The Life of Briam

21 May 2020

There were signs this week of life slowly beginning to return to some sort of normal.  Cafes and terraces are set to open once again in Almaty from next week and the streets are busier. We’re not planning on changing too much at the moment and, in the meantime, we’re content to continue our armchair culinary travels.

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Half-way there – assembling the briam…

Greece has been in the headlines this week with the news that its beaches are reopening and it’s preparing to open its borders to tourists next month. This news brought back memories of holidays in the Greek islands and the great food in the tavernas. One of our favourite dishes is briam (pronounced bree-AM) – a delicious stew of oven-roasted seasonal vegetables.

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Briam – good enough to eat

As usual, we’ve taken a few liberties with the recipe, omitting aubergines (usually a key ingredient) as they are not quite in season in Almaty yet, so foodie purists please look away. We’ve added carrot and spinach to the usual potatoes and courgettes and then cooked it slowly in a tomato sauce. We’ve also topped it with some breadcrumbs to enclose our briam.

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The name briam has an interesting history – it is a borrowed word – there is no letter ‘b’ in the Greek alphabet, instead this sound is represented by combining the letters ‘μ’ (m) and ‘π’ (p) – ‘μπ’. Many Greeks call this casserole tourlou tourlou (all mixed-up), so briam could have come from Greeks who lived in Anatolia until the mass population exchanges in the early 20th century.

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Briam and salad

 

In the Ottoman era, there was a word biryan, spelt büryan in modern Turkish, which refers to a side of lamb cooked slowly over charcoal in a pit in the ground – a speciality of Siirt in the Kurdish area on the borders with Iraq and Syria. This in turn could come from Persian, where biryan means roasted (notice the similarity with India’s biriyani). Whatever the name’s origin, it tastes great!

Ingredients (serves 4)

For the bake:

  • Two courgettes (approx 300 g)
  • Four potatoes (approx 300 g)
  • One carrot (approx 100 g)
  • 200 g spinach
  • 75 g breadcrumbs

For the tomato sauce:

  • One red onion
  • 250 g tomatoes
  • One bunch of parsley
  • 20 capers
  • 25 ml olive oil
  • One teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 250 ml vegetable stock or water

Method

  1. Make the tomato sauce first. Heat the oil in a heavy based pan, add the mustard seeds and when they start to pop add the chopped onions and cook over a medium heat, stirring occasionally. After five minutes reduce the heat and add the chopped tomatoes. Stir and simmer for ten minutes then add the stock, chopped parsley and capers. Cook until the liquid has reduced by half.
  2. Cook the spinach for a few minutes until it is beginning to wilt and then set aside. Cut the potato, courgette and carrot into 1 mm slices and put a layer of potatoes, then courgettes and then carrots into a greased baking dish. Add the spinach and pour half the tomato sauce over the vegetables. Add another layer of potatoes and courgettes and then pour the remainder of the tomato sauce over the layers. Spread the breadcrumbs over the top.
  3. Cover with tin foil and bake in an oven at 180 c for around 1.5 hours. After an hour, remove the foil and cook for another 20-30 minutes until the breadcrumbs go start to go a golden brown colour. Keep an eye on it to make sure the breadcrumbs aren’t burning. Serve immediately with a fresh salad – it’s also great when it’s cooled down a bit.

 

 

 

Couscous on the Loose

6 December 2018

This week we’ll be making our take on couscous, that staple of North African cooking. Our version uses fine bulgur wheat in place of the more usual durum wheat semolina base as bulgur wheat is easier to find on the supermarket shelves where we are based.

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KCC’s couscous with chickpea chutney and roasted vegetables

In our opinion, bulgur works just as well as semolina as a base to soak up the juices from the roasted vegetables and our chickpea chutney. Purists may disagree, but our philosophy is more about adapting recipes by using the ingredients you have at hand.

Ingredients (serves 2)

Roasted vegetables:

  • 300 g pumpkin
  • 2 medium carrots
  • 2 medium courgettes
  • 25 ml olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 cinnamon stick

Chickpea chutney:

  • 25 ml olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1 small red onion
  • 2 small tomatoes
  • 50 g currants
  • 250 g chickpeas
  • 1 teaspoon red chilli flakes
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

Couscous:

  • 100 g fine bulgur wheat
  • 200 ml vegetable stock

Method

Pre-heat the oven to 200c, cut the vegetables into large chunks and put into a baking dish, drizzle with olive oil and add the cumin seeds and cinnamon stick and stir to coat the vegetable chunks. Roast for 30-40 minutes until the vegetables are cooked.

While the vegetables are roasting, prepare the chickpea chutney. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and add the mustard seeds. When they start to pop, add the finely chopped onion and cook over a low heat for five minutes. Add the spices and the chopped tomato and cook for five more minutes. Then add the currants and chickpeas and cook for fifteen minutes or so.

Bring the vegetable stock to the boil and then cover the bulgur wheat with it and leave it to soak up the liquid for 30 minutes or so, drain off the excess liquid (if there’s any) and than add a dash of olive oil and fluff up with a fork.

Put a layer of couscous on a warmed plate, arrange the roasted vegetables in a circular, wheel-spoke pattern and put a generous dollop of chickpea chutney in the centre and serve immediately.

Hasty Tasty Stuffed Peppers

12 July 2018

This time round on Knidos Cookery Club we’re taking inspiration again from our recent Balkan odyssey. While on our mission to Albania, we tasted the local take on stuffed peppers and on returning to KCC H.Q. we decided to recreate this delicious dish with a few time saving tricks of our own devising.

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Hasty tasty stuffed peppers with baked cauliflower and tomato

Rice is the usual go-to base for stuffing peppers, but it can be a bit time-consuming to prepare properly. With the World Cup reaching its conclusion, we didn’t fancy spending too much time slaving away in the kitchen so we’ve used some coarse bulgur wheat, which just needs soaking in hot water for a short while before it’s ready to use.

We cooked the peppers alongside some cauliflower, broken up into large  florets, and some quartered tomatoes to make a ready made meal for two with only a green salad needed to complete the show, allowing plenty of time to sit down and enjoy what’s left of the football!

Ingredients (for two people)

Two medium-sized green peppers

Two medium-sized tomatoes

Half a cauliflower

50 g cooked green lentils

50 g coarse bulgur wheat

200 ml hot water

25 ml olive oil

One teaspoon cumin seeds

One teaspoon dried thyme

25 g  raisins or currants

Black pepper (a generous twist)

Method

Cook the green lentils in twice the amount of water (put the lentils in a cup and then measure out twice as much water) until they start to go mushy. Put the bulgur wheat in a bowl and add the lentils and 200 ml hot water, stir and leave until the water is absorbed (20-30 minutes). Add the cumin, thyme, raisins and black pepper to the bulgur wheat and stir in well.

Pre-heat the oven to 180 c and prepare the peppers by slicing the top off and scooping out the seeds. Fill the hollowed-out peppers with the bulgur lentil mix, place the top back on and place in an oven dish. Arrange the cauliflower florets and quartered tomatoes around the pepper.

Drizzle the olive oil over the vegetables, add 50 ml water and bake in the oven for      40-50 minutes until the pepper skins start to burn and the florets are turning golden brown. Serve with a green salad.