Vine Leaves Stuffed to Perfection

16 August 2018

This time round on Knidos Cookery Club we’re stuffing again to make one of favourite summertime snacks – dolma (stuffed vine leaves).

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These stuffed vine leaves are great as part of a barbecue spread or to add some rice oomph to a selection of dips and mezes.

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Ready to roll…

Rolling the leaves can be a bit fiddly at first, but you’ll soon find yourself getting into the rhythm. it’s best to make a big batch of these little stuffed marvels so you’ve got some ready-made snacks giving your more time at the beach.

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Layer the cylinders tightly in the pan

If you have any vine leaves left over, then hang on to them as we’ll be featuring another vine leaf recipe next time round on KCC.

Ingredients (makes 48 dolmas)

One onion

200 g long grain rice

50 ml olive oil

750 ml water

One lemon (zested and juiced)

50 g chopped almonds

two teaspoons dried thyme

one teaspoon cinnamon

one teaspoon cumin

10 g fresh mint

Pack of preserved vine leaves (or fresh leaves if you can get them)

Method

Fry the finely chopped onion in 25 ml of oil for five minute over a medium heat. While this is cooking, wash the rice until the water runs clear. Now soak the vine leaves for 30 minutes and then rinse well to remove any taste of brine or other preserving agents.

Add the thyme, cinnamon and cumin to the onion and stir. Now add the rice, mixing well to coat the grains. Cover with 375 ml of water and cook until the water is absorbed. The rice does not need to be fully cooked at this stage. When ready, add the chopped almonds, lemon zest and mint and mix well.

Now it’s time to stuff. Take a vine leaf, cut off the stalk and place a teaspoonful of rice mix on the leaf (see picture above). Tuck in the sides of the leaf and roll into a tight cylinder.

Put a layer of unstuffed vine leaves on the bottom of the pan to stop the stuffed ones sticking to the bottom. Layer the dolmas tightly in a heavy-based pan, putting another layer on top if you run out of space. Pour 25 ml of olive oil, the juice of the lemon and 375 ml of water over the vine leaf parcels.

Put a plate on top of the vine leaves and then put the lid on the pan and cook over a low heat for 45 minutes or until all the liquid is absorbed. Allow to cool before serving. If left in the fridge for a few hours, the stiffed vine leaves will firm up nicely.

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Courgette Flower Power

4 May 2017

This time round on Knidos Cookery Club we’ve been busy stuffing courgette flowers, a popular starter all around the Aegean Sea. In Turkey, these delicate taste-bud ticklers, known as kabak çiçeği dolması, are stuffed with a rice mixture and baked, unlike their Italian cousins which are filled with ricotta cheese and deep fried.

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Succulent stuffed courgette flower power

The courgette, zucchini to our north American readers, is a really versatile vegetable – in the past we’ve used it in a tasty fritter mücverstuffed courgettes and in a creamy almond dip, and it’s great that we’ve found a use for its flowers as well.

If you’re growing your own courgettes, then you should have a ready supply of flowers, otherwise you may need to scour your local farmers’ market for these vivid orange blossoms.

Ingredients 

20-25 courgette flowers

One cup (approx. 100g) of short or long grain rice (We recommend brown rice for its earthier flavour)

250 ml vegetable stock

One medium-sized onion

One medium-sized tomato

One garlic clove

Pinches of dried thyme, oregano, black pepper, chili pepper flakes, cinnamon and salt

5 g fresh parsley

5 g fresh mint

25 g raisins

25 g  pine nuts

25 ml olive oil for frying

Juice of one lemon

One sliced lemon

100 ml natural yogurt

Method

Pour the olive oil into a heavy-based pan and add the chopped onion and garlic. Cook over a medium heat until the onion becomes translucent. Add the chopped tomato, dried and fresh herbs, seasoning, dried fruit and pine nuts and cook for five minutes over a high heat.

Turn the heat down and add the washed and soaked rice to the onion mix and stir to cover the grains with oil. Add the stock and cook over a low heat until the liquid is absorbed.

