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.

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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.

KCC’s Winter Warmer Bake

7 December 2017

The nights are getting longer and the mercury’s starting to drop – winter is well and truly here so it’s time for some filling, wholesome comfort food.

Winter comes to Almaty, Kazakhstan

One of our favourite go-to comfort foods here at Knidos Cookery Club is pumpkin as it’s so easy to cook and adds depth to a range of soups and bakes.

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Knidos Cookery Club’s pumpkin and pasta bake

We’ve combined pumpkin with red lentils, pasta and ricotta cheese, along with some heady spices to create a filling bake to help you get through the long cold nights of winter.

Ingredients (serves 3-4)

75 g red lentils

150 g pumpkin

150 g  dried pasta (penne, macaroni or fusilli work well here)

100 g ricotta or similar cheese

375 ml vegetable stock

25 ml olive oil

25 g pumpkin seeds

1 cm fresh ginger peeled and minced

one small onion

one garlic clove

one teaspoon cumin

one teaspoon cider vinegar

one teaspoon turmeric

one teaspoon chilli flakes

Method

Cook the pasta according to instructions minus one minute. Drain and set aside. While the pasta is cooking, fry the finely chopped onion and garlic in the olive oil until transparent.

Add the ground cumin, turmeric, ginger and pumpkin, cut into 1 cm cubes, and stir while cooking over a medium heat for a few minutes. Then add the lentils, stir and pour on the vegetable stock. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 20 minutes or so over a low heat until the pumpkin and lentils are going mushy and most of the liquid has been absorbed.

Remove from the heat and stir in the ricotta cheese, apple vinegar and chilli flakes. Fold in the pasta, pour into an oven dish, sprinkle over the pumpkin seeds and bake in a pre=heated oven at 180 c for 30 minutes or so until the top starts to brown.

Allow to cool for ten minutes or so before serving with a green salad.

 

 

 

 

No Beef with the Beetburger

19 October 2017

The beet is back on Knidos Cookery Club and this time round we’ll be using our burgundy-coloured friend to tap into another zeitgeist treat in the form of the tasty beetburger.

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The stalls in Datça market last Saturday were overflowing with of bunches of beetroots so we picked up a bunch, chopped off the leaves and stems for sautéing, and wrapped the beets in foil and roasted them in the oven for an hour or so.

Beetroot burgers have been a bit of a barbecue craze in the UK over the summer, with supermarkets reporting soaring sales as people turn towards healthier options to meat.

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Turkey’s papatya, or daisy, loaf of bread

We’ve done some experimentation and come up with a patty that will hold together under the grill, on the barbie, in the oven or can be shallow-fried. Stuff it in a bun – we’ve used the papatya loaf as pictured above, and serve with chips and salad for a delicious yet healthy meal (the chips were roasted in the oven, not fried).

Ingredients (makes 6-8 burgers)

100 g red lentils

50 g fine bulgur wheat

150 g roasted beetroot, grated

One medium onion

One garlic clove

50 ml olive oil

Two teaspoons dried thyme

One teaspoon each of sumac, cumin and chilli flakes

Dash of soy sauce

Method

Heat 25 ml of the olive oil in a heavy-based pan, add the herbs and spices and the chopped onion and garlic and fry for five minutes until the onion starts to soften. Add the lentils and water, bring to the boil and then simmer until the liquid is absorbed.

Add the bulgur wheat to the mix and allow to cool for 30 minutes – this should thicken the mixture. Then add the grated beetroot and stir to combine all the ingredients. Form into burger shapes (take a dollop of walnut-sized mix and flatten with a spatula and shallow fry in the rest of the olive oil on both sides until going crispy on the outside.

Alternatively, these burgers can be baked in the oven for 30-40 minutes at 200 c or grilled   or cooked on the barbecue until crispy on both sides. Serve in a burger bun with salad and chips.

Fill Yer Lentil Welly Boots!

15 June 2017

Next week should see the start of negotiations on the UK’s future relationship with the European Union as talks are scheduled to get underway on 19 June to hammer out the ultimate shape of Brexit.

