worldly wednesdays: a visit to azerbaijan with a kutaby recipe (stuffed pancakes)

Kutaby Azerbaijan Food

The maps I gazed at during geography class, before the collapse of the Soviet Union looked a lot different than the ones my children use. The USSR was such a huge part of how I viewed the world. The map of my childhood is no longer. Once part of the Soviet Union the Baltic States consider themselves to have resumed their pre–World War II sovereignty upon their separation from the Soviet Union.

And, now there are at least 15 post soviet states in the world. These are 15 independent states that seceded from the USSR and they are known at the FSU (Former Soviet Union) or NIS (Newly Independent States. One of those countries is Azerbaijan and like Armenia (which is a post soviet country) they are located in the Caucasus.

The Caucasus Mountains give the name to the region known as the Caucasus. The mountain range between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea forms part of the traditional border between Europe and Asia. Azerbaijan is situated in the Southern Caucasus region, bordered by Russia to the north, the Caspian Sea to the east, Iran to the south and Georgia and Armenia to the west. There are approximately 14 countries located in this Caucasus region. One of these countries is Armenia, which we learned about in December.

The major domestic and international issue affecting Azerbaijan is the dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh, a predominantly ethnic Armenian region within Azerbaijan. The current conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh began in 1988. Negotiations to resolve the conflict peacefully have been ongoing since 1992 under the aegis of the Minsk Group of the OSCE. Negotiations have so far failed to produce a permanent peace agreement, and the dispute remains one of post-Soviet Europe’s “frozen conflicts.”

The conflict has roots dating back well over a century into competition between Christian Armenian and Muslim Turkic and Persian influences.The religions of Azerbaijan comprise different religious trends spread among the people and ethnic groups residing in the country. But, more than 90% of the country identifies itself as Muslim. Since Nagorno-Karabakh is predominantly ethnic Armenian it is also predominantly catholic since Armenia was the first country to declare Catholicism as its state religion in 314 AD.

The people of the Caucasus have seen, throughout their history, a lot of hardship, yet, when watching the following video where a young woman is clowning in front of the camera and making kutaby (stuffed pancake) I couldn’t help but laugh with her and note how it is laughter narrows the gaps between cultures and religions.

Note: In the video, after clowning around, the young woman does make the kutaby. She is making a version that I think would be similar to the second recipe in this post (Kutaby with Greens). I found this recipe at Cuisine of Azerbaijan.

Guest Photographer: Radis
ISO Speed: 100
Equipment: Camera: Canon EOS 40D; Lens: EF 16-35/2,8L; EF 50mm f/1.2L USM Flash: Speedlite 580EX II

Kutaby
(Stuffed Pancake)

Stuffing

Ingredients

1 tbs oil for greasing
¼ cup spring onions, minced
2⁄3 cup spinach, chopped
2⁄3 cup sorrel, chopped (if unavailable, use more spinach plus 2 TBS lemon juice)
3 tbs mixed fresh cilantro and dill, minced
1 tbs lavashana (dried sour plum paste/jerky), chopped fine (or lemon juice)
salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Lightly oil a heavy frying pan. Cook the onions for a minute. Add all other ingredients, stirring (without any more added oil) until well wilted. Remove from heat. Add lavashana.
Season to taste.

Pancakes

Ingredients

1 cup flour
¼ tsp salt
1 tbs butter, melted
1 egg, beaten
½ cup water
beaten egg or water for sealing
¼ cup warm ghee for sauce
½ cup matsoni (a fermented milk native to the Caucasus, available from Russian stores; or substitute a thick, sour yogurt or thick buttermilk) for dipping.

Directions

In a food processor, mix flour, salt, butter, egg, and water to make a soft dough.
Remove dough. Knead on a floured surface for 10–15 minutes, or until dough is shiny and elastic. Let rest for 30 minutes.

