Operation Lentil

23 February 2017

It was on this day back in 1944  that the Chechen and Ingush  people of the North Caucusus had one of the darkest moments in their troubled history. Accused by the Soviets of siding with the Nazi forces, the entire population was herded onto cattle trucks and deported by force to Central Asia.

The mission was codenamed ‘Operation Lentil’ – after chechevitsa, the Russian word for lentil, which shares its first two syllables with Chechen. By way of commemoration of this tragedy that befell the Chechen and Ingush communities, who refer to the deportations as Aardakh, the exodus, this time around we’ll be sharing a recipe for the Turkish dish mercimek köftesi – a versatile red lentil patty.

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Mercimek köftesi – red lentil patties, served with green salad and cole slaw

These spicy, lentil patties are easy to prepare and are delicious when rolled up in flatbread, like lavash, with fresh cole slaw and a green salad. We used ajika sauce from Georgia on the other side of the Caucasus mountains, a fiery blend of red chili peppers and tomatoes, to flavour the patties – but if you can’t find this locally, then a mix of tomato paste with chili flakes will do nicely.

Ingredients (Makes around 20-24 lentil patties)

100 g red lentils (one cup)

150 g fine bulgur wheat (1.5 cups)

500 ml water

6-8 teaspoons of ajika sauce (see above)

5 spring (green) onions – chopped

A handful of fresh flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped

One teaspoon of cumin seeds

One teaspoon red chili flakes

Black pepper

25 ml olive oil

Juice of one lemon

Method

Wash the lentils until the water goes clear and then place in a pan with the water. Bring to the boil and simmer over a low heat for 20 minutes or so. The lentils should be going mushy and there should be about 1 cm of water covering the lentils – add more water if necessary.

Add the washed bulgur wheat to the cooked lentils and the ajika sauce and blend well. Allow to stand for 30 minutes or so and then add the olive oil, lemon juice, spring onions, parsley, cumin, red chili flakes and black pepper and mix well.

Allow to stand for a few hours to let the flavours combine and then mould a walnut-sized piece of the mix in the palm of your hand and use your fingers to form a  sausage-shape (see picture above).

Serve rolled in flatbread or stuffed into a pita with a cole slaw made from shredded cabbage, grated carrot, pomegranate seeds, spring onion and capers and  a salad of lettuce, sun dried tomatoes, pear and spring onion.

 

 

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Rip-Red Risotto

17 November 2016

This week on Knidos Cookery Club, we’re featuring beetroot as the basis for a rip-roaringly red risotto.

In Turkish, if you want to say something is, for instance, very blue, then you add a prefix. By adding mas to mavi (blue) you end up with masmavi.  As an example, to talk about the deep blue sea you could say Masmavi engin deniz.

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A rich red colour, such as that imparted by beetroot, would come out as kıpkırmızı, or, in English, rip-red, which seems a perfect way to describe out beetroot risotto. To add a Turkish-edge to the dish, we used coarse bulgur wheat, but you can use arborio rice if you prefer.

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We added some walnuts to the mix, as they combine so well with the sweet edge of beetroot. This is quite a common combination – in Georgia walnuts are blended with grated beetroot to make pkhali.

Ingredients (serves 3-4)

250 g  whole, uncooked beetroot

50 g walnuts

100 g coarse bulgur wheat

150 ml red wine

500 ml beetroot cooking water

25 ml olive oil

one medium-sized onion

one garlic clove

one teaspoon dried thyme

one teaspoon dried rosemary

one teaspoon cumin seeds

black pepper and salt to taste

sprig of fresh basil leaves

Method

Boil the washed but unpeeled beetroot in a saucepan for 30 minutes. Put the beetroot in cold water, keeping the water you used to cook the beetroot separate, and then peel and top and tail the beetroot when cool. Put to one side.

Heat the olive oil in a heavy-based pan and add the cumin seeds. Cook until the seeds are beginning to burn and then add the diced onion and garlic, dried thyme and rosemary and season with salt and pepper. Cook until the onion is going translucent.

