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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Putting on the Piyaz: Turkey’s Versatile White Bean Salad

2 August 2019

Knidos Cookery Club has just arrived back at its home base on the Datça Peninsula in Turkey. We’re going to soak up some more culinary inspiration from the place where the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas meet around the ancient Greek settlement of Knidos.

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Piyaz – Turkish White Bean salad

To celebrate being back in Turkey, we’ve prepared a piyaz salad, one of the favourite dishes of Turkish cooking, that combines small white beans with some readily available staples of the local kitchen; namely tomatoes, onions, green peppers, parsley and lemons.

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Turkey’s çarliston peppers aka banana peppers

The secret of this dish is in getting the beans just right – not too mushy but not too firm either. They need a good, long overnight soak and some slow cooking to achieve the required consistency.

The dressing used varies across Turkey from the basic lemon, olive oil and apple vinegar one favoured in Istanbul to the tahini-infused one from Antalya, paying tribute to the Arabian influence from the Middle East on the city’s cuisine. We have opted for the creamy, nutty taste of the latter.

Ingredients (makes 3-4 servings)

  • 200 g dried haricot beans or other small white beans soaked overnight
  • 1 medium-sized plum tomato
  • 1 long, green pepper (e.g. çarliston pepper – see photo above)
  • 1 small onion
  • 2 lemons
  • Small bunch of parsley
  • 50 ml olive oil
  • 50 ml apple vinegar
  • 25 ml tahini
  • 2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon red chilli flakes
  • Optional: Two boiled eggs or one avocado

Method

  • Cook the beans over a low heat until tender but not starting to go mushy. When cooked, drain off the cooking water, reserving 100 ml to make the dressing. Pour the vinegar and sprinkle the thyme over the beans and leave to cool.
  • After leaving for a few hours, add the vinegar the beans were soaking in to the reserved bean juice and then blend with the olive oil, tahini and the juice of one lemon to make a smooth sauce.
  • Finely dice the tomato, slice the pepper and onions into rings and chop the parsley finely. Add these to the beans.
  • Cover the salad and put it in the fridge for a few hours. Serve with wedges of the second lemon and sprinkle the red chilli flakes over the salad.
  • Just before serving, pour the dressing over the bean salad and season with black pepper and gently mix all the ingredients together with a wooden spoon.
  • You can garnish with quarters of boiled egg if you wish or, for a vegan twist, you can garnish the salad with slices of avocado.

Make Time for Tabbouleh

2 May 2019

This time round on Knidos Cookery Club we’re taking advantage of some fresh, seasonal ingredients to make one of our favourite springtime salads, tabbouleh.

This winning combination of freshly-picked herbs, vegetables, lemon and olive oil with a grain such as couscous or bulgur wheat, that origianets on the eastern shores of the Mediterranean Sea, makes for a light, fresh-tasting dish that works well as part of a meze platter or alongside a selection of barbecued food.

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It’s easy to prepare, giving you more time to lounge in the sun with a glass of chilled wine while making the most of the long evenings.

Ingredients (serves 3-4)

  • 100g grain – couscous or bulgur wheat (coarse or fine both work well here)
  • 200 ml vegetable stock
  • One medium red onion
  • 12 cherry tomatoes
  • One bunch of fresh parsley
  • One bunch of fresh mint
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 25 ml olive oil

Method

  • Heat the vegetable stock until it’s boiling and then pour it over the couscous or bulgur wheat. Cover and leave to stand for 30 minutes or until all the liquid is absorbed.
  • While the couscous or bulgur wheat is soaking, prepare the rest of the ingredients. Dice the onion, quarter the tomatoes, finely chop the mint and parsley and squeeze the lemon.
  • Mix all the ingredients together and then add the olive oil and stir well. Leave to stand in the fridge for 30 minutes and then serve.

 

 

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.

Viva l’Armenian (Revolutionary) Peppers

3 May 2018

With Nikol Pashinyan, leader of the largest political protests  in Armenia’s post-Soviet history, looking likely to become this impoverished  Caucasus Mountains nation’s next  prime minister, Knidos Cookery Club is celebrating this momentous event with an Armenian recipe cooked up by our friend Bagila.

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Bagila’s Armenian (Revolutionary) Peppers take centre stage

This mountainous, landlocked country sandwiched between Turkey, Iran, Azerbaijan and Georgia, has a rich cuisine that draws on an array of fresh vegetables such as aubergines and peppers, pulses and beans and fruits and nuts.

Bagila’s recipe uses red peppers that are fried and then marinated overnight in her signature marinade and they taste amazing served alongside a platter of other dips and salads as in the picture above.

Ingredients (serves 4-6)
500 gr red peppers, cut lengthwise in quarters
50 ml olive oil
For the marinade:
2 fresh tomatoes, skinned and grated
5 crushed/mashed garlic cloves
75 ml of lemon juice
1 bunch of fresh coriander, chopped
1 bunch of fresh parsley, chopped
1.5 tablespoons of sugar
a little less than 1 tablespoon spoon of salt
black pepper to taste;
oil  left over from frying
Method
Fry the quartered peppers in hot olive oil  until soft and then set aside. While they’re cooking, mix all the marinade ingredients together in a bowl.

Combine it all together: a layer of peppers, followed with a layer of marinade and so on.

Put something heavy on top for pressure (a saucer with a stone on top, or a jar of honey (jam), or whatever you can think of), and keep in the fridge for at least several hours (better one night/day) before eating. Enjoy!