In the lead up to this momentous day, this weekend also marks another seminal event in Britain’s troubled relationship with continental Europe – 18 June is the anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, a battle which saw forces under the command of the Duke of Wellington deliver a fatal blow to Napoleon Bonaparte’s ambitions in 1815.

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KCC’s Lentil Wellington ready for action

Only time will tell if the Maybot, in cahoots with the Rev Ian Paisely’s successors in the DUP, can produce a victory as decisive as Wellington’s – one thing is clear, some major sustenance is called for and what better than a hearty Lentil Wellington, our veggie take on Beef Wellington, a dish supposedly named after the duke.

Yes, besides giving his name to the wellington boot, the duke is also linked with this dish, which has a rich filling encased in pastry. Leah Hyslop suggests that the name was a patriotic makeover for a popular French dish:

The dish’s clear resemblance to that French specialty, filet de bœuf en croûte, could suggest the name was a timely patriotic rebranding of a trendy continental dish.

In our own era, food-patriotism was to the fore in 2003 when France refused to go along with the invasion of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, causing some in the USA to call for ‘french fries’ to be rebranded ‘freedom fries’.

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KCC’s Lentil Wellington ready for final assembly before baking

For a Turkish twist, we’ve used layers of yufka, the local version of filo pastry, to cover our rich lentil and vegetable sauce. Make sure you leave on overlap of pastry of about 8-10 cm around the edges of your dish in order to create a top to encase the filling.

Ingredients (serves 4)

250 g aubergines

250 g courgettes

250 g tomatoes

75 g black lentils

2 spring onions

1 garlic clove

1 bayleaf

1 teaspoon cinnamon, cumin, red chili flakes and coriander seeds

Pinches of black pepper and salt

250 ml vegetable stock

100 ml red wine

100 ml olive oil

Filo pastry (around 300 g)

Method

Wash the lentils until the water runs clear, and then cook in a heavy-based pan with the vegetable stock and bayleaf. Bring to the boil and then simmer over a low heat for 20 minutes or so until the liquid is absorbed.

While the lentils are cooking, prepare the vegetables: finely chop the spring onions and garlic, cut the aubergine and courgette into one cm thick slices and then cut into four. Place the vegetables into a heavy-based pan, add the herbs and spices and pour 50 ml olive oil over the veg and then cook over a medium heat for ten minutes, stirring occasionally.

Chop the tomatoes and add to the vegetables and cook for another five minutes, continue stirring every now and then. Now add the cooked lentils and the red wine and cook for another ten minutes or so until the liquid is absorbed.

While this is cooking, prepare the pie case. Grease a large pie dish with olive oil and layer leaves of filo pastry, brushing each layer with olive oil. Make sure you leave a pastry overlap of around 8-10 cm around the edges of the pie dish.

Pour the filling into the pie case and fold over the overlapping filo pastry, brushing with more olive oil to help seal the top of the case. Bake in an oven pre-heated to 180 c /gas mark 5 for 30 minutes or so until the top of the pie begins to turn a golden-brown colour.

Allow to cool for ten minutes and then serve slices of the pie with a crisp green salad and roasted new potatoes.

 

Moussaka Mania

8 June 2017

As the UK continues its downward plunge to become the latest contender for the mantle of Europe’s most basket case economy, we’re turning our attention to the current holder of that title, Greece, for culinary inspiration this week in the form of moussaka, a great comfort food. We’ll be needing lots of comfort in the coming months as the lucky winner of today’s UK election navigates a course through the choppy waters of Brexit.

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Summer is here, and with Datça market overflowing with an array of fresh produce, Knidos Cookery Club is moving back to weekly posts for the foreseeable future. The aubergine is a vegetable that has had surprisingly little coverage in these pages, so it’s high time that was rectified.

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Moussaka is a perennial Greek favourite that is great fresh from the oven or eaten cooled down, allowing the flavours some time to collide. It combines layers of fluffy  potato and silky aubergine covered with a tomato-rich ragù, all topped with a creamy white béchamel sauce.

