Pass the Glasswort

30 June 2016

This week on Knidos Cookery Club we’re back in Turkey and we’ll be looking at a plant that grows in abundance on the salty shores of the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas – glasswort, or marsh samphire (salicornia europa). It’s known as glasswort because it used to be used as a source of sodium sulphate in the glass-making process until the nineteenth century.

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Freshly-picked samphire/glasswort

This bright green plant thrives in salty conditions and grows wild along seashores, estuaries and salt marshes all over Europe. It used to be widely eaten in the UK, it’s rich in minerals and has a pleasing flavour of the sea, but has only recently started re-appearing on menus as a much sought after ‘designer vegetable’- you might see it referred to as ‘sea asparagus’.

It’s called deniz börülcesi in Turkey, which translates as sea beans, and is served as a side dish dressed with olive oil, lemon and garlic alongside an array of other starters.

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Blanched glasswort dressed with olive oil, lemon juice and black pepper

For this simple dish, you’ll need around 50-75 g of glasswort for each person. When preparing the glasswort, take care to wash it thoroughly and clean any sand and grit away. Cut off any tough stalks and roots and then blanch it in unsalted, boiling water for three minutes.

Drain the water away and then dress the stems with olive oil, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and a sprinkling of black pepper – you won’t need to add any extra salt as it will already be salty enough. Serve warm alongside a salad of rocket, tomato, olives and onion and some fresh, crunchy bread for a light but tasty lunch.

 

 

 

You Like Tomato, I Like Ntomato

23 June 2016

Knidos Cookery Club’s fact-finding mission to Greece continues with a look at the contribution of the tomato to local culinary culture.

It may be hard to believe, but it is only in the last two hundred years that the tomato has established itself as a key ingredient in Greek kitchens.

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A plate of tomato fritters from Kos, Greece

It’s found in the classic horiatiki salad that pairs it with cucumber, onion, green pepper, olives and feta cheese. It plays a key role in gemista, platters of vegetables stuffed with rice.

On the island of Kos the sweet local varieties of tomatoes are preserved in syrup or made into jam that makes an orange marmalade rival for a slice of toast.

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Tomatoes preserved in syrup with almonds from Kos, Greece

In Greece the tomato is called ντοματο, pronounced with a ‘d’ sound at the beginning. Modern Greek has no single letter for the ‘d’ sound and uses the letters for ‘n’ and ‘t’ to make this sound.

This week Knidos Cookery Club is serving up tomato fritters, a close cousin of Turkey’s mücver. We’ve used plum tomatoes as they tend to be a bit less juicy than other varieties. The mix needs to find a balance between not being too dry or too wet for the fritters to hold together in the pan.

Ingredients (makes 10-12 fritters)

500 g plum tomatoes

One medium-sized red onion

Fresh herbs – small bunches of parsley, basil and mint or a teaspoon of dried parsley, basil and mint

100 g plain flour

Seasoning mix – pinches of salt and pepper, one teaspoon of cinnamon and one of cumin

Olive oil for frying

Method

Grate the tomatoes and mix with the herbs and flour until you have a mix that is neither too dry nor too wet.

Heat the oil in a frying pan and when hot add fritters made into walnut-sized shapes and flatten with a fish slice or spatula.

Cook on both sides until golden brown in colour and serve with a sauce of natural yogurt, grated cucumber and garlic.

Head to the Islands

16 June, 2016

This week Knidos Cookery Club is on location in Greece, on the island of Kos, which is a short hop by boat from the ruins of the ancient Carian port city of Knidos.

Turkey and Greece have a lot of similarities when it comes to food with both cuisines drawing on herbs and vegetables common to the areas around the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas. Much of Greek cooking tends towards heartier fare, whereas the Ottoman influence on Turkish cooking lends it a more regal and refined air.

Historically, Greece’s islands have depended on what was grown and produced on the island. This sees the use of dried beans and pulses, olives, cheeses preserved in red wine and bread dried into rusks.

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Aegli restaurant, Kos Town

Knidos Cookery Club’s favourite restaurant in Kos Town is Aegli, glamour in Greek, which is a women’s cooperatve that employs single mothers and women over 50. It uses local recipes and serves dishes made from ingredients sourced only from the island.

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Aegli’s mixed starter plate

The excellent mixed starter plate came with fava, a mashed broad bean paste, a dip made from fresh aubergenes, a cheese and chili pepper blend, giant beans in a tomato sauce and two types of fritters – one made with mashed potato and onion, and the other with mashed chick peas.

This week, Knidos Cookery Club will serve up some revithokeftedes (ρεβυθοκεφτεδες), a chick pea fritter that is a mintier version of falafel.

Ingredients (for 10-12 fritters)

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

Two spring onions

A bunch of fresh mint, sprinkles of salt and pepper

100 g flour

25 g sesame seeds

100 ml olive oil for frying

Method

Mash the chick peas with a potato masher or blender. Add the chopped spring onion, mint and salt and pepper. Mix in the flour and then shape the mix into golf ball-sized fritters and roll them in sesame seeds.

