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.

 

 

 

Lockdown Lunch: Beansprout Bonanza

2 April 2019

With movement getting ever more restricted in the lockdown — we’re now limited to not going more than 500 m from our flat in Almaty, which rules out big supermarkets for shopping trips, maintaining a supply of fresh ingredients is becoming more tricky – so this is the time when beansprouts come into their own…

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So, this time round we’ll be looking at some things you can do in the home, such as sprouting beans and lentils, to add a fresh, nutritious kick to your salads and stir-fries. We’ve gone for mung beans which are easy to sprout – your first crop will be ready in a matter of days and all you need is a glass jar and some mesh netting (we re-purposed a yoga mat bag by recycling the nylon mesh for our sprouter).

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KCC’s sprout-powered salad with carrot, chickpeas, spring onions and radish.

Here are the steps for germinating mung beans:

  • Select clean, undamaged mung beans and wash them thoroughly.
  • Sterilise your glass jar and mesh lid with boiling water and/or in a hot oven.
  • Fill the jar about a quarter of the way with washed beans.
  • Soak the beans in cold water in the jar for at least four hours.
  • Drain off all the water and put the jar in a cool, dark cupboard.
  • Rinse the mung beans a few times a day with cold water and drain the liquid off.
  • After two or three days, your first crop will be ready for eating.
  • When the sprouts are around 2-3 cm long, put them in the fridge until using.

Warning: Raw bean sprouts can lead to food poisoning if not prepared in sterile conditions and regularly washed with clean water.

  • If the sprouts look slimy or smell strange, throw them away.
  • Once sprouted, store the sprouts in the fridge and try to use them as quickly as possible.
  • And don’t forget to wash your hands frequently, especially when preparing food.

Can the 3 Cs, Carrot, Coconut and Coriander, help combat Coronavirus?

12 March 2020

With the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic showing no sign of abating, we’ve come up with a soup that is full of nutritious ingredients that can boost your immune system. A healthy diet combined with regular exercise is recommended to help strength your body’s ability to fight off infection.

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KCC’s 3 Cs soup – Carrot, Coconut and Coriander

While our 3 Cs soup may not offer you guaranteed protection from coronavirus, it can certainly enhance your health. Its combination of anti-oxidant-packed carrots, garlic and onions, fibre-rich coconut and coriander and the anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric and ginger, should leave you feeling bolstered up and ready to face the crisis with renewed vigour.

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KCC’s homemade coconut milk

Zero Waste Tip: Coconut milk is easy to make at home – you don’t need to buy it in tins. Take 50 g of dried (desiccated) coconut  and cover with 200 ml of hot water. Leave to stand for an hour or so. Liquidise with a hand blender or in a liquidiser on a low setting.

Pour the resulting mix through a fine sieve, pressing the coconut to produce more liquid – you should end up with about 200 ml of milk. Use the leftover coconut mass in soups, burgers, dhals, cakes, or smoothies. The coconut milk will keep for three to four days in the fridge – shake well before use as the cream will settle on the top.

Ingredients (for 4 servings)

  • 500 g carrots
  • 250 ml coconut milk
  • 50 g dried coconut
  • 2 medium onions
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 cm knob of ginger
  • 2 teaspoons coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 50 ml olive oil
  • 500 ml vegetable stock
  • Fresh coriander to garnish

Method

  • Heat the oil in a heavy-based pan and then add chopped onion, garlic ginger, turmeric and ground coriander seeds. Stir and cook for five minutes over a medium heat and then add the finely grated carrots. Reduce the heat and cook for 5 more minute, stirring frequently.
  • Stir in the coconut milk and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Now add the dried coconut and the rest of the stock. Allow the soup to simmer over a low heat for 20 minutes and then blend to a smooth consistency in a liquidiser or with a hand blender. Garnish with fresh coriander leaves before serving.
  • Don’t forget to wash your hands thoroughly before preparing and eating food.

 

Red Bean Hotpot

6 February 2020

This time round on Knidos Cookery Club, we’re turning our attention to a winter classic from the UK – the Lancashire Hotpot. Our spiced up, veggie-friendly version replaces the meat traditionally used with red beans and red lentils and is topped off with sliced potatoes, helping to retain the hearty, comforting hit of the original.

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This casserole originated in the north-west of England as a dish that could be left  cooking slowly in the oven over a low heat while families worked from home spinning thread.

The term hotpot is thought to derive from the mixture of ingredients used, although it’s also claimed to be named after the clay pot originally used to cook the dish.  It’s not to be confused with the Chinese Hotpot that uses a steaming pot of stock placed in the centre of the table to cook ingredients.

Ingredients (serves 2)

  • 125 g red lentils
  • 250 g cooked red beans
  • 3 medium potatoes
  • 2 medium carrots
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 stick of celery
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 50 ml olive oil
  • 600 ml vegetable stock
  • 1 teaspoon each of mustard seeds, coriander seeds, fenugreek seeds, cumin seeds, chilli flakes, turmeric
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 bay leaf

Method

  • Heat the olive oil in a casserole dish or an ovenproof pan. Fry the onions, garlic, ginger and spices all together for five minutes or so over a medium heat. Add the diced carrot and celery and cook for five more minutes. Add the lentils and 300 ml of stock and cook over a low heat until the water is absorbed and the lentils are cooked but not mushy.
  • While this is cooking, boil the potatoes (cut into 1/2 cm thick slices) for 10 minutes, pour off the water and cover with cold water. Add the cooked beans and the rest of the stock to the lentils and stir well. Place the potato slices in layers over the top of the stew and pour some olive oil over them.
  • Put the casserole dish or pan into an oven heated to  200 c and cook for 30 minutes at this temperature until the potato slices are starting to go a golden brown colour. Serve immediately in individual bowls with a hunk of bread.

The Golden Soup of Samarkand

23 January 2020

This week’s offering – a soup made from chickpeas and carrots, was inspired by a recent visit to a funky Central Asian restaurant called Saksaul in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan. This soup appeared on the menu, but unfortunately there wasn’t any left that day. Spotting yellow carrots on sale in the market after returning home, we decided to cook up our own version.

KCC’s Golden Soup of Samarkand featuring yellow carrots and chickpeas

Our soup contains two ingredients that are common in the cookery of Samarkand in Uzbekistan – chickpeas and yellow carrots. Not all carrots are orange in Central Asia, you can even find black ones on occasion, but we find these yellow ones particularly sweet and tasty.

Yellow (and a bit green!) carrots on sale in Kazakhstan

This famed Silk Road city of Samarkand provided further inspiration for our golden potage with spices such as cumin, coriander and turmeric that are still bought and sold along this ancient trade route.

Ingredients (makes 4 portions)

  • 500 g yellow carrots
  • 500 g chickpeas
  • Two yellow onions
  • Two garlic cloves
  • Two teaspoons mustard seeds
  • Two teaspoons chilli powder
  • Two teaspoons cumin seeds
  • Two teaspoons coriander seeds
  • Two teaspoons turmeric
  • 50 ml vegetable oil
  • One litre vegetable stock

Method

  • Heat the oil in a heavy-based pan and add the mustard seeds. When the seeds begin to pop, add the chopped onion and garlic and cook over a medium heat for five minutes. Add the other spices and mix well.
  • Next add the diced carrot and stir to coat the carrot with the mix. Cook for five more minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the chickpeas and stir well, then add the stock and reduce to a low heat and simmer the soup for 30 minutes or so.
  • Using a stick blender, liquidise the soup. Pour into bowls and garnish with chickpeas and a sprinkling of cumin seeds. Serve with bread – we used a flatbread but any crusty bread will work just as well.

KCC’s Nutty Festive Fare

22 December 2019

Seasoned greetings from Knidos Cookery Club – we’d just like to take this opportunity to thank all our readers, old and new, in 2019 and wish you a great holiday season and all the best for the New Year.

With the winter solstice, Hanukkah, Christmas and New Year all upon us, we’d like to share this nutty lentil bake recipe with you. It makes a great centrepiece for a festive feast.

We served it with roast potatoes, charred cauliflower and smashed pumpkin and then poured a rich pomegranate sauce over everything.

Ingredients (for 6 servings)

  • 150 g green lentils
  • One carrot
  • One medium-sized onion
  • One stick of celery
  • 75 g walnuts
  • 75 g coarse bulgur
  • Two tablespoons tomato paste
  • Two teaspoons cumin seeds
  • One teaspoon coriander seeds
  • One teaspoon chilli powder
  • Half a teaspoon cloves
  • 50 ml olive oil
  • 250 ml vegetable stock
  • 25 g chickpea flour
  • Pomegranate seeds

Method

  • Cook the lentils in the vegetable stock until most of the liquid has been soaked up. The lentils should still be firm, not mushy. Stir in the bulgur and leave to stand for 30 minutes.
  • Heat the olive oil in a heavy based pan and add the spices. Cook for a few minutes and then add the chopped onions, grated carrot and thin slices of celery and cook for 10 minutes, stirring regularly.
  • Combine the vegetable mix with the lentils. Stir in the tomaro paste. Toast the chopped walnuts for 5 minutes then add to the lentil mix. Finally add the chickpea flour to thicken the mix.
  • Pack the mix into a greased baking dish and cook for 30 minutes in an oven pre-heated to 180 c. Garnish with pomegranate seeds and then cut the loaf into 6 slices and serve.

KCC’s Corn and Coconut Chowder

 

 

17 October 2019

This time round on Knidos Cookery Club we’re cooking up a chowder, a creamy soup crammed with fresh, seasonal vegetables that’s ideal for the chillier nights of autumn.

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A warming bowl of KCC’s Corn and Coconut Chowder

These days chowder is a name given to any creamy soup that has been thickened with the addition of flour or crumbled crackers. The name of this soup is thought to come from chaudron, an old French word for a cauldron – it was originally brought to north America by sailors who made it as a fish soup thickened with ship’s biscuit and cream.

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The Holy Trinity of autumn soup veg

Some versions use a tomato base, but our version is based on the creamy base and uses coconut milk and chickpea flour to make the sauce. We’ve added some of the last of this year’s corn on the cob and some new season pumpkin, that vegetable that is a harbinger of the colder months of the year. Combined with the holy trinity of soup bases – onion, celery and carrot and a potato, this chowder, garnished with lemon zest and celery leaves, is a soup to savour.

Ingredients (for 3-4 servings)

  • One large potato
  • Two large carrots
  • Three sticks of celery
  • One medium-sized onion
  • One corn-on-the cob
  • 200 g pumpkin
  • One lemon
  • One bay leaf
  • Two teaspoons dried thyme
  • 50 ml olive oil
  • Three tablespoons chickpea flour
  • One litre coconut milk (50 g desiccated coconut + one litre of water).

Method

  • Make the coconut milk first by blending the dried coconut with the water using a hand-held blender for two minutes. Strain through a sieve separate the liquid  from the leftover coconut, the latter can be saved and used to make energy balls, biscuits, cakes or added to your breakfast muesli.
  • Heat the olive oil in a heavy-based pan and then add the sliced onion and fry for five minutes over a medium heat. Add the diced carrot and celery and cook for another five minutes. Now add the chickpea flour and dried thyme and mix well. Now add the pumpkin, potatoes and coconut milk and a bay leaf.
  • Cook over a low heat, stirring occasionally, until the potato is just cooked. Add the juice of the lemon and half the lemon zest and stir well. Cook for a few more minutes and then remove the bay leaf and serve in bowls and garnish with the rest of the lemon zest and chopped celery leaves.

 

KCC’s Buckwheat Cottage Pie

31 October 2019

This time round on Knidos Cookery Club we’re using buckwheat, a cereal (or rather a pseudocereal) that has thus far been neglected on our site.  Buckwheat’s name is misleading as it’s not really wheat, but rather a plant that is more closely related to sorrel, knotweed and rhubarb, which makes it suitable for those of you on a gluten-free diet.

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KCC’s Buckwheat Cottage Pie

Buckwheat, or grechka, is wildly popular across the countries of the former Soviet Union and eastern Europe – you can find whole aisles in supermarkets dedicated to it. The groats are used to make porridge and the flour to make pancakes. In Japan, the flour is  used to make soba noodles.

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Row upon row of buckwheat groats in a supermarket in Almaty, Kazakhstan

We’ve taken that classic British comfort food, Cottage Pie, and replaced the meat with a mix of the nutty-tasting buckwheat and vegetables all topped with a thick slab of mashed potato – perfect fodder for the colder autumn and winter evenings and ready to eat in around an hour.

Cottage pie and two veg

Ingredients (makes 4 servings)

  • 150 g buckwheat groats
  • One carrot
  • One medium-sized onion
  • One green pepper
  • Three medium-sized tomatoes
  • Three medium-sized potatoes
  • Six small dried mushrooms
  • 25 ml olive oil
  • 500 ml vegetable stock
  • One teaspoon sumac
  • One teaspoon chilli flakes
  • Two teaspoons dried thyme
  • One bay leaf

Method

  • Heat the olive oil in a heavy-based pan and add the minced onion. Cook for five minutes over a medium heat and then add the diced carrot and green pepper and cook for another five minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the sumac, chilli flakes and thyme and the chopped tomatoes and diced mushrooms.
  • Reduce the heat and cook for another 10 minutes then add the buckwheat and stir well. Pour the stock over the mixture, add the bay leaf and simmer for 20 minutes or so or until the moisture has been absorbed. While this is bubbling away, cook the potatoes, drain and then mash them.
  • Put the buckwheat mixture in the bottom half of a baking dish and then cover the mix with a layer of mashed potato. Run a fork across the top of the potato to get a ridged finish and than bake at 180 c for 30 minutes. Serve hot with roasted or  steamed, seasonal vegetables such as  cauliflower and pumpkin.

 

 

Grassy Green Samosas

19 September 2019

This time round we’ve filled some filo pastry triangles with some fresh leafy greens. Inspired by Central Asia’s kok samsa, a small, deep-fried pie filled stuffed with chopped up greens, our take on this popular street snack mixes some peppery radish leaves with some tart sorrel-like leaves, leek and carrot.

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A grassy, leafy green samosa

A few weeks ago, we left Datça’s weekly market laden down with a selection of leafy greens – called ot (grass) in Turkish, including a bunch of radishes complete with leaves and an unidentified bunch of greens with a tart, lemony taste.

Further inspired by Turkey’s otlu pide and otlu börek, we chopped up a leek and fried it in olive oil and then mixed in some grated carrot before adding the leafy greens and spices. To make these pies you can use any leafy greens – Swiss chard and spinach also work well here.

Then we wrapped the filling in filo pastry, which can be bought from your local supermarket or Middle Eastern grocery shop – or you can try and make your own – here’s some tips on how to do it.

Ingredients (makes 6-8 samosas)

  • 12 sheets of filo pastry (approx 15 cm x 15 cm)
  • One leek
  • One carrot
  • One bunch each of sorrel and  radish leaves (use spinach and/or Swiss chard if you can’t find these)
  • 50 ml olive oil
  • One teaspoon dried thyme
  • One teaspoon sumac
  • One teaspoon cumin
  • Sprinkling of nigella seeds

Method 

  1. To make the filling, heat 25 ml olive oil in a heavy-based pan and cook the chopped leek over a medium heat until translucent. Add the grated carrot and cook for five minutes, stirring regularly. Add the herbs and spices and the roughly chopped greens and cook until the leaves are wilting.
  2. Place a layer of filo pastry on a flat surface dusted with flour. Brush with olive oil and add another sheet, brush with oil and then add one more layer. Cut the layers of filo into two triangles along the diagonal.
  3. Place a generous dollop of the filling in the middle of each triangle. Fold the edges of pastry over, brushing with more oil, to create a triangle-shaped pie like a samosa. Repeat the process until all the filling is used up.
  4. Place the pies on a greased baking tray and brush with more oil and sprinkle nigella seeds over them. Place the tray into a pre-heated oven and bake at 200 °C  (gas mark 6) for 30 minutes or until the pies are golden brown in colour. Serve straight away with a salad of your choice.

Julienne Funchoza’s Noodle Extravaganza

18 July 2019

This time round on Knidos Cookery Club we’re looking at some ways to beat the heatwave with a noodle-based salad that can be whipped up with the minimum of fuss.

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Funchoza is a popular salad across Central Asia that combines glass noodles, which can be produced from various forms of starch such as rice or mung bean, with julienned raw vegetables and a spicy dressing. The noodles just need to be cooked in boiling water for a few minutes so it’s a cinch to prepare on a hot summer’s day.

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These noodles are a staple of Uighur cuisine, but have been adopted by the Central Asia’s Korean community who have made funchoza famous to a wider audience across the former Soviet Union and beyond.

The Uighurs are Turkic-speaking  muslims living mainly in Xinjiang, an autonomous territory in northwest China, where they face increasing persecution by the Chinese authorities, under the pretext of a crackdown on terrorism.

To this end, thousands of Uighurs, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz and Chinese muslims have been interred in ‘re-education’ camps and, as the Guardian put it in a recent editorial, “Those who are nominally free in fact exist in a digital gulag of constant surveillance.”

Earlier this month, 22 states – including Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Australia and Japan – signed a letter to UN human rights officials in condemnation of China’s treatment of Uighur and other minorities there.

Ingredients (makes 3-4 servings)

  • 150 g dried glass noodles
  • 10 g dried seaweed
  • 2 small cucumbers
  • 2 radishes
  • 8 spring onions
  • 2 red peppers
  • 2 carrots
  • Coriander seeds

For the dressing:

  • 4 teaspoons tahini
  • 2 tablespoons apple vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons pomegranate sauce (Nar Eksisi)
  • 2 teaspoons chilli powder

Method

  • Bring a large pan of water to the boil and cook the noodles in the water according to the pack instructions. Remove and put in a pan of cold water until needed.
  • Soak the dried seaweed in cold water for 15 minutes, drain the water. While the seaweed is soaking,  cut the spring onions into 1 cm slices, remove the seeds for the cucumber and then julienne along with the other vegetables into long, thin slices (use a grater  or chop finely if you don’t have a julienne peeler). Chop the seaweed into 5 cm strips.
  • Remove the noodles from the cold water and cut into 10 cm strips and put in a large bowl. Add the julienned vegetables and mix all the ingredients together. Put all the dressing ingredients into a glass jar with a screw top and shake well, then pour over the salad and mix well. Grind some coriander seeds over the salad.
  • Serve cold – let the flavours mingle by keeping the salad in the fridge for a couple of hours.