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.

 

 

 

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Mezemania: Funky Lentil Pâté

26 July 2018

In our ongoing series on mezeler, or starters, we’ve come up with a funky little lentil spread to add to the collection.

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Funky Lentil Pâté

In the past on Knidos Cookery Club we’ve featured the following mezes: two types of fava (Turkish and Greek),  these little numbers (smoky aubergine dip, Psimeni Raki and feta dip and tsatsiki) inspired by the Greek island of Amorgos, fiery red pepper-fuelled muhammara and acili ezme and a creamy almond and courgette dip as part of our esteemed meze collection.

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Amorgoan Delight: smoky aubergine dip, Psimeni Raki and feta dip and tsatsiki

You can serve this simple to prepare red Lentil Pâté alongside these other dishes for a great spread of mezeler for a light feast that’s perfect for sharing with friends  on a balmy summer’s night.

Ingredients (makes around 200g)

125 g red lentils

One bayleaf

300 ml cold water

Two tablespoons fine bulgur wheat

4 or 5 spring onions

10 g fresh parsley

25 ml olive oil

One teaspoon mustard seeds

One teaspoon cumin seeds

Two teaspoons paprika

One teaspoon ground coriander seeds

One teaspoon black pepper

Half a teaspoon turmeric

Method

Clean the lentils in cold water and then put them in a pan with the bayleaf. Pour 300 ml of water over the lentils and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the lentils are beginning to go mushy and most of the water has been absorbed.

Remove the bayleaf and add the fine bulgur wheat to the lentils and mix well. Leave covered for 30 minutes. heat the oil in a heavy-based pan and add the mustard and cumin seeds. Fry for a few minutes and then add the paprika, coriander, black pepper and turmeric, cook for a minute stirring constantly and then add the finely chopped spring onion and parsley and cook for five more minutes over a medium heat.

Stir this into the lentil and bulgur mix and leave to stand for a few hours in the fridge. Garnish with a sprig of fresh mint and serve with crusty bread.