Turkish cooking is renowned for its sweet, syrupy desserts like baklava and şekerpare but is equally famous for this more peculiar offerings, such as its cheesy dessert from the southeast of Turkey called Künefe, and Tavuk göğsü, a Turkish dessert (milk pudding) made with chicken meat.
Künefe is a crispy, cheese-filled dessert made with kadayıf. It’s served hot out of the oven so the cheese is soft and stringy, and served in a shallow, round metal pan that’s especially designed for making this dessert.
The recipe for künefe is believed to have originated from the city of Hatay although many cities in this region lay claim to inventing künefe, with cities such as Mersin, Adana, Gaziantep, Kilis, Şanlıurfa, Diyarbakır and Mardin all having their own local variations of the dessert.
Whilst the recipe itself is fairly straightforward, künefe is almost never made at home.
However, for those wishing to have a go, here are some instructions that we found online:
The main ingredient is kadayıf, a finely shredded dough that has been partially baked to dry it.
- First, a large clump of kadayıf is pulled apart to separate the shreds. Then it’s chopped into very fine pieces and the künefe pan is heavily buttered. The chopped kadayıf is pressed into the bottom to make an even layer.
- Next, a filling of Turkish cheese, such as kashar or lor, is placed in the middle. Another layer of chopped kadayıf is pressed on top of the cheese to make the top layer.
- Finally, large amounts of clarified butter are drizzled over the top and the tray is placed in the oven and baked until the top becomes brown and crispy.
- To serving, the top of the künefe is sprinkled with ground pistachios and is cut into wedges.
Tavuk göğsü became one of the most famous delicacies to be served to the Ottoman sultans in the Topkapı Palace and is today considered a ‘signature’ dish of Turkey.
The traditional version of this dessert uses chicken breast meat. The meat is softened by boiling and broken down into very fine fibres. Modern takes on the recipe often pound the meat down into a fine powder instead. The meat is mixed with milk, sugar, cracked rice and usually with some sort of flavouring such as cinnamon. The dish is more or less indistinguishable from blancmange in appearance, a dessert that was common in the upper-class cuisine of Europe.
Should you feel brave enough to try it, here is the recipe:
- Boil the chicken breast until it gets really soft. Cut it into long (about 5cm) thin pieces, then rub them with your hands until they turn into fine threads.
- Rinse them in water 3-4 times changing the water each time, then drain the water well until the meat is completely dry.
- Pour milk, sugar and salt in a pot and let the sugar melt. Mix the flour and corn starch in a separate bowl.
- Slowly add some milk and stir to get a smooth paste. Pour the paste in the pot and stir until it starts to thicken.
- Take 4-5 tablespoons of the pudding and mix it with the chicken threads, stir with a fork and put the mixture back in the pudding.
- Boil at low heat and stir constantly until it thickens.
- At this stage, the dessert can be cooled in the fridge. Alternatively, tip it into a heavy-based frying pan and place over the heat for 5 to 10 minutes to burn the bottom, moving the pan around so that the dessert is evenly burnt. Leave to cool in the pan.
- To serve, garnish with ground cinnamon and/or lightly-toasted almonds.