Write: Nilgün Tatlı Photos: Emel Nalbant
On studying the records that have survived to our time, it is apparent that cooks from Mengen, Bolu occupied an important place among the kitchen staff of the Ottoman court. The cuisine of Bolu and its region, where famous cooks are raised, continues to exhibit a rich spectrum of flavor today.
In Bolu, kitchens aren’t just the places where food is made—they are used also for dining and sitting. A kitchen has a door to the garden; there are earthen or brick ovens in the garden where foods and bread are cooked. At a glance, pastries and meat dishes take the spotlight in the local cuisine, owing to the climate.
Foremost local dishes can be listed as follows: cornelian cherry “tarhana” soup (served especially to the ill); potato, yogurt and rice, “imaret” (soup kitchen), “oğmaç” with milk, wedding, noodle, “tarhana,” chickpea, yogurt, and broad bean soup; stewed “forest” kebab, goose liver, broad bean pie, soda flatbread, mushroom sauté, pumpkin “gözleme” (crepe), rustic potato bread, Mengen pilaf, the “Bolu bey” dessert, sweet roll with walnut, stewed meat, beet compote, “palize” pudding, “Kıbrıscık” pilaf, palace halvah, Mudurnu baklava, “kaşık sapı,” a dessert based on sprouted wheat called “uğut, “kaşık atmaç,” noodles with walnut, strained yogurt cheese dish, black squash dessert, “katık,” the dessert “höşmerim,” crockpot stew, “karavul” sherbet, apple and plum marmalade….
“OĞMAÇ” SOUP (WITH MILK)
1 cup flour, 5 tablespoons whipped yogurt, 2 cups water, 3.5 cups milk, salt and pepper to taste.
For Garnish: 2 tablespoons butter, 1 dessertspoon dried mint, 1 dessertspoon red pepper flakes.
First add some salt and water to flour and knead to a nonsticky consistency. Take some flour and tear off pieces of dough, placing them neatly on a flour-dusted tray. Pour milk and water into a deep pot and bring to a boil, then add kneaded dough and salt and stir. Reduce heat when it comes to a boil and simmer until dough hardens. Remove from heat and wait until it cools to a lukewarm temperature. Add whipped yogurt. In a pan, melt butter and add mint and pepper flakes, sautéing well and drizzling to taste over bowls of soup before serving.
“KAŞIK SAPI” (Spoon Handle)
1½ cups flour, 1 egg, salt to taste, water as needed.
For Topping: 3 tablespoons crushed walnuts, 3 tablespoons butter, 1 dessertspoon red pepper flakes, 3 tablespoons grated dried-yogurt cheese or goat cheese.
Make a depression in the center of the dough, adding egg and salt, and slowly pushing the flour into the egg. Slowly drizzle water and combine all the flour. Obtain a dough slightly harder than an earlobe and split with a knife into three equal pieces. Cover with a damp cloth and let the dough rest for half an hour. Form dough into lumps, sprinkling with flour. Cut the dough into largish squares. Coat the handle of a spoon in dough, wrap lumps around it, push its end and remove the handle. Place on a flour-dusted tray and do likewise with the other lumps. Boil plenty of water in a broad pot. Add salt and one tablespoon vegetable oil. Bend lumps of dough, add to pot, and boil. Later, drain dumplings when soft and place on a broad plate. Sprinkle crushed walnuts and cheese on top. Drizzle pepper flakes melted in hot butter all over, sprinkle some parsley, and serve hot.
500 g diced lamb, 2 cups rice (soaked in salted warm water for 15 minutes and drained), 2 finely chopped yellow onions, 3 tablespoons butter, 1 medium bowl finely chopped mushrooms, 3 cups hot water, 3 cubes sugar, 4 medium-size grated tomatoes, salt and pepper to taste.
For Garnish: 5 tablespoons crushed walnuts, 5 tablespoons finely chopped dill, 1 dessertspoon thyme.
Cook meat on low heat on a broad nonstick pan with 1 tablespoon vegetable oil. Add hot water if it doesn’t soften enough. Later, add onion and tomato, and cook some more. Then add mushroom and continue to cook. Add 3½ cups hot water, bring to a boil, and add rice. Simmer on low heat until the water is absorbed and remove from heat. Melt butter and drizzle all over rice. Cover lid and let it steam. Afterward, sprinkle walnut, dill, and thyme on top, mix well, and serve while hot.
2½ cups water, salt to taste, sufficient flour.
For Filling: 1 large bowl grated pumpkin, 5 tablespoons granulated sugar, 1 pinch salt, 1 finely chopped yellow onion, 1 tablespoon vegetable oil. Caramelize onion in oil on a pan, add salt and sugar, and mix. Then add grated pumpkin, removing from heat when the pumpkin softens slightly and leaving it to cool.
For Garnish: 1 tablespoon butter, 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, 3 tablespoons clotted cream.
Sprinkle flour with salt, adding water slowly to produce a dough somewhat tougher than an earlobe. Split into five equal pieces with a knife. Cover with a damp cloth and let the dough rest for half an hour. Later, roll out crepes thinly, place pumpkin filling, and cover with remaining dough, pushing the edges down. Fry on medium heat in vegetable oil on a nonstick pan on both sides until browned. Repeat as necessary and place on serving dish. Melt butter with sugar and drizzle on top. Add clotted cream if desired and serve.