13'') with melted butter..

5 - Place 8 of phyllo sheets one by one to the baking dish by brushing every sheet with butter.. Excess sheets will be hanging over the sides of the dish..

6 - Pour the custard, on top of the 8th sheet, and place the next 8 sheets on top by brushing every layer with butter..

7 - Brush the top of the last layer with butter.. Cut the overhanging edges with kitchen scissors or knife.. With a knife, mark last layer into squares delicately.. (Be careful for not to cut through to the custard level. This is only to make it easier to slice when the dessert is ready. If you cut all the way through, the custard will come out of the cuts while cooking.)

8 - Cook for approximately 30 minutes, or until the top gets the color in the photos posted..

9 - When you take the dish out of the oven, pour the syrup on top (pastry hot, syrup cold)..

10 - Wait 4-5 hours until dessert absorbs the syrup.. Cut into slices from already marked lines..

11 - Serve at room temperature.. I prefer serving with ground hazelnuts..


Friday, December 3, 2010

Muhlama - a.k.a. Turkish Cheese Fondue, Black Sea Style

Muhlama is simply corn meal cooked in butter, then made to a pudding like consistency by the addition of water and lots of melting cheese... The last step is to pour melted, browned butter on top... This is one of the main dishes of Eastern Black Sea Region of Turkey... It showcases some of the main produce of the region: cheese, butter and corn; and does it well. The simplicity and easy preparation of this dish made Muhlama one of the most cooked dishes because in the past hard-working Black Sea women do not have time to cook dishes with long preparation time since they work in the agricultural lands over the mountain slopes and also take care of their cattles... It is eaten together with Corn Bread, which is another staple of the region, and Corn Bread gives the crunchy texture you will need with this oozing dish and also accentuates the corn meal in the dish ... I will post a Blacksea style Corn Bread recipe one of the coming days...

This is the perfect comfort food for me, and also one of my favorite dishes among food I have tasted so far... And no Swiss cheese fondue makes me as happy as Muhlama - although I named the title Turkish cheese fondue... It is veeeeerrrry tasty, give it a try (did I emphasize enough :)). If you love cheese there is no way you will not like this - just look at the ratio of cheese to corn meal...

(will make enough Muhlama for 2 to 4 people)

1/2 cup corn meal
2 cups water
2/3 stick of unsalted butter (1 stick is 125 gr)
+250gr mozarella* (cheese will be a bit less than 2 cups, I used 265 gr to be exact, but really does not matter, use 250, 260, 270... more cheese, more oozing...)
1,5tsp salt (start with 1/2 tsp and taste, salt amount should change according the the cheese you use)


1 - Cut the mozarella into small pieces and put aside...
2 - I use bigger size sauce pan to make this dish... Traditionally you would use a frying pan, but I feel safer with the deeper sauce pan...
3 - Melt 1/3 unsalted butter stick (half of the above amount) over medium heat, and when melted, cook the corn meal in it until corn meal starts to change color to darker shade of yellow...

4 - Once the color starts getting darker, add 2 cups of warm water, and salt... and mix and continue cooking... It should be simmering over medium heat...
5 - Add mozarella and mix... Continue mixing and cooking until all of the cheese melts...
6 - When all cheese is melted, put the pan aside...
7 - Before serving, melt other half of the butter (1/3 of the butter stick) in another pan... When the butter is slightly browned, pour it over the muhlama pan...

8 - Enjoy with corn bread for the best taste or if you don't have corn bread with any other type of bread. It won't dissappoint you either the case. Afiyet Olsun! (Turkish version of Bon Appetit!)

* You can use any type of mild melting cheese... After my trials&errors, I found out that the best result (closer to traditional taste) is obtained with mozarella... If you like the cheese taste to be sharper, add some (couple of tbsp) shredded parmesan into it...

Note: If you have left over, you can heat it and enjoy the next 1-2 days...