Sunday, July 4, 2010

Cooking became...

Gluten free girl and the chef are doing another community post, to which I once again wanted to be a part of, this week we are completing the sentence...

'Cooking grew easier, and more enjoyable, when I learned...'

For me, cooking grew easier, and more enjoyable when I learned I didn't have to follow a recipe exactly.

Let me explain, I love looking at recipes and finding new ingredients and new methods of cooking, but the problem is that I live in Turkey. When I first moved here, there was nothing that I knew from back home, no cans of tomatoes, no liquid vanilla, no chili powder, vegetables that were only available in season, and I remember the ketchup being awful. I also remember finding it very difficult to find nice whole wheat bread. If I could find and 'foreign' products, they were very expensive and could only be considered a 'treat'.

At first I hated cooking here, I thought that I couldn't make certain recipes because I didn't have all the products required. I couldn't even find dried basil, if someone did find it, they bought a bunch for everyone! Then I started making things from scratch, and you know what, they tasted even better.

No more pancakes from a box, no more canned tomatoes, I made barbecue sauce (although now I can find it here and buy it), homemade pizza dough. I make chili with white beans because kidney beans, when found are very expensive. I make my own cakes with homemade icing, nothing from a box.

Turkey has changed a lot in the eight years that I have been here, I can find boxes of mixes now, cans of tomatoes, prepared tomato sauces, there are actually freezer sections in large grocery stores that carry a variety of choices. But you know what, I rarely use them, I have found my tricks to getting around these problems, I have learned to work with what has been available and there is no going back.

I have even decided that while we are living in Belgium, I am going to continue to cook like this, I don't want to have to learn all of this over again when I come back in three years!

For example, when I make lasagna, the cheeses here are a bit different, so my inside cheese layers involve some crumbly cheese (lor peynir) some melty cheese (ka┼čar peynir) and some bechemel sauce. I've found that this makes a nice substitution from ricotta.

Another example is for baking- brown sugar- still can't get it here (I lie, there is 'brown sugar' but it isn't like we know it, it isn't soft.) So I mix molasses and sugar to get soft brown sugar. They don't have a liquid vanilla, but they do have powdered, so I have learned to use that too.

My love of cooking really did start when I learned to let go of some of the rules, let myself make mistakes and just start cooking what was delicious and from the heart!

I'm now going to share my Turkish Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe with you... It makes the most delicious cookies ever, they are super soft. These measurements work best in Turkey- I've never tried them elsewhere, and I have yet to convert them to gluten free- but they are a crowd favourite, so here we go...

Turkish Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 3/4 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda

*In a large bowl, beat
250 grams melted butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 tsp molasses
1 packet powdered vanilla

2 eggs

* Beat the dry ingredients into the wet

* Add
2 bars of milk chocolate (chopped)
2 bars of bitter chocolate (chopped)

* Spoon onto parchment paper lined baking sheets and bake for 7-8 minutes at 180C
* Let them rest for two minutes, then cool completely on a wire rack.

+ Just a note, there are chocolate chips in Turkey, but I don't really like them, and they seem a bit expensive, but you could use 1 1/2 boxes of these in the chocolate bars place.

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