Down Home Arizona Kızartma

14 February 2019

This time round on Knidos Cookery Club we’re swinging through Tucson, Arizona on the way back home. Whilst in Tucson, we met up with some old friends from Kazakhstan (via Turkey and the USA) and were treated to Tolga’s kızartma –  grilled peppers mixed in with fried aubergines and potatoes served in a garlic-infused tomato sauce and garnished with dollops of natural yogurt.

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Tolga’s classic down home Arizona kızartma

Tucson is located on the edge of the Sonora Desert which stretches up into Arizona from northern Mexico. It’s a surreal landscape of towering cacti called saguaro (Carnegiea gigantea), which can grow to be more than 12 m tall.

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There’s a lot of cactus….

The desert is a fascinating place populated with bobcats, coyotes, a variety of snakes and scorpions along with hallucinogenic Sonoran Desert toads (if you’re brave enough to lick them… ).

Having observed the master chef at work closely, here’s KCC’s take on the Turkish classic kızartma.

Ingredients (serves 3-4)

  • Two large potatoes
  • Three medium-sized tomatoes
  • Three garlic cloves
  • one small onion
  • One large aubergine
  • One avocado
  • Four peppers – a mix of green and red
  • Four jalapeño peppers
  • 75 ml olive oil
  • 100 ml natural yogurt

Method

  • Heat 25 ml of oil in a heavy-bottomed pan. Cut the potato into 1mm slices and fry in the oil, turning occasionally, until they are a golden-brown colour on both sides. Remove with a slotted spoon and put on a plate lined with kitchen towel.
  • Prick the peppers a couple of times with a fork and then roast them on a barbecue or over an open flame (here’s some tips on how to do this) until the skin is blackened all over. While the peppers are roasting, put 25ml oil in the pan and cut the aubergine into 1cm cubes and fry until golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and put on a plate lined with kitchen towel.
  • Add the rest of the oil to the pan, heat it up and then fry the finely chopped onion and garlic for five minutes over a medium heat and then grate the tomatoes into the pan and cook for 15-20 minutes. Peel the peppers, remove the seeds and chop the roasted peppers roughly.
  • In a large bowl put a layer potatoes, aubergine and peppers alternately. Pour the tomato sauce over the top and garnish with dollops of yogurt. Serve with slices of avocado.
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Korea’s All-Conquering Carrots

15 February 2018

Happy Lunar New Year to all our readers – wishing you all many culinary adventures in the Year of the Dog!

With both South and North Korea back in the headlines with the Winter Olympics in full swing in Pyeongchang and the ongoing tensions on the Korean peninsula, this week Knidos Cookery Club will be making a dish that has become a hit in the former Soviet Union and beyond – spicy Korean carrots.

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Spicy Korean Carrots

It’s a dish that’s not really from Korea, north or south – largely unknown outside of the countries of the former Soviet Union until recently, this simple dish has now gone full circle and can now be found on tables in South Korea.

It originated with the Koryo-saram, Korean people, who were deported en masse from the borderlands of Russia’s far east to Central Asia in the late 1930s. Fearing a Japanese fifth column in the Soviet Union via this Korean community, Stalin ordered the mass deportations in 1937.

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Korean carrots and other salads on sale in Almaty’s Green Bazaar, Kazakhstan

The deportees adapted their cuisine to local conditions and replaced traditional ingredients with carrots to create a spicy, coriander-rich side dish and it remains a popular choice on dinner tables in Central Asian countries such as Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, which are still home to around 300,000 ethnic Koreans, descendants of the deportees from the 1930s.

There’s a Turkish connection with the Koreas as well. With Turkey on a war footing once again, wading into battle against the Kurds in northern Syria, a recent film has brought a mostly forgotten war involving Turkey from the 1950s back into the spotlight. Can Ulkay’s “Ayla: The Daughter of War” tells the story of a Turkish soldier who saves a young Korean girl during the Korean War of 1950-53.

Turkey sent troops as part of a United Nations led brigade to defend South Korea against North Korea in the war. The soldier finds himself unable to take the orphan back to Turkey so the pair lose touch after the war, but in a fairytale ending are reunited 60 years later. Put your feet up and enjoy the movie with a bowl of spicy Korean carrots!

Ingredients (serves around 4)

200 g carrots peeled into thin slices – use a julienne peeler or a sharp knife

One garlic clove minced

One small onion minced

One teaspoon crushed coriander seeds

Half teaspoon red chilli flakes

Dash of olive oil

Two teaspoons cider vinegar

Half teaspoon honey

Pinch of salt

One teaspoon sesame seeds

Method

Mix the julienned carrots with the garlic and leave to marinate in a container with a tight-fitting lid (this carrot salad can get quite pungent, so this is important!).

Heat the olive oil and fry the onion until just beginning to brown. Mix the vinegar with the honey and salt and then pour over the carrots, add the coriander and chilli and the fried onions and mix well.

Leave the carrots to marinate in the air tight container in the fridge for at least four hours, the longer the better, to allow the flavours to blend fully.

Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve as a side dish with fritters such as our mücver.

Amorgos, mon Amour!

