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Wild Fermentation (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2003) by Sandor Ellix Katz explores the variety of dishes that can be made via fermentation. This excerpt comes from Chapter 7, "Dairy Ferments (and Vegan Alternatives)."
You can purchase this book from the store: Wild Fermentation.
Kishk is a Lebanese ferment of yogurt and bulgur wheat. The two are mixed together into a dough and fermented for about 10 days. During its fermentation it can smell almost sweet, like coconut. But ultimately it develops the flavor of a strong, musky cheese. Kishk is dried after fermentation, then used to flavor and thicken soups and stews, and in other ways. The flavor of kishk is unique and distinctive, and I love it. It is also found in Iranian and other Middle Eastern cuisines. In Greece, it is known as trahanas.
• 1 cup/200 grams bulgur wheat
• 2-1/2 cups/625 milliliters yogurt
• 2 teaspoons salt
For Shurabat al Kishk (Lebanese Kishk Soup)
Traditionally, this soup would feature lamb or goat. This is a vegetarian adaptation.
• 2 to 3 onions
• 2 tablespoons/30 milliliters vegetable oil
• 3 potatoes
• 2 carrots
• 6 cloves garlic
• 2 tablespoons/30 milliliters butter
• 1 cup/250 milliliters kishk
• Salt and pepper to taste
• 3 tablespoons/45 milliliters fresh parsley
1. Combine the yogurt and bulgur in a bowl, cover, and leave overnight.
2. Knead and add the salt. When you look in the morning, the bulgur will have absorbed most of the moisture of the yogurt. Knead, fold, and turn the mixture a few times with your hands. Add the salt and mix it in. If dough seems dry, as though it could absorb more moisture, add a little more yogurt and knead it in. Cover it and leave to ferment.
3. Mix the kishk daily. Check the kishk the next day. Fold and turn the mixture a few times with your hands. Continue to mix the bulgur-yogurt dough every day for about 9 days. This renews the surfaces and protects the developing kishk from surface molds.
4. Dry the kishk. Spread the kishk on a baking sheet to dry, and leave in a sunny spot, or in a dehydrator, or under a fan, or in a warm oven. As it dries, crumble it into smaller bits to create more surface area.
5. Crush into a powder. Once the kishk is completely dry, use a mortar and pestle or a food processor to crush it into powder and crumbs, and store at room temperature in a well-sealed jar. Kept dry, it should store indefinitely.
6. To use kishk in soups, fry the kishk in oil or butter with garlic, then add a little soup stock and cook to thicken, as in a flour-based gravy or sauce. Transfer the kishk gravy to the soup and cook altogether for several minutes. Kishk thickens as well as flavors soup. Use about 2 tablespoons of kishk (or more) per cup of soup.
Other uses for kishk. According to the Lebanese Food Heritage Foundation: “Kishk can be prepared in different forms such as salads (Wild mint and kishk salad, meeykeh); soups (shorbet kishk and kishkiyye); fillings for turnovers or mana’eesh; hot dishes such as kebbeh with kishk (kebbeh b kishk), kishk with eggs (kishk aala bayd), cabbage with kishk (malfouf aala kishk), wheat-flour dough with kishk (maacaroon b kishk), meat raviolis with kishk (shish barak b kishk), etc.”
For Shurabat al Kishk
1. Dice onions and sauté in oil in a soup pot.
2. Once the onion is translucent, add 2 quarts (2 liters) of water, and bring to a boil.
3. Add diced potatoes and carrots (and any other ingredients you like). Cook until soft.
4. Mince garlic and sauté it in butter in a separate skillet. Add kishk, and sauté a minute or so. Then take about 1 cup (250 milliliters) of liquid from the soup pot and add it to the kishk and garlic. Stir until well blended, then add the liquefied kishk-garlic mixture to the soup. Add salt and pepper to taste.
5. Cook 5 to 10 minutes, then serve, garnished with parsley.