The cultural and ethnic diversity in Turkey finds a reflection in my own family as well. My father, for instance, comes from an Ubykh family, related to Circassians. I’ve never known my grandparents who were both Ubykh and who unfortunately passed away before I was born, but my father always tells me how much I look like his mother. I am as white (rather pale), calm and quiet apparently.
My interest in this side of my family roots started because of a simple desire of finding a nice tattoo design when I was in my 20s. I had found out that every Circassian family has its own symbol, so I started searching for the symbol of my father’s family, the Dipsov family that is, who used to live in a part of Russia a long time ago. While searching for this symbol, I started reading a lot about Circassians and Ubykh people and my interest grew bigger and bigger. I found the family symbol eventually and tried to turn into a tattoo design but it did not work really, so today I have another, beautiful flower tattoo. But my interest in Ubykhs is still very much fresh.
And since my biggest interest is cooking, I often search for delicacies of Circassian cuisine as well. Since my childhood I know Circassian chicken for instance (and I will put the recipe of it some day in this blog I hope!), my mother makes an extremely delicious version (and to my surprise, she is not Circassian). Then there are many other dishes that I’ve heard my mother or someone else cooking all my life, but never actually tried to eat them! This dish, metaz, is one of them (and my word program is trying to correct the word to “metal” again and again!)
Anyway, here is a nice and not-so-heavy dish from Circassian cuisine.
1 cup cold water
1 tsp salt
Flour (I will explain the amount of this below)
3 onions – medium size
2 tbsp Aleppo pepper (which you can find in Alanya market or many other oriental markets around Helsinki. If you cannot find it or you are too lazy to search for it, you can use chilli pepper, though it won’t create the same taste)
A pinch of salt
1 tbsp olive oil
(Optional) For serving:
1. Put 1 cup of cold water and 1 tsp of salt in a mixing bowl and stir a few times. Slowly add flour and start kneading. You should have a dough that is medium soft, non sticky (but not too dry either) and suitable for rolling. With the flour that I use it is generally 1 to 3 proportion with the amount of water, so for 1 cup of water it is about 3 cups of flour. When you have your dough ready as I described above, put the bowl aside and cover it with a damp cloth. Leave it like that for about 30 minutes in room temperature for the dough to rest a bit.
2. As the dough is resting, prepare the filling. Chop the onions in small cubes or some other shape, but make sure that they are rather small pieces. Put olive oil in a pan and put the onions in it, start stirring on medium heat. Continue stirring until the onion is cooked and soft. Finally add 2 tbsp Aleppo pepper (or more, or less, it depends on how spicy you would like it to be) and salt. Continue stirring a bit and before pepper starts burning, take it away from heat. Let it cool down for a while.
3. Take away the cloth on dough. Take a piece as big as a walnut and make a ball of it using your hands. Then, take the rolling pin and start rolling it out. Do it until before it gets very thin – avoid making it very thin, you should be feeling the dough as you are eating. While you are rolling, you might want to cover the rolling pin or the piece of dough with a little bit of flour so that it does not stick to the pin or to the counter you are working on. However, you should avoid using too much flour, otherwise the edges will not stick to each other when you try to close it. When you have your piece ready, put some (around 1 tbsp) onion filling in the centre and then close it as seen in the last picture. Repeat this with all of your dough.
4. Put some water in a large pan, add about 1 tsp of salt in it. Boil the water on medium heat. Boil the closed pieces of metaz in the water. Boil them until they are quite tender, but not very soft.
5. Take the ready pieces out of the water and put them on a serving plate. You may serve it directly as it is, or you might want to put some yoghurt on it. If you use yoghurt, pour some sizzling pepper fried in vegetable oil, it makes a great final touch!