Topik Meze from the Armenian Cuisine of Turkey

“For some reason, my parents did not have the habit to buy ready-made Meze but preferred to prepare it by themselves at home. We would rather prepare every meal we had together as a family. While my father insisted that no other woman could cook better than his own mother, my mother absolutely did not compromise what she had learned from her mother regarding in cooking. As a result, our meals became a source for happiness and joy. I think the reason for that was my grandmothers were two very close friends from Çorlu, even before my parents existed. One of them Mrs. Takuhi and the other Mrs. Akabi, or in her husband’s words Akabi Sultan. 

Both were cheerful to enter the kitchen and left it with much praise. Their source of praise was that they were from Çorlu because coming from Çorlu was a privilege in their opinion. Unfortunately, they could not live as much as they wanted in Çorlu and were forced to leave due to the imposed conditions during the First World War.  However, they lived forever as people from Çorlu and we as their grandchildren wanted to share this legacy with you. How? By preparing these Armenian dishes together : Lentil- Dolma, Kapama, Bohça, Petaluda, Kocagörmez , Pintikarı, Çullama, Çılbır, Havidz, Jamkapısı, Cizleme, Fasulye Paçası, and Topik…. 

 I do not know in what extend these dishes are Armenian, Greek, Turkish, Albanian,  Circassian, Patriotic or Roma but I do know that I have learned these dishes from my *yaya’s, my grandmothers, Akabi and Takuhi from Çorlu. 

May they rest in peace. “

Translated from Takuhi Tovmasyan’s cookbook-memoir book called Sofranız Şen Olsun ( Cheer to Your Table ) – 7th Edition, December 2013, Istanbul.

TOPIK – for 12 balls

To make the chickpea dough

750 g cooked chickpeas
4 medium-sized starchy white potatoes
100 ml smooth tahini
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp caster sugar
1 tbsp ground cinnamon

For the filling

olive oil
3 kg onions
50g dried blackcurrants
50g pine nuts
500ml tahini
3 tsp ground pimento (allspice)
2 tsp fine ground black pepper
2 tsp salt (add more if needed)
2 tbsp caster sugar
3 tbsp ground cinnamon

Drain the chickpeas wash and remove the outer skins of the chick peas gently by hand. Boil the potatoes whole and in their skins in water till cooked – about 15-18 mins. While they are cooking mash the chickpeas to give a nice even pulp. Take the potatoes drain and cool but while still warm peel them – the skins should almost come away with handling and mash them. Add the two mashes together, mix and add the rest of the ingredients to make the dough. Taste it on that stage, if it needs more seasoning. Cover the dough and put the dough in the fridge while we prepare the filling.

For the filling peel and slice the onions into thin long slices. Put them in a pan with heated olive oil and cook on a low heat and add the salt. (it takes about 2 hours) Cook till it turns brown and is caramelised, add the blackcurrants and the pine nuts stir in well and cook and then add the rest of the dry ingredients and cook for a few mins. Take off the heat and allow to cool, once cool add the tahini and mix well. Divide the mixture into 12 equal parts – this is the filling for the balls.

Take the dough out of the fridge and divide into 12 equal parts . Traditionally one would use muslin cloth to make the topik but you can use cling-film as well instead. Take a square of cling-film (or muslin cloth) about a foot square and put on your working surface, with your hands spread out the dough mixture into a flat pancake, the size and shape of a plate and the thickness of orange peel. Put the mixture shaped into a ball in the middle of the dough and using the cling-film/muslin pull the 4 ends together so as to make a ball with the dough on the outside and the mixture surrounded by the dough. With your hands gently shape it into a ball – you are moulding the cling-film or muslin inside of which is the dough and inside that is the mixture. The process produces a Cornish pasty like stuffed chickpea ball.

Put them in the fridge for at least over night and you can keep it up to 7 days . To serve remove cling-film/muslin cloth drizzle with olive oil , lemon juice and a little ground cinnamon and divide into 4 pieces.

* Thanks to Takuhi Tovmasyan for sharing her thoughts through our short interview and let me use her recipe to publish on my website. 

Photograph by Denisa Silas