Saturday, June 10, 2017

Homemade Butter (Ev Yapımı Tereyağı)

For years, I have been craving homemade butter. Growing up, I remember observing my grandmother make butter with a tall, round, wooden butter maker. I call it butter maker, because I do not know the name of it. I remember her shaking it vigorously for a long time to make the butter. The butter making process stayed vaguely with me however my collection of the taste of that butter is still vividly in my mind.

I almost thought it was impossible to make homemade butter like my grandmother here in the United States. Mainly, because I wasn’t sure of the access to raw milk from grass fed cows but after a few years of thinking about it (of course I had other things to think about during those years and not just butter making J), I finally I found the source of raw milk.

After having my children, I became almost obsessed with providing them with real and fresh food. A very bad experience with the famous store that carries a wide range of organic foods, grass fed meats and pasture raised chicken had me in a constant search for an organic food provider. After wowing not to ever shop in that store again, I started searching for farmers around my area. I tried a couple farmers until I stumbled on a farmer that provides raw milk, grass fed beef, pasture raised chickens, free range chicken, duck, goose eggs, organic vegetables and a few other items. Even though the drive is about 35 minutes each way, I visit the farm almost weekly and always buy at least two gallons of raw milk. I make yogurt with one gallon and I save one gallon for my kids to drink after I boil it. When the cream comes up to the top, I add it to the milk saved for yogurt.

I make the yogurt and place it in the refrigerator. Then, each week, I skim the cream from top of the yogurt in small containers and freeze them. When I am ready to make the butter, I remove them from the refrigerator the day before to thaw. Sometimes I make a big batch of butter and freeze some of it, sometimes I make just enough for one week. The freezer always has at least 4-5 medium containers of yogurt cream!

This butter is so delicious, I cannot describe. It’s not even close to what we get from the grocery stores. Before I started my own butter, I used to cook only with olive oil and never with butter. I would only bake with butter because I had to in most cases. Now, I cook with this butter constantly. In fact when I was taking the picture with the bread, half the butter was already gone and I had made it the day before!

It’s easy but a little messy. The first few times I tried making butter, I tried several recipes I found online. I used my stand mixer to do it and oh the mess was so huge it took me longer to clean up than making the butter. First of all, the butter wasn’t successful the first few times and on top of that, my counters, walls, the stand mixer was all splashed with butter. In fact, some parts of the mixer that I didn’t know existed had butter all over it. And I had to get it all out. When I managed to make the butter in the stand mixer, I still had to deal with the clean up.
Then, I found a couple recipes using a blender, but those weren’t successful the first two times. Either I wasn’t patient enough to wait or I let it blend too long and it would melt or I was putting too much water. I went back to my stand mixer butter making and cleaning up the mess. Then one day, I decided to make a small batch with my blender and never went back to the stand mixer. I had to keep stopping it and checking it to make sure the butter pieces were forming. It literally takes two minutes to blend and much less mess.

If you don’t have any of the equipment and you have lots of patience, you could do this in a jar and lots of shaking. Also, cream of milk can be used instead of yogurt cream, but I think yogurt cream is superior in taste of the butter.  Whichever way you decide to make it, it will still be delicious though! In addition, with homemade butter, you will have buttermilk to drink as is or use in baking and cooking. Now to the recipe…

For Butter Making:

4 cups plain yogurt cream (Plain yogurt made with whole milk that still has cream in it. See yogurt recipe here.)
2 cups ice water

For Washing Butter:

4 cups or more ice water

Place the yogurt cream in a blender and add two cups of ice water. 

Blend on high for two minutes on a high powered blender. Some blenders may need more time. When it’s ready, small butter pieces will accumulate on the top of the blender.

Place a mesh colander in a large bowl and pour the contents of the blender. The butter pieces will stay on the colander. 

Slowly, start pouring the ice water over the butter and mix it with a spatula gently so all the water goes down in the bowl. 