Make sure that the courgette flowers are free from any green, leafy bits or stem and remove the stamen from the inside of the flower. Allow the rice mixture to cool and then fill each flower with a teaspoon of rice mix – don’t overfill them as the rice will continue to expand as it cooks.

Fold the end of the blossom together to seal the rice mix in and place the filled flowers into a heavy based frying pan or casserole dish. Pour water over the flowers to just cover them, add a generous glug of olive oil and the lemon juice, put a lid on the pan and cook over a low heat until all the water is absorbed.

Leaving the pan covered, let the cooked courgette flowers rest for 30 minutes or so with the heat turned off and then serve with lemon slices and a dollop of natural yogurt.

 

 

 

Taking the Lor into Your Own Hands

15 September 2016

This week on Knidos Cookery Club we’ll be looking at  lor – Turkey’s answer to ricotta cheese. Drier than its Italian cousin,  lor is made from whey after it has been separated from the curd. It’s used in Turkish dishes such as börek or mixed with herbs and nigella seeds as part of a breakfast spread.

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Lor stuffed aubergine slices in a spicy tomato sauce

It’s peak season for aubergines at the moment and we found that this adaptable vegetable paired excellently with lor cheese. We stuffed some slices of aubergine with the cheese, adding some spinach or sorrel leaves to the parcels to give the lor a bit more oomph. The dish was finished off by submerging the aubergine wraps in a spicy, gingery tomato sauce.

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Line up the aubergine slices, add a sorrel leaf and a dollop of lor, then roll

For some reason, this combination of aubergine, white cheese and tomato just works so well.

If you’re having trouble sourcing the lor cheese, it’s dead easy to make yourself from milk or yogurt – here’s some easy-to-follow instructions from Binnur’s Turkish Cookbook.

Ingredients (serves 3-4)

Two large aubergines cut lengthways into 0.5 cm thick slices (this should yield 8-10 slices)

250 g  lor cheese (or ricotta)

Eight-ten sorrel or spinach leaves (one for each aubergine slice)

500 g tomatoes

One medium-sized onion

One or two garlic cloves

3 cm fresh ginger

One teaspoon paprika

One teaspoon chili flakes

One teaspoon turmeric

50 ml olive oil

Method

Brush the aubergine slices on both sides with olive oil, sprinkle some salt and black pepper over the slices and bake for 20 minutes or until turning a golden-brown colour in an oven pre-heated to 220°C or gas mark 7.

While the slices are cooking, prepare the sauce. Heat a glug of olive oil in a frying pan and add the finely chopped onion to the pan along with the minced garlic and ginger.

Cook over a medium heat for ten minutes then stir in the paprika, chili flakes and turmeric. Chop the tomatoes or grate them and pour into the mix. Cook for twenty minutes or so, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is reduced by about half.

Allow the aubergine slices to cool and then make the wraps – put a sorrel or spinach leaf, with the stem removed, and a dollop of lor in the middle of the slice and roll it up.

Pour the sauce into a baking dish and place the aubergine parcels in the spicy sauce. Bake in the oven at 220°C or gas mark 7 for twenty minutes or until the sauce is bubbling.

As usual, serve with a green salad and some crusty bread.

 

 

A Creamy Almond and Courgette Dipfest

8 September 2016

The courgette is one of the most versatile vegetables in the Knidos Cookery Club kitchen. Earlier it featured in a stuffed platter and as a fritter. We also like it in an omelette, in börek or just sliced and grilled on the barbecue.

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Creamy Almond and Courgette Dip

This week we’ve  incorporated this key ingredient into a creamy almond and courgette dip that can be used as part of a starter, or meze, combo with other dips such as our Carrot and Walnut Tarator.

Yogurt and chopped almonds were added to the grated courgette to make it creamy and some wholemeal flour was used to hold it all together.

Ingredients (Serves 3-4)

250 g  grated courgette

100 ml plain, natural yogurt

50 g wholemeal flour

50 g chopped almonds

One garlic clove

25 ml olive oil

Method

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan over a medium heat then add the grated courgette and garlic and stir fry for five minutes. Add the flour and stir fry for two more minutes. Take the frying pan off the heat, mix in the yogurt and almonds, reserving a few nuts to sprinkle over the top.

