First BBQ of the summer: Tajikstani qurutob

NB: We’ve just returned from eighteen glorious days in Spain, which explains our absence from the blog world. This entry was actually written before we went, but not posted due to the always frantic last-minute exercise of packing. However, this means it is now three weeks out of date. We’re just going to post it anyway rather than trying to edit it. Forgive us!

Here in London we have finally experienced some half-decent weather later – only half-decent, mind you. This weekend, our Saturday involved a lot of moving our laundry (and ourselves) from inside to outside and back again, trying to avoid the intermittent downpours that made things like mowing the lawn or even sitting outside unnecessarily difficult. Fortunately, Sunday was glorious, and we were able to spend the afternoon sitting out in the sun and BBQing with good friends.

However, this is not the BBQ to which we allude in the title of this post. This one was the weekend before, when we decided to make the most of a rainless Saturday and eat outdoors. We’d already decided that we’d revisit our Lao marinated chicken, but we also needed a salad of some kind to go with it, and that’s where the nation of Tajikstan stepped in!

Qurutob is a national dish of Tajikstan and looks like a fairly straightforward salad, but it has two key Tajikstani components: qurut (for which the salad is named) and fatir. Fatir is a sort of cross between bread and pastry, and easy to make at home. Qurut, however, is a specific type of Tajikstani cheese made out of dried salted yoghurt. This was going to be harder to come by! A bit of reading around, however, revealed that an acceptable substitute can be made with Greek yoghurt, so upon learning that, we were all set to follow the recipe on 196 Flavours (one of many variations we found) and give qurutob a go!

Qurutob

Ingredients
For the fatir:
4 cups plain flour
1 cup water
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups butter, softened (we didn’t measure this and instead went by instinct, which we think meant we ended up with not enough butter… it’s probably worth measuring )

For the qurutob:
500ml Greek yoghurt
100ml water
2 tsp salt
3 tomatoes, diced
2 onions, chopped
2 spring onions, thinly sliced
1/2 bunch coriander, chopped
Vegetable oil

Method
1. First, make the fatir. Mix the flour, water and salt. Stir with your fingers and do not knead more than necessary. You may need to add a little more water if the mixture is too dry, but don’t overdo it.
2. Form the dough into a ball, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.
3. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 180C.
4. Roll the dough into a rectangle on a generously floured surface.
5. Brush the rectangle with butter and sprinkle with flour, then cut into five rectangular strips.
6. Tightly roll the first strip to form a snail shape. Once the first strip is rolled, put it on the second strip and roll the first in the second. Repeat with the other three strips until they are all rolled together.
7. Flatten the dough into a 3/4-inch thick circle and mark with a fork or meat tenderiser (etc) if desired.
8. Bake for around 40 minutes until it is golden.
9. For the qurut substitute, heat the yoghurt, water and salt in a saucepan and stir regularly for about 30 minutes until reduced by about a third.
10. Sauté the onion in a frying pan until translucent (about 8-10 minutes.
11. To serve, tear up the fatir and place small pieces of it in a large bowl. (We didn’t use all of our loaf and finished it for breakfast the next day instead – depends how hungry you are!) Top with the yoghurt, then the onion, then the spring onions/tomato/coriander.
Serves around 3 as a side dish.

680a Flattened fatir dough compressed

681a Rolling fatir compressed

682a Rolled fatir compressed

683a Flattened roll compressed

684a Fork-marked dough compressed

686a Cooked fatir compressed

687a Qurutob compressed

688a Qurutob compressed

689a Qurutob and BBQed chicken compressed

We didn’t hold high hopes for this dish and were really just making it because we had to make something – but we were pleasantly surprised! The bread seemed a bit stodgy at first (which might have something to do with not having used enough butter) but once we started, we found we couldn’t stop eating it. The yoghurt cheese was an unexpected success and was particularly delicious with the bread, and the other salad ingredients, of course, were light and fresh. We made too much to have with our chicken, really, but we found that we kept sneaking into the bowl to have ‘just a bit more’ until all of a sudden it was all gone. Apparently it’s meant to be eaten with the fingers, though, so we were just experiencing the Tajikstani way… not being piggish at all…

Next on our list is Afghanistan, but you’ll have to wait a couple of weeks for that: we’re off to Spain to chase the sun that has mostly so far eluded us this summer! Adios for now!

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