One of my readers wrote recently; she visited Kayseri, in Central Anatolia and greatly enjoyed this local specialty called Kayseri Usulu Yaglama; Layers of flat bread with a scrumptious ground meat and vegetable topping between each layer. She wanted to recreate this regional specialty at home and asked the recipe from me. And I am so glad she did.
Kayseri is truly a foodies’ heaven, nestled in Central Anatolia. Kayseri is the home of the famous manti, Turkish ravioli (tiny stuffed pastry with meat filling), Turkish cured beef, Pastrami, Pastirma, spicy Turkish cured sausage, Sucuk and many more. I have been in touch with the Turkish Culinary Historian Ms. Nevin Halici recently; Nevin Hanim says, “Yaglama is as important as Manti (Turkish ravioli) in Kayseri Cuisine”. Kayseri also has a rich historic heritage dating back to c. 3000 BCE. I was in Kayseri a few years ago during one of my Culinary tours; the city is a mesmerizing historical settlement and the local cuisine is heavenly, so worth the trip. Kayseri also makes a great stop en route to the fascinating Cappadocia .
Kayseri Usulu Yaglama makes use of the flat breads that had been a part of Turkish cuisine since the 6th century. Turkish Nomads had been making flat breads while they were in Central Asia; they made their way to today’s Turkey through the centuries and haven’t stopped making these flatbreads since then! When I was a child, our neighbor (originally from Kayseri) used to make this dish and would kindly share with us (sharing food between neighbors is still a very much alive tradition at home, which I love). My mother then learned how to make it from her neighbor and we greatly enjoyed this dish during my childhood.
This lovely dish consists of layering the flat breads, Sebit, as they are called in Kayseri, with the filling of cooked ground meat, onions and tomatoes between each layer. Once stacked on top of another, it is cut in four pieces and served with garlic yoghurt. It makes a wonderful party food to share with friends and family. My children absolutely loved it and they helped making the flat breads; a great way to get the children interested in food preparation and also passing on traditions and recipes. My son said’ “It is a bit like stacked lahmacun, though it is lighter and there are more of them!” True, it looks a bit like lahmacun, though the filling and the base flat breads are cooked separately.
The original recipe calls for the Turkish hot pepper paste, biber salcasi; this paste will add a lot of flavor to the sauce if you prefer to add. You can make it yourself with my recipe or Middle Eastern stores or Turkish online stores like Tulumba or Best Turkish Food carry it. This is a great dish to enjoy for the whole family and friends; it takes a bit of time but worth every effort. You can also use these flat breads to enjoy delicious mezzes like this Walnut and red pepper paste dip.
Serves 4 -6 generously (makes 11 flatbreads of about 23cm/9” each)
For the dough:
460 gr/1 lb./4 cups plain flour
7gr/2tsp. dry yeast
3 tbsp./45 ml olive oil
2 tsp./10 ml sea salt
300ml/10 fl oz. warm water
For the meat & vegetables sauce:
500gr/1lb 2 oz. ground beef
30ml/2 tbsp. olive oil
2 large onions, finely chopped
3-4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 medium tomato, finely chopped
15 ml/ 1 tbsp. concentrated tomato puree
10 ml/ 2 tsp. Turkish hot pepper paste (optional)
300 ml/12 fl. Oz/ 1 ½ cup water
Handful of flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
Plain or garlic yoghurt to serve
In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt and yeast and mix well. Stir in the olive oil and warm water and knead into a soft dough by hand (if it’s sticky, you may need a little extra flour to shape the dough). My mother says, “the dough needs to be of ear lop softness” – kulak memesi kivaminda olacak – As expected, we also have a saying for the consistency of the dough in Turkish Cover the dough with a dish cloth and leave to rest and rise at a warm spot for 45 minutes or until it doubles the size.
While the dough is resting, prepare the filling. Heat the olive oil in a large pan. Stir in the onions and garlic, cook until soft for a few minutes. Add the ground beef and cook for 2-3 minutes, mixing well. Stir in the tomatoes, tomato and red pepper paste (if using) and combine well. Add the water and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cover, turn the heat to medium to low and cook for about 30 minutes. Once all is cooked, stir in the chopped parsley, give them all a good mix and turn the heat off (at this stage you can also check the seasoning to your taste). The filling needs to have quite a bit of liquid to cover the flat breads so add a little more water if needed.
Once the dough has risen, divide the dough into 11 pieces and roll into 11 small balls (each about a size of a small tangerine). On a lightly floured surface, roll each ball into a thin, round circles of about 23cm -9” in diameter. Dust each of these circles with flour so they don’t stick together and keep them covered with a damp towel so that they won’t dry out.
Cook the flat breads on a wide non-stick pan or griddle, flipping over them as they begin to go brown and buckle. Pile them on a plate.
Now it is time to assemble the dish. Place a flat bread on a wide, circle serving dish and spread a thin layer of the ground meat sauce over. Then place another flat bread on top and spread the sauce again; continue this layering until all the flat breads are finished with the remaining of the sauce spread at top.
Cut the Yaglama all the way through into 4 equal pieces, and serve immediately. A few spoonfuls of garlic yoghurt goes very well with this dish. (For garlic yoghurt; simply crush and finely chop a clove of garlic into a cup of plain yoghurt and season with salt to your taste).