Swiss Chard: No Fence Sitting Allowed

26 May 2016

Swiss chard, a surprisingly divisive green leaf, is in the spotlight on Knidos Cookery Club this week.

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Swiss chard – friend or foe?

 

Swiss chard, pazı  in Turkish, is one of those love it or hate it vegetables. In a restaurant in Istanbul a few years ago, a Turkish friend was fine with the spinach order but when I suggested the pazı side dish he looked at me as if I had gone mad. He refused to countenance eating it, leaving these particular green leaves to the three foreigners he was with.

On the positive side, in Croatia last summer friends from HaMAS in the UK introduced me to blitva, a local take on this leafy green vegetable that sees it sautéed with potatoes and garlic.

Here at Knidos Cookery Club we love it, especially when the vitamin-packed leaves are combined with red peppers, added more for colour than heat, and topped off with a healthy dollop of natural yogurt, to re-create a dish that is a mainstay in Turkey’s home-cooking lokanta restaurants.

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Turkish-style Swiss chard with red pepper and yogurt

Try this recipe yourself to see which side of the Swiss chard fence you fall on.

Ingredients (serves 3-4)

One bunch of Swiss chard (approx 500g)

Three spring onions

Two medium-sized red peppers

Dash of olive oil

Pinches of cumin, cinnamon, salt and black pepper

One bay leaf

Dollop of yogurt

Sprinkle of chili flakes and nigella seeds

Method

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and when hot add the finely chopped spring onions.

After a few minutes over a medium heat, add the finely chopped red pepper and the bay leaf. Season with pinches of cumin, cinnamon, salt and black pepper.

Clean the Swiss chard thoroughly, shake dry and then roughly chop the leaves and stalks. After cooking the red peppers for five minutes, add the Swiss chard to the pan and stir continuously. You shouldn’t need to add any extra water. Continue cooking and stirring until the Swiss chard begins to soften – 8-10 minutes or so.

Serve with a dollop of yogurt and sprinkle the chili flakes and nigella seeds over this.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Passion for Purslane

19 May 2016

This week on Knidos Cookery Club we’ll be looking at some ways of using purslane, our favourite weed. This highly-nutritious plant is called semizotu and is widely cultivated in Turkey, where it also grows wild. It’s used in salads, soups and stews.

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Freshly-picked purslane

Purslane has a crunchy texture and a lemony taste and can be used as a substitute for spinach and watercress. This superweed is packed with vitamins – it has the highest concentration of vitamin E of any plant and also contains a useful essential omega-3 fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid, reports motherearthnews.com.

In the Knidos area, it’s a mainstay of meze, or starter, combos when served with yogurt and a hint of garlic. The leaves and stems are also good as a simple but tasty salad dressed with a tahini sauce.

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Purslane in a tahini dressing

We’ve opted for a vitamin-packed spring stew, Semizotu Nohutlu Bulgur Pilavı with purslane, chick peas (garbanzo beans), tomato. carrot and bulgur wheat. Here’s what the finished dish should look like:

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Ingredients (serves3-4)

One bunch of purslane

One medium-sized onion

Two carrots

Four medium-sized tomatoes

100 g coarse bulgur wheat

One can chick peas or 150 g dried chick peas soaked overnight and boiled for an hour or so

One bay leaf

Fresh herbs – parsley and mint

A pinch of cumin, cinnamon, black pepper, red chili flakes, thyme and salt

250 ml warm water

25 ml olive oil

Method

Heat the olive oil in a heavy-based pan and add the chopped onion, the bay leaf and a sprinkle of dried thyme.

Slice the carrot into 50 mm rounds then chop up the tomatoes. When the onions are translucent, add the carrots to the mix and after five minutes or so add the tomatoes.

Cook for another five minutes then add the chick peas, bulgur wheat and water and season with the fresh herbs and spices.

Stir well and bring to the boil. Then turn the heat down, add the purslane and cook over a low heat for 20-25 minutes until the bulgur wheat is cooked but still a bit chewy.

Allow to rest for 5-10 minutes then serve with yogurt and garnish with mint.

Afiyet olsun!

 

 

Red Green Bean Feast

12 May 2016

This week, Knidos Cookery Club is returning to the zeytinyağlı style of cooking to cook up a real bean feast with freshly-picked, tender green beans and juicy tomatoes.

Around this time of year, markets in Turkey are teeming with fresh beans in a variety of shapes and sizes. For a quick and easy meal, Knidos Cookery Club likes to chop the beans up and chuck them into a boiling pan of pasta and serve it all up with some generous dollops of pesto and shavings of parmesan.

