In 2017 we started a little tradition in our house which we christened “Nation of the Month”. The idea is that on the 1st of every month we spin the globe (or rather, Google Earth as we don’t currently have a globe in our house), wherever it lands we study and celebrate the culture, customs, and heritage of that nation. It’s something we had a lot of fun with! The main focus of it tends to be culinary. We don’t restrict ourselves to cooking only recipes from our Nation of the Month but we make a point of trying at least a few recipes over the course of the month and it becomes a strong influence. I’m really glad we started it, it’s been educational for all of us (not just the kids) and it’s meant discovering some very tasty foods that we probably never would have tried otherwise!
Our eldest got to ring in the new year with her finger on the button that spins the world. It landed on Turkmenistan!
The first step in Nation of the Month is usually Googling “(country) recipes” and of course when you do that with Turkmenistan, the first result is Bayramgül’s “One Turkmen Kitchen”. It looks like a great collection of traditional recipes and I am looking forward to trying several of them this month.
One of the first ones that jumped out at me was the recipe for Kädili Gutap. A Gutap is basically a filled flatbread; little freeform savoury pies with endless possibilities.
This recipe caught my eye because I’m a big fan of Butternut Squash, the recipe is simple, the finished product looked delicious, and the recipe was already completely vegan!
Of course I give Bayramgül full credit for this recipe, but I will share it here with a couple of very minor adjustments that I have made in my own kitchen.
Also, be aware that while this recipe is very simple and doesn’t involve much work at all, you will want to start it well in advance because the filling takes a while to make, and you want to let it at least partially cool before using it. And Bayramgül advises Gutaps are best served ambient, so unless you’re prepared to break tradition, allow time for them to cool afterwards as well.
- 40 ml Rice Bran Oil
- 1 Brown Onion, finely diced
- 1 Butternut Squash, peeled, seeded, and diced
- 1/4 teaspoon Salt
- 1/4 teaspoon Black Pepper
- 1 pinch Cinnamon
- 375 g Plain Flour (plus more for dusting)
- 3/4 teaspoon Salt
- 225 ml Water
- 25 ml Rice Bran Oil
- Heat the oil in a pot or large skillet. Add the diced Onion and Butternut Squash and give it a good stir to make sure all of the squash is coated with the oil.
- Cover with a lid and leave on a low flame (or medium-low heat), stirring every five minutes or so with a wooden spoon until the Butternut Squash is soft enough to mash. (It took about 50 minutes for me). Add Salt, Pepper and a pinch of Cinnamon and use your spoon to mash everything into a smooth filling. Set aside and allow to cool down while you make the dough.
- Sift flour and salt into a mixing bowl. Make a well in the centre and add the water and oil. Mix together and knead until smooth. Divide the dough into 8 pieces. Roll each piece into a ball and cover with a damp cloth. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes before you begin working it.
- Start heating your cooking surface over a medium-high heat. Traditionally these would be cooked in a large clay oven (we Westerners would most likely know as a Tandoor oven, in Turkmen it is Tamdyr or Tandyr). If you had a flattop grill or a smooth griddle that would work perfectly for cooking these. Otherwise a large skillet will do the job.
- Take a ball of dough and roll it out on a well floured surface. Roll it thin to a diameter of about 7 inches (or 18 cm). Brush the edges of the circle with water so the edges of the pastry will seal properly. Spread about 3 Tablespoons of filling over half of the circle, taking care to leave a border around the edge. Fold the pastry over to make a semicircle, pressing the edges well to seal.
- Thoroughly prick the gutap with a fork to allow trapped air to escape during cooking. Transfer the gutap to the hot grill or skillet. Cook each side for about 2 minutes (the gutap is ready to flip when it just begins to blacken in spots).
It’s pretty easy to fall into a rhythm here, filling the second gutap while the first side of the first gutap is cooking, then turning the first gutap when you place the second gutap on the heat.
I used my trusty cast iron skillet for every step of this recipe and I would thoroughly recommend doing the same. We have a large cast iron skillet and a heavy cast iron lid that fits on top. It made a beautiful job of the Butternut Squash filling (I’ve only ever cooked Butternut Squash in the oven before this!). Afterwards I gave it a quick rinse under the tap straight back on the heat to cook the Gutaps. They each came out perfect (without sticking at all) without a drop of oil added to the pan.
- Cheng, Y. J.; Brittin, H. C., Iron in food- Effect of continued use of iron cookware. Journal of Food Science 1991, 56 (2), 584-585.
Nossaman, C. E. Iron content of food cooked in iron utensils. Texas Tech University, 1984.