Continue this washing process until there is no water left in the butter. The butter will clump up together and form a bowl while doing this.

Remove from colander and shape the butter as you desire. 

Enjoy cooking with it or eat it on warm homemade bread.

Note: The buttermilk from this process can be drank as is or used in baking or cooking.

Monday, May 29, 2017

The Sultan’s Delight (Hünkar Beğendi)

Finally, a recipe to share after a year! Life gets in the way and it becomes difficult to spend time on blogging. My hünkar beğendi recipe has been waiting for almost a year to be published. Now that it’s eggplant season again, I thought it’s a good time to share it.

You may be curious about the name of this recipe. It translates to “The Sultan Liked It”. One of the stories behind this recipe is that during the early 17th century, Sultan Murad IV loved this recipe so much that it was named “Hünkar Beğendi” which means “The Sultan Liked It”. The other story says that the wife of Napoleon III, Empress Eugénie of France visited Istanbul as a guest of Sultan Abdulaziz in 1869 and this dish was on the menu as the Sultan was trying to impress Empress Eugénie. She loved the dish so much that she asked if her chef could go to Palace kitchen and learn to prepare this dish. The Empress’ chef couldn’t replicate the recipe as he said the Palace chef threw out his books, scales and etc. and said, “an imperial chef cooks with his feelings, his eyes and his nose.” The Empress had to return to France without this recipe, but the name was after her liking the dish.

The lightness of this recipe is how it won me over. I wasn't impressed when I tried it at a restaurant the first time I had it. Even after having it again and again, I just wasn’t in love with it. It was just okay. I decided to make it anyway. The first time, it didn’t win me over. But I wanted to love it, so I worked on the recipe several times until I loved it! Even my four year olds liked the eggplant pure. It’s silky smooth and felt very light in my mouth. The summer season is upon us and it means lots of eggplants. I have been getting beautiful eggplants for the past couple of weeks from the farmer’s market here in Houston and experimenting with different recipes. I think this recipe is best with seasonal eggplants, but you can make it any time of the year if you wish. Enjoy with rice or a nice slice of bread.

For Marinating the Meat:

½ cup white vinegar or any type of vinegar
1 tsp salt

For the Stew:

1 lb diced lamb
½ cup diced onions
3 medium garlic cloves
2 large tomatoes (peeled and diced)
1 tsp dried mint
1 tbsp parsley
1 tbsp tomato paste
2 ½ tbsp butter
1 tsp red pepper flakes
½ tsp cumin
2 tsp salt
1 cup water

For the Puree:

2 large eggplants
1 ¼ cup milk
½ cup shredded kashkaval cheese (or any type of hard cheese)
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp flour
½ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp black pepper
1 ¼ tsp salt
1 clove garlic (grated)

For the Stew:

Marinate the meat over night or for a few hours in salt and vinegar. Heat a pot or large pan without oil and cook the meat until no longer pink. When all the juices from the meat comes out, discard it. Put the meat aside.

Heat the butter in a pot. Saute the onions until transparent. Add the meat and stir until the meat is brownish on the outside. Add the garlic and tomatoes. Cook for 3-4 minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients including water in the meat pot and cover. When it starts boiling, turn it down to medium low heat. Cook covered for about 2 hours until the meat is tender.

For the Puree:

Cook the eggplants on open fire. To attain the smoky flavor, it needs to be cooked directly over fire such as on gas stove or in an outdoor fire. If not, broiling or baking will work too without the smoky flavor.

Let the eggplants cool and peel them. 

Puree the eggplants with a potato masher and mix the lemon juice. Set aside.

Heat the butter. Add the flour and stir continuously. Add the milk and continue stirring. Add the grated garlic and the eggplant puree-lemon juice mixture. Add the rest of the ingredients for the puree and simmer for about 20 minutes.

In a large plate, place a couple spoons of the eggplant puree and make an opening in the middle. Add the lamb stew inside the opening and enjoy with rice or bread.