Pomegranates and Saffron: A Culinary Journey to Azerbaijan #giveaway

Bound by the Caspian Sea to the east and by Russia, Georgia, Armenia and Iran by land, Azerbaijan has a great mix of water, mountain ranges and extensive flatlands making up its topography. As diverse as its landscape, so is the rich mix of cultural heritage derived from the surrounding countries.

Pomegranates & Saffron A Culinary Journey to Azerbaijan, Feride Buyuran’s award-winning cookbook, is one of the reasons I am sharing so much about this beautiful country and falling in love with its people and cuisine. Feride is the voice behind the website AZ Cookbook site where she shares recipes from Azerbaijan, Turkey and beyond.

PomegranatesAndSaffron_BookCover_Front

Pomegranates & Saffron is a vibrant, personal journey and Feride had me pulled in by her second paragraph when she wrote “I developed a strong passion for recipes. To me, they read like page-turners.” She started collecting recipes at an early age but cooking was only relegated to special occasions as her mother wanted her time spent on studies, not in the kitchen.

It is when she moved to the United States,that she began cooking as she and her Turkish husband craved cuisine from their homeland. “Food we realized, connected us to our homes.” Once she started cooking, she found her passion for it as strong as her passion for recipes.

Cooking led her to cookbook research where she found a deficit: there were no cookbooks based solely on the cuisine from her country, where the food of the East and West meet and traditions from the Middle East, the Mediterranean, and eastern Europe are elemental components. Feride decided to write a cookbook herself and her five-year labor of love produced Pomegranates & Saffron. The cookbook world is the better for it.

One of the foremost reasons that I love cookbooks is that it brings the world closer bringing foreign cultures into our homes and our hearts. This book is a glorious journey through Feride’s eyes and I am so pleased that she has allowed me to write this post and share her brilliance with you.

The cuisine of this country relies on fish from the sea, local meat from the farmers and an abundance of vegetables and greens enhanced by a variety of fresh herbs which is reflected in the dishes in Pomegranates & Saffron.

Photographs of marketplaces, the stunning faces of the people of Azerbaijan and its food are plentiful throughout this title. 200 diverse recipes, as diverse as the history and people of this unique country, are written clearly and with great detail.

Recipes are organized as follows: Appetizers and Salads; Soups and Stews; Lamb and Beef (the main meat sources in Azerbaijan); Poultry and Game; Fish; Vegetables, Fresh Herbs and Eggs; Khengel and other Pasta Dishes; Pilafs; Milk Dishes; Sauces and Condiments; Pickles; Savory Breads, Pies, and Pastries; Pakhlava, Sweet Breads, and Other Desserts; Tea, Sharbat, and Other Beverages; Preserves and lastly a Menu chapter to pull it all together.

Every important occasion in Azerbaijan has a culinary tradition attached, for instance, Novruz, the ancient celebration of the Spring equinox requires a khoncha, a large tray teeming with baklava, nuts and other treats. I loved soaking in all the traditions that is shared in this title; it is a wonderful read in addition to being a stunning cookbook.

Azerbaijani Meatball Soup, Saj-Fried Lamb with Vegetables, Stuffed Potatoes, Ganja-Style Chicken with Eggs, Lemony Sturgeon Bughlama, Gakh-Style Pleated Dumplings and Shekerbura (a stunning pastry filled with a sweet-spicy mixture of nuts, that is crimped into a pure work of art) are some of the examples of the 200 dishes in this recipe collection.

Pomegrantes & Saffron, is a thoughtful, loving in-depth study of Azerbaijan covering its cuisine, people and their traditions. It is little wonder it is an award winning book. It won the Best in the World Gourmand award as well as several other awards. It has won my heart and I’m sure it will win yours.

Feride is graciously sharing her recipe for the Shekerbura with all of you. Just look at those photos – pure art. (One photo shows a photo of her baklava as well – so impressive.)

003_shekerbura_01
Shekerbura
Makes 40 shekerbura pastries
 
Dough:
¼ teaspoon active dry yeast
½ cup warm milk
5¼ cups all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
10 ounces unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
1 cup sour cream
Filling:
6 cups peeled almonds, or toasted and peeled hazelnuts or walnuts, finely ground
3 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons ground cardamom 
Pinch of vanilla powder (optional)
 
To Prepare the Dough:
Put the yeast and milk in a medium bowl. Stir to mix. Set aside. Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl. Add the salt and stir to mix. Add the yeast mixture, butter, egg yolks, and sour cream. Stir with your hand to mix, then knead the dough for about 5 minutes, until it is smooth. Shape the dough into a ball. Put it back in the large bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside to rest for 15 minutes (the dough is not expected to rise, so do not let it rest for too long).
 
