The Turk-Mex Chronicles: A Crazy Cactus Salad

5 September 2019

This week we’re cooking up a cactus salad with the main ingredient foraged from some wild prickly pear bushes in Turkey. In an earlier post we reported on some of the similarities between Turkish and Mexican cooking – they both love hot chilli peppers in their food, there’s plenty of beans used, fresh white cheese is a key ingredient and wrapping food in flat bread is popular.

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A prickly pear cactus growing wild in Datça, Turkey

A key area of difference is the use of cacti, a staple of Mexican cuisine. In Mexico the prickly pear paddles, known as nopales or napolitoes (from the Spanish for cactus), are used in a variety of dishes. They can be found in salads, as a taco or tortilla filling, simply grilled or scrambled up with eggs. They have a crunchy taste similar to green beans.

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Kaktuslu acili ezme

Whilst the prickly pear cactus grows all over southern Turkey, only the fruit – the prickly pears, are usually eaten and sometimes used in cocktails! We’re about to change all that with the first of one of our irregular ventures into the world of Turk-Mex cuisine…

How to deal with a thorny problem…

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We harvested a few cactus paddles from a secret location in Datça, Turkey. After harvesting, we put on our marigolds and removed the thorns with a sharp knife, sliced the pads up and then boiled them. Next we mixed then in with a spicy tomato sauce, aka acili ezme, to create this Crazy Cactus Salad.

Ingredients (serves 3-4)

Four prickly pear cactus paddles (roughly hand-sized)

For the sauce:

  • One medium-sized onion
  • Three medium-sized plum tomatoes
  • One medium-sized green pepper
  • One garlic clove
  • One teaspoon capers
  • One bunch of parsley
  • One teaspoon dried mint
  • Three teaspoons red chilli flakes
  • Two teaspoons sumac
  • One teaspoon flavoured vinegar (such as apple or fig)
  • Three teaspoons pomegranate sauce

Method

Remove all the thorns from the pads with a sharp knife. Slice into 1 cm strips and then cut into 2 cm pieces. Boil in salted water for 8-10 minutes until cooked but still crunchy – cook them too long and they can go a bit slimy. Drain and rinse in cold water and then mix with the acili ezme salad (instructions below).

For the sauce:

  • Peel the tomatoes and de-seed (to peel: plunge the tomatoes into boiling water for 30 seconds then place in cold water – the skin should now come off easily). Chop the tomatoes, green pepper, onion, garlic and parsley as finely as you can.
  • Put all the ingredients into a bowl, add the herbs and spices, vinegar and pomegranate sauce and mix well. Leave to chill in the fridge for at least two hours before serving.

 

 

 

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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.

 

Nauryz Spring Cleaning: Mung Bean Detox

14 March 2019

With another Nauryz, the spring equinox, just around the corner, we’re looking at this turning point of the year as a good place to start some spring cleaning for the body.

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The Mighty Mung Bean

You can detox your digestive system by utilising the mighty mung bean, considered by both traditional Chinese medicine and India’s Ayurvedic medicine as an effective aid to remove toxins from the body.

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Knidos Cookery Club’s Mung Bean Detox Soup

When combined with spices such as turmeric, cumin, ginger and black pepper, the mung bean can do a lot to help flush out unwanted material from your body.  While some practitioners recommend following a detox diet based on mung bean soup for 7-10 days to really cleanse yourself, it’s quite a powerful process so we’d recommend a bowl or two every week as being beneficial to your general well-being.

Ingredients (Makes 3-4 servings)

  • 200 g mung beans
  • One carrot
  • One courgette
  • One stick of celery
  • 1 litre water
  • Four tablespoons tomato paste
  • One teaspoon turmeric
  • One teaspoon cumin
  • One teaspoon chilli powder
  • 1cm fresh ginger
  • Black pepper

Method

  • Wash and then soak the mung beans for at least four hours (the longer you soak them, the quicker they’ll cook). Then put them in a pan, cover with the water and add the turmeric, cinnamon, cumin and chilli powder.
  • Bring to a boil and then simmer for 30 minutes, add the tomato paste, grated carrot and courgette, the thinly-sliced celery and the minced ginger, stir well and simmer for another ten minutes or so. The mung beans should just be beginning to go soft. Pour into bowls and serve with a generous grind of black pepper.

