Muhammara: Spread the Word

15 December 2016

This time out on Knidos Cookery Club we’re going to make muhammara, a spicy roasted red pepper and toasted walnut dip. Originally from Syria, this spread made its way onto Turkish tables via Antakya, which is located at the easterly end of Turkey’s Mediterranean coast.

img_2503This delicious dip was brought to Knidos Cookery Club’s attention by our good friend Tolga, who introduced us to the method of roasting the peppers over an open flame on our gas hob.

img_2496Put some tin foil under the burner to stop your hob getting all messed up and cook the peppers over a medium-high flame. Using a chopstick or a wooden skewer can make the peppers easier to manoeuvre on the flame.

You can also grill the peppers or roast them in the oven, but the open-flame method gives them a smoky flavour that combines excellently with the toasted walnuts and chili flakes.

Muhammara works well when teamed with our courgette and almond dip and our carrot and walnut tarator as part of a scrumptious meze platter.

Ingredients 

two medium-sized red (bell) peppers

100 g walnuts (shelled and chopped)

one clove of minced garlic

one lemon – use the juice of half the lemon for the dip and use the rest as a garnish

two teaspoons chili flakes

two teaspoons pomegranate sauce or molasses

25 ml olive oil

Method

Roast the peppers over an open flame, under a grill or in a hot oven until all the skin is blackened. Turn them round regularly to ensure they are cooked evenly.

While the peppers are roasting, toast the walnut pieces in a frying pan over a medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring or shaking the pan regularly. Don’t overcook them as they can taste bitter if you do.

Place the peppers in brown paper bag and allow to cool – this will make it easier to peel the peppers. Now remove the outer skin from the peppers then halve  and de-seed them. Be careful when cutting the peppers as some hot liquid may spurt out if they’re not cooled down enough.

Cut up the peppers and put them with half the walnuts and other ingredients into a blender and mix until you have a smooth paste. Add the rest of the walnuts and give the dip another blast – but not for too long as you want some of the walnuts to still be crunchy.

Garnish with slices of lemon and fresh mint (if you have it) and serve alongside other dips with pita bread and/or slices of raw carrot, cucumbers and green peppers.

 

 

 

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A Prickly Pear Pick-Me-Up

25 August 2016

Move aside Bloody Mary – there’s a new hair of the dog on the block: Lord Venal’s Prickly Pear Pick-Me-Up!

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Lord Venal’s Prickly Pear Pick-Me-Up

After overindulging while celebrating Ukraine’s 25th anniversary of independence from the Soviet Union, Knidos Cookery Club was in need of a little kickstart to the day. This was provided by Lord Venal with his patent Prickly Pear Pick-Me-Up.

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Prickly pears growing wild in south-west Turkey

Apparently, the prickly pear, which grows in arid regions on the Opuntia cactus, has properties that make it a perfect antidote to a hangover. This spiny fruit is full of vitamin C, so that may explain some of its health-giving powers.

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Peeling the prickly pear

Care must be taken to peel the pear properly as the spines are painful if ingested. Top and tail the prickly pear then slice the peel off with a sharp knife. Halve the pear and scoop out the seeds, or leave them in for a crunchier cocktail.

Lord Venal recommends the following for his pick-me-up:

Ingredients (makes two large cocktails)

3 prickly pears
200g honeydew melon
100 ml white rum

2 cm fresh ginger
Ice
100 ml cold water

Method

Peel the pears and slice the melon into small cubes. Put into a plastic container with the water and the chopped ginger and use a hand blender to juice the fruit.

Pour in the rum and ice and stir well. Serve with a slice of orange.

A Spicy Finger in Every Pie

18 August 2016

This week, Knidos Cookery Club is cooking with okra, another vegetable that arouses strong emotions in the love it or hate it camps.

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Okra – washed, dried and ready for action

Many are put off this green pod, also known as lady’s fingers, for its tendency to taste a bit slimy at times. This sliminess can be avoided by making sure that after washing, the pods are thoroughly dried before being cooked. Stir frying can also help retain okra’s natural crunchiness.

The origins of okra are unclear – South Asia, West Africa and Ethiopia all make claims to be the home of this vegetable. Okra was brought to Turkey by Arab merchants and is known by its Arabic name, bamya.  It’s often cooked with olive oil and tomatoes and served as a side dish in Turkey.

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Bhindi bhaji – dry okra curry

Our favourite recipe for okra is to prepare it Indian-style, stir fried with spices to make a dry bhindi bhaji, which works as a standalone dish or can be accompanied with a lentil dhal and rice combo.

Ingredients (serves 3-4)

500 g okra washed and dried

250 g tomatoes

One medium-sized onion

One clove of garlic

1 cm fresh ginger

One teaspoon mustard seeds

One teaspoon cumin

One teaspoon dried coriander

One teaspoon cinnamon

One teaspoon turmeric

One teaspoon chili flakes

50 ml olive oil

Method 

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and tip in the mustard seeds. When the seeds begin to pop, add the diced onion and garlic and cook for five minutes or so until just starting to brown. Add the spices (ginger, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, turmeric and chili flakes) and stir well.