We’ve used black lentils in place of minced lamb to make our veggie take on moussaka, although any lentils should work well in this dish. It pairs excellently with a classic Greek salad of tomato, cucumber, onion, green pepper, olives and white cheese.

Ingredients (for 3-4 servings)

300 g aubergines

300 g potatoes

250 g tomatoes

100 g black lentils (or any other lentil)

3 spring onions

1 garlic clove

400 ml vegetable stock

100 ml red wine

1 teaspoon of cinnamon

1 teaspoon of dried sage

1 bayleaf

Pinch of black pepper

Pinch of red chili flakes

50 ml olive oil

For the white sauce:

50 ml olive oil

50 g flour

500 ml milk

5 peppercorns

1 bayleaf

75 g cheese (feta or  any crumbly white cheese)

Method

Heat 20 ml of olive oil in a heavy-based pan, chop the spring onions and garlic clove and add to the pan. Cook for five minutes then add the washed lentils and stir. Add the stock, bring to the boil then simmer for 20 minutes or so until most of the liquid is absorbed.

Pre-heat the oven to 200 c / gas mark 6. Cut the potatoes into one cm slices and boil for five minutes in a pan of water. Drain immediately and allow to cool. While the potatoes are boiling, chop the aubergine into 1 cm slices. If you like, you can coat the aubergine slices with a little salt, leave to stand for 10 minutes and then rinse. This should make them less bitter and remove excess moisture.

Place the potato slices in an oven dish and coat with 15 ml olive oil and stir to coat thoroughly. Place the aubergine slices into a separate oven dish and pour 15 ml of olive oil over them. Put both the dishes into the oven and bake for 30-40 minutes or until the potatoes are a golden brown colour and the aubergine slices beginning to char.

Add the peeled, chopped tomatoes, 100 ml red wine, bayleaf, cinnamon, sage and pepper to the lentils and cook over a low heat for 45 minutes until the sauce has reduced by about half.

While this is cooking, make the white sauce. Heat the oil in a heavy-based pan and stir in the flour to make a roux of a runny consistency. Slowly stir in the milk and add the peppercorns and bayleaf, stirring constantly with a wooden spatula or spoon or a whisk over a low heat. When the sauce begins to thicken, add the grated cheese and continue stirring until the sauce sets.

Now it’s time to assemble the moussaka. Pour half the lentil ragù over the potatoes to coat, add a layer of aubergines and pour over the rest of the ragù. Place the remaining aubergine slices over this and then pour the white sauce over these.

Sprinkle with red chili flakes and place in the oven and bake at 180 c /gas mark 5 for an hour or so – the top should be going a nice spotted brown colour as in the photo above.

Allow to cool and serve with a classic Greek salad made from tomato, cucumber, onion, green pepper, olives and white cheese, liberally dressed with olive oil and thyme.

Lobiani Sausagiani

9 March 2017

This time round on Knidos Cookery Club we’re off to Turkey’s far north-east corner and across the border into Georgia. This mountainous country shares some dishes in common with the people of Turkey’s Black Sea coast such as the bread and cheese concoction known as khachapuri in Georgia, pide in Turkey.

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Georgian dishes rely on both fresh and dried local ingredients. The diet is generally meat-heavy – this point was crudely pushed home last year when outraged sausage-wielding activists attacked Kiwi Café, a vegan café in Georgia’s capital Tbilisi, throwing chunks of meat and fish at diners, but there are lots of options for non-carnivores as its cuisine also features a wide range of veggie dishes.

Georgia’s location on a number of east-west trade routes heading through the Caucasus Mountains has seen different influences make their mark on its  eating culture over the years, with spices playing a key role.

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KCC’s new brunch treat –lobiani sausagiani

Dried beans, or lobio, walnuts, pomegranates and spices like coriander and blue fenugreek give a distinctive taste to the local fare. Cheese also features strongly on the Georgian table, from the versatile sulguni, an elastic, brined cheese akin to mozzarella, that can be deep fried to the fresh white imeruli cheese.