Add the washed bulgur wheat and stir to coat the grains. Add the glass of wine and stir occasionally until the liquid is absorbed. Add a third of the vegetable stock and keep cooking and stirring until the liquid is absorbed. Add more stock until the bulgur wheat is cooked and the risotto has a creamy consistency and then turn off the heat.

Meanwhile, gently toast the walnut pieces in a small frying pan and chop the beetroot into small, 1 cm cubes. Mix the beetroot and toasted walnut into the bulgur wheat risotto.

Garnish with fresh basil leaves -green ones make a better contrast to the red of the risotto, but we could only find the mauve coloured variety. Serve with a green salad.

 

 

Ezo the Bride’s Soup

20 October 2016

Knidos Cookery Club is off to a wedding soon so we did a quick google to see what Turkey has in the way of wedding-related foodstuffs and chanced upon this soup with a great backstory.

One wedding day tradition in Turkey is to the feed up the bride-to-be with a hearty soup, Ezogelin Çorbası, to help her prepare for the rigours of her wedding day and the subsequent move into the groom’s household.

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The name translates as ‘Ezo the Bride’s Soup’ and the recipe comes from the tale of a woman, Ezo, short for Zöhre, who was born in 1909 in a village near Gaziantep, now in south-eastern Turkey on the border with Syria.

She became famed in the region for her her looks and was highly sought after as a bride. Eventually, she married a man from a neighbouring village but unfortunately the marriage didn’t work out. One version of the tale, that has inspired short stories, folk songs, a film and a TV series in Turkey, as well as the soup, has it that her husband loved another so Ezo left him.

In 1936, Ezo married again and moved with her husband over the border to the town of Jarabulus in Syria. She pined for her homeland and to quell her homesickness she would cook a soup that reminded her of Turkey – a filling combination of red lentils, bulgur wheat, rice, tomato paste, herbs and spices. She also used the soup to win over her mother-in-law, a move crucial to finding happiness in her new home.

Ezo had nine children with her second husband, but she only lived to her mid-40s, dying in 1956 in Jarabulus. Her last wish was to be buried on a hillside overlooking her beloved homeland. Her memory lives on in this soup and in the legends that have grown up around her life story.

Ingredients (Makes four servings)

150 g red lentils

50 g coarse bulgur wheat

25 g rice

one medium-sized onion

one or two cloves of garlic

one lemon

25 ml olive oil

1.2 l warm water

3-4 tablespoons of tomato paste (a more liquid form of tomato purée – if using purée then two tablespoons should suffice)

two teaspoons of dried mint

black pepper

two teaspoons of chili flakes

sprig of fresh mint

Method

Wash the red lentils, bulgur wheat and rice and soak for two hours in cold water.

Finely chop the onion and garlic and fry for five minutes in the olive oil in a heavy-based pan. Add the red lentils, bulgur wheat and rice, pour in one litre of water and simmer over a low to medium heat for 30 minutes or until everything is cooked.

Add the tomato paste, the dried mint, chili flakes and some black pepper and 200 ml of water and the juice of one lemon and stir well. Simmer for ten or fifteen minutes until the soup is taking on a creamy texture.

Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with a sprig of fresh mint and sprinkle more chili flakes over the top. Serve with a slice of lemon and some crusty bread.

Mungo Pumpkin Patties

6 October 2016

Knidos Cookery Club’s autumnal vibe continues apace with the re-appearance of pumpkins of all shapes and sizes in the market. This is one vegetable that acts as a surefire marker of the onset of longer and chillier nights, with thoughts turning towards the comforting pumpkin-rich soups and stews of winter.

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In Turkey, pumpkin is often served as a desert – kabak tatlısı , that coats the orange-coloured slices in sugar syrup. Here at Knidos Cookery Club we prefer the savoury approach to pumpkin and have come up with some mung bean, bulgur wheat and mashed pumpkin patties.

