The Mücver Variations

29 June 2017

This time round on Knidos Cookery Club we’re revisiting an old favourite – mücver, Turkey’s tasty courgette fritter.

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Could this be called a pea fritter?

The mücver usually served up in Turkish eateries are made from grated courgettes, so we’ve decided to spice up this old favourite by adding some other ingredients. Why not try them with fresh peas or grated carrot? Mushrooms work well, as do green beans.

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Putting some carrots in the mix

You can even add all these ingredients to the basic mix, chuck in a few chopped almonds or walnuts and, hey presto, you have a chunky veggie nut burger!

Serve the fritters in a pita, on a baguette, in a burger bun, rolled up in flat lavaş bread or just plain with a salad and condiments of your choice.

Ingredients (for around 8 fritters)

Two medium-sized courgettes

One small onion

One egg (or 15 ml of olive oil for vegan version)

Choose one or more from: 100 g chopped mushroom / grated carrot / peas (fresh if you have them, otherwise frozen or tinned) / sliced green beans (use 50 g of each if using more ingredients)

50 g of plain flour

Bunch of parsley, mint and/or dill (if you like that sort of thing)

Dried herbs to taste

A generous sprinkle of sesame seeds

An  optional dusting of chili flakes and grated cinnamon

Salt and pepper

A dash of olive oil for frying

Plain yogurt for serving

Method

Grate or chop up the courgettes and the extra of your choice (mushroom, carrot  peas, green beans or even all three) finely and mix with the chopped onion. Add fresh parsley, mint and/or dill, dried herbs, chili flakes, cinnamon, sesame seeds salt and pepper and blend well.

Make a well in the centre of the mix and break the egg into it. Sprinkle in the crumbled white cheese. Mix well. (Vegan readers should skip the egg and add 25 ml of olive oil instead)

Gradually add the plain flour and blend  until the mixture has quite a thick consistency – you don’t want it to be too wet and sloppy.

Drizzle some olive oil in a frying pan and put over a medium heat.

Place golf ball-sized scoops of the courgette mixture into the pan and flatten with a spatula or fork.

After a few minutes turn the fritter. Keep cooking until both sided are a golden-brown colour.

Serve hot with a dollop of yogurt on top.

Barbunya Bean Therapy

22 June 2017

Last week in Datça market piles of psychedelic pink-podded barbunya beans arrayed against their green-podded cousins caught our eye. In Turkey these distinctive beans, also known as borlotti or cranberry beans, are made into a starter called barbunya pilaki, which is always high on our list when ordering a spread of mezeler.

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Psychedelic pink barbunya beans piled high in Datça market

There’s something very therapeutic about podding these beans, like a beanish mindfulness moment!  Our kilo of beans in their pods yielded around 600 g of pink-marbled white beans.

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Bean therapy!

When cooked and allowed to cool, the pink colour leaches out and the beans take on a delicate brown hue. They’re delicious stewed with olive oil, onion, carrot, potato and lemon juice, served with a sprinkling of fresh parsley and a chunk of lemon. Some recipes omit the potato, but we think this gives the dish more oomph and means you don’t need to cook up any additional carbs.

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Barbunya pilaki all ready to go

They can be served hot as a less sugary take on baked beans, or served cold as part of the aforementioned selection of starters – Knidos Cookery Club recommends its carrot and walnut tarator, creamy almond and courgette dip, peppery muhammara and stuffed courgette flowers for a scrumptious feast of Turkish mezeler.

Ingredients (for 4-6 servings)

600 g shelled barbunya beans (or dried borlotti beans soaked overnight)

1 onion (around 100 g)

100 g carrot

100 g potato

100 g tomato

1 garlic clove

1 lemon

1 teaspoon honey

1 teaspoon red chili flakes

Fresh parsley to garnish

50 g olive oil

400 ml hot water

Method

Heat the olive oil into a heavy-based pan, chop the onion and garlic finely and fry over a medium heat for five minutes or so. Add the chopped tomatoes, lower the heat and cook for another five minutes.

Dice the carrot and potato into small cubes and then add these along with the beans, the juice of half a lemon, the honey, chili flakes and hot water to the pan and bring to a boil. Simmer for 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the beans are cooked but not going mushy.

Serve hot or allow to cool and garnish with fresh parsley and lemon slices.

Fill Yer Lentil Welly Boots!

