Chiving around with Jusai

17 May 2018

This time round on Knidos Cookery Club, we’ll be cooking with jusai, one of the few leafy greens to make it past the strict controls of Kazakhstan’s carnivore police.

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Jusai in bloom

The fare in Kazakhstan is a salad-dodger’s delight – it’s very meat heavy with potatoes or carrots only occasionally making an appearance – Kazakhs like to joke that they are second only to wolves in their meat consumption, so jusai is a welcome addition to this diet.

Jusai’s official name is allium tuberosum, and it’s a member of the onion family – you might know it as Chinese chives or garlic chives in English. Jusai originated in China but it’s now grown all over Kazakhstan. It imparts a mild garlic flavour to dishes and is used as a filling for pasties and dumplings in Kazakh kitchens.

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Brown rice pilau with jusai, lemon and walnuts

We decided to cook it up in some cider with some brown rice, onion, lemon and walnuts to make a pilau, or a loose take on risotto. It pairs well with some oven-baked seasonal vegetables or a seasonal salad.

Ingredients (serves 3-4)

300 g brown rice

50 ml olive oil

one medium-sized onion

one lemon

100 g toasted walnuts

200 g garlic chives

250 ml dry cider

750 ml vegetable stock

one teaspoon mustard seeds

one teaspoon cumin seeds

Method

Heat the oil in a heavy-based pan and add the mustard seeds – when the seeds start to pop, put the finely diced onion in and fry for five minutes over a medium heat. Add the cumin seeds and stir well and then add the rice, stirring for a minute to coat the grains with oil.

Reduce the heat and pour in the cider, stirring occasionally as the mix simmers so the rice doesn’t stick to the pan. When the liquid is absorbed, add 250 ml stock and continue to simmer and stir every now and then. Add more stock when this is absorbed and keep going until the rice is almost cooked.  Add more stock if needed – the rice should be al-dente.

Remove for the heat and mix in the finely chopped garlic chives (leave some to garnish the pilau), the lemon zest, toasted, chopped walnuts and the lemon juice and mix well. Cover the pan and leave to stand for five minutes.

Serve with oven-roasted vegetables or a leafy green salad and garnish with the remaining garlic chives.

 

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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.

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.

 

 

Olivier with an Edge

12 January 2017

Welcome to the first Knidos Cookery Club of the new year. While many of us have returned to the daily grind, it’s still party-time in some parts of the world.

in Russia, people are preparing to celebrate New Year’s Eve on 13 January – the Orthodox Church still follows the Julian calendar rather than the Gregorian calendar, which Russia adopted after 1917’s October Revolution. This switch created a 13-day lag between the calendars so, for followers of the Orthodox faith, Christmas Eve falls on 6 January and 13 January marks the end of the old year.

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KCC’s take on Russia’s classic Olivier salad

A centre-piece of Russian tables on this day, as people prepare to welcome in novy god, is the Olivier salad – a concoction of boiled potatoes, pickled cucumbers, peas, eggs, carrots and boiled beef or chicken in a mayonnaise dressing. This version dates from Soviet times as all the ingredients could usually be procured even in the depths of winter and despite chronic shortages.

A version of the salad, omitting the meat and eggs, is made in Turkey where it’s known as Rus Salatası – we’ve made our own veggie version that replaces the meat (Olivier purists look aside now, please) with black and green olives and uses sour cream in place of mayonnaise.

When I lived in Moscow in the 1990s I got it into my head that Olivier salad should include olives (mistakenly thinking that Olivier referred to olives rather than the salad’s originator!) and I was disappointed when it came minus olives – so now I finally have a chance to put this right!

Ingredients (serves 3-4)

150 g potatoes

150 g carrots

150 g peas

150 g pickled cucumbers

150 g black and green olives

two hard boiled eggs

150 ml sour cream or natural yogurt

pinches of salt and black pepper

Method

Boil the whole carrots and potatoes until cooked but not going mushy and boil the eggs for 5 minutes or so. While they’re all cooking, chop the pickled cucumbers and olives into small cubes.

Drain the potatoes and carrots and cover with cold water to stop them cooking. Do the same with the eggs. Chop the potatoes, carrots and eggs into small cubes and arrange around the side of a large serving dish in separate sections with the olives, peas and cucumbers.

Pour the sour cream or yogurt into the middle of the bowl and season with salt and pepper. Now mix all the ingredients thoroughly, making sure they all get a good coating of sour cream or yogurt.

Leave in the fridge before serving alongside other Russian-themed salads, such as this veggie take on caviar made from beluga lentils, and wish a hearty S Novym Godom with shots of vodka and/or a glass of chilled Sovyetskoye Shampankskoye (if you can get hold of it in your local offie!) as you prepare to welcome Old New Year in true Russian-style!

Mungo Pumpkin Patties

6 October 2016

Knidos Cookery Club’s autumnal vibe continues apace with the re-appearance of pumpkins of all shapes and sizes in the market. This is one vegetable that acts as a surefire marker of the onset of longer and chillier nights, with thoughts turning towards the comforting pumpkin-rich soups and stews of winter.

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In Turkey, pumpkin is often served as a desert – kabak tatlısı , that coats the orange-coloured slices in sugar syrup. Here at Knidos Cookery Club we prefer the savoury approach to pumpkin and have come up with some mung bean, bulgur wheat and mashed pumpkin patties.

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The mung beans add a nutty, earthy flavour that compliments the natural sweetness of pumpkin, while the bulgur wheat helps to hold it all together so the patty can be fried or oven-baked. Roast the seeds and use them to decorate the patties and give tham a bit of crunch.

Ingredients (makes 6-8 patties)

300 g pumpkin

75 g mung beans

50 g fine bulgur wheat

one medium-sized onion

one garlic clove

one teaspoon cumin seeds

one teaspoon dried thyme

black pepper

one teaspoon turmeric powder

25 ml olive oil

250 ml water

Method

Wash and soak the mung beans in cold water for two hours. Then cook in 250 ml water for 45 minutes or until the beans are just starting to go mushy – add more water if necessary.

Cut the pumpkin in half and remove the seeds, retain them to use later. Peel the pumpkin and dice into 1 cm cubes. Finely chop the onion and garlic. Place the pumpkin cubes, onion and garlic in a baking dish and pour 25 ml of olive oil over them. Add the cumin seeds, dried thyme and black pepper and mix well to coat the cubes.

Bake in a pre-heated oven (220 c /gas mark 7) for 45 minutes or until the pumpkin mashes easily with a fork. While the pumpkin mix is cooking, put the seeds on some tin foil and roast in the oven until starting to char a little bit.

Mash the pumpkin mix with a fork or a potato masher and then add the cooked mung beans and blend well. Stir in the turmeric powder and then add the bulgur wheat. Mix well and allow to stand for 30 minutes.

Tