When travelling, it is often street food that catches people’s hearts. In most places in the world, apart from the ones that specialise in drive-through fast food, the history, culture and flavours of any given region or country seem to be on best display in the offerings of street vendors.
These foods are a different form of fast food. The siting of the businesses and therefore rudimentary equipment used to produce the food means that it is easy to re-create these delights at home. It is also important to remember that a lot of these foodstuffs are destined for the bellies of the manual labourers and workers in often very poor areas. The food needs to be nutritious, but must also be fuel, often resulting in it being quite carbohydrate rich. When analysed through an economic, as opposed to culinary, lens it is obvious that it is very cheap to produce. Produced cheaply, sold cheaply, where volume is king. And with volume there needs to be brevity of process to make the whole thing work.
With none of this in mind, stuck in the banality of another lockdown, I decided to clean my freezer out. Always a bit of a surprise exercise, with stories that can’t or perhaps shouldn’t be told, but there were some gems in there. What prompted this discussion was a couple of packets of frozen lamb mince. When serving lamb in the restaurant, I procure whole wether lambs from the farmer over the back from me. This process means that I am compelled to use every single skerrick of the beast. Often I will braise the breast meat, but I must have had the mincer out at some stage and decided to mince the breast meat and all the trim. On defrosting, I realised it was a pretty coarse and vulgar product. I wasn’t convinced that it would be suitable but gave it a go anyway.
I wanted to re-create something that I missed from my visits to the Queen Victoria Market in Melbourne. The wonderful Borek Shop, a classic Turkish street food vendor transplanted into the halls of our own QVM. Try as I might, I couldn’t find a recipe that looked like what I remembered, so I settled on gozleme. I was not convinced that my coarse lamb was going to work, but I proceeded. What struck me most when researching recipes was the brevity of the cooking of the lamb; for some reason I was expecting a long slow process akin to a bolognaise, but no. It made me even more nervous about my mince, but I shouldn’t have worried. I should have thought it through a little more: of course this was the perfect use for the trim and the offcuts; it’s exactly what a Turkish street vendor would have used. I have also included a spinach filling for those who don’t eat meat.
If you’re missing travelling and finding these sorts of gems along the way, start re-creating them at home. It is a very uplifting experience.
For the dough
- 2¼ cups plain flour
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ cup plain Greek yoghurt
For a lamb filling
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 small onion, finely diced
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 250g lamb mince
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- pinch Aleppo pepper
- ½ tsp salt
- 100g baby spinach
- ½ cup chopped mint
- ½ cup chopped parsley
- 1 medium tomato, diced
For a spinach filling
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 300g baby spinach
- 2 eggs
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 300g crumbly fetta
- 2 cups shredded mozzarella or similar
- olive oil for frying
- lemon wedges for serving
- Combine the flour and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the centre and stir in the yoghurt and half a cup of water. Mix until everything is well combined. If the dough is too dry, adjust by adding more water, a tablespoon at a time.
- Flour your work surface and knead the dough for about three minutes, or until smooth and elastic. Cover with plastic wrap or a clean tea towel and set aside.
- Lamb filling: In a large, heavy-based frying pan, heat the olive oil and add the chopped onion and garlic. Gently cook until the onion is soft and translucent.
- Turn up the heat, add the mince to the onions and garlic and break it up with a wooden spoon. Cook for four to five minutes, until browned. Stir in the tomato paste and spices and salt. Add the spinach, stir and cook for another two minutes. Let the mixture cool slightly.
- Spinach filling: Heat a large pan with the oil, gently cook the garlic, add the spinach just to wilt it. Cool and mix with all other ingredients in a bowl.
- Divide the dough into six. Roll each into a rectangle as thinly as you can.
- Spoon about three tablespoons of the lamb mixture in the middle of the rectangle and spread out. Add some fresh mint, fresh parsley and chopped tomato. Or use the spinach mix in the same way. Fold over the edges of the dough to seal. Repeat with the remaining dough pieces.
- Place a large heavy-based pan over medium heat and add a splash of oil. Depending on your pan size, add two or three of the gozleme and cook on each side for about three to four minutes or until golden brown and crisp. Keep warm in a 160ºC oven while cooking the rest.
- Cut each gozleme in half and serve with lemon wedges.
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Aug 28, 2021 as "Parcel credit".
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