 

Papa Jack’s Refried Avocado

31 January 2019

We’re continuing in our Mexican groove to make a vegetable take on the refried beans concept. It was meant to be a burger, but it didn’t hold together too well, so here is our refried avocado.

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Refried beans are a Mexican staple and served on tortillas or as a side dish – the beans  are mashed up and fried with garlic and spices. We’ve combined mashed potato, with a smashed up avocado, a diced jalapeño pepper and some yaka, or jackfruit. Potatoes are called papas in Mexican Spanish, hence the name for this dish: Papa Jack’s Refried Avocado.

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Jackfruit, a giant tropical fruit with a hard green spiky shell, that can grow up to 40kg, is widely available in Mexico. The fruit is a strong tasting yellow fleshy bulb that is somewhere between pineapple and banana.

We served the refried avocado on toast with our own salsa made with tomatoes, courgettes, carrots and chilli peppers.

Ingredients (makes 3-4 servings)

For the refried avocado:

  • Three medium-sized potatoes
  • One avocado
  • One jalapeño pepper
  • One lime
  • One jackfruit bulb
  • 25ml olive oil

For the salsa:

  • Two medium-sized tomatoes
  • One carrot
  • One courgette
  • One jalapeño pepper

Method

  • Cook the potatoes until they can be mashed easily with a fork. Cut the avocado in half, remove the stone and add the flesh to the potato. finely dice the pepper and jackfruit (remove the stone first) and add to the mix, along with the lime juice. Mash everything together with a fork or potato masher.
  • Heat the oil in a heavy-based frying pan. Heat the mashed avocado through in the hot oil and serve on toast with a salsa made of tomato, carrot and courgette – simply dice the tomatoes and cook the chopped up carrot, courgette and jalapeño pepper in the tomato liquid over a low heat for 20 minutes or so.

Punked-Up Vichyssoise

14 June 2018

With football’s World Cup kicking off in Russia today, this time round on Knidos Cookery Club we’ve decided to take on that classic French soup – Vichyssoise, as we have a sneaking suspicion that after 20 years this could be France’s year to lift the FIFA World Cup Trophy.

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The usual flavouring of this soup can be a bit bland to our Asian influenced taste buds, so we’ve spiked it with some chilli powder and mustard seeds to give it a bit of oomph. We’ve called this punked-up creamy combo of leek and potato, that can be eaten hot or cold, Sid Vichyssoise, excuse the pun, after the late, great Sex Pistols bassist.

As we said, this soup can be served hot or cold, making it perfect for the long, balmy nights of mid-June when chilled or as hearty winter fare when served hot in colder times. Just make sure you clean those leeks properly. as you don’t want any grit in the end product.

Ingredients (for 4 servings)

  • 50 ml olive oil
  • 200 g leeks
  • 200 g baby carrots
  • 200 g new potatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons red chilli flakes
  • 300 ml vegetable stock
  • Dash of soy sauce

Method

  • Heat the olive oil and mustard seeds in a heavy-based pan until the seeds begin to pop. Next, add the leeks, sliced into 1 cm rounds, the cumin seeds, black pepper and red chilli flakes and cook for five minutes. Then add the finely diced carrots and potatoes and cook for five more minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Now add the stock and the soy sauce, stir well and let it simmer over a low heat until the potatoes are beginning to fall apart. Remove from the heat and blend with an electric hand whisk to create a smooth, creamy soup and then leave to chill in the fridge before serving with another sprinkling of red chilli flakes.

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.

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.