Welcoming Uzbekistan with a Royal Feast of Oyster Mushrooms with Buckwheat Noodles

16 May 2019

This time round on Knidos Cookery Club were welcoming cookery fans in Uzbekistan who can finally enjoy unfettered access to our superior vegan and vegetarian recipes after the government unblocked a host of websites, including WordPress, last week.

To celebrate this unprecedentedly momentous occasion, we’ll be riffing on laghman, a classic noodle dish from Uzbekistan. A friend recently turned up at KCC’s Almaty HQ with a proliferation of King Oyster Mushrooms (see the photo below), providing us with a challenge to come up with something tasty.

A quick root around the kitchen cupboards produced a pack of soba (buckwheat) noodles and some sesame seeds so we put a pan of water on to boil and chopped up some leek, celery and tomatoes and added a dash of wine for a rapid-fire stir fry involving the funky-looking mushrooms.

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 50 ml olive oil
  • two teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 100 g celery
  • 100 g leek
  • 600 g king oyster mushrooms
  • 400 g tomatoes
  • 25 ml soy sauce
  • 100 ml dry white wine
  • Sesame seeds
  • 300 g Soba (buckwheat) noodles

Method

  • Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and add the cumin seeds. Cook over a medium heat for a minute and then add the diced leek. After a few minutes add the chopped celery and cook for five minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Put the leek and celery mixture to one side and put the diced king oyster mushrooms into the frying pan, add the soy sauce and cook over a low heat for ten minutes or so. If the mushrooms start to go dry, add a dash of water and stir.
  • Add the chopped tomatoes to the mushrooms and cook for five minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the leek and celery mixture and the wine and stir well. Braise everything for ten minutes or so until most of the liquid is absorbed.
  • While the mushroom mix is braising, put the soba noodles in a pan of boiling, salted water and simmer for four to five minutes. Drain the noodles and arrange on a bowl with the mushroom mix on top. Add a sprinkle of sesame seeds before serving.
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Let them Eat Cabbage!

9 November 2017

This week saw the 100th anniversary of Russia’s October Revolution, which led to the creation of the Soviet Union. To mark this momentous occasion in world history, Knidos Cookery Club has turned to a soup made from the close relative of a vegetable that was at the heart of Soviet cuisine – the humble cabbage.

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KCC’s cabbage soup with brown bread

The cabbage, and soups such as shchi that were made from it, was a mainstay of the Soviet diet. I remember hearing jokes about it when I was a lad such as this gem:

Q. What’s three miles long and eats cabbage?

A. A Soviet meat queue.

We’ve used Chinese cabbage as a twist on the traditional recipe that uses the more familiar member of the Brassica family and spiced up the mix with a few Shiitake mushrooms and some chilli powder.

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It makes a great accompaniment, along with a few shots of vodka, to October: Ten Days that Shook the World, the classic 1928 Soviet silent classic directed by Sergei M. Eisenstein and Grigori Aleksandrov (which is available on BBC iPlayer until the end of this November).

The film was based on John Reed’s book of the same name, which told the story of the revolution from the abdication of the last Czar to the Bolshevik seizure of power. Another good read on the same topic follows Lenin on the Train, an account by Catherine Merridale of Lenin’s trip back to Petrograd on the eve of the revolution.

Ingredients (serves 4)

300 g shredded Chinese cabbage

2 medium onions

1 green pepper

4 dried mushrooms (rehydrated)

2 garlic cloves

2 medium tomatoes

25 ml cooking oil (sunflower or another neutral, refined oil)

1 litre vegetable stock

1 bayleaf

Pinch of black pepper

One teaspoon red chilli flakes

Dash of soy sauce

Rye bread (or a similar hearty brown bread)

Method

You’ll need a good hearty stock for this soup, so prepare some in advance or use stock cubes. Heat the oil in a heavy-based pan and then add the chopped onions and garlic. Cook for 10 minutes or so over a medium heat – while it’s cooking chop up the mushrooms and green pepper and then add to the mix,

Stir and cook for five more minutes then add the chopped tomatoes, black pepper, chilli flakes and bayleaf and cook until the tomatoes start to collapse. Then add the vegetable stock and bring to the boil.

Next add the shredded cabbage and cook for ten minutes or so until the cabbage is tender. Add soy sauce, remove the bay leaf and serve with brown or black bread and a shot of vodka!

Viva la Revolution, comrades!

 

 

 

 

The Mücver Variations

29 June 2017

This time round on Knidos Cookery Club we’re revisiting an old favourite – mücver, Turkey’s tasty courgette fritter.

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Could this be called a pea fritter?

The mücver usually served up in Turkish eateries are made from grated courgettes, so we’ve decided to spice up this old favourite by adding some other ingredients. Why not try them with fresh peas or grated carrot? Mushrooms work well, as do green beans.

