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.

20190827_165824.jpg
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.

20190829_210243.jpg
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…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

 

 

 

Advertisements

Putting on the Piyaz: Turkey’s Versatile White Bean Salad

2 August 2019

Knidos Cookery Club has just arrived back at its home base on the Datça Peninsula in Turkey. We’re going to soak up some more culinary inspiration from the place where the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas meet around the ancient Greek settlement of Knidos.

20190802_125534-e1564740306182.jpg
Piyaz – Turkish White Bean salad

To celebrate being back in Turkey, we’ve prepared a piyaz salad, one of the favourite dishes of Turkish cooking, that combines small white beans with some readily available staples of the local kitchen; namely tomatoes, onions, green peppers, parsley and lemons.

20190801_160820.jpg

Turkey’s çarliston peppers aka banana peppers

The secret of this dish is in getting the beans just right – not too mushy but not too firm either. They need a good, long overnight soak and some slow cooking to achieve the required consistency.

The dressing used varies across Turkey from the basic lemon, olive oil and apple vinegar one favoured in Istanbul to the tahini-infused one from Antalya, paying tribute to the Arabian influence from the Middle East on the city’s cuisine. We have opted for the creamy, nutty taste of the latter.

Ingredients (makes 3-4 servings)

  • 200 g dried haricot beans or other small white beans soaked overnight
  • 1 medium-sized plum tomato
  • 1 long, green pepper (e.g. çarliston pepper – see photo above)
  • 1 small onion
  • 2 lemons
  • Small bunch of parsley
  • 50 ml olive oil
  • 50 ml apple vinegar
  • 25 ml tahini
  • 2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon red chilli flakes
  • Optional: Two boiled eggs or one avocado

Method

  • Cook the beans over a low heat until tender but not starting to go mushy. When cooked, drain off the cooking water, reserving 100 ml to make the dressing. Pour the vinegar and sprinkle the thyme over the beans and leave to cool.
  • After leaving for a few hours, add the vinegar the beans were soaking in to the reserved bean juice and then blend with the olive oil, tahini and the juice of one lemon to make a smooth sauce.
  • Finely dice the tomato, slice the pepper and onions into rings and chop the parsley finely. Add these to the beans.
  • Cover the salad and put it in the fridge for a few hours. Serve with wedges of the second lemon and sprinkle the red chilli flakes over the salad.
  • Just before serving, pour the dressing over the bean salad and season with black pepper and gently mix all the ingredients together with a wooden spoon.
  • You can garnish with quarters of boiled egg if you wish or, for a vegan twist, you can garnish the salad with slices of avocado.

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:

20180805_211440

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:

20180802_133525(0)

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.

 

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.

20180404_205650

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.

Chiving around with Jusai

17 May 2018

This time round on Knidos Cookery Club, we’ll be cooking with jusai, one of the few leafy greens to make it past the strict controls of Kazakhstan’s carnivore police.

screen-shot-2018-05-16-at-16-45-35.png
Jusai in bloom

The fare in Kazakhstan is a salad-dodger’s delight – it’s very meat heavy with potatoes or carrots only occasionally making an appearance – Kazakhs like to joke that they are second only to wolves in their meat consumption, so jusai is a welcome addition to this diet.

Jusai’s official name is allium tuberosum, and it’s a member of the onion family – you might know it as Chinese chives or garlic chives in English. Jusai originated in China but it’s now grown all over Kazakhstan. It imparts a mild garlic flavour to dishes and is used as a filling for pasties and dumplings in Kazakh kitchens.

20180513_230804
Brown rice pilau with jusai, lemon and walnuts

We decided to cook it up in some cider with some brown rice, onion, lemon and walnuts to make a pilau, or a loose take on risotto. It pairs well with some oven-baked seasonal vegetables or a seasonal salad.

Ingredients (serves 3-4)

300 g brown rice

50 ml olive oil

one medium-sized onion

one lemon

100 g toasted walnuts

200 g garlic chives

250 ml dry cider

750 ml vegetable stock

one teaspoon mustard seeds

one teaspoon cumin seeds

Method

Heat the oil in a heavy-based pan and add the mustard seeds – when the seeds start to pop, put the finely diced onion in and fry for five minutes over a medium heat. Add the cumin seeds and stir well and then add the rice, stirring for a minute to coat the grains with oil.

Reduce the heat and pour in the cider, stirring occasionally as the mix simmers so the rice doesn’t stick to the pan. When the liquid is absorbed, add 250 ml stock and continue to simmer and stir every now and then. Add more stock when this is absorbed and keep going until the rice is almost cooked.  Add more stock if needed – the rice should be al-dente.

Remove for the heat and mix in the finely chopped garlic chives (leave some to garnish the pilau), the lemon zest, toasted, chopped walnuts and the lemon juice and mix well. Cover the pan and leave to stand for five minutes.

Serve with oven-roasted vegetables or a leafy green salad and garnish with the remaining garlic chives.

 

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.

leeky pastitsio
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.

20180402_204515
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.

Pumpkin, Pear and Pomegranate Potage

21 December 2017

Seasoned greetings to all our readers! To end the year on a high, we’ve come up with a thick and hearty pumpkin and pear soup sprinkled with pomegranate to add a colourful touch to your seasonal table.

Screen Shot 2017-11-16 at 15.56.41

Roasting pumpkin in the oven is a great way to prepare our favourite winter vegetable. After cubing the pumpkin, it’s just a matter of waiting about an hour or so for it all to cook leaving time to enjoy a few glasses of mulled wine or a snowball or 

Knidos Cookery Club would like to say a big thank you for all our readers who voted for us in the Saveur food blog awards – unfortunately we didn’t win this time round…

Wishing you all a creative and tasty 2018 in your kitchen. Have a great time with whatever tickles your festive fancy in what’s left of 2017. See you next year!

Ingredients (serves 3-4)

500 g pumpkin cubed

100 g pear

One small onion (around 75 g)

One teaspoon cumin seeds

Half teaspoon ground cinnamon

Pinch of black pepper

50 ml olive oil

250 ml vegetable stock

50 g pomegranate seeds

Method

Chop the pumpkin into 2 cm cubes, quarter and slice the pear into 1 cm cubes and put in a baking dish. Sprinkle the sliced onion, cumin seeds and cinnamon over the pumpkin and pear and then slosh the olive oil over the top. Bake for 40 minutes at 180 c in a pre-heated oven.

While this is baking, boil up some vegetable stock. Add the pumpkin and other ingredients to the stock, blend with a hand blender and serve immediately in a bowl with a smattering of pomegranate seeds over the soup.