 

31 August 2017

Knidos Cookery Club is just back from a fact-finding mission to the Greek Islands and is bursting with new recipe ideas. Our main port of call was the island of Amorgos, the most easterly of the Cyclades group – a six-hour ferry trip from Piraeus, near Athens.

Our visit coincided with the Psimeni Raki festival, held annually on 26 July, a wild night of drinking and dancing (click here for video) fuelled by a local grappa-like spirit tempered with sugar, honey and herbs from the island to produce a drink that is around 20% alcohol by volume.

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Dancing the night away in Amorgos

The drink is based on Rakomelo, which is served by monks to people visiting the amazing Panagia Hozoviotissa Monastery – a spectacular white building carved high onto the side of an imposing cliff face.

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Working hard to keep the Psimeni raki flowing at the festival in Amorgos

For a small island Amorgos produces a significant quantity of alcoholic beverages – check out the site of this local producer, Amorgion, to see what’s on offer. As well as Psimeni Raki and Rakomelo, they also make an interesting local version of tequila, known as Mekila, from prickly pears.

Another interesting place to visit on the island is the Amorgos Botanical Park, a great project that is reviving a traditional garden that had been left derelict for decades. Here’s a link to their Instagram page.

A group of volunteers are aiming to bring the garden, complete with its own cistern fed by a spring, back to life by cultivating herbs endemic to Amorgos. The project is funded by grants and by the proceeds from the sale of herbs such as their intensely-flavoured oregano, teas such as rockrose, and tinctures made from produce grown on the island and dried and processed by the volunteers.

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Knidos Cookery Club’s Greek trio with (clockwise from the top) smoky aubergine dip, Psimeni Raki and feta dip and tsatsiki, yogurt and cucumber.

One of the delicacies eaten during the Psimeni Raki festival to help soak up the booze are anevates, cheese pies baked with the aforementioned beverage. Unfortunately, Knidos Cookery Club couldn’t track down any of these pies but the use of Psimeni Raki has inspired us to make a boozy take on Greece’s spicy tirokefteri cheese dip.

Ingredients (serves 4-6 as part of a dip platter)

100 g feta cheese

100 ml Greek-style yogurt

25 ml Psimeni Raki

One teaspoon dried oregano

One teaspoon red chili flakes

Method

Crumble the feta with a fork, add the yogurt, psimeni raki (use sherry or vermouth if you don’t have access to psimeni raki!)and herbs and spices. Mix all the ingredients together thoroughly with the fork and chill for a couple of hours before serving with other dips such as tsatsiki (yogurt, cucumber and garlic) and a dip of roasted aubergines served with yogurt.

Adjapsandali Adventures

20 July 2017

Knidos Cookery Club would like to say a big thank you to all its readers who voted for the site in the 2017 Saveur Food Blog awards!

This time round we’re looking once again to Turkey’s north-eastern neighbour Georgia for some culinary inspiration. Adjapsandali, a popular  dish in this mountainous former Soviet country, is Georgia’s spicier take on ratatouille.

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Adjapsandali with green beans and potato

This summer stew relies on a holy trinity of aubergine, tomato and peppers with whatever else is in season thrown into the mix.  We’ve added some green beans and some potato to give the dish a heartier edge, but these can be omitted and other seasonal veggies like courgettes and carrots can be used – there’s no hard and fast rules, it’s up to you!

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The adjapsandali ingredients in the raw

It can be served up  with all the veggies collapsing into a sublime sauce-rich stew or the veggies can be left on the firmer side, as in our example. Served with rice, it makes a meal on its own, but it is also great with salads and other Georgian staples such as pkhali.

Ingredients (makes 4 generous servings)

300 g potatoes

300 g aubergines

250 g tomatoes

2 red peppers

200 g green beans

1 onion

2 garlic cloves

50 ml olive oil

1 teaspoon coriander

1 teaspoon red chili flakes

2 teaspoons fresh basil

3 bayleaves

Method

Roughly chop up all the vegetables and throw them into a large, heavy-based pan. Pour the olive oil over the vegetables, add the herbs and spices and cook over a medium heat for 10 minutes or so stirring occasionally. Turn the heat down to low and cook for another 20-30 minutes until all the vegetables are cooked and beginning to break up.

Sprinkle with fresh basil and serve with crusty bread or rice and a selection of salads such as tomato, cucumber and onion with a walnut dressing and starters such as pkhali.

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.

 

A Passion for Pkhali

20 April 2017

This time round on Knidos Cookery Club we’re returning to Georgia for some culinary inspiration in the form of pkhali, a type of starter made from walnuts, herbs, spices and whatever vegetable happens to be in season, such as spinach, beetroot, aubergine, cabbage or carrot.

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Walnuts are widely used in Georgian cooking – besides pkhali, they can be turned into  satsivi, a thick paste similar to hummus, and  bazha, a sauce made with the holy trinity of Georgian herbs – blue fenugreek, ground coriander (cilantro) and crushed marigold flowers. These combos can be mixed with fresh cucumbers and tomatoes as a salad dressing or stuffed into tongues of fried aubergine (eggplant).

