Put a Bit of Zhug in your Life

14 November 2019

On a recent flying visit to Glasgow, KCC dropped into Ox and Finch in the city’s West End for a bite to eat. This Sauchiehall Street eatery offers a range of tapas-style sharing plates – we opted for the giant couscous with grilled halloumi, a plate of braised leeks, beetroot hummus, grilled baby gem lettuce and, with this being Glasgow, chips of course. 

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A spicy bowl of zhug sauce

This time round, we’ll be recreating the giant couscous dish, made with ptitim, toasted pearls of wheat and semolina, first cooked up in Israel in the 1950’s when rice was in short supply in the early days of the Israeli state. This couscous relative was dubbed Ben-Gurion rice after Israel’s first prime minister. After scouring our local supermarkets, ptitim proved to be in short supply so we’ve replaced them with mung beans!

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Mung beans, zhug, halloumi, pomegranate and pumpkin seeds

Key to this salad is the dressing, a piquant sauce called zhug,  which was brought to Israel by emigrées fleeing persecution in Yemen in the late 1940s. This spicy cousin of Italy’s milder pesto and Mexico’s equally fiery salsa verde, is served often alongside falafel and hummus. The name is said to be derived from mas-chag, the name of the grinding stone traditionally used to crush the spices and herbs into a paste.

Ingredients (serves 2-4)

  • 100 g mung beans
  • 125 g halloumi
  • Sprinkling of pomegranate seeds
  • Sprinkling of roasted pumpkin seeds

For the zhug sauce:

  • One bunch fresh coriander
  • One bunch fresh parsley
  • One garlic clove
  • Two teaspoons red chilli flakes
  • One teaspoon black peppercorns
  • One teaspoon cumin seeds
  • One teaspoon coriander seeds
  • One teaspoon cardamom seeds
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 25 ml olive oil

Method 

  • To make the zhug sauce, put all the ingredients except for the olive oil in a blender and give it quick blitz. Don’t overdo the blending as you want a slightly chunky texture. Now slowly add the olive oil, blitzing until it is mixed in with the other ingredients. Put in a glass jar – it should keep for a couple of weeks in the fridge.
  • Cook the mung beans until tender. While the mung beans are cooling, grill the halloumi until a golden-brown colour. Then mix the cooled mung beans with a tablespoon of zhug, arrange the grilled halloumi on top, sprinkle with pumpkin and pomegranate seeds and serve with a selection of your favourite meze dishes.

 

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.

 

 

 

The Turk-Mex Chronicles: Corny Courgette Fritters (aka Return of the Mücver Variations)

3 October 2019

This time round on Knidos Cookery Club we’re adding to the recipe bank of our Turk-Mex influenced cuisine. We’ve taken a Turkish favourite, mücver, a fritter made from grated courgettes, and added a Mexican staple, corn, to create our latest mücver variation.

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It’s believed that corn was first domesticated in southernMexico around 9-10,000 years ago. From there it slowly spread across the Americas before finding its way into Europe in the 16th century; brought back by the explorers who had landed in what became dubbed ‘The New World’.

These tasty fritters can be served like a burger in a bun, wrapped in a tortilla, stuffed into a pita bread or just plain with a jacket potato and some salad for a healthy snack that can be eaten at any time of the day.

Ingredients (makes around 8 large fritters)

  • Two courgettes
  • One corn cob
  • Three tablespoons wholemeal flour
  • 75 ml olive oil
  • Two teaspoons cumin
  • Two teaspoons red chilli flakes
  • Two teaspoons dried thyme
  • One teaspoon turmeric

Method

  • Bring a pan of water to boiling and then switch off the heat. Soak the corn cob in the boiled water for five minutes and then put in a pan of cold water. Remove the kernels by slicing downwards with a knife on the sides of the cob.
  • Grate the courgettes into a large bowl and mix with the flour, herbs and spices, reserving 25 ml of the olive oil for cooking. Add the corn kernels and mix well. Leave the mix to stand for a few hours in the fridge.
  • Heat the remaining olive oil in a frying pan. Take a golf ball sized scoop of the mix and put it into the pan and flatten it with a spatula. Cook over a medium heat for five minutes and then flip over and cook for another five minutes. Alternatively, you can bake the fritters in the oven for 30 minutes at 180c or grill on a barbecue.

 

Down Home Arizona Kızartma

14 February 2019

This time round on Knidos Cookery Club we’re swinging through Tucson, Arizona on the way back home. Whilst in Tucson, we met up with some old friends from Kazakhstan (via Turkey and the USA) and were treated to Tolga’s kızartma –  grilled peppers mixed in with fried aubergines and potatoes served in a garlic-infused tomato sauce and garnished with dollops of natural yogurt.

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Tolga’s classic down home Arizona kızartma

Tucson is located on the edge of the Sonora Desert which stretches up into Arizona from northern Mexico. It’s a surreal landscape of towering cacti called saguaro (Carnegiea gigantea), which can grow to be more than 12 m tall.

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There’s a lot of cactus….

The desert is a fascinating place populated with bobcats, coyotes, a variety of snakes and scorpions along with hallucinogenic Sonoran Desert toads (if you’re brave enough to lick them… ).

Having observed the master chef at work closely, here’s KCC’s take on the Turkish classic kızartma.

Ingredients (serves 3-4)

  • Two large potatoes
  • Three medium-sized tomatoes
  • Three garlic cloves
  • one small onion
  • One large aubergine
  • One avocado
  • Four peppers – a mix of green and red
  • Four jalapeño peppers
  • 75 ml olive oil
  • 100 ml natural yogurt

Method

  • Heat 25 ml of oil in a heavy-bottomed pan. Cut the potato into 1mm slices and fry in the oil, turning occasionally, until they are a golden-brown colour on both sides. Remove with a slotted spoon and put on a plate lined with kitchen towel.
  • Prick the peppers a couple of times with a fork and then roast them on a barbecue or over an open flame (here’s some tips on how to do this) until the skin is blackened all over. While the peppers are roasting, put 25ml oil in the pan and cut the aubergine into 1cm cubes and fry until golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and put on a plate lined with kitchen towel.
  • Add the rest of the oil to the pan, heat it up and then fry the finely chopped onion and garlic for five minutes over a medium heat and then grate the tomatoes into the pan and cook for 15-20 minutes. Peel the peppers, remove the seeds and chop the roasted peppers roughly.
  • In a large bowl put a layer potatoes, aubergine and peppers alternately. Pour the tomato sauce over the top and garnish with dollops of yogurt. Serve with slices of avocado.

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.