Thank you, Özlem, for introducing this salad to me!
I had never heard of çökelek before and now I am hearing about it all the time. Or so it seems. That evening, the evening of Özlem’s cooking class, we actually used real white cheese or feta. I have just made it here in Assos and I used lor peynir, which is a suggested alternative. But I wasn’t so keen on it: it’s just too bland without any tasty oomph to it. Or perhaps one should just increase the amount of spices?
BUT the other day we visited Mehmet and Hatice in the neighbouring village of Paşaköy (we are in Assos). As we entered their courtyard I spied this:
|what was Hatice making, I wondered?|
You guessed it: çökelek, she answered.
From what she said, she was boiling up the whey remaining after making cheese. She must have added some yogurt to it too.
|here she is, straining it|
Interesting, I thought, but I didn’t think I would try my hand at it any time soon. Wiki says this cheese is ‘skim-milk cheese’ and I didn’t have the feeling it would be very tasty.
However, just yesterday I met a delightful young man whose father was a pideci or pide maker, in Malatya. I could see his eyes gleaming as he remembered the days of pide with çökelek for breakfast! He is going to teach me to make cheese and yogurt this summer with the milk from our cows. (Yes, we now have 23 cows!).
Özlem is from Antakya/Antioch originally and she told us that there the çökelek can be bought already prepared with cumin, sumac, oregano and red pepper flakes. You eat it with bread or pide! With the addition of all these, it becomes very tasty, tangy and delicious!
So we made it in the Antakya-style:
|this is my mixture, not the class one: wish I had used regular white cheese and not lor …. but it looks appetising, doesn’t it?|
Then you add chopped tomatoes and cucumber with some parsley:
|at the cooking class, having added the tomatoes and cucumber to the spicy cheese mix|
What I find so interesting about the above picture is how 4 pairs of students ie us, with exactly the same ingredients can prepare them so differently! Can you distinguish the 4 different lots? It’s all in the chopping, obviously!
Here’s the recipe:
from Özlem’s Turkish Table cooking class
- In a bowl, mix the feta cheese, onion, spring onion, cumin, oregano or thyme, and red pepper flakes with your hands. This will soften the onions and infuse the spices to the feta and onions.
- Add the tomatoes, cucumber, parsley, olive oil and lemon juice, and mix well. Check the seasoning and add salt and black pepper to taste. Sprinkle some sumac over before serving if desired.
- Serve with Turkish flat bread wedges.