|Mehmet and Hatice|
I have had the most fabulous afternoon. Hatice, the wife of Mehmet who is our gardener and general handyman, phoned me to say she was making bread today. I had been waiting for her call for a few days. Because it is Ramazan, they are eating less bread as there is a special bread called ‘pide’ which is only baked during this holy month and they are eating this so she wasn’t quite sure when they were going to run out of regular bread next. During this month, all devout Moslems abstain from food and drink between sunrise and sunset. You have to admire them in this heat as not even a drop of water passes their lips. Iftar, the special meal that is eaten to break the fast, is at around 8.15pm these days. It literally depends on when the sun sets. Meanwhile, Pelin and I are consuming a 19 litre container of water every 2-3 days ....
So my friend Elaine and I drove to Pasakoy, the neighbouring village where Mehmet and Hatice live. This baking bread turned out to be a lesson in teamwork. The firin -the outdoor oven – was going full pelt when we arrived, the flames almost leaping out. There has been a full force gale raging since last night but the firin was in a protected spot. Hatice had prepared the dough for 3 loaves for her family of 5; her mother had 1 and her mother-in-law another 1. Then a neighbour who was also a relative arrived with her dough. These were all in metal containers, risen, and ready to go. When the heat of the coals was right, these were upended onto an ancient wooden paddle and pushed into the heart of the firin. It was a joint effort: Hatice’s mother was in charge of the paddle, Hatice emptied each bowl, and Mehmet’s mother floured the paddle for each load of dough. They were amazingly swift, so much so, it was hard to take pictures. For the loaves to be well-risen, maintaining the level of heat is imperative.
|Hatice tending the outdoor 'firin'|
|Hatice and her mother with the dough that has risen|
|Our special loaf|
|Ouch, they're hot!|
Finally, while it was still all systems go, and the oven continued to burn hot, Hatice’s mother quickly washed the fresh figs from their trees that had been drying in the sun for the last 4 days. This got rid of any ants or flies that had got into them. They were washed again in salty water, to counteract the sweetness apparently and also to disinfect, and then put onto trays. These were then inserted into the firin to give them a final bake. Thus in winter, no nasty surprises of half-mouldy dried figs, just wonderful sun-filled mouthfuls of goodness.
|Hatice's mother washing the sundried figs|
|The one with the pattern from the colander!|
Tip: What I do is cut the loaves into quarters while fresh, and freeze them. This works beautifully. Judicious de-frosting ensures yummy toast for breakfast!