To Prepare the Filling:
In a medium mixing bowl, combine the ground nuts, sugar, cardamom, and, if using, vanilla powder. Stir to mix.
 
To Stuff the Pastries:
Divide the dough into 40 tennis ball–size rounds. Work with the balls in two batches; arrange half of the balls on a tray, cover with plastic wrap, and place in the refrigerator until you are done with the other half. Work with one ball at a time while you keep the rest covered to prevent them from drying out.
 Using a rolling pin, roll each ball into a 3 1/2-inch circle. Place the circle in the palm of your hand and, slightly folding the circle, put 3 teaspoonfuls of the filling in the center, pressing the filling gently with your index finger to pack it inside and to leave the edges clean. Next, starting at one end, begin pressing the edges together to seal. You will obtain a half-moon that is somewhat chubby on the top side and somewhat flat on the bottom. Make sure you do not stretch the circle, or the pastries will end up too big.
Now, using your thumb and index finger, pinch the dough starting from one sealed end, then twist inside. Continue in the same manner until you reach the other end of the seal to obtain a decorated, twisted edge.
Tap the straight side of the pastry (the side opposite the sealed edge) on a flat surface to straighten it and to obtain a perfectly shaped half-moon. Continue working with the rest of the dough balls in the same manner.
 
To Prepare the Oven and the Baking Sheets:
Preheat the oven to 360˚F. Have 2 ungreased baking sheets ready.           
 
To Decorate the Pastries:
Holding a pastry in one hand and a crimper in the other, pinch the dough at an angle with the crimper and slightly lift it upward. Continue to make very close rows of pinches in the dough until you obtain a repeating pattern. Create parallel rows, each at an opposite angle to the next one (think of a pine tree–type pattern or herringbone), until the entire surface is decorated. Arrange the pastries on baking sheets at a distance from each other.
 
To Bake the Pastries:
Bake on the middle rack of the oven for about 15 minutes, or until the bottom is light brown. Take care not to overbake the pastries—their tops should remain white when ready. Allow to cool completely. Store the cooled shekerbura wrapped carefully in kitchen towels, placed in a pot or another container, and covered with a lid.
003_shekerbura_03

GIVEAWAY:  Feride’s generosity knows no bounds – she is offering one of you a copy of this truly gorgeous book. The giveaway is open to U.S. addresses only. To enter, leave a comment telling me something you have learned about this fascinating country.  You may leave a comment daily until a random winner is chosen on July 25th. For a second entry, please share this post on social media – we need to spread the word on this truly stellar book. Lastly, for additional entries, you may visit AZ Cookbook’s Facebook page and The Cookbook Junkies Facebook page – likes are not required but appreciated. Random Number Generator picked #69 Tamara Mitchell.

A special thank  you to Feride for her help with this post, sharing her recipe and photos as well as for allowing me the gift of reviewing her book. This title is as special as the author – as I have received a glimpse of her spirit in our communications.

 

 


Sponsor Ad

Comments

  1. 1

    Dani Belford says

    I’m fascinated by Azerbaijan. Recently learned that their famous Maiden Tower, built in the 12th century, is actually built on top of other structures that have been dated back to the 6th or 7th century BC. Amazing.

  2. 6

    says

    I would love to learn more about this country’s cuisine. Ottolenghi started the journey. We are learning about Georgian National Cooking, now we would like to expand our horizons even further.

  3. 7

    Dana says

    Oh Jenny, I wanted this when I searched for Azaerbaijani books after reading Samarkand. Your review is the nail in the coffin, so to speak. #1 on my wish list!

  4. 12

    Nadia Murray says

    I have always enjoyed the food of the region – I had an Armenian friend in college and loved eating at her house. After a brief stay in Istanbul last year I wanted to learn even more about the cuisine in that part of the world – the flavors are so exotic and the people were so warm and welcoming.

