Saturday, December 13, 2014

Cinnamon Braid Bread a.k.a. Estonian Kringle

"I was never really insane except upon occasions when my heart was touched." 


2 1/4 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup lukewarm milk
1 tbsp sugar
15 g fresh yeast 
30 g melted butter
1 egg yolk
50 g softened butter
5 tbsp sugar
3 tsp cinnamon

3 tsp grounded almonds, optional

1. In a medium bowl stir fresh yeast with sugar until it liquefies. Stir in the lukewarm milk and then add the egg yolk and melted butter.
2. In a large bowl whisk together flour and salt. Pour the milk mixture over the dry ingredients and start kneading it until it pulls away from the edges of the bowl. Give the dough the shape of a ball. Sprinkle oil onto a clean bowl, place the dough and cover it with plastic wrap. Let it rest for about 1 hour at room temperature until doubled in size.
3. While the dough rises, whisk together the butter with sugar and cinnamon for the filling. Set aside.
4. Preheat the oven to 200 C. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
5. On a floured surface, using a rolling pin roll the dough to a rectangle of about 45x30 cm. 
6. Keep about 1 teaspoon of the cinnamon filling for the end and spoon the rest over top, spreading evenly. Leave a clean 1.5 cm border around the edges. 
7. Sprinkle the almonds over the cinnamon filling.
8. Roll up the dough and using a sharp knife, cut the log in half lengthwise leaving one edge uncut for about 1,5 cm.
9. Start braiding the two pieces, trying to keep the open layers exposed so the cut ends remain on top. Pinch the ends together and form a wreath.
10. Transfer it to the prepared baking sheet. Brush the wreath with the left cinnamon filling.
11. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown. For the last 10 minutes you can reduce the oven temperature to 180 C. 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Madımak with Chicken and Pine Nuts

“Alice came to a fork in the road. 'Which road do I take?' she asked.
'Where do you want to go?' responded the Cheshire Cat.
'I don't know,' Alice answered.
'Then,' said the Cat, 'it doesn't matter.” 

1 big chicken leg
6-8 cups water
250-300 grams dried madimak
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove of garlic
1 medium onion
25-30 grams pine nuts
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 small lemon, sliced
salt and pepper 
additional boiling water

1. Put the chicken leg in a large saucepan, cover with water and bring to the boil. Turn the heat down and simmer slowly for at least 45 minutes. Skim the white residue off the top every now and again. Remove the chicken leg from the pan. It should be perfectly cooked and ready for tearing into slivers.
2. Strain the broth and set aside.
3. Tear the cooked chicken into chunks and set aside.
4. Rinse the madimak leaves and set aside.
5. Chop the garlic and onion finely and set aside. 
6. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large, lidded skillet or casserole and add the minced garlic. Cook, stirring, until it begins to sizzle and smell fragrant, about 30 seconds.
7. Stir in the chopped onion and pine nuts and cook, stirring often, for about 5 to 10 minutes, until the onions have turned translucent. 
8. Add in the chicken chunks and tomato paste. Stir in another 2-3 minutes until all mixed.
9. Add in the madimak leaves, lemon slices, salt and pepper and broth and bring to a simmer. 
10. Simmer for another 25 minutes and add boiling water once the broth has reduced. 
11. Once the madimak is tender, remove from heat and serve warm.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Polygonum Cognatum a.k.a. Madımak

  • Madımak is a weedy creeping plant and seen as an invasive troublemaker by the farmers. 
  • Poly means 'many' and qonu means 'knee' in Greek. It's fun to find out the reference: The plant has a swollen jointed stem. 
  • Madımak is native to Turkey, Georgia, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan and the plant appears in dense clusters with pink, white or greenish flowers with the arrival of spring.
  • Madımak was classified in the polygonum family in London after samples were shipped to the experts there in 1949.

  • It's not known how exactly madimak has made it to the Turkish cuisine but I guess the knowledge that madımak is edible was carried into the Central Anatolia along with the Turks upon their arrivals in the region from Asia long time ago. 
  • Even in Turkey, madımak isn't widely consumed despite the recent 'Keep calm & Eat local' trend. It's picked by the local people in a few towns - Sivas, Yozgat and Tokat basically. 
  • However, madımak is a legend in the region and has a long history of usage. The local people have come up with several recipes using madımak varying from madımak with bulgur to steak stuffed with madımak, apricots and nuts. 
  • It's easier to find madımak at the farmers markets in big cities, both fresh and dried. 
  • Madımak has even inspired the local musicians to some well-known songs in Turkey. Cool, isn't it? 

Well, I haven't come across any studies or research involving the health benefits of madımak, however, it's been claimed that 
  • madımak can help reduce the symptoms of diabetes and kidney stones. The tea made with the dried knots of the plant is known as effective in treating stomach and intestine disorders and used as an antiseptic against dysentery. 

Polygonum cognatum herbarium specimen from Kew, VC17 Surrey in 1877.