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Staying on the walnut theme, on a recent visit to the former home of famous Kazakh writer Mukhtar Auezov in Almaty, Kazakhstan, the guide gave me a handful of walnuts from the gnarled old tree in the garden of the writer’s house. These nuts were used in the making  of today’s pkhali recipe.

Auezov was famous in Soviet times for writing The Path of Abai, an epic historical novel based on the life and teachings of Kazakhstan’s most famous poet and composer Abai Qunanbayuli, who had been a neighbour and friend of Auezov’s grandfather.

It was said in the Soviet era that all were equal, but some were more equal than others – and this was certainly the case for Auezov after he won the Lenin Prize in 1959 for his four-volume epic novel about Abai.

The prize came with a sackful of roubles which he invested in a two-storey house, which is now a museum dedicated to his life and work. The house was lavish by the standards of the time and was designed by the architect who designed Almaty’s Abai Opera Theatre.

Ingredients (Makes around four generous servings of each pkhali – see photo above)

For the beetroot pkhali

300 g cooked beetroot

100 g walnuts

One garlic clove

5 g fresh parsley

5 g fresh coriander

One teaspoon blue fenugreek powder

One teaspoon black pepper

20 ml wine vinegar

A scattering of pomegranate seeds and walnuts

 

For the spinach pkhali

250 g fresh spinach

100 g walnuts

One small onion (around 75 g)

One garlic clove

5 g fresh parsley

5 g fresh coriander

One teaspoon blue fenugreek powder

One teaspoon black pepper

20 ml wine vinegar

A scattering of pomegranate seeds and walnuts

 

Method

For the beetroot pkhali:

Boil the beetroot for 30 minutes or so until you can pierce it with a knife easily.

Leave to cool and then peel and chop into small chunks.

Toast the walnuts over a low heat for 5-10 minutes and then add to the garlic and herbs and spices in a bowl. Add the vinegar and use a blender to make a smooth paste. Add the beetroot chunks and keep blending until you have a gloopy mixture.

Leave overnight in the fridge and then serve with a scattering of pomegranate seeds and walnuts.

Method

For the spinach pkhali:

Cook the spinach in boiling water for 5 minutes until it begins to wilt. Remove and place in cold water and then drain.

Finely chop the onion and put it in a mixing bowl with the garlic, herbs and spices. Toast the walnuts over a low heat for 5-10 minutes and then add to the bowl. Add the vinegar and use a blender to make a smooth paste. Add the spinach and keep blending until you have a gloopy mixture.

Leave overnight in the fridge and then serve with a scattering of pomegranate seeds and walnuts.

 

 

Taking the Lor into Your Own Hands

15 September 2016

This week on Knidos Cookery Club we’ll be looking at  lor – Turkey’s answer to ricotta cheese. Drier than its Italian cousin,  lor is made from whey after it has been separated from the curd. It’s used in Turkish dishes such as börek or mixed with herbs and nigella seeds as part of a breakfast spread.

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Lor stuffed aubergine slices in a spicy tomato sauce

It’s peak season for aubergines at the moment and we found that this adaptable vegetable paired excellently with lor cheese. We stuffed some slices of aubergine with the cheese, adding some spinach or sorrel leaves to the parcels to give the lor a bit more oomph. The dish was finished off by submerging the aubergine wraps in a spicy, gingery tomato sauce.

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Line up the aubergine slices, add a sorrel leaf and a dollop of lor, then roll

For some reason, this combination of aubergine, white cheese and tomato just works so well.

If you’re having trouble sourcing the lor cheese, it’s dead easy to make yourself from milk or yogurt – here’s some easy-to-follow instructions from Binnur’s Turkish Cookbook.

Ingredients (serves 3-4)

Two large aubergines cut lengthways into 0.5 cm thick slices (this should yield 8-10 slices)

250 g  lor cheese (or ricotta)

Eight-ten sorrel or spinach leaves (one for each aubergine slice)

500 g tomatoes

One medium-sized onion

One or two garlic cloves

3 cm fresh ginger

One teaspoon paprika

One teaspoon chili flakes

One teaspoon turmeric

50 ml olive oil

Method

Brush the aubergine slices on both sides with olive oil, sprinkle some salt and black pepper over the slices and bake for 20 minutes or until turning a golden-brown colour in an oven pre-heated to 220°C or gas mark 7.

While the slices are cooking, prepare the sauce. Heat a glug of olive oil in a frying pan and add the finely chopped onion to the pan along with the minced garlic and ginger.

Cook over a medium heat for ten minutes then stir in the paprika, chili flakes and turmeric. Chop the tomatoes or grate them and pour into the mix. Cook for twenty minutes or so, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is reduced by about half.

Allow the aubergine slices to cool and then make the wraps – put a sorrel or spinach leaf, with the stem removed, and a dollop of lor in the middle of the slice and roll it up.

Pour the sauce into a baking dish and place the aubergine parcels in the spicy sauce. Bake in the oven at 220°C or gas mark 7 for twenty minutes or until the sauce is bubbling.

As usual, serve with a green salad and some crusty bread.