Boza is a sweet slightly fermented drink that originated in the Balkans in the ninth century and is now associated with the suburbs of Istanbul. When I was a kid, I would look forward to hearing the cries of the food sellers who would pass by our house in the afternoon. The one I enjoyed the most came past at the end of a winter’s day as the sky was darkening. He would stretch out the cry as long as he could: ‘Bohhhhh-zaaaaa’. You would bring him a bottle, and the boza man would fill it by turning a tap in a big tank he carried on his back.
The street sellers are gone now. If you want to drink boza in Istanbul, you must go to the shop known as Vefa, which opened in 1876 in a suburb called Vefa. Between October and April they sell boza (and pickles). The rest of the year they sell grape sherbet, lemonade and ice cream. If it’s a quiet day, they’ll show you the glass from which Kemal Atatürk drank Vefa boza the year before he died (1937). Presumably he couldn’t hear the cry of the street seller from inside his palace.
Wash the bulgur and rice in cold running water to remove the excess starch. Put the grains in a saucepan with
Dilute the yeast in
Slowly pour the yeast into the grain mixture, stirring constantly, then leave to cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally. Cover with a lid between stirs. Once completely cool, transfer the pan to a cool spot and leave to ferment for at least 24 hours. Every 6 hours or so, stir with a wooden spoon. Meanwhile, prepare the chickpeas.
Strain and rinse the soaked chickpeas, place in a saucepan, cover with water and bring to the boil over medium heat. Lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Wash the cooked chickpeas and then strain and pat dry with paper towel.
Pre heat the oven to 200°C (400°F/Gas 6). Grease a baking tray with the olive oil, then add the chickpeas and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the tray from the oven and gently shake it to roll the chickpeas around. Return the tray to the oven and bake for a further 15 minutes. Remove the tray and set aside to cool. Store the chickpeas in a covered container at room temperature until you are ready to add them to the boza.
After 24 hours, check the boza. Depending on the season, the temperature and the humidity, it may take up to 3 days for the drink to ferment. Once bubbles form on the top, it is ready.
Stir the boza with a metal spoon just before serving. Pour into four glasses, spoon the chickpeas over the top (or on the side for people to add themselves), sprinkle each glass with cinnamon and serve.
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