This past week I’ve had a craving for Turkish food. The interesting twist is that I’m not all that familiar with food from Turkey. In my mind, I think of it as being warm, savory and sweet, slightly spicy. I picture sticky desserts, rose water, pistachios, spicy kebabs, and yogurt sauces. Many of my uneducated perceptions are close to the mark, but as I begin to explore the food of Turkey I am finding so many new and interesting dishes.
Today, I am featuring a recipe for small fried rolls made from a mixture of pine nuts, herbs, dried apricots, red chili, sweet potato, onion, and chickpeas. The tender rolls are served with a tangy mint yogurt dipping sauce. Perfect for an appetizer or light meal, we ate these delicious rolls tonight for dinner along with a tomato salad.
I’ve been thinking about Turkish food this past week and researching the web to learn more. I wasn’t finding as much information as I’d hoped, so I ran to the bookstore to immerse myself in the 3 Turkish cookbooks carried at Barnes & Noble. One book, The Food and Cooking of Turkey stood out from the rest and provided a brief culinary history of Turkey along with information on essential ingredients and beautifully photographed recipes.
Flipping through the book, I came across many recipes that immediately intrigued me and I started quickly bending the corners of pages. I kept coming back to a particular recipe every time I picked up the book. Originally called ‘Carrot and Apricot Rolls’, the recipe noted that carrots could be substituted with sweet potato or white potatoes along with different seasonings. The rolls are native to Istanbul and Izmir and rarely found elsewhere.
Sweet Potato & Apricot Rolls
adapted from The Food and Cooking of Turkey
1 sweet potato
1 cup canned chickpeas
4 green onions
1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped
4 tablespoons pine nuts
1 fresh red chili
1/4 cup finely sliced fresh basil
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
salt and pepper
1-2 cups fresh breadcrumbs
1/2 cup flour
light vegetable oil for frying
Mint Yogurt Sauce
1 cup plain yogurt
1 garlic clove, crushed
1/4 cup finely sliced fresh mint
juice of 1/2 lemon
Combine yogurt sauce ingredients and place in refrigerator while you prepare the rolls.
Peel the sweet potato and slice into 1/2″ thick slices. Place into a glass bowl with 1/4″ water and cover with plastic wrap. Place the bowl into a microwave for 3-6 minutes or until completely tender. Remove and drain. Mash the sweet potato until smooth.
Add Chickpeas to the sweet potato mixture and mash to combine. Stir in the green onions, apricots, pine nuts, red chili, dill and basil. Season with salt and pepper. Add in the egg and stir to combine. Add 1 cup breadcrumbs. If the mixture is still quite wet, add additional bread crumbs until it is only slightly tacky to the touch.
The mixture will make 16 rolls, each about 3″ long. I took the mixture out of the bowl and placed onto a cutting board. I flattened into a dish, then cut into eight wedges. I picked up each wedge and split into two portions. Rolling each portion between your hands, create a short log that is 3″ in length. Dust a surface with 1/2 cup flour. Roll each log gently across the flour to give a light coating.
Heat vegetable oil in a pan, one with thick sides and bottom will work best. I used about a 1/2″ of oil in the bottom of the pan. Place rolls into the hot oil and fry for about 8 minutes, turning every few minutes so they become golden brown on all sides. Remove from oil and place onto paper towel to remove excess oil.
Serve hot with the yogurt dipping sauce.
The rolls are crispy on the outside and tender inside. The flavors mix so nicely, a sweet and gentle tartness from the apricots mixed with the lemony garlic and mint yogurt sauce. The sweet potato and chickpeas worked well together and carry the flavors of basil and dill nicely. The rolls are so good and really not that hard to make. The list of ingredients is long but don’t let it intimidate you!
I plan to feature more Turkish recipes in the week ahead as I continue to explore new ingredients and techniques. What is your favorite Turkish dish or a Turkish food you’d like to try?