 

Melon Almond a Go-Go

11 August 2016

As Knidos Cookery Club turns 20, we’re celebrating this week with a look at two of the mainstay crops of the Datça Peninsula – melons and almonds.

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This year’s almond crop has arrived!

This year’s new nut harvest is already arriving in the market. Datça’s almonds, badem in Turkish, are rightly famous in Turkey – I remember sitting at a terrace in Istanbul’s Beyoğlu district, back in the days when it still had street tables,  and a guy came round selling fresh Datça almonds, cooled on a bed of ice.

In the Knidos area, almonds are widely used in cooking, in making soaps and creams and in Datça many cafes offer a milky ‘almond coffee’. Last week we had some mezes at Kasapoğlu Pansiyon in Ovabükü which came liberally sprinkled with almonds – one green bean dish and another made from grated courgette and yogurt.

The area around Knidos is perfect for growing melons, kavun in Turkish. The market is full at the moment with a green and yellow striped variety – I’m not sure what it’s called, but it sure tastes good!

We’ve decided to attempt something unusual for the 20th edition of Knidos Cookery Club – stuffed melon. This dish was popular in the palaces of the Ottoman Empire, drawing on a Persian and Armenian-influenced fusion of sweet and savoury tastes.

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Plov in a melon

The Knidos Cookery Club version is fully veggie-friendly and uses mushrooms in place of meat, along with rice, dried fruit and fresh Datça almonds. The end result is basically plov in a melon, a most unusual taste sensation!

Ingredients (serves 4)

One melon (honeydew or similar – not watermelon!)

125 g rice

25 g orzu or pine nuts, if you’re feeling flush

One medium-sized onion

One garlic clove

100 g almonds

75 g mixed dried fruit (raisins, currants, chopped apricot, chopped fig)

250 g mushrooms

50 ml olive oil

One teaspoon of cumin, cinnamon and red pepper flakes

Salt and black pepper to season

Method

Wash the rice and soak for an hour or so. Heat 25 ml olive oil in a pan and cook the orzu or pine nuts until golden brown. Add the rice and stir to coat the grains with oil. Pour in 300 ml cold water, add a pinch of salt and cook until all the liquid is absorbed.

Heat the rest of the olive oil in a heavy-based pan and add the chopped onion and garlic. Cook until translucent and then add the peeled almonds. Keep stirring for five minutes and then add the mixed dried fruit and one teaspoon of cumin, cinnamon and red pepper flakes.

Chop the mushrooms up and then pour into the sizzling mix. Stir regularly – you don’t need to add any liquid as the mushrooms contain a lot of water. Cook for ten minutes or so and then turn off the heat. Mix in the rice, blending well.

Prepare the melon by cutting it in half and scooping out the seeds. Then scoop out the flesh, leaving about 1 cm inside the melon. Stuff with the rice mix, arranging some almonds on top.

Place the melon halves in a shallow dish, add 100 ml warm water and bake at 200°C or gas mark 6 for one hour.

Serve a quarter of the melon to each person with an Uzbek-style salad of sliced tomatoes, onions and chili pepper  – achik chuchuk.

 

 

 

You Like Tomato, I Like Ntomato

23 June 2016

Knidos Cookery Club’s fact-finding mission to Greece continues with a look at the contribution of the tomato to local culinary culture.

It may be hard to believe, but it is only in the last two hundred years that the tomato has established itself as a key ingredient in Greek kitchens.

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A plate of tomato fritters from Kos, Greece

It’s found in the classic horiatiki salad that pairs it with cucumber, onion, green pepper, olives and feta cheese. It plays a key role in gemista, platters of vegetables stuffed with rice.

On the island of Kos the sweet local varieties of tomatoes are preserved in syrup or made into jam that makes an orange marmalade rival for a slice of toast.