Georgia’s dried red beans are made into a dish called lobio, that, depending on the region of the country it’s prepared in, can be like a soup, a stew or re-fried beans. It is usually cooked in a clay pot and sometimes comes with a thin layer of bread as a cover on top. Mashed red beans are also cooked inside bread in a dish called lobiani.

We’ve decided to do our own take on a lobio dish, and to get our own back on those meat-wielding activists, by making a Georgian-influenced veggie sausage, to be served as part of a brunch or main meal.

Ingredients (makes 8-10 sausages)

200 g dried red beans, soaked overnight

100 g red lentils (one cup)

150 g fine bulgur wheat (1.5 cups)

50 g chopped walnuts

1 teaspoon dried coriander

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon red chili flakes

25 ml olive oil for frying the sausages

1 tablespoon plain flour

Method

Soak the beans overnight and then cook for an hour or so over a low heat until the beans are cooked and beginning to break up. Drain and reserve the cooking water , then mash the beans roughly.

Wash the lentils until the water goes clear and then place in a pan with the water from the cooked beans – add more water so the lentils are covered by 2 cm of liquid. Bring to the boil and simmer over a low heat for 20 minutes or so. The lentils should be going mushy and there should be about 1 cm of water covering the lentils – add more water if necessary.

Add the washed bulgur wheat to the cooked lentils and blend well. Allow to stand for 30 minutes or so and then add the toasted, chopped walnuts and the mashed beans. Then grind the spices together and add to the mix. Leave overnight in the fridge to allow the flavours to blend.

Sprinkle some flour on a chopping board and roll lemon-sized portions of the mix  into sausage shapes, coating evenly with flour. Fry the sausages in the oil until browned on the outside and then serve with baked beans and a fried egg for a top brunch.

Operation Lentil

23 February 2017

It was on this day back in 1944  that the Chechen and Ingush  people of the North Caucusus had one of the darkest moments in their troubled history. Accused by the Soviets of siding with the Nazi forces, the entire population was herded onto cattle trucks and deported by force to Central Asia.

The mission was codenamed ‘Operation Lentil’ – after chechevitsa, the Russian word for lentil, which shares its first two syllables with Chechen. By way of commemoration of this tragedy that befell the Chechen and Ingush communities, who refer to the deportations as Aardakh, the exodus, this time around we’ll be sharing a recipe for the Turkish dish mercimek köftesi – a versatile red lentil patty.

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Mercimek köftesi – red lentil patties, served with green salad and cole slaw

These spicy, lentil patties are easy to prepare and are delicious when rolled up in flatbread, like lavash, with fresh cole slaw and a green salad. We used ajika sauce from Georgia on the other side of the Caucasus mountains, a fiery blend of red chili peppers and tomatoes, to flavour the patties – but if you can’t find this locally, then a mix of tomato paste with chili flakes will do nicely.

Ingredients (Makes around 20-24 lentil patties)

100 g red lentils (one cup)

150 g fine bulgur wheat (1.5 cups)

500 ml water

6-8 teaspoons of ajika sauce (see above)

5 spring (green) onions – chopped

A handful of fresh flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped

One teaspoon of cumin seeds

One teaspoon red chili flakes

Black pepper

25 ml olive oil

Juice of one lemon

Method

Wash the lentils until the water goes clear and then place in a pan with the water. Bring to the boil and simmer over a low heat for 20 minutes or so. The lentils should be going mushy and there should be about 1 cm of water covering the lentils – add more water if necessary.

Add the washed bulgur wheat to the cooked lentils and the ajika sauce and blend well. Allow to stand for 30 minutes or so and then add the olive oil, lemon juice, spring onions, parsley, cumin, red chili flakes and black pepper and mix well.

Allow to stand for a few hours to let the flavours combine and then mould a walnut-sized piece of the mix in the palm of your hand and use your fingers to form a  sausage-shape (see picture above).

Serve rolled in flatbread or stuffed into a pita with a cole slaw made from shredded cabbage, grated carrot, pomegranate seeds, spring onion and capers and  a salad of lettuce, sun dried tomatoes, pear and spring onion.