Welcome to my new series posted on Fridays, called Cuma, which means 'Friday' in Turkish. It will be focused on recipes, happenings, and general life for us in Turkey.
Yesterday, we went into town to run a couple of errands and check things off the to-do list. We needed to send a pack of Hasat Günü postcards ordered by a customer to America. We usually ship with the PTT, the Turkish equivalent of the USPS, however, we have had some difficulties with our cards not arriving in the past. We decided to try out a different company and went to a private cargo provider. We learned that it costs 300 TL (nearly $40) to ship 12 postcards to America. Obviously, that will not work and I got irritated and visibly frustrated. These moments are the hardest part of living in Turkey for me. I immediately start to compare the situation to America and think, "this would never happen there" or "I can't believe people are okay with this." I compare and make one place good and the other bad. This is a habit I am intentionally trying to overcome.
Thankfully, my Turkish is still not good enough for me to express myself in these moments of anger. Salih tactfully handled the situation, thanked the guy working there, and said we will look for other options. As we left, I blurted out my frustrations to Salih and he listened, like he always does. We ended up back at the PTT and paid 25 TL (just over $3), hopefully, it gets there in one piece. Thank goodness for my even-keeled husband.
I reflected on my reaction and I think it is an indicator that I am still in an adjustment period after being in the USA for 2.5 months. Turkey is an amazing place to live but I sometimes still feel so infantile when trying to navigate daily tasks. This continues to be the hardest part of being an ex-pat. Even if my Turkish is perfect (which it most certainly is not), I still have cultural expectations that I bring into situations. It is important to note that dealing with mail and shipments is always a triggering situation for me, no matter where I am living. I keep telling myself that all this pulling and stretching allows me to practice patience and kindness, even in moments when I feel the exact opposite; I am searching meaning in these inconveniences of the day.
On a delicious note, I made this incredible Turkish Cypriot bread called Bitta. I saw the wonderful Refika make this focaccia-like bread on youtube and could hardly wait to try it out myself. Bread intimidates me and usually, Salih is much better at making yeasted/sourdough bread but I followed her recipe, and boom - I did it! It is crunchy, soft, flavorful, sweet, salty and it fills the house with its incredible aroma when it is baking in the oven. I really want to cut off a slice and let you taste it but the next best thing is for you to make it at home! I will copy her recipe in this blog for your ease! Happy baking!
Bitta: Savory Olives, Onion, Cheese, and Mint Bread
To make the bread dough:
550 gr all-purpose flour
330 ml lukewarm water
1 heaping teaspoon salt
1x10 g sachet of dried yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
• Mix the lukewarm water, sugar and yeast in a jar and let it sit for 5 minutes.
• Put the flour and the salt into a large bowl.
• Gradually pour the water into the bowl while stirring.
• Knead the dough for 10 minutes or until smooth on your counter.
• Place back in an oiled bowl. Cover with a damp cloth and leave it to prove in a warm place for 1 hour or until doubled in size.
To make the Bitta bread:
900 gr bread dough (you may use ready to bake dough. If frozen, cover with a cloth and leave it to thaw. You can knead it yourself as well, recipe below)
250 gr halloumi, diced (wash before using to rinse off excess salt)
100 gr string cheese, diced (not essential, you can substitute 100 gr halloumi)
120 gr black olives, pitted and chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
3 sprigs of spring onion, sliced (or 10 sprigs of chives or 1,5 onions)
150 gr yogurt (4 heaped tablespoons, alternatively, kefir, cream or 100 ml milk)
100 ml olive oil, plus extra for greasing
1 tablespoon sugar (skip if you’re kneading the dough yourself)
2 good handfuls of dried mint
1 handful of nigella seeds
1 handful of sesame seeds
• Preheat the oven on upper and lower heat, without fan to 200 C (400 F). Place a wire rack on the lower shelf.
• Put the dough in a large bowl and add onions, spring onions, halloumi and string cheese.
• Then add the yogurt, olive oil, olives, sugar, egg and finally the dried mint.
• Roughly mix for 30 seconds. Gently folding would be great, don’t punch down the dough while mixing.
• Grease a cake tin and transfer the dough to it. If there are some ingredients on top, pull the dough from sides and cover them to prevent the extra browning in oven.
• Sprinkle the sesame and nigella seeds and let it rise in a warm place about 15 minutes, until slightly puffed.
• Bake the bitta for 40 minutes. To check for doneness, thrust a pairing knife into the bitta’s centre and if there is any dough stuck to the knife, bake for another 10-15 minutes.
• Rest for 5 minutes after baking. Your bitta is ready to enjoy with the perfect crust and puffy, warm texture, which embraces all those insanely delicious flavors!