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The mung beans add a nutty, earthy flavour that compliments the natural sweetness of pumpkin, while the bulgur wheat helps to hold it all together so the patty can be fried or oven-baked. Roast the seeds and use them to decorate the patties and give tham a bit of crunch.

Ingredients (makes 6-8 patties)

300 g pumpkin

75 g mung beans

50 g fine bulgur wheat

one medium-sized onion

one garlic clove

one teaspoon cumin seeds

one teaspoon dried thyme

black pepper

one teaspoon turmeric powder

25 ml olive oil

250 ml water

Method

Wash and soak the mung beans in cold water for two hours. Then cook in 250 ml water for 45 minutes or until the beans are just starting to go mushy – add more water if necessary.

Cut the pumpkin in half and remove the seeds, retain them to use later. Peel the pumpkin and dice into 1 cm cubes. Finely chop the onion and garlic. Place the pumpkin cubes, onion and garlic in a baking dish and pour 25 ml of olive oil over them. Add the cumin seeds, dried thyme and black pepper and mix well to coat the cubes.

Bake in a pre-heated oven (220 c /gas mark 7) for 45 minutes or until the pumpkin mashes easily with a fork. While the pumpkin mix is cooking, put the seeds on some tin foil and roast in the oven until starting to char a little bit.

Mash the pumpkin mix with a fork or a potato masher and then add the cooked mung beans and blend well. Stir in the turmeric powder and then add the bulgur wheat. Mix well and allow to stand for 30 minutes.

Tak a golf-ball sized portion of the mix and flatten to a round shape. Decorate with pumpkin seeds and shallow fry in oil or oven-bake for 30 minutes at 220 c (gas mark 7).

Serve with roast potatoes or chips and a mixed salad or in a burger bun with toppings of your choice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Roman Lor … and Chips

29 September 2016

This week on Knidos Cookery Club we’ll be looking at a recipe that uses up the rest of the lor cheese, Turkey’s answer to ricotta, that we used a few weeks ago in a stuffed aubergine in a spicy tomato sauce dish.

While surfing the net looking for inspiration, Knidos Cookery Club came across the following piece on a dish that is a summertime feature in Rome – baked stuffed tomatoes with potatoes.

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An autumn carbfeast – stuffed tomatoes with potato wedges

To our mind, the double-carbo dose seems more suited to cooler autumn nights than the heat of summer. We’ve put our own spin on the recipe by substituting bulgur wheat for the rice and adding a healthy dollop of lor to the filling.

Ingredients (Serves 4)

Four medium-sized tomatoes

One medium-sized onion

Three large potatoes

One garlic clove

100 g bulgur wheat (coarse ground) (use rice if this is not available)

50 g  lor cheese (use ricotta or cottage cheese if this is not available)

50 ml olive oil

200 ml hot water

One teaspoon dried thyme

Pinches of salt and black pepper to taste

Method

Slice the top off the tomatoes and leave to one side. Scoop out the flesh with a teaspoon used in a circular, drilling motion. Put the tomato flesh to one side. Turn the hollowed-out tomatoes upside down on kitchen paper to remove excess moisture.

Finely chop the onion and garlic and fry in 25 ml of olive oil until softening. Add the leftover tomato flesh, half a teaspoon of thyme and some salt and black pepper and stir. Cook for five minutes then add the bulgur wheat, stirring to coat the grains. Pour the hot water over the mixture and cook over a low heat until all the moisture is absorbed.

Slice the potatoes in half lengthways and then cut into wedges about 1 cm in width at their thickest point. Pour 25 ml of olive oil into a baking dish and throw in the potato wedges. Sprinkle thyme over the potatoes and coat them liberally with the olive oil – use your hands or a fork for this.

Allow the bulgur to cool and then stir in the lor cheese. Stuff the tomatoes with the bulgur mix and place the tops back on and arrange on top of the potato wedges. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 220 c (gas mark 7) for 45 minutes or so until the wedges are golden and the tomatoes are beginning to shrivel and go a bit black on top.

Serve with a green salad to balance out the carbfeast.

 

 

 

Double Meloned Squeaky Cheese

1 September 2016

This summer has seen a rash of articles in the UK press about salads combining melon and white cheese and here at Knidos Cookery Club we love to tap into any zeitgeist that’s going – here’s our own take on this refreshing summery salad using watermelon, honeydew melon and halloumi cheese.

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Double Meloned Squeaky Cheese

Halloumi, hellim in Turkish, is a salty white cheese with a high melting point that makes it perfect for grilling or frying. It originated in Cyprus – it’s a semi-hard cheese preserved in brine that can be stored for use in the winter months. It’s known in some quarters as ‘squeaky cheese’ because of its tendency to emit a mouse-like sound when you bite into it.

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A slab of halloumi – the cheese that squeaks!

It’s peak season for melons at the moment in the Knidos area so the time was ripe to attempt our own melon cheese combo. With the addition of some halloumi, that had been grilled into submission on the barbecue, and some rocket leaves, fresh mint  and basil, along with bulgur wheat and crushed almonds to add some body, the salad was a winner and set to be a fixture on the Knidos Cookery Club menu.

Ingredients (serves 3-4)

300 g watermelon cut into wedges

300 g honeydew melon cut into wedges

250 g halloumi cheese

One bunch of rocket (approx 125 g)

A handful of fresh mint and basil leaves

100 g fine bulgur wheat

50 g chopped almonds

100 ml hot water

One small lemon, juiced

A glug of olive oil

Method

Soak the bulgur wheat in 100 ml hot water until all the water is absorbed

Tear the rocket, mint and basil leaves and scatter into a large bowl and then add the bulgur wheat. Add the melon wedges and mix well. Dress the salad with lemon juice and olive oil.

Cut the halloumi into slices and grill or fry until going golden-brown on the outside. Arrange the halloumi slices on top of the melon and leaves and sprinkle chopped almonds over the salad. Serve with crusty bread.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Passion for Purslane

19 May 2016

This week on Knidos Cookery Club we’ll be looking at some ways of using purslane, our favourite weed. This highly-nutritious plant is called semizotu and is widely cultivated in Turkey, where it also grows wild. It’s used in salads, soups and stews.

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Freshly-picked purslane

Purslane has a crunchy texture and a lemony taste and can be used as a substitute for spinach and watercress. This superweed is packed with vitamins – it has the highest concentration of vitamin E of any plant and also contains a useful essential omega-3 fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid, reports motherearthnews.com.

In the Knidos area, it’s a mainstay of meze, or starter, combos when served with yogurt and a hint of garlic. The leaves and stems are also good as a simple but tasty salad dressed with a tahini sauce.

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Purslane in a tahini dressing

We’ve opted for a vitamin-packed spring stew, Semizotu Nohutlu Bulgur Pilavı with purslane, chick peas (garbanzo beans), tomato. carrot and bulgur wheat. Here’s what the finished dish should look like:

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Ingredients (serves3-4)

One bunch of purslane

One medium-sized onion

Two carrots

Four medium-sized tomatoes

100 g coarse bulgur wheat

One can chick peas or 150 g dried chick peas soaked overnight and boiled for an hour or so

One bay leaf

Fresh herbs – parsley and mint

A pinch of cumin, cinnamon, black pepper, red chili flakes, thyme and salt

250 ml warm water

25 ml olive oil

Method

Heat the olive oil in a heavy-based pan and add the chopped onion, the bay leaf and a sprinkle of dried thyme.

Slice the carrot into 50 mm rounds then chop up the tomatoes. When the onions are translucent, add the carrots to the mix and after five minutes or so add the tomatoes.

Cook for another five minutes then add the chick peas, bulgur wheat and water and season with the fresh herbs and spices.

Stir well and bring to the boil. Then turn the heat down, add the purslane and cook over a low heat for 20-25 minutes until the bulgur wheat is cooked but still a bit chewy.

Allow to rest for 5-10 minutes then serve with yogurt and garnish with mint.

Afiyet olsun!