For a traditional Turkish twist, combine your green beans with tomatoes to make zeytinyağlı taze fasulye and serve it as a side-dish alongside other seasonal, vegetable dishes. Serving this dish on top of a bowl of steamed rice makes for a more substantial main meal.

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Recipes for this bean feast often call for the addition of some sugar, but you can replace this with honey. For a richer sauce, I found some pekmez, molasses (usually made from crushed grapes), in the store cupboard and poured a bountiful slug of this into the mix, giving the onions in the finished dish a deep burgundy hue.

Another use for pekmez is to mix it with tahini, sesame seed paste, and this fabulous combination frequently features in a full-on Turkish breakfast; more on this in a later edition of Knidos Cookery Club.

Ingredients (Serves 3-4)

500 g fresh green beans

One medium-sized onion

One or two garlic cloves

Four medium-sized tomatoes

50 ml Olive oil

One teaspoon of honey or pekmez

 Juice of one lemon

Pinches of salt, pepper and cumin

One bay leaf

250 ml warm water

Method

 Heat the oil in a heavy-based pan and add the finely chopped onion and garlic when the oil’s sizzling.

When the onions are looking translucent, add the green beans,  topped and tailed and sliced into 3-5 cm lengths, the chopped tomatoes and the bay leaf, salt, pepper and cumin and mix well.

Pour in the lemon juice, water and a dollop of pekmez or honey. Bring to the boil and then put the lid on the pan and cook over a low heat for 30 minutes or so until the beans are tender.

Serve with other vegetable dishes, bread and/or steamed rice.

 

Adventures with Artichokes

5 May 2016

This week Knidos Cookery Club is attempting to tackle one of the most daunting vegetables out there – the globe artichoke. This enormous edible thistle with its armadillo-like outer leaves has always intrigued me – you never quite know what might be lurking inside the beast.

Known as enginar in Turkish, it is widely cultivated in the Aegean and Mediterranean regions. It is a measure of the regard that this vegetable is held in that it has its own international festival in Urla near Izmir, Turkey (this year’s has just gone – it was held from 28 April – 1 May).

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An artichoke plant in Turkey

On 1 May, Knidos Cookery Club donned its walking boots and joined the annual walk from Datça on the Mediterranean Sea to the shore of the Aegean Sea, north of the village of Kızlan. On the way a number of artichokes were spotted growing in people’s gardens.

On returning home, my aim was to try and serve up something close to a dish that is a staple of many home-cooking restaurants in Turkey – an artichoke bottom filled to the brim with mixed vegetables or, sometimes, broad beans, but after peeling away the outer leaves and the choke my specimen’s bottoms were found to be a bit lacking in the size department.

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The planned dish of broad beans, bakla in Turkish, overflowing from an abundant base had to be modified at the last moment and instead I settled on a salad of diced artichoke and broad beans in a lemony sauce, garnished with strips of avocado.

Broad beans appear around the same time as artichokes in the market in early spring and the two team together well, especially with the addition of a lemon or two. For an even greener salad, I picked up some ripe avocadoes in the market and topped the finished dish with a few slices of alligator pear.

The tough outer leaves can be eaten as well. After steaming for 30 minutes or so, the bottoms of the leaves reveal some tasty artichoke flesh that you can pull through you teeth to get at the goodness. Dipping them in melted butter with a dash of garlic makes them even more delicious.

Ingredients

Two medium sized globe artichokes

250 g fresh broad beans

Two spring onions

The juice of one lemon

One ripe avocado

Olive oil

Herbs and spices

Method

Wash the artichoke and cut away the stem. Steam it in a large pan for 30 minutes or so until the outer leaves are tender.

Peel the leaves away from the main body and save to eat as a starter, dipped in olive oil or melted butter.

Now remove the fibrous choke that surrounds the fleshy, edible part of our oversized thistle. You should be left with a concave disc of artichoke.

Place the artichoke in lemon juice to stop it discolouring.

Heat the olive oil in a pan and add the diced spring onion.

After a few minutes stir in the peeled broad beans and chunks of squeezed lemon and cover with a mix of water and the rest of your lemon juice and keep at a rolling boil for 30 minutes. Boil off as much liquid as you can to leave a runny, lemony sauce.

Chop up the artichoke and mix with the broad beans in the lemony sauce. Add fresh herbs such as mint and parsley and season lightly with salt and pepper. Garnish with thin strips of avocado and serve with a tomato and onion salad to contrast the vivid reds with the verdant greens of the artichoke medley.