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Tomatoes preserved in syrup with almonds from Kos, Greece

In Greece the tomato is called ντοματο, pronounced with a ‘d’ sound at the beginning. Modern Greek has no single letter for the ‘d’ sound and uses the letters for ‘n’ and ‘t’ to make this sound.

This week Knidos Cookery Club is serving up tomato fritters, a close cousin of Turkey’s mücver. We’ve used plum tomatoes as they tend to be a bit less juicy than other varieties. The mix needs to find a balance between not being too dry or too wet for the fritters to hold together in the pan.

Ingredients (makes 10-12 fritters)

500 g plum tomatoes

One medium-sized red onion

Fresh herbs – small bunches of parsley, basil and mint or a teaspoon of dried parsley, basil and mint

100 g plain flour

Seasoning mix – pinches of salt and pepper, one teaspoon of cinnamon and one of cumin

Olive oil for frying

Method

Grate the tomatoes and mix with the herbs and flour until you have a mix that is neither too dry nor too wet.

Heat the oil in a frying pan and when hot add fritters made into walnut-sized shapes and flatten with a fish slice or spatula.

Cook on both sides until golden brown in colour and serve with a sauce of natural yogurt, grated cucumber and garlic.

Dolma Dreaming

21 April 2016

This week, Knidos Cookery Club is turning its attention to stuffed vegetables – dolma in Turkish, from the verb dolmak which means to fill or stuff.

Any vegetable that can be hollowed out can be used to make dolma – aubergines, courgettes, peppers or tomatoes are great for this. The filling can consist of rice mixed with herbs and spices and sometimes dried fruit such as raisins or currants and pine nuts.

Knidos Cookery Club particularly likes the way tomatoes go all soft and mushy when baked and some perfect specimens were sourced from the market. Courgettes are beginning to re-appear after their winter break and a kilo were added to the shopping basket for subsequent stuffing. With spinach also in abundance, we picked up a few bunches to add to the rice for the dolma mix.

Here’s what the finished dish should look like …

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Ingredients (serves 3-4)

Two medium-sized courgettes

Four medium-sized tomatoes

250 g fresh spinach

One cup (approx. 100g) of short or long grain rice (We recommend brown rice for its nuttier flavour)

250 ml vegetable stock

One medium-sized onion

Mixed herbs and spices (thyme, parsley, mint, oregano, black pepper, chili pepper, salt)

A handful of dried fruit (currants and/or raisins) and a few pine nuts

Olive oil for cooking

Juice of two medium-sized lemons

A knob of garlic

For the cucumber sauce: one small cucumber, fresh chopped mint, 100ml thick natural yogurt

Method

Pour a generous glug of olive oil into a heavy-based pan and add the chopped onion and garlic. Cook over a medium heat until the onion becomes translucent. Add mixed herbs, seasoning, dried fruit and pine nuts.

Add the washed and soaked rice to the onion mix and stir to cover the grains with oil. Next add the stock and cook over a low heat until the liquid is absorbed.

While the rice is cooking, pre-heat the oven to 200 °C (gas mark 6) and soften the washed spinach in a frying pan with a little splash of olive oil until it starts to wilt.

Slice the tops off the tomatoes and scoop out the liquid from the middle. Top and tail the courgettes and scoop out the contents with a teaspoon in a drilling motion. (Keep the tomato liquid and courgette middles to cook with later).

When the rice has absorbed all the liquid, add the wilted spinach to the mixture, stirring it thoroughly into the cooked rice.

Stuff the tomatoes and courgettes with the rice mixture and arrange in a baking dish. Pour the lemon juice and a healthy dash of olive oil over the vegetables. Put the tops back on the tomatoes.

Place in the pre-heated oven and bake at 200 °C (gas mark 6) for 30 minutes or so or until the skin of the vegetables starts to go brown and bubbly. Add a small amount of water if the lemon juice is all absorbed.

While they’re cooking, make the cucumber sauce. Combine the grated cucumber with the yogurt and fresh mint. Add garlic to taste.

Serve immediately or allow to cool – it’s up to you. Don’t forget to pour the cucumber sauce over the dolma before eating.