1. Roll out 1⁄8-inch thick.
2. Cut out disks, about 6–9 inches in diameter.
3. Place filling on one half of the disk.
4. Fold to form a crescent. Seal edges with a bit of beaten egg.
5. Place kutaby on a lightly greased cookie sheet.
6. Brush lightly with ghee.
7. Bake in a preheated 375 F oven, for about 25–30 minutes, or until brown.
8. Arrange in a warmed dish and serve.

If desired, pour remaining warm ghee over kutaby. Pass a bowl of matsoni for dipping.

Kutaby with Greens (Green Crepes)

Domestic or wild herbs comprise the filling in this vegetarian version of a gutab. While the process of folding a circle of dough over the filling is the same, the ingredients vary from region to region, as cooks use the wild herbs that are available. Coriander, chives and parsley are common ingredients; nettle, wild coriander or watercress may also be included. Like many other Azerbaijani dishes, this type of gutab is topped with plain yogurt.
Greens (spinach – 150 g, sorrel – 150 g, spring onions – 50 g, coriander and dills – 15 g); wheat flour – 140 g; butter oil – 20 g; butter – 20 g; lavashana -10 g; egg – 112; matsoni – 50 g; pepper -0.1 g; salt to taste.

Wash the greens, chop coarsely and stew with simmered onions. Add salt, pepper and lavashana and mix thoroughly. Make tight dough with the addition of water, egg and salt. Roll the dough and cut out round pieces. Fold the filling in dough in the shape of a crescent and roast both sides on a dry frying pan.

When serving, pour heated butter over the kutaby. Matsoni is served separately.
Kutaby from Wild-Growing Plants Wild-growing herbs (cheese-flower, shepherd’s purse, ziziphora, white dead nettle, chickweed, etc.) – 400 g; wheat flour – 150 g; butter oil – 20 g; butter -20 g; lavashana -10 g; egg – 1/2; yeasts – 10 g; matsoni – 50 g; pepper and salt to taste.

Sort out the greens, wash, chop and stew in oil. Add salt, pepper and lavashana. Mix thoroughly. Make dough from wheat flour with the addition of water, egg, yeasts and salt. Roll pieces of dough into big round pieces 2 mm thick. Wrap the filling in dough, giving it the shape of a crescent and roast both sides on a dry frying pan. Pour molten butter over the hot kutaby. Matsoni is served separately.

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13 comments

  • January 19, 2012 at 10:51 am //

    Terrific history and geography lesson. I’ve not heard of a Kutaby before – they sound delicious. I like the inclusion of greens in the versions you present. Although I like greens quite a bit when served on their own, I like them even better when they’re incorporated into another dish. These look perfect – and I’ll bet they taste wonderful. Thanks for a great, informative post.

    • January 19, 2012 at 6:58 pm //

      Thank you Kitchen Riffs, so glad you enjoyed the post. Huge fan of greens as well. Thank you so much for commenting.

  • January 19, 2012 at 1:49 pm //

    Stunning! The recipe, the photo. But most of all, the story behind this post. Your writing is precious.

    • January 19, 2012 at 6:59 pm //

      Thank you Anh, that’s such a nice compliment, thank you.

    • January 21, 2012 at 9:46 am //

      Thank you so much Anh!

  • January 19, 2012 at 11:34 pm //

    This sounds wonderful! I love it when you chose nations that I would never otherwise cook from, since I just have no idea. Great post, and what a tasty looking pancake!

    • January 21, 2012 at 9:46 am //

      Thank you so much Kiri, this is our favorite category too!!!

  • January 20, 2012 at 3:02 am //

    love the history/story here. and beautiful food!!!

    • January 21, 2012 at 9:46 am //

      Thank you Valentina!

  • January 20, 2012 at 4:39 am //

    Thanks for posting this. I wasn’t at all familiar with food from this region. The stuffed pancake looks fantastic, and I love the use of the greens!

    • January 21, 2012 at 9:46 am //

      Hi Lisa, you are so welcome, and glad you really enjoyed the post too!

  • January 23, 2012 at 11:25 am //

    pancake looks wonderful delicious presentation

    • January 23, 2012 at 2:51 pm //

      Thank you so much for commenting, hope you’ll try the recipe = )