 

Pidemania: The Great Turkish Bake Off

1 February 2018

“April is the cruellest month” as TS Eliot put it, but I’ve always thought there’s a case for  February to be considered crueller. As winter drags on interminably in the northern hemisphere – we’re still six months away from August and the height of summer – those long, lazy days all seem so far away, especially with the mercury plunging into serious minus territory as in Knidos Cookery Club’s winter HQ in Almaty, Kazakhstan.

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Yum yum – Kaşarlı Pide

So, thoughts have been turning to warmer times and to distant memories of eating pide, Turkey’s take on pizza, under the shade of mandarin trees in Datça.

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or maybe Otlu Pide?

With KCC’s new oven up and running in Almaty, it’s high time for a Great Turkish Bake Off as we take on the pide challenge and bring a slice of the Turkish summer into the winter gloom of Kazakhstan. 

We’ll be making a standard Kaşarlı Pide, an open one made with a yellow cheese such as cheddar – See the three stages for assembling this pide above. 

And here is an Otlu Pide, a covered one made with various greens such as spinach and parsley and a ricotta-like cheese called lor as seen above.

Ingredients (Makes four pides)

For the base:

300 g flour

One teaspoon dried, instant yeast

125 ml cold water

30 ml olive oil

For the filling:

Kaşarlı Pide (makes 2)

200 g grated yellow cheese such as a mild cheddar

Pinch of red chilli flakes

Pinch of dried thyme

Pinch of freshly ground black pepper

Otlu Pide (makes 2)

One small onion

125 g spinach

25 ml olive oil

One bunch fresh parsley (around 25 g)

One bunch fresh coriander (around 25 g)

100 g ricotta cheese (or similar)

One teaspoon cumin seeds

One teaspoon red chilli flakes

Pinch of dried thyme

Pinch of freshly ground black pepper

Sprinkling of sesame seeds (or black, nigella seeds if you can find them)

Method:

Sieve the flour into a large, ceramic bowl, add the dried yeast, make a well in the middle and pour in the olive oil and slowly add the water and mix well so that all the flour is used up.

Knead for ten minutes or so until you have a stretchy, elastic dough. Put in an oiled bowl and cover with a tea towel and then leave it to rise in a warm place for 30 minutes or so until it is doubled in size.

While the dough is rising, prepare the filling for the Otlu Pide. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and add the cumin seeds, chilli flakes, dried thyme and black pepper and then add the finely chopped onion. Cook for five minutes and then add the chopped spinach, parsley and coriander and cook until it all begins to wilt. Allow to cool and then stir in the lor (ricotta) cheese.

Divide the dough into four and roll each ball into a 30 cm by 20 cm oblong about 1 mm thick on a lightly floured surface. For the Kaşarlı Pide, spread the grated cheese over the middle leaving 2 cm around the edges and season with thyme, chilli flakes and black pepper. Fold the edges over and then fold again and pinch the ends together to make a boat shape. Glaze the dough with olive oil.

For the Otlu Pide, place half the filling in the bottom half of the rolled out dough then fold the top over and make into a parcel shape (as in the picture above). Glaze with olive oil and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Bake the pides in an oven pre-heated to 200 c for 20-30 minutes or so until the cheese bubbles and is starting to go brown and the dough is also starting to go a golden-brown colour. Serve straight from the oven with a salad of your choice.

Fesenjan for Beginners

18 January 2018

This week on Knidos Cookery Club we’re going to be bucking the January detox trend with this super-rich, calorie-laden Iranian stew, Fesenjan (pronounced fesenjoon), that combines three of our favourite go-to ingredients – pomegranate, walnut and pumpkin.

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KCC’s Fesenjan Tart

Usually served as a thick stew with rice, we’ve decided to put it in a pie case to make a tasty walnut and pomegranate infused tart. Making this stew can be quite labour-intensive – shelling the walnuts, toasting them, crushing them, extracting the pomegranate seeds and so on, but the end result makes it well worth all the effort.

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Can’t get much fresher than this!

Look out for Nar Ekşisi (pomegranate syrup) or the sweeter Nar Ekşili Sos (pomegranate sauce) in your local Middle-Eastern shop or make your own. If using Nar Ekşisi, add a teaspoon or two of honey to the stew to make it a bit sweeter.

To save time you can use shop-bought pastry, but we think it tastes better with a homemade pie crust. To keep it vegan, we’ve used olive oil instead of butter to make our shortcrust pastry.

Ingredients (serves 4)

125 g shelled walnuts

one medium onion

500 g pumpkin or butternut squash

300 ml vegetable stock

30 ml olive oil

2-3 tablespoons pomegranate syrup or sauce (Nar Ekşisi or Nar Ekşili Sos in Turkish)

0.5 teaspoon cumin seeds

0.25 teaspoon cinnamon and turmeric

Black pepper

Handful of pomegranate seeds

Bunch of fresh parsley

200 g shortcrust pastry

Method

Toast the walnuts for 10 minutes over a low heat and then mince in a blender. Heat the olive oil and fry the onion in a heavy-based pan over a medium heat for ten minutes. Add the spices and then add the cubed pumpkin and stir to cover.

Pour over the vegetable stock, add the pomegranate molasses and the minced walnuts and cook over a medium heat for 30 minutes until the pumpkin is cooked. Make sure the sauce is quite thick – if it’s runny, boil it until it starts to thicken.

Roll out the pastry and place it in a greased baking tray. Bake blind for ten minutes at 180c and then put the filling into the pie case. Cook for 40 minutes or so until the pastry starts to go golden brown.

Garnish the tart with chopped parsley and pomegranate seeds and serve with saffron rice and a green salad.