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Putting some carrots in the mix

You can even add all these ingredients to the basic mix, chuck in a few chopped almonds or walnuts and, hey presto, you have a chunky veggie nut burger!

Serve the fritters in a pita, on a baguette, in a burger bun, rolled up in flat lavaş bread or just plain with a salad and condiments of your choice.

Ingredients (for around 8 fritters)

Two medium-sized courgettes

One small onion

One egg (or 15 ml of olive oil for vegan version)

Choose one or more from: 100 g chopped mushroom / grated carrot / peas (fresh if you have them, otherwise frozen or tinned) / sliced green beans (use 50 g of each if using more ingredients)

50 g of plain flour

Bunch of parsley, mint and/or dill (if you like that sort of thing)

Dried herbs to taste

A generous sprinkle of sesame seeds

An  optional dusting of chili flakes and grated cinnamon

Salt and pepper

A dash of olive oil for frying

Plain yogurt for serving

Method

Grate or chop up the courgettes and the extra of your choice (mushroom, carrot  peas, green beans or even all three) finely and mix with the chopped onion. Add fresh parsley, mint and/or dill, dried herbs, chili flakes, cinnamon, sesame seeds salt and pepper and blend well.

Make a well in the centre of the mix and break the egg into it. Sprinkle in the crumbled white cheese. Mix well. (Vegan readers should skip the egg and add 25 ml of olive oil instead)

Gradually add the plain flour and blend  until the mixture has quite a thick consistency – you don’t want it to be too wet and sloppy.

Drizzle some olive oil in a frying pan and put over a medium heat.

Place golf ball-sized scoops of the courgette mixture into the pan and flatten with a spatula or fork.

After a few minutes turn the fritter. Keep cooking until both sided are a golden-brown colour.

Serve hot with a dollop of yogurt on top.

Melon Almond a Go-Go

11 August 2016

As Knidos Cookery Club turns 20, we’re celebrating this week with a look at two of the mainstay crops of the Datça Peninsula – melons and almonds.

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This year’s almond crop has arrived!

This year’s new nut harvest is already arriving in the market. Datça’s almonds, badem in Turkish, are rightly famous in Turkey – I remember sitting at a terrace in Istanbul’s Beyoğlu district, back in the days when it still had street tables,  and a guy came round selling fresh Datça almonds, cooled on a bed of ice.

In the Knidos area, almonds are widely used in cooking, in making soaps and creams and in Datça many cafes offer a milky ‘almond coffee’. Last week we had some mezes at Kasapoğlu Pansiyon in Ovabükü which came liberally sprinkled with almonds – one green bean dish and another made from grated courgette and yogurt.

The area around Knidos is perfect for growing melons, kavun in Turkish. The market is full at the moment with a green and yellow striped variety – I’m not sure what it’s called, but it sure tastes good!

We’ve decided to attempt something unusual for the 20th edition of Knidos Cookery Club – stuffed melon. This dish was popular in the palaces of the Ottoman Empire, drawing on a Persian and Armenian-influenced fusion of sweet and savoury tastes.

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Plov in a melon

The Knidos Cookery Club version is fully veggie-friendly and uses mushrooms in place of meat, along with rice, dried fruit and fresh Datça almonds. The end result is basically plov in a melon, a most unusual taste sensation!

Ingredients (serves 4)

One melon (honeydew or similar – not watermelon!)

125 g rice

25 g orzu or pine nuts, if you’re feeling flush

One medium-sized onion

One garlic clove

100 g almonds

75 g mixed dried fruit (raisins, currants, chopped apricot, chopped fig)

250 g mushrooms

50 ml olive oil

One teaspoon of cumin, cinnamon and red pepper flakes

Salt and black pepper to season

Method

Wash the rice and soak for an hour or so. Heat 25 ml olive oil in a pan and cook the orzu or pine nuts until golden brown. Add the rice and stir to coat the grains with oil. Pour in 300 ml cold water, add a pinch of salt and cook until all the liquid is absorbed.

Heat the rest of the olive oil in a heavy-based pan and add the chopped onion and garlic. Cook until translucent and then add the peeled almonds. Keep stirring for five minutes and then add the mixed dried fruit and one teaspoon of cumin, cinnamon and red pepper flakes.

Chop the mushrooms up and then pour into the sizzling mix. Stir regularly – you don’t need to add any liquid as the mushrooms contain a lot of water. Cook for ten minutes or so and then turn off the heat. Mix in the rice, blending well.

Prepare the melon by cutting it in half and scooping out the seeds. Then scoop out the flesh, leaving about 1 cm inside the melon. Stuff with the rice mix, arranging some almonds on top.

Place the melon halves in a shallow dish, add 100 ml warm water and bake at 200°C or gas mark 6 for one hour.

Serve a quarter of the melon to each person with an Uzbek-style salad of sliced tomatoes, onions and chili pepper  – achik chuchuk.