Let’s have some savoury dish for a change. This time it’s going to be a recipe for Qutab from the Azerbaijani cuisine but with a certain Russian twist. I recently tried a similar fried filled bread from Turkey called gozleme traditionally made with white brine cheese. Both recipes are easy to make and do not require lengthy dough preparation. You can make them with meat or other fillings but I just love the cheese + herbs combination. For both recipes I used suluguni cheese mixed with some tvorog (cottage cheese) for the lack of proper brynza, and whatever is available from the fresh herbs.
The Russian twist is ensured by the addition of rye flour to the dough. I doubt that in Azerbaijan they eat rye qutabs (rye flour is characteristic of the Northern parts of Russia rather than Azerbaijan!) but at the same time this adds some extra flavour (and a bit of wholesomeness) to the somewhat heavy dish. You might want to make a 100% white flour dough or mix in some whole wheat flour. Whatever your choice, heat your sturdy cast iron pan and let’s make the qutabs!
1 year ago – Vyatka, City of Snow that Dreams of Summer
2 years ago – Two Spinach Pies and Spinach…Rice
3 years ago – French Bread
4 years ago – Two Rrrrrye Breads (Raisin and Riga)
Cheese and Herbs Qutabs translated and adapted from perfectfood.ru will make a chewy and vegetarian version of the Azerbaijani pies. Check out the original website for the video recipe (understandable even without any knowledge of Russian). See my remarks in italics.
Ingredients for 9-10 qutabs:
For the dough:
- 150 g rye flour (can substitute with whole wheat or all-purpose flour)
- 150 g all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 4 Tbs sunflower oil
- water – as much as the dough will take
For the filling:
- 100-150 g cheese, hard and /or soft (Adygea, brynza, paneer…) – I used fat-free cottage cheese and Suluguni
- 300 g of herbs of any type, can use spinach, sorrel, nettle, etc. – I used dill, parsley, spring onions and coriander
- salt, according to your cheese (I also added pepper)
For the sauce (optional):
- matsoni or natural yogurt or smetana (sour cream)
- garlic, couple of cloves
In a bowl mix the flours, add salt and oil. With your hands rub oil into the flour mixture, so that it’s distributed evenly. Gradually add water and mix until you have a very soft sticky dough. Cover the bowl and leave the dough to rest for 10 min.
Meanwhile prepare the filling. Finely chop the herbs. If you’re using nettle, first scald it with boiling water and then chop it (the nettle will thus lose its stinginess). Finely grate the cheese and mix in with the herbs. Add salt.
Flour the work surface and your hands. Pinch off a piece of dough that will fit in the palm of your hand. Roll it out into a flat round. Place some filling on one side of the dough leaving the edges free. Then fold the other side over the filling and seal the edges with a fork.
Place a dry skillet (preferably cast iron) over high heat (no greasing required!). If your pan is big enough you will be able to cook 2 qutabs at a time. Cook 1 minute, then turn the qutabs over and cook 1 minute more (my qutabs needed more time – I also baked only 2 and then placed the dough and the filling in the fridge for a later use).
Serve immediately with the matsoni and garlic sauce, dipping the qutabs into the sauce. The sauce can be made in advance so that it gets the most out of garlic flavour: press several cloves of garlic into matsoni, mix and place in the fridge. For the lack of matsoni you can use natural yogurt or smetana (sour cream).
oh that melting cheese!
Remarks: I would rather call the rye dough pretty bland (although it contained salt) but the filling was pretty salty (didn’t pay attention to the saltiness of the cheese). Also, next time I would roll the dough really thin cause it was quite chewy. You can also experiment with the sizes and the amount of filling – some of my qutabs were a bit too big 🙂 These are best eaten hot – so I suggest cutting the dough recipe by half. I ran out of cheese with that much of the dough and had to use mashed potatoes with the leftover cheese filling for the last qutabs.
Result: Easy pies with melting cheese? Count me in! Perfect with some greens on the side and a lot of kefir (for the lack of traditional matsoni). Also no problem with keeping these pies in the fridge and reheating them later.