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan then cook the fritters, flattening them with a spatula. Fry until a golden brown colour on both sides.

 

Who Ate All the Pies?

9 June 2016

This week, Knidos Cookery Club is going to have a look at a local take on the pie – börek. 

This member of the baked, filled pastry club is made from thin layers of filo pastry, known as yufka in Turkey. It comes with a variety of fillings including spinach, white cheese, potatoes, grated courgettes, swiss chard, leeks or combinations of these fillings.

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Individual spinach börek ready for the oven

There are two main ways of preparing börek – in a large pan and then sliced after baking, or as an individual serving in a cigar-shape. Either way, the börek is a moreish treat so always make more than you think you’ll need!

Kindos Cookery Club will tell you how to make the individual servings today. To make the pan version, layer 3-4 sheets of filo pastry in a large, greased dish, brushing glaze between the layers (as in this recipe for a zesty leek, goat cheese and walnut tart). Next add the filling of your choice and then top it off with 3-4 more sheets of filo and sprinkle with nigella seeds. Follow the baking instructions below for the individual pies to cook the pan version.

Follow these steps to make some tasty individual white cheese and spinach börek.

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Ready to roll…

 

Ingredients (To make 5 individual pies)

15 sheets of filo pastry

500 g spinach

One medium-sized onion

100 g white cheese

50 ml olive oil

50 ml natural yogurt or milk

Fresh mixed herbs (mint, oregano, thyme,dill)

Salt and pepper

Nigella seeds

Method

To make the filling, heat some olive oil in a heavy-based pan and cook the chopped onion over a medium heat until translucent. Add the chopped, fresh herbs and washed and shredded spinach. Season with dashes of salt and pepper.

Cook until the spinach wilts and then add the crumbled white cheese. Mix well and allow to cool.

Make a glaze for the filo pastry by blending equal parts of olive oil and natural yogurt (or milk). Brush the glaze over one 15 cm x 15 cm sheet of filo (or triangle shapes if you can find them), then place another layer of pastry, glaze and finally one more sheet and glaze.

Put two generous dollops of filling onto the bottom edge of the layered filo sheets, leaving about 2 cm at each end. Roll the pie into a cigar shape and press the ends down.

Brush with glaze and sprinkle nigella seeds over the cigar.

Place on a greased baking tray and put into a pre-heated oven and bake at 200 °C (gas mark 6) for 30 minutes or until the pies are golden brown in colour.

 

 

Sundowner Time

2 June 2016

Welcome to the tenth edition of Knidos Cookery Club! This calls for a celebration and this week we’ll be looking at some snacks and starters commonly associated with Turkey’s favourite alcoholic tipple, rakı.

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A classic sundowner set with rakı, white cheese and cucumber

Rakı is a member of the family of anise-flavoured drinks common to many countries with coastlines on the Mediterranean  Sea – ouzo in Greece, pastis in France, sambuca in Italy, arak in Lebanon and chinchón in Spain.

When rakı is diluted with water, it turns a milky white colour leading to its Turkish nickname, aslan sütü, or lion’s milk. It’s drunk as an aperitif and is accompanied by white cheese and cucumber. In spring and early summer, it’s often served with tart, sour green plums, known as can erik.

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Sour plums

Rakı also accompanies a long, lazy lunch or evening meal with the drink served alongside a selection of mezeler, or appetizers that include, among many others, a spicy tomato and chili paste, acılı ezme, yogurt, grated cucumber and crushed garlic, cacık, and semizotu, purslane mixed with yogurt. These starters are usually followed by a grilled fish course and the meal is finished with slices of fresh melon.

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The new season’s carrots have arrived!

We couldn’t resist these great carrots in the market last week, and they’ve inspired this meze to go with a glass or two of lion’s milk. This week’s recipe is for cezizli havuç tarator, a combo of walnuts, carrots and yogurt.

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Carrot and Walnut Tarator

Ingredients (serves 3-4)

200 g baby carrots

Eight walnuts

200 ml Greek (strained) yogurt

One or two garlic cloves

Splash of olive oil

Salt, black pepper, dried oregano, chili flakes, cumin and nigella seeds

Method

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan. Clean and grate the carrots (keep the carrot tops to make this pesto) then cook the grated carrot over a low heat for ten minutes or so to help release the natural sugars in the carrots. While it’s cooking, keep stirring and add pinches of salt, black pepper, dried oregano, chili flakes and cumin.

Allow the carrots to cool then add the crushed walnuts (use a blender or a rolling pin to crush them), as much garlic as you prefer and the yogurt. Blend together well and drizzle with nigella seeds.

Serve as a dip with crackers and slices of red pepper and cucumber along with a glass of rakı, water and ice.