Courgette Flower Power

4 May 2017

This time round on Knidos Cookery Club we’ve been busy stuffing courgette flowers, a popular starter all around the Aegean Sea. In Turkey, these delicate taste-bud ticklers, known as kabak çiçeği dolması, are stuffed with a rice mixture and baked, unlike their Italian cousins which are filled with ricotta cheese and deep fried.

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Succulent stuffed courgette flower power

The courgette, zucchini to our north American readers, is a really versatile vegetable – in the past we’ve used it in a tasty fritter mücverstuffed courgettes and in a creamy almond dip, and it’s great that we’ve found a use for its flowers as well.

If you’re growing your own courgettes, then you should have a ready supply of flowers, otherwise you may need to scour your local farmers’ market for these vivid orange blossoms.

Ingredients 

20-25 courgette flowers

One cup (approx. 100g) of short or long grain rice (We recommend brown rice for its earthier flavour)

250 ml vegetable stock

One medium-sized onion

One medium-sized tomato

One garlic clove

Pinches of dried thyme, oregano, black pepper, chili pepper flakes, cinnamon and salt

5 g fresh parsley

5 g fresh mint

25 g raisins

25 g  pine nuts

25 ml olive oil for frying

Juice of one lemon

One sliced lemon

100 ml natural yogurt

Method

Pour the olive oil into a heavy-based pan and add the chopped onion and garlic. Cook over a medium heat until the onion becomes translucent. Add the chopped tomato, dried and fresh herbs, seasoning, dried fruit and pine nuts and cook for five minutes over a high heat.

Turn the heat down and add the washed and soaked rice to the onion mix and stir to cover the grains with oil. Add the stock and cook over a low heat until the liquid is absorbed.

Make sure that the courgette flowers are free from any green, leafy bits or stem and remove the stamen from the inside of the flower. Allow the rice mixture to cool and then fill each flower with a teaspoon of rice mix – don’t overfill them as the rice will continue to expand as it cooks.

Fold the end of the blossom together to seal the rice mix in and place the filled flowers into a heavy based frying pan or casserole dish. Pour water over the flowers to just cover them, add a generous glug of olive oil and the lemon juice, put a lid on the pan and cook over a low heat until all the water is absorbed.

Leaving the pan covered, let the cooked courgette flowers rest for 30 minutes or so with the heat turned off and then serve with lemon slices and a dollop of natural yogurt.

 

 

 

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Battle of the Beans 2: Land of the Giants

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Giant beans served up at Aigli restaurant, Kos Town, Greece

21 July 2016

When it comes to food, Turkey and Greece have more in common than they’ll often admit. They share a love for small cups of strong coffee and sweet tooths all around the Aegean Sea love baklava,  made from chopped nuts and layers of filo pastry drenched in honey.

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Baklava and coffee a la Turca

On the savoury side, no selection of starters is complete without that famous yogurt dip made with cucumber and garlic – known as cacık in Turkish, tzatziki in Greek. A Turk’s ıspanaklı börek is a spanakopita to a Greek.

Last week’s Knidos Cookery Club looked at Turkey’s signature bean dish, kuru fasulye, using haricot beans. This week, we will attempt to make the brasher Greek version, gigantes plaki, which uses the biggest beans you can get your hands on and bakes them in a thick tomato sauce in the oven

There’s something about the humble bean that makes it a great comfort food when your body craves something plain and wholesome. After a period of indulging in Greece’s myriad takes on feta cheese: a slab placed atop a horiatiki salad, deep fried in a honey and sesame seed coating or wrapped in layers of flaky filo pastry, feta fatigue can sometimes set in.  If this happens, then there’s nothing like a bowl of giant beans served with a light green salad to bring your appetite back to life.

Butter beans, also called lima beans, work well in this dish, with their insides going soft and mushy while the exterior remains firm. Reserve some of the liquid (around 200 ml) from cooking the dried beans to use for these baked beans with an edge. A secret ingredient that gives this dish it’s distinctive taste is celery.

Ingredients (serves 5-6 generous portions)

250 g dried butter (lima) beans soaked overnight

Two medium-sized red onions

Two small stalks of celery

One or two cloves of garlic

Three medium-sized plum tomatoes

A small bunch of parsley

Pinches of salt, pepper and cumin

One teaspoon of cinnamon

One teaspoon dried thyme

50 g olive oil

Method

Boil the butter beans over a low heat for an hour or so until they are tender but not falling apart. Stick around and every five minutes or so scoop off the foam that forms while the beans are cooking. Drain the beans, reserving 200 ml of the cooking water for use later.

While the beans are cooking, prepare the sauce. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and add most of the finely diced onion (save some slices to sprinkle over the cooked beans) and the chopped garlic. Fry until translucent and then add the finely chopped celery. Cook for five minutes or so and then add the parsley, thyme and cinnamon and season with salt, pepper and cumin.

Peel the tomatoes (dunking them in boiling water for 30 seconds and then into cold water will help loosen the skins) and chop finely and add to the other ingredients in the frying pan and cook for ten minutes.

Pour the beans into a large baking dish, cover them with the sauce and add the reserved cooking liquid. Bake in an oven pre-heated to 180 °C (gas mark 5) for one hour. The beans should still be fairly firm on the outside but mushy and soft on the inside. Leave in the oven for longer if the insides are firm other than mushy.

Allow to cool for 15 minutes or so and then serve with a green salad and crusty bread to soak up the juices.

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The Turk Brekkie Club

7 July 2016

Turkey has turned the first meal of the day into an art form with ever-more elaborate spreads of cheeses, jams, honey, olives, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and egg dishes spilling across the table with different regions of the country bringing local additions to the mix.

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Turk Brekkie!

At the heart of the breakfast there is usually an egg dish – often a soft-boiled or fried egg, or a speciality dish such as menemen, a hearty scramble of eggs, onions peppers and tomatoes.

In Datça, the köy, or village, breakfast can come with lashings of local honey and gözleme, a pancake filled with  white cheese and fresh herbs. The Van Breakfast, originating in the east of the country, has conquered the rest of Turkey with its array of 20 or more dishes. It  includes otlu peynir, a herb-infused cheese, martuğa, made from flour, butter and egg, and kavut, a porridge made from cornmeal and ground barley.

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Menemen

This week on Knidos Cookery Club, we’ll be cooking up menemen. I first encountered this breakfast-time treat when staying in Izmir, on the Aegean coast. Walking out of my hotel, I was met be the mouth-watering aroma of eggs bubbling away with peppers and tomatoes.  Street hawkers, hunched over single-burner camping stoves, were busily whipping up pans of scrambled delight.

Ingredients (for one hearty serving)

Two eggs

One spring onion

One small red or green pepper (if you like it hot, use a chili pepper)

One small tomato

Seasoning: pinches of salt, black pepper, cumin and chill pepper flakes

Parsley for garnishing

Olive oil for frying

Method

Heat the oil in a small frying pan. Add the diced spring onion and cook over a medium heat until starting to brown. Add the diced tomato and diced pepper and season with salt, black pepper, cumin and chill pepper flakes.

Cook until the peppers begin to soften then reduce to a low heat and crack in the eggs. Keep stirring as you would for scrambled eggs. When the egg begins to set, remove from the heat – it’ll carry on cooking in the pan. Garnish with some chopped parsley.

Serve immediately with crusty bread and a plate of white cheese, honey, olives, tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers for the full-on Turk brekkie effect.

 

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.