Getting Down to the Nuts and Roots

26 January 2017

This time round on Knidos Cookery Club we’re getting back to the roots with a comforting winter soup made from some of our favourite root vegetables, a leek or two and some roasted chestnuts.

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Roasted chestnuts – a winter treat

One of the big events in the world of Knidos Cookery Club so far in 2017 has been the relocation of Datça’s weekly market to a new, purpose-built site. Previously, when the market came to town on Friday and Saturday, it would spill down the hill in the centre of town, causing considerable congestion with the stallholders looking for parking spots and the customers squeezed in-between.

The new site has a covered area for the local fruit and vegetable growers with the other stalls – spices and nuts, clothes, household goods etc., setting up around the covered market. It’s a lot more user-friendly, with plenty of space for shoppers and stall holders.

The last few visits to the market have entailed searching for some of our regular suppliers in the new layout, and we’re pleased to report that most of them have been accounted for!

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A warming bowl of rooty, chestnut pureed soup

In season at the moment are chestnuts – anyone who’s visited Istanbul in winter will probably remember trying fresh roasted chestnuts while on the move around the centre, a delicious snack that epitomises the city in the colder months of the year to me.

There were also root vegetables aplenty – including black carrots (these root vegetables were first cultivated in Afghanistan and were yellow and purple in colour) and celeriac, lengthy leeks and lashings of oranges and lemons. So this week we’ll be making a rooty nutty soup containing celeriac, potato, carrot, leek, shallots and chestnuts.

Ingredients (serves 3-4)

75 g shallots

250 g leeks

250 g celeriac

one medium-sized potato

100 g carrot (black if you can find them!)

500 ml vegetable stock

25 ml olive oil

150 g chestnuts

one teaspoon dried thyme

salt and pepper for seasoning

juice of one lemon

Method 

Fry the finely sliced leeks and chopped shallots in the olive oil, which has been seasoned with dried thyme, over a medium-high heat until just beginning to brown. Peel and dice the celeriac, potato and carrot into 1 cm cubes  and add to the pan of leeks and shallots.

Stir in well to coat the cubed root vegetables with oil and thyme and then add the stock and the juice of the lemon and simmer for 20 minutes over a low-medium heat. While this is bubbling away, score the outside of each chestnut with a cross shape (on one side) and roast the chestnuts in an oven pre-heated to 220 c /gas mark 7.

Check the chestnuts after 20 minutes or so – if they are easy to peel and are roasted sufficiently, then they are ready for use. If not, check every 5 minutes until the shell comes off easily.

Add the peeled chestnuts to the soup pan, stir well and season with salt and pepper to taste. Then use a hand blender to make a smooth, thick soup and serve straight away with hunks of wholemeal bread.

Olivier with an Edge

12 January 2017

Welcome to the first Knidos Cookery Club of the new year. While many of us have returned to the daily grind, it’s still party-time in some parts of the world.

in Russia, people are preparing to celebrate New Year’s Eve on 13 January – the Orthodox Church still follows the Julian calendar rather than the Gregorian calendar, which Russia adopted after 1917’s October Revolution. This switch created a 13-day lag between the calendars so, for followers of the Orthodox faith, Christmas Eve falls on 6 January and 13 January marks the end of the old year.

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KCC’s take on Russia’s classic Olivier salad

A centre-piece of Russian tables on this day, as people prepare to welcome in novy god, is the Olivier salad – a concoction of boiled potatoes, pickled cucumbers, peas, eggs, carrots and boiled beef or chicken in a mayonnaise dressing. This version dates from Soviet times as all the ingredients could usually be procured even in the depths of winter and despite chronic shortages.

A version of the salad, omitting the meat and eggs, is made in Turkey where it’s known as Rus Salatası – we’ve made our own veggie version that replaces the meat (Olivier purists look aside now, please) with black and green olives and uses sour cream in place of mayonnaise.

When I lived in Moscow in the 1990s I got it into my head that Olivier salad should include olives (mistakenly thinking that Olivier referred to olives rather than the salad’s originator!) and I was disappointed when it came minus olives – so now I finally have a chance to put this right!

Ingredients (serves 3-4)

150 g potatoes

150 g carrots

150 g peas

150 g pickled cucumbers

150 g black and green olives

two hard boiled eggs

150 ml sour cream or natural yogurt

pinches of salt and black pepper

Method

Boil the whole carrots and potatoes until cooked but not going mushy and boil the eggs for 5 minutes or so. While they’re all cooking, chop the pickled cucumbers and olives into small cubes.

Drain the potatoes and carrots and cover with cold water to stop them cooking. Do the same with the eggs. Chop the potatoes, carrots and eggs into small cubes and arrange around the side of a large serving dish in separate sections with the olives, peas and cucumbers.

Pour the sour cream or yogurt into the middle of the bowl and season with salt and pepper. Now mix all the ingredients thoroughly, making sure they all get a good coating of sour cream or yogurt.

Leave in the fridge before serving alongside other Russian-themed salads, such as this veggie take on caviar made from beluga lentils, and wish a hearty S Novym Godom with shots of vodka and/or a glass of chilled Sovyetskoye Shampankskoye (if you can get hold of it in your local offie!) as you prepare to welcome Old New Year in true Russian-style!