Throw the tomatoes into the spicy onion mix and cook for another five minutes or so until the tomatoes begin to break up. Now add the okra and stir fry for ten minutes, making sure the okra are well-coated with the curry sauce.

Serve immediately with a lentil dhal and basmati rice or chapatis, or both if you’re feeling famished.

 

 

Sundowner Time

2 June 2016

Welcome to the tenth edition of Knidos Cookery Club! This calls for a celebration and this week we’ll be looking at some snacks and starters commonly associated with Turkey’s favourite alcoholic tipple, rakı.

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A classic sundowner set with rakı, white cheese and cucumber

Rakı is a member of the family of anise-flavoured drinks common to many countries with coastlines on the Mediterranean  Sea – ouzo in Greece, pastis in France, sambuca in Italy, arak in Lebanon and chinchón in Spain.

When rakı is diluted with water, it turns a milky white colour leading to its Turkish nickname, aslan sütü, or lion’s milk. It’s drunk as an aperitif and is accompanied by white cheese and cucumber. In spring and early summer, it’s often served with tart, sour green plums, known as can erik.

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Sour plums

Rakı also accompanies a long, lazy lunch or evening meal with the drink served alongside a selection of mezeler, or appetizers that include, among many others, a spicy tomato and chili paste, acılı ezme, yogurt, grated cucumber and crushed garlic, cacık, and semizotu, purslane mixed with yogurt. These starters are usually followed by a grilled fish course and the meal is finished with slices of fresh melon.

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The new season’s carrots have arrived!

We couldn’t resist these great carrots in the market last week, and they’ve inspired this meze to go with a glass or two of lion’s milk. This week’s recipe is for cezizli havuç tarator, a combo of walnuts, carrots and yogurt.

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Carrot and Walnut Tarator

Ingredients (serves 3-4)

200 g baby carrots

Eight walnuts

200 ml Greek (strained) yogurt

One or two garlic cloves

Splash of olive oil

Salt, black pepper, dried oregano, chili flakes, cumin and nigella seeds

Method

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan. Clean and grate the carrots (keep the carrot tops to make this pesto) then cook the grated carrot over a low heat for ten minutes or so to help release the natural sugars in the carrots. While it’s cooking, keep stirring and add pinches of salt, black pepper, dried oregano, chili flakes and cumin.

Allow the carrots to cool then add the crushed walnuts (use a blender or a rolling pin to crush them), as much garlic as you prefer and the yogurt. Blend together well and drizzle with nigella seeds.

Serve as a dip with crackers and slices of red pepper and cucumber along with a glass of rakı, water and ice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Swiss Chard: No Fence Sitting Allowed

26 May 2016

Swiss chard, a surprisingly divisive green leaf, is in the spotlight on Knidos Cookery Club this week.

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Swiss chard – friend or foe?

 

Swiss chard, pazı  in Turkish, is one of those love it or hate it vegetables. In a restaurant in Istanbul a few years ago, a Turkish friend was fine with the spinach order but when I suggested the pazı side dish he looked at me as if I had gone mad. He refused to countenance eating it, leaving these particular green leaves to the three foreigners he was with.

On the positive side, in Croatia last summer friends from HaMAS in the UK introduced me to blitva, a local take on this leafy green vegetable that sees it sautéed with potatoes and garlic.

Here at Knidos Cookery Club we love it, especially when the vitamin-packed leaves are combined with red peppers, added more for colour than heat, and topped off with a healthy dollop of natural yogurt, to re-create a dish that is a mainstay in Turkey’s home-cooking lokanta restaurants.

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Turkish-style Swiss chard with red pepper and yogurt

Try this recipe yourself to see which side of the Swiss chard fence you fall on.

Ingredients (serves 3-4)

One bunch of Swiss chard (approx 500g)

Three spring onions

Two medium-sized red peppers

Dash of olive oil

Pinches of cumin, cinnamon, salt and black pepper

One bay leaf

Dollop of yogurt

Sprinkle of chili flakes and nigella seeds

Method

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and when hot add the finely chopped spring onions.

After a few minutes over a medium heat, add the finely chopped red pepper and the bay leaf. Season with pinches of cumin, cinnamon, salt and black pepper.

Clean the Swiss chard thoroughly, shake dry and then roughly chop the leaves and stalks. After cooking the red peppers for five minutes, add the Swiss chard to the pan and stir continuously. You shouldn’t need to add any extra water. Continue cooking and stirring until the Swiss chard begins to soften – 8-10 minutes or so.

Serve with a dollop of yogurt and sprinkle the chili flakes and nigella seeds over this.