15 June 2017

Next week should see the start of negotiations on the UK’s future relationship with the European Union as talks are scheduled to get underway on 19 June to hammer out the ultimate shape of Brexit.

In the lead up to this momentous day, this weekend also marks another seminal event in Britain’s troubled relationship with continental Europe – 18 June is the anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, a battle which saw forces under the command of the Duke of Wellington deliver a fatal blow to Napoleon Bonaparte’s ambitions in 1815.

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KCC’s Lentil Wellington ready for action

Only time will tell if the Maybot, in cahoots with the Rev Ian Paisely’s successors in the DUP, can produce a victory as decisive as Wellington’s – one thing is clear, some major sustenance is called for and what better than a hearty Lentil Wellington, our veggie take on Beef Wellington, a dish supposedly named after the duke.

Yes, besides giving his name to the wellington boot, the duke is also linked with this dish, which has a rich filling encased in pastry. Leah Hyslop suggests that the name was a patriotic makeover for a popular French dish:

The dish’s clear resemblance to that French specialty, filet de bœuf en croûte, could suggest the name was a timely patriotic rebranding of a trendy continental dish.

In our own era, food-patriotism was to the fore in 2003 when France refused to go along with the invasion of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, causing some in the USA to call for ‘french fries’ to be rebranded ‘freedom fries’.

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KCC’s Lentil Wellington ready for final assembly before baking

For a Turkish twist, we’ve used layers of yufka, the local version of filo pastry, to cover our rich lentil and vegetable sauce. Make sure you leave on overlap of pastry of about 8-10 cm around the edges of your dish in order to create a top to encase the filling.

Ingredients (serves 4)

250 g aubergines

250 g courgettes

250 g tomatoes

75 g black lentils

2 spring onions

1 garlic clove

1 bayleaf

1 teaspoon cinnamon, cumin, red chili flakes and coriander seeds

Pinches of black pepper and salt

250 ml vegetable stock

100 ml red wine

100 ml olive oil

Filo pastry (around 300 g)

Method

Wash the lentils until the water runs clear, and then cook in a heavy-based pan with the vegetable stock and bayleaf. Bring to the boil and then simmer over a low heat for 20 minutes or so until the liquid is absorbed.

While the lentils are cooking, prepare the vegetables: finely chop the spring onions and garlic, cut the aubergine and courgette into one cm thick slices and then cut into four. Place the vegetables into a heavy-based pan, add the herbs and spices and pour 50 ml olive oil over the veg and then cook over a medium heat for ten minutes, stirring occasionally.

Chop the tomatoes and add to the vegetables and cook for another five minutes, continue stirring every now and then. Now add the cooked lentils and the red wine and cook for another ten minutes or so until the liquid is absorbed.

While this is cooking, prepare the pie case. Grease a large pie dish with olive oil and layer leaves of filo pastry, brushing each layer with olive oil. Make sure you leave a pastry overlap of around 8-10 cm around the edges of the pie dish.

Pour the filling into the pie case and fold over the overlapping filo pastry, brushing with more olive oil to help seal the top of the case. Bake in an oven pre-heated to 180 c /gas mark 5 for 30 minutes or so until the top of the pie begins to turn a golden-brown colour.

Allow to cool for ten minutes and then serve slices of the pie with a crisp green salad and roasted new potatoes.

 

Moussaka Mania

8 June 2017

As the UK continues its downward plunge to become the latest contender for the mantle of Europe’s most basket case economy, we’re turning our attention to the current holder of that title, Greece, for culinary inspiration this week in the form of moussaka, a great comfort food. We’ll be needing lots of comfort in the coming months as the lucky winner of today’s UK election navigates a course through the choppy waters of Brexit.

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Summer is here, and with Datça market overflowing with an array of fresh produce, Knidos Cookery Club is moving back to weekly posts for the foreseeable future. The aubergine is a vegetable that has had surprisingly little coverage in these pages, so it’s high time that was rectified.

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Moussaka is a perennial Greek favourite that is great fresh from the oven or eaten cooled down, allowing the flavours some time to collide. It combines layers of fluffy  potato and silky aubergine covered with a tomato-rich ragù, all topped with a creamy white béchamel sauce.

We’ve used black lentils in place of minced lamb to make our veggie take on moussaka, although any lentils should work well in this dish. It pairs excellently with a classic Greek salad of tomato, cucumber, onion, green pepper, olives and white cheese.

