As we’ve posted previously, this week Charles Perry has been presenting some recipes from his new edition-translation of Scents and Flavors at the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair. In the meantime, we’ve put together a second cooking video, in which Charles demonstrates how to make what he calls “an early draft for baklava” called “Eat-and-Give-Thanks” in the book. Video and recipe below!
Kul wa-Shkur (also called Qarni Yaruq)
This pastry has an Arabic name meaning “eat and give thanks.” A pastry by the same name is still made in Syria, but these days it’s a sort of baklava made by folding filo pastry over a filling. It also has a medieval Turkish name meaning “split-belly,” because in the Middle Eastern context you would expect a pastry like this to have a nut filling. Instead, the pastries are fried empty and then at serving time topped with syrup and pistachios, making a sort of early draft for baklava.
This pastry is not as delicate as filo dough, but it might be worth reviving. Not only is it much easier to make than filo, it has a charming texture of its own, crisp and at the same time a little crumbly.
The medieval recipe uses sesame oil for frying. This can be hard to find, so any neutral oil can be substituted. (Note: Chinese sesame oil is toasted and only suitable as a flavoring, not a frying medium.)
- 3/4 cup sugar
- ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon water
- ½ teaspoon lemon juice
- about 1/2 teaspoon rose water
- 6 ounces (1 1/2 sticks) butter, well softened
- 1 cup flour
- 4-5 tablespoons water
- Oil for frying
- 2/3 cup pistachios, minced
Combine the sugar, water and lemon juice in a small pan and heat, stirring occasionally, until it boils and turns clear. Set aside to cool. When cool, flavor to taste with rose water.
To make the pastry, work 1 ounce (1/4 stick) of the butter into the flour. Add enough water to make a firm paste, as if you were making pasta, and knead hard for 10 minutes. Cover and set aside for 1/2 hour.
Cut the lump of paste in half and cover one of the halves with plastic film or a kitchen towel. Lightly dust the other with flour and put it through your pasta maker. When you reach the next to finest setting, cut the sheet of paste in half, leave one half on a plate or any handy surface and put the other half through the finest setting.
Transfer this thin sheet of paste to a work surface. Cut it in half to make two pieces about 8 inches long. (The reason for this step is that it’s hard to fold longer lengths of paste when it’s this thin.) Square off the ends.
Melt the remaining butter in a pan and generously brush the top of one of the two lengths of paste with butter, all the way to the edges. Carefully fold it over to make a folded sheet about 8 inches long and two inches wide. Cut into approximate squares and transfer them to a very lightly floured work surface. You should have anywhere from 4 to 6 squares, which will look like sad, empty ravioli.
Repeat with the other piece of paste that remains on your work surface. Then repeat this process with the sheet of paste that set aside earlier, the one that has not yet been put through the finest setting. Finally go through this whole process again with the lump that you covered when you started using the pasta maker.
Put about 1/4 inch of oil in a large frying pan and heat over high heat until one of the pieces of paste will start sizzling immediately when put in. Reduce the heat to medium high and fry in batches, watching them carefully, and turn over when lightly browned and blistered on one side; the sign is that the edges will visibly start to brown. (Note: If you haven’t brushed the raw pastry with butter all the way to the edges before frying, the pastry may puff up — fun to watch, but to be avoided, because it won’t brown adequately.)
To serve, arrange the qarni yaruqs on plates, drench with sugar syrup and sprinkle with the minced pistachios.