In these Turkish treasures, a super-savory, juicy mix of beefsteak, onion, tomato, and bell pepper comes cupped in boat-shaped, crusty flatbread. Spiced with cumin and paprika, that full-flavored filling gets its fiery kick from thinly sliced cayenne peppers.
Called *pide (*pronounced a bit like pea-day), these handsome beauties are immensely popular throughout Turkey.
And if you’ve never tried them, you’re in for a rare and special treat. Rare and special? Oh, yeah. They’re astonishingly good in ways that may well have you wondering how something this simple can be so sensationally delicious.
You’ll likely also appreciate why pide are so adored in their native land. In his cookbook, Turkish Delights (affiliate link, folks), John Gregory-Smith says, “This style of snack food is found all over Turkey, and is loved by all ages.” No wonder.
Pide’s stellar flatbread
On its own, the flatbread for the generously loaded ‘boats’ is easily good enough to go alongside, say, a juicy curry or your favorite bowl of Tex-Mex chili. As a standalone flatbread, it’s served in Turkey much like pita breads, and is enjoyed as a partner to a whole host of different foods.
For our pide recipe, the flatbread has a satisfying, crisp-baked crunch on the outside, with a much softer inner texture. I’d put that texture somewhere between a slightly flaky, puffy naan bread and a nicely dense, fairly chewy pita.
And then, things just keep getting better when you get to your flatbread’s cargo.
Pide’s super-savory filling
Pide fillings don’t vary much. This makes me think that a few trusted variants have an established, much-loved appeal that sticks to the sensible mantra of if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
The headlining ingredients in these fillings include a spicy beef sausage known as sucjuk; chopped or ground beef; cheese with spinach; chopped or ground lamb; and pastirma, which is a type of salted, spiced, and dried beef that’s served thinly sliced.
There’s also a combo of these popular fillings, called a karisik pide, a mixed pide. And sometimes there are eggs. Moments before it finishes baking, your preferred pide can have an egg gently cracked into its center.
Our recipe is for kusbasili pide, meaning a chopped meat pide. I went for a beef filling with cubed rump steak as its star.
The list for the rest of the filling is short – cherry tomatoes, onion, and green bell pepper. For a rich, fiery spiciness, there are some red cayenne peppers, paprika, and cumin. Add a seasoning of salt and black pepper, and a little olive oil for gently frying the filling, and that’s it. The list is complete
As they’re lightly fried, the steak, onion, and tomatoes release enough of their lovely juices to hold the fairly chunky filling together when the loaded pide gets its hot-and-fast baking.
Of course, you could use whatever takes your fancy for the filling. And this idea of ‘anything goes’ when it comes to flatbread toppings has already been taken to dizzying heights by the numero uno of takeout foods, pizza.
Pizza has to be one of the best-known foods on the planet. So, it makes perfect sense that something fairly similar, like pide, often gets compared to pizza. Fair enough.
But pide and pizza only share a couple of similarities. And that’s really significant, because what I like best about them are the ways they’re so different to pizza.
But before we get to those distinctions, let’s look at their similarities.
Pide vs. pizza – the similarities
It’s easy to see why pide is often called ‘Turkish pizza’. But that strikes me as being a bit like saying that pizza is ‘Italian pide.’ Obviously, it isn’t.
I mention that thing about ‘Turkish pizza’ because the major similarities between pide and pizza spring from just two fundamental characteristics.
First, they both feature a flatbread that’s used as a carrier for other ingredients – the filling or topping.
Second, pizza dough and pide dough usually contain the same ingredients. That’d be flour, yeast, water, salt, sugar, and olive oil. Now, I know that some pizza bases, like the classic Neapolitan, don’t feature olive oil and sugar, but most bases do.
And that’s where the big similarities end. From there on in, it’s all about differences.
Pide vs. pizza – the differences
The clearly obvious difference is how a pide’s oval-shaped flatbread is formed into a sort of ship’s hull that gets generously loaded with an inch or so of filling just before it’s baked.
Now, purely in terms of the quantity of filling – and how it’s held in place – I reckon a pide is a bit like a Chicago-style, deep-dish pizza where the high-edged base creates the necessary space for lots of filling. Having said that, a big difference here is that a pide is baked on a flat oven sheet. And that means you could think of its entire flatbread hull as being a sort of edible baking dish.