Ingredients (for 3-4 servings)

300 g aubergines

300 g potatoes

250 g tomatoes

100 g black lentils (or any other lentil)

3 spring onions

1 garlic clove

400 ml vegetable stock

100 ml red wine

1 teaspoon of cinnamon

1 teaspoon of dried sage

1 bayleaf

Pinch of black pepper

Pinch of red chili flakes

50 ml olive oil

For the white sauce:

50 ml olive oil

50 g flour

500 ml milk

5 peppercorns

1 bayleaf

75 g cheese (feta or  any crumbly white cheese)

Method

Heat 20 ml of olive oil in a heavy-based pan, chop the spring onions and garlic clove and add to the pan. Cook for five minutes then add the washed lentils and stir. Add the stock, bring to the boil then simmer for 20 minutes or so until most of the liquid is absorbed.

Pre-heat the oven to 200 c / gas mark 6. Cut the potatoes into one cm slices and boil for five minutes in a pan of water. Drain immediately and allow to cool. While the potatoes are boiling, chop the aubergine into 1 cm slices. If you like, you can coat the aubergine slices with a little salt, leave to stand for 10 minutes and then rinse. This should make them less bitter and remove excess moisture.

Place the potato slices in an oven dish and coat with 15 ml olive oil and stir to coat thoroughly. Place the aubergine slices into a separate oven dish and pour 15 ml of olive oil over them. Put both the dishes into the oven and bake for 30-40 minutes or until the potatoes are a golden brown colour and the aubergine slices beginning to char.

Add the peeled, chopped tomatoes, 100 ml red wine, bayleaf, cinnamon, sage and pepper to the lentils and cook over a low heat for 45 minutes until the sauce has reduced by about half.

While this is cooking, make the white sauce. Heat the oil in a heavy-based pan and stir in the flour to make a roux of a runny consistency. Slowly stir in the milk and add the peppercorns and bayleaf, stirring constantly with a wooden spatula or spoon or a whisk over a low heat. When the sauce begins to thicken, add the grated cheese and continue stirring until the sauce sets.

Now it’s time to assemble the moussaka. Pour half the lentil ragù over the potatoes to coat, add a layer of aubergines and pour over the rest of the ragù. Place the remaining aubergine slices over this and then pour the white sauce over these.

Sprinkle with red chili flakes and place in the oven and bake at 180 c /gas mark 5 for an hour or so – the top should be going a nice spotted brown colour as in the photo above.

Allow to cool and serve with a classic Greek salad made from tomato, cucumber, onion, green pepper, olives and white cheese, liberally dressed with olive oil and thyme.

Waste Not, Want Not: The Beet Goes On

1 June 2017

“Waste not, want not” was a familiar refrain at mealtimes when I was growing up. My parents had grown up with the rationing of World War II, and the lean years after it, and they were instilled with a mentality that saw nothing going to waste.

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Here at Knidos Cookery Club, we’re big fans of this philosophy as an antidote to our throwaway culture. We couldn’t resist this beetroot on sale with it stem and leaves in place – bits that are more usually removed and discarded before the root hits the supermarket shelves.

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The stems and leaves contain loads of nutrients and taste delicious when simply sautéed with a spring onion, a clove of garlic and a dash of soy sauce and lemon juice to make a great side dish.

Having been brought up to believe that beetroot was something that came pickled in jars and ready sliced, it was a revelation when I first came across the leaves and stems cooked in a similar way in Greece many years ago.

Don’t forget that you can also use the main part of the root in a vivid Rip Red Risotto or in a tasty Georgian pkhali  – the beet goes on!

Ingredients (serves 3-4 as a side dish)

the stems and leaves of a fresh beetroot

one garlic clove

one spring onion

soy sauce

olive oil for frying

juice of half a lemon

Method

Heat the olive oil in a wok or large frying pan over a medium heat and add the sliced spring onion and chopped garlic. Cut the stems from the beetroot (reserve the root for another dish). Separate the leaves from the stems.

Cut the stems into 2 cm slices and add to the onion and garlic and stir fry for five minutes. Shred the beetroot leaves and add to the pan, stirring constantly. Cook for two minutes, or until the leaves begin to wilt. Add a dash of soy sauce, stir and serve straight away, pouring the lemon juice over the beetroot  sauté.