  5. 16

    Kim P. says

    I had no idea the landscape was so diverse. It obviously has a great influence on the cooking. Now I am even more curious to learn more!

  6. 18

    says

    A friend of ours lived here several years ago. When he talks about Azerbaijan, he does so with emotion. This cookbook is intriguing and might be a must purchase for me. Thanks Jenny!

  7. 22

    Jan Scholl says

    When my grandson was barely walking, we went to an Eastern European eatery in Michigan and he asked for rice. It was yellow rice made with Saffron! Now he always asks for it that way-don’t give him white rice! So for his 3rd year, I got him a globe and we pick a place to learn something about. Imagine his grin when I said Azerbaijan had a nation rice dish using Saffron! He asked if he can go there and how long the plane ride is. I told him someday he can visit wherever his stomach takes him.

  8. 25

    Angie W says

    I’ll be completely honest and say that I learned that this was a country today. I have no idea what sand my head has been stuck in, but I hadn’t even heard of this country until I saw this post. I am so intrigued to see what their food is like!

  9. 26

    Tamara Mitchell says

    I just listened to her interview with Evan Kleinman. The food sounds fascinating and delicious.

  10. 27

    Elizabeth Simpson/Mabel Beachy Simpson says

    The cooking and the region are unknown to me. But I have a clue now as it was beautifully described as east and west meet middle eastern, Mediterranean, and Eastern Europe.

  11. 28

    Angie W says

    Seriously, I’m still amazed that I had no idea what Azerbaijan is. How embarrassing! You can be sure that I’ve thoroughly looked it up now and am fully up to speed on the country. 🙂

  12. 30

    Angie W says

    Those blistered peppers on the cookbook cover keep making my mouth water each time I come to this post!

    • 31

      Elizabeth Simpson/Mabel Beachy Simpson says

      Sounds like California with sea, mountains and flatlands in between with a cultural mix of heritages contributing to the foods eaten. I would love it!

  13. 32

    Jessica says

    After visiting Istanbul I became fascinated with the food. I would live to learn more about the influence and mixing with other cuisines in the region.

  14. 34

    Karen says

    Nine out of 11 existing climate zones are present in this small country! This is from semi-artic to tropical. If the recipes are as good as the Shekerbura and Baklava look, think I would be using cookbook a lot.

  15. 42

    Armymum says

    Again this is a country/culture I know very little about….and would love to learn more….I like the concept of Novruz, and have always looked forward to the Spring Equinox as a time of renewal (and warmer weather and longer days), so having that as the start of “New Year” and cleaning everything out (Hello Spring Cleaning & open windows!!!) makes perfect sense to me….

  16. 46

    Angie White says

    I didn’t even read the comment above mine when I posted yesterday but just noticed today that I posted almost the exact same thing. Ha!

  17. 48

    Ashley Grace says

    This cookbook looks gorgeous and it discusses a part of the world I don’t know enough about!

  18. 49

    Elizabeth Simpson/Mabel Beachy Simpson says

    Shared on Twitter, my Facebook page and saved to my Pinterest account under cookbooks

  19. 50

    Elizabeth Simpson/Mabel Beachy Simpson says

    This area sounds like a culinary melting pot where so many different cultures meet and share food and cooking styles

  20. 51

    Debbie says

    I visited Azerbaijan 18 years ago but I didn’t appreciate the culinary diversity of the country then.

  21. 52

    Agnieszka says

    I haven’t thought about filling dough with nuts. I am from Poland and we put various things into pierogi, buy never nuts. I will have to try that one day.

  22. 54

    says

    Hi,
    I especially enjoyed this review! I learned about Novruz celebration and koncha trays. It would be wonderful to see the festivities in person there. And what beautiful pastries!

    I would love to own this cookbook.

  23. 57

    Joan says

    I learned that every important occasion in Azerbaijan has a culinary tradition attached. This sounds like a fun read as well as to cook from.

  24. 63

    Elizabeth Simpson/Mabel Beachy Simpson says

    So much culinary traditions that make this country. I am intrigued!

  25. 70

    Allison Cofone says

    As someone else noted, I learned that this fascinating little country exists — and man, it is loaded with big flavors!!

  26. 73

    Melissa Linkinhoker says

    I love that all these influences converged for this. I went to her website and I have already tried the radish and carrot salad with my the over abundance of radishes from my garden

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *