Heavenly Halloumi

13 September 2018

As promised a few weeks back on Knidos Cookery Club, here’s another use for those tasty vine leaves. While jetting down to KCC HQ in Datça recently, we spotted a Cypriot recipe in an airline magazine for halloumi cheese wrapped in vine leaves and we decided to adapt it by using some of the Datça Peninsula’s key ingredients:

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Yep, that’s almonds, olives, thyme, capers and lemon. We mixed all these up to make our 5-star Datça paste which we then used to coat slices of our favourite squeaky cheese. After applying the paste, wrap the cheese slices with the leaves and then bake in the oven for 30 minutes or so until they look like this:

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Ingredients (makes four servings)

200 g halloumi

12 vine leaves

75 g almonds

150 g olives

One lemon

two teaspoons dried thyme

25 g capers

Method

Soak and wash the vine leaves to remove any taste of brine, and then cut the stalk from the bottom of the leaf. You’ll need about three vine leaves for each slice of halloumi.

Now prepare the paste – stone the olives and place the bits of olive in a small dish. Soak the almonds in hot water for a minute or so and then put in cold water and peel off the skin. Break and add to the olives.

Add the capers and lemon juice and the thyme and use a hand blender to make a smooth paste. Cut the halloumi into four slices and smear each slice generously with the paste. Wrap the vine leaves around the cheese and then place in a baking dish or on a baking tray.

Bake in the oven at 180 c for thirty minutes or so and serve while hot with a seasonal salad and a selection of mezes.

 

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Eating Albania

28 June 2018

Greetings from Albania, where, among other things, KCC has been on the trail of the byrek, the pie that fuels the Balkans.

From the capital Tirana to the resorts of the south via mountain strongholds such as Berat, we’ve tracked down some fine examples of this savoury pie. But more on this next time, as we haven’t yet had time to recreate this culinary delight at KCC H.Q.
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KCC’S Albanian feast
This time round we’ll have a look at some great salads that we’ve encountered on our travels. While in Tirana we visited a restaurant called Mullixhiu which cooks up some great dishes with organic Albanian ingredients.
At this time of year, the full array of fruit and vegetables are coming into season and we had a great salad made from thinly sliced courgettes and plums with a courgette flower sauce and another featuring beetroot, spinach and scattered fragments of dried filo pastry.
We’ve made a salad based on the first one that includes veggies and fruit: courgettes, pears, green peppers and capers served on a bed of lettuce to be precise.
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Waiting for a byrek to come along in Ksamil, Albania

With a spinach byrek sourced from one of the many byrektore shops in Ksamil a small resort on the Albanian Riviera, a tomato, pepper and onion salad, and some olives and white cheese, here’s our first Albanian feast.

Ingredients (serves 4)

One medium-sized courgette

One small pear

Two green peppers

One lettuce

Two juicy medium-sized tomatoes

One small red onion

A sprinkling of capers

Method

The key to the courgette salad is to make it just before eating – don’t let it sit around for too long. As for the tomato salad, make this one first and allow the flavours to mingle – the longer, the better.

Roughly chop the tomato and mix in a bowl with thin slices of red onion and green pepper. Set aside and let the flavours mix together while you make the courgette salad.

Shred the lettuce and line a serving bowl with it. Thinly slice the pepper and then the pear. Next slice the courgette as thinly as you can and then sprinkle the capers over the top. Add your preferred salad dressing and that’s it – you’re ready to go!

 

 

Leeky Pastitsio

5 April 2018

We’re back and, with Orthodox Easter just around the corner, this time round on Knidos Cookery Club we’ll be making our own version of pastitsio, a Greek take on Italy’s lasagne. Our version comes with a red wine, tomato and lentil ragu and a leek infused béchamel sauce.

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KCC’s Leeky Pastitsio

A few weeks ago, I left some beans soaking overnight and when I checked them in morning the pan was mysteriously filled with soaked penne rigate pasta! A quick look online to determine if the pasta was usable led me to this post on the Ideas in Food blog, and this confirmed pre-soaking in cold water as an effective way of preparing dried pasta.

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Leeky pastitsio and salad

Pastitsio is one of those dishes that tastes great straight from the oven but improves with age as the cinnamon, nutmeg and other flavours have time to blend properly. It works well heated up the next day or even tastes good cold. We served ours with a crisp salad of rocket leaves, carrot. radish and tomato.

Ingredients (For 3-4 hearty servings)

200 g penne rigate pasta

For the ragu:

25 ml olive oil

4 spring onions

200 g cherry tomatoes

2 tablespoons tomato paste

100 g red lentils

175 ml red wine

1 teaspoon of cinnamon, cumin, black pepper and red chilli flakes

For the Béchamel sauce:

50 ml olive oil

250 g leek

3 tablespoons flour

400 ml milk (dairy or non-dairy)

60 g cheese (dairy or non-dairy)

One teaspoon of nutmeg

Method

Soak the pasta in a pan of cold water for two hours and while it’s soaking cook the red lentils in 200 ml water until mushy and all the liquid is absorbed. Then prepare the ragu and after that the béchamel sauce.

For the ragu, heat the oil in a heavy-based pan and then fry the chopped spring onions for a few minutes. Add the quartered cherry tomatoes, tomato paste and spices and mix well. Add the wine and when it starts to bubble add the cooked and drained lentils. Cook for ten minutes over a low heat.

For the béchamel sauce, heat the oil in a heavy-based pan and then add the sliced leeks and cook for five minutes over a medium heat. Add the flour and mix well and then ad  the milk slowly, stirring continuously with a wooden spoon. Add half the grated cheese and nutmeg and cook until the sauce is just starting to boil, stirring all the while.

Layer half the soaked penne in the bottom of an oven proof dish and pour the ragu over. then layer the rest of the pasta on top of this and pout the béchamel sauce over. Add the remainder of the grated cheese and bake in a pre-heated oven at 200c for thirty minutes.

Serve straight away with a green salad or let it sit overnight in the fridge for a tastier pastitsio that can be served hot or cold.

Pidemania: The Great Turkish Bake Off

1 February 2018

“April is the cruellest month” as TS Eliot put it, but I’ve always thought there’s a case for  February to be considered crueller. As winter drags on interminably in the northern hemisphere – we’re still six months away from August and the height of summer – those long, lazy days all seem so far away, especially with the mercury plunging into serious minus territory as in Knidos Cookery Club’s winter HQ in Almaty, Kazakhstan.

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Yum yum – Kaşarlı Pide

So, thoughts have been turning to warmer times and to distant memories of eating pide, Turkey’s take on pizza, under the shade of mandarin trees in Datça.

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or maybe Otlu Pide?

With KCC’s new oven up and running in Almaty, it’s high time for a Great Turkish Bake Off as we take on the pide challenge and bring a slice of the Turkish summer into the winter gloom of Kazakhstan. 

We’ll be making a standard Kaşarlı Pide, an open one made with a yellow cheese such as cheddar – See the three stages for assembling this pide above. 

And here is an Otlu Pide, a covered one made with various greens such as spinach and parsley and a ricotta-like cheese called lor as seen above.

Ingredients (Makes four pides)

For the base:

300 g flour

One teaspoon dried, instant yeast

125 ml cold water

30 ml olive oil

For the filling:

Kaşarlı Pide (makes 2)

200 g grated yellow cheese such as a mild cheddar

Pinch of red chilli flakes

Pinch of dried thyme

Pinch of freshly ground black pepper

Otlu Pide (makes 2)

One small onion

125 g spinach

25 ml olive oil

One bunch fresh parsley (around 25 g)

One bunch fresh coriander (around 25 g)

100 g ricotta cheese (or similar)

One teaspoon cumin seeds

One teaspoon red chilli flakes

Pinch of dried thyme

Pinch of freshly ground black pepper

Sprinkling of sesame seeds (or black, nigella seeds if you can find them)

Method:

Sieve the flour into a large, ceramic bowl, add the dried yeast, make a well in the middle and pour in the olive oil and slowly add the water and mix well so that all the flour is used up.

Knead for ten minutes or so until you have a stretchy, elastic dough. Put in an oiled bowl and cover with a tea towel and then leave it to rise in a warm place for 30 minutes or so until it is doubled in size.

While the dough is rising, prepare the filling for the Otlu Pide. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and add the cumin seeds, chilli flakes, dried thyme and black pepper and then add the finely chopped onion. Cook for five minutes and then add the chopped spinach, parsley and coriander and cook until it all begins to wilt. Allow to cool and then stir in the lor (ricotta) cheese.

Divide the dough into four and roll each ball into a 30 cm by 20 cm oblong about 1 mm thick on a lightly floured surface. For the Kaşarlı Pide, spread the grated cheese over the middle leaving 2 cm around the edges and season with thyme, chilli flakes and black pepper. Fold the edges over and then fold again and pinch the ends together to make a boat shape. Glaze the dough with olive oil.

For the Otlu Pide, place half the filling in the bottom half of the rolled out dough then fold the top over and make into a parcel shape (as in the picture above). Glaze with olive oil and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Bake the pides in an oven pre-heated to 200 c for 20-30 minutes or so until the cheese bubbles and is starting to go brown and the dough is also starting to go a golden-brown colour. Serve straight from the oven with a salad of your choice.

I Heard it through the Grapevine

26 October 2017

Welcome to the 60th post on Knidos Cookery Club – to celebrate we took a tour to Datça’s very own vineyard to check out some of the local vintages on offer.

The vineyard is located on a hilltop on the main road into Datça and has a reserve range of delicious reds, going under the name of Cnidus, an alternative spelling of Knidos, and some  excellent red and white blends along with a superb blush wine.

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It has been in its present site since 2011 and has both south and north-facing rows of vines to take advantage of the sun’s rays from both sides. Look out for the round brick windmill on a hillside on the left as you drive into Datça – the vineyard’s on the main road just before the turn off to the town.

This boutique vineyard produces around 40 – 50,000 bottles of wine a year –  using Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah (Shiraz) and the indigenous Öküzgözü and Boğazkere grape varieties to produce red wines and a blush, and Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and the local Sultaniye grape to make white wine.

You can taste the wines in the windmill or in the beautiful garden with its spectacular views over the Mediterranean Sea and Greek islands on the horizon. You can also take a tour of the vineyard and buy wine in the shop at competitive prices.

Datça Vineyard’s wines are on sale in some restaurants in town and in two supermarkets – Erdi on the harbour front, and Dilge on the road to the town’s Saturday market.

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Green beans roasted with walnuts

With all this wine tasting to do, something simple was called for so this week we’re going to make a a quick pasta dish with roasted green beans and walnuts. It’s really easy to cook and there’s not much washing up either, leaving more time to enjoy the fruits of Datça’s vineyard!

Ingredients (serves 2-3)

250 g green beans

50 g walnuts

200 g pasta (penne, fusilli or spaghetti works well here)

One garlic clove

25 ml olive oil

One teaspoon dried thyme

Method 

Top and tail the green beans and cut into 3-4 cm slices. Put the beans in an oven dish, crush the walnuts and mince the garlic and scatter over the beans and then add the thyme and olive oil. Stir well and then put the dish in a pre-heated oven and cook for 30 minutes at 180 c.

While the beans are roasting, cook your favourite pasta as per the instruction on the pack. When cooked to your taste, drain and mix with the roasted beans and walnut and serve immediately on warmed plates with shavings of Parmigiano-Reggiano (Parmesan), if you’re a cheese fan.

As for the wine pairing, we’d recommend either a Silenus Chardonnay or a Silenus Blush – in Greek mythology Silenus was the god of wine making and drunkenness and the foster-father of Dionysos, the god of wine, vegetation, pleasure, festivity, madness and wild frenzy – enjoy!

 

 

 

 

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.

Relish the Radish

3 August 2017

In keeping with the ‘Waste not, want not‘ mantra, this week we’ll be using some radish greens in a mini quiche.

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Often discarded, these peppery leaves taste great when fried up with some spring onion, garlic and a dash of soy sauce.

Ingredients ( makes four mini-quiches)

150 g radish leaves

1 radish (for decoration)

2 spring onions

1 garlic clove

Dash of soy sauce

60 g crumbly white cheese

2 eggs

25 ml olive oil

150 g filo pastry or shortcrust pastry

Method

Saute the chopped onions and garlic in a little olive oil in a heavy-based pan for 2-3 minutes, add a dash of soy sauce and then add the radish leaves and cook for another 2-3 minutes until the leaves start to wilt.

Allow the mix to cool for ten minutes then mix in the eggs and cheese. Prepare cases in small baking dishes with the filo pastry, brushing each filo leaf with olive oil.

Pour the mix into each pastry case to half way and then bake for 20 minutes in an oven pre-heated to 180 c.

Garnish with radish slices and serve with a green salad laced with more sliced radish!