Nia McRay TastesLikeTurkey Peanut Butter Cookies

CULTURE: Afiyet Olsun + Neighbors + Super Easy Peanut Butter Cookies

The Easiest Plate-Filling Peanut Butter Cookies

Knock Knock knock echoes from my apartment door. As a single woman who was raised in the States, I’m cautious of this sound. In the first week of coronavirus entering Turkey, I’m particularly so.  I’m not expecting any deliveries or visitors, but I look through the peephole.

The lady who lives in the apartment across the hallway from me stands at the door, looking right at the peephole – like she sees me. In her hand a plate of chicken and bulgur pilaf. I smile and open the door. Everyone in my building is keeping social distancing pretty seriously, and she pushes the plate into the door while simultaneously turning her face away as she isn’t wearing a mask and mumbles, “Afiyet olsun” (the Turkish equivalent of “Bon Appetit”). 

No, this wasn’t a special occasion. Recently I went to visit a friend who was injured and unable to walk (let alone cook for her family) for a while. Her Turkish neighbors kept a steady flow of home-cooked food coming, especially those first few days, without being asked or setting up a meal train.

While that circumstance was indeed a special occasion, I wonder if what made the action so organic is that bringing food to one another is already a commonplace occurrence.  Neighbors bring one another plates of food without ceremony with the expectation that you will return the dish with some homemade treat of your own to share. 

Once, the same neighbor from across the hall stopped me and my roommate as we walked down the hallway, on our way to dinner out at one of our favorite restaurants. “Wait, wait!” she waved us down. She proceeded to fill a bowl with popcorn as an appetizer and waved us back into our apartment to wait for the rest of the dinner she was cooking. Bit by bit she brought dishes to our door as they were prepared: salad, pilaf, beans. We grazed the whole evening as the plates and bowls began to collect on our table.

I felt cared for (even if my plans for the evening had been canceled in the process) especially as a single woman living in a foreign country. I knew that my neighbors care enough for me to make sure I’m at least well-fed. 

But another thought also began to come to mind as the plates piled up. I had already been made aware of the expectation to fill a plate once it was brought. This can certainly feel overwhelming for the ex-pat who has not yet mastered Turkish cuisine or knows what of the foods they do know how to cook would be palpable for a Turkish palate. 

Thankfully, I have found that the following recipe has been a hit among my Turkish friends and neighbors. It is also incredibly easy and quick. So easy that my neighbors and friends don’t believe me when I share the recipe. So quick that I can whip up a batch and return a plateful of hot cookies to my neighbors within 15 minutes of receiving a plate. 

The Easiest Plate-Filling Peanut Butter Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup of chocolate chips of our choice

Instructions:

  • Preheat oven to 175 C (350 F).  
  • Mix egg, peanut butter, and sugar until fully incorporated. 
Nia McRay TastesLikeTurkey Peanut Butter Cookies
Nia McRay TastesLikeTurkey Peanut Butter Cookies
  • Fold in chocolate chips. 
  • Scoop onto a prepared cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes. 
Nia McRay TastesLikeTurkey Peanut Butter Cookies
Nia McRay TastesLikeTurkey Peanut Butter Cookies
  • Let cool for 2 minutes before transferring to a borrowed plate and bringing to neighbors. 
Nia McRay TastesLikeTurkey Peanut Butter Cookies
Nia McRay TastesLikeTurkey Peanut Butter Cookies

Note: The trick to these cookies is finding a good peanut butter to use. While JIF brand peanut butter is now available in Turkey (and is my personal favorite), it is often quite expensive when you can find it. The only brand that I’ve tasted that is similar to the peanut butter in the States is the Tuğba brand which advertises having no added sugar. It comes in crunchy and smooth (either of which can be used for this recipe) for a reasonable price. 

I hope you find these as yummy and easy and I do! Let me know if you try them!

What is your go-to food for sharing with neighbors?

Afiyet olsun!

FOOD: Aşure – Noah’s Ark Pudding

Cheers to the first post about FOOD. Cheers to not just any food, but TURKISH food!

And yes, you read that right! We are here to chat about Aşure. So how do you say it properly? The ‘a’ is an ‘aah’ sound while the ‘new-to-you’ letter ‘ş’ is pronounced like the English ‘sh’ sound. The ş with the ‘ur’ is similar to ‘shur’. Finish it off by saying the ‘e’ like the letter ‘A’ and you basically speak Turkish now.

Ok, not really. But you at least learned a new Turkish word: ‘Aah-shOOr-EY’

First off, aşure is not just a Turkish dish. Other cultures throughout central Asia and the middle east share a similar type of dish. This dish is special to Turkey because the actual site of the historical Noah’s ark is said to be in eastern Turkey. Hence, aşure is also known as Noah’s Ark pudding. Originally a Jewish celebration, this dessert also marks the rescue of Moses from Pharaoh during which the Hebrews fasted. Sunni Muslims also connect this period during the year with the deliverance of Moses. Aşure is traditionally served on the 10th day of the Muslim month Muharrem, the first month of the Islamic calendar.

But before Moses and the deliverance of the Jews, the dessert come from the story of Noah and the great flood. When the waters receded after the great flood, Noah took whatever he had left from their food storage and toss it into one pot. As you will see below, there are quite the diversity of ingredients (some I would not normally put together!).  This large pot of food kept everyone well and alive until the waters finished receding. For this reason, aşure is usually made in large quantities and is shared with neighbors and friends standing as a symbol of friendship, diversity, and unity.

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What’s in it? Quite the assortment of grains, nuts, fruits, and sugar. It may contain but isn’t limited to: walnuts, hazelnuts, pine nuts, apricots, raisins, currants, figs, chickpeas and navy beans. Depending on the family and region, ingredients like chestnuts, lima beans, bulgur wheat and pieces of fresh coconut will also be added. Spices like cinnamon, cloves, and another lesser known spice to westerners, cardamon, can be a main contributor to the sweet taste. So basically, anything goes.

FunkTravels Asure

The great plus about living in Turkey full-time is getting a home-cooked, traditional dish of aşure hand delivered by a neighbor. Just this last week, our 3rd-floor neighbors shared this sweet gift with us.  While I enjoyed it warm and cold, Jason wasn’t a big of a fan of it either way. The taste is a little … unique, but well worth the trying!

For recipes on how to make it yourself at home, click on some of the links below:

Ozlem’s Turkish Table Recipe

Turkish Food Recipe

All About Turkey Recipe

Video of the recipe

Questions for you:

Have you tried this before? Did you like it?

What do you think? Would you try this recipe at home?

If you do, let me know how it went and what you thought about it. You can always follow us through our move from the USA to Turkey via our 50 episodes of the FunkTravels Podcast.

See you next time!