And with pide, there’s no sauce. That’s right. In ours, the filling gets all the glorious juiciness it needs from the steak, onion, and tomatoes.
Finally, there’s an essential finishing touch to complete the list of differences. The sides of a pide get a big boost of golden color and deep, rich flavor from something that’s not routinely associated with pizza: lavish amounts of melted butter.
This gets brushed on as your pide is about to hit the oven and is brushed on again as it comes out ready to be served hot, glistening, golden, and astonishingly good.
And to serve alongside? Cacik
Quick and simple. That’s Turkish cacik. It’s a chunky, cool relish with cucumber, yogurt, mint, and garlic. Cacik can be served in various ways, sometimes as a chilled soup or a drizzle-on dressing, but ours is a satisfyingly thick and chunky relish.
You cut some cucumber into third-inch cubes and mix them with thick-and-creamy yogurt, chopped fresh mint, and a little finely chopped garlic. Season with salt and lemon juice, and your relish is ready to serve.
With its bright, fresh, and slightly sour, tangy flavors, this relish adds a lovely contrast to the beefy richness and fiery spiciness of our pide’s filling. And the creamy, soft crunch of the cucumber is a real winner with the crisp crunch of that beautifully buttery flatbread.
Like this recipe? You’ll love these too:
- Bunny Chow: Another delicious recipe for a crave-worthy hand-held food – this one hails from South Africa.
- Spicy Beef Empanadas: Speaking of classic “beef in bread” delights…You can’t go wrong with homemade empanadas.
- Tarongia – Sicilian Flat Breads: Topped with delicious Mediterranean ingredients, it’s sure to delight.
Turkish Pide: Crusty Flatbreads With Spicy Beef Filling
For the flatbread dough
- 12 ounces white bread flour That’s the ideal flour, but all-purpose, plain white flour will also work.
- 1 teaspoon ground sea salt
- ¼ ounce dried instant yeast The sort that comes in little ¼-ounce / 7 gram sachets, but do check its use-by date. If it’s gone beyond that, don’t use it.
- ½ teaspoon granulated white sugar
- 1 cup warm water ‘Warm’ doesn’t tell you much about temperature, and for our dough, the water needs to be around 100F / 38C. If you don’t have a thermometer, a neat way to create that temperature is to mix 1 part boiling water with 2 parts cold water.
- 4 tablespoons olive oil separated – 3 for the filling, and 1 for coating your pide baking tray
- 2 ounces salted butter melted – half for brushing over the sides of each pide just before they bake and half for brushing over again as the come out of the oven
For the beefsteak filling
- 4 fresh red cayenne peppers thinly sliced seeds and all
- 1 pound rump steak fat removed and reserved, and any sinewy bits cut away and discarded. Cut the remaining lean meat into 1/3-inch cubes. See notes for more information.
- 1 onion peeled and chopped into ¼-inch dice
- 1 green bell pepper de-seeded and cut into 1/3-inch dice
- 8 ounces red cherry tomatoes quartered
- 1 heaped teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 heaped teaspoon ground paprika
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 heaped teaspoon ground sea salt
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
For the cacik relish
- 2 cups Greek yogurt
- ½ cup cucumber peel off half the skin in long stripes, and cut the cucumber into rough-ish 1/3-inch chunks
- 1 clove garlic peeled and either very finely chopped or finely grated
- ½ ounce fresh mint separated – half finely chopped, stalks and all, for mixing into the relish, and half roughly chopped to garnish it.
- 1 teaspoon ground sea salt
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
Prepping the dough and letting it rise (giving you time to make the filling)
- Measure out 1 cup of warm water (about 100F / 38C) in a measuring jug.
- Add the yeast, sugar, and 2 tablespoons of that warm water to a small bowl and stir thoroughly. The rest of the water is heading into your dough in a few minutes, so set it aside. Leave the yeast, sugar, and water mix to sit for 5 minutes, so that it turns frothy as the yeast begins to ‘work’.
- Add the flour to a good size mixing bowl and stir in the salt. Add the frothy yeast mixture, 3 tablespoons olive oil, and the rest of the water. It will have cooled a little while you were waiting for the yeast mix to froth, and that’s as expected.
- Use a stout metal spoon or spatula to stir everything together. This will take a few minutes’ of thorough stirring. What you’re looking to produce is a slightly shiny, smooth, evenly textured dough. Time now for some kneading.
- Form the dough into a ball and set it on a smooth, clean work surface. Knead purposefully for 5 minutes. If you’re not sure how to do this, there’s an excellent, short, explanatory video (linked in notes below.) After that thorough kneading, the dough will have gained a smoother shine and become more elastic – it’ll want to pull back into shape when you stretch it a little.
- Form the dough into a ball, set it in a bowl, and cover it lightly with plastic wrap. You now want to let it sit for 90 minutes at room temperature. During that time, the dough will rise and expand to double its original size.
Making the filling
- Add a tablespoon of olive oil to a big, deep skillet (I used a heavy, 12-inch one) and set it on medium-high heat. Let it heat for a minute, and then add the finely chopped fat from your beefsteak.
- You’re now aiming to melt the fat into the skillet as the little pieces crisp and turn a deep golden. With a few stirs, that’ll take about 5 minutes on that medium-high heat.
- Now add the cubed meat and stir fry until the cubes start to pick up a little golden, very light char all over. Three minutes’ frying on medium-high should do the trick.
- Use a slotted spoon to remove the cubes and set them on a plate, leaving as much of the fatty oil as you can in the skillet.
- Drop the heat to low-medium and add the onions and salt. Fry for 5 minutes with an occasional stir until the onions soften, then add the cayenne peppers, tomatoes, bell pepper, cumin, paprika, and black pepper.
- Keeping the heat on low-medium, fry for another 3 minutes. Give the skillet a couple of stirs so that the tomatoes are encouraged to lose some of their body and the bell pepper softens just to the point of being al dente.
- Turn off the heat and stir the cubed meat and all its plate juices into the skillet. Your filling is done. Check for saltiness and, if necessary, add more salt to suit your taste.
Making the cacik relish
- I’d start on this about 5 minutes before your pide finish baking. The reason I say that is because the chunky bits of cucumber can start to lose their crunchy texture and turn a bit watery if the relish sits around for too long.
- Making this is very easy. Simply stir all the ingredients together in a pretty serving bowl and garnish it with half of the mint that you roughly chopped. Take a little care with your stirring so that the pieces of cucumber don’t lose their shape.
Rolling the dough and prepping the pide ready for baking
- Set your oven to 440F / 220C.
- Coat the bottom of a large baking sheet with 1 tablespoon olive oil – this helps to prevent the pide from sticking to the tray as they bake. (Your tray needs to big enough to hold all four pide, side by side.)
- Now melt the butter in a little bowl – I give it 20 seconds in the microwave to do that.
- Once it’s risen after sitting for 90 minutes, set the dough on your work surface and cut it into quarters. Form each quarter into a ball. Using a rolling pin, roll each ball into a pointy-ended oval that’s about 10 inches long, 4 ½ inches wide, and a ¼-inch thick.
- Use a broad spatula or fish-slice to carefully transfer each oval to your oiled baking tray.
- Spoon about three heaped tablespoons of filling into the middle of each oval. You want to leave a 1-inch gap between the filling and the edges of the oval, so heap the filling into a 1-inch-thick mound running right down the middle.
- Time to build the boats. Start by using your fingertips to give the pointy ends of the oval dough a very sparse coating of cold water – this helps to stick the edges together.
- Use your fingers to lift either side of the pointy ends so that you can pinch them together firmly. Now use your fingers to lift the sides of the oval and gently press them inwards – so that they just cover the outer edges of the heaped-up filling. It’s a bit fiddly, but with a little patience you’ll find you soon have four flatbread boats loaded with filling.
- Once your filled boats are formed, you can carefully add any remaining filling to top them up a little. Nearly done.
- Brush half the melted butter on the sides and top of the flatbread, and set the tray into your hot oven.
- Let them bake for 20 – 25 minutes until they turn a lovely golden color – maybe 5 minutes or so longer if you think they should darken a little more.
- Remove the tray, and quick as you can, brush the sides again with the remaining melted butter. And that’s it, your Turkish pide are ready to serve straight away.
Serving your pide
- Some people like to cut their pide widthways into slices about an inch wide which sounds great, so by all means do that if you like the idea.
- I like mine cut into thirds through the middle, so that I have a trio of easily held pieces.
- Either way, serve with your freshly made cacik alongside, with a little serving spoon so people can add a dainty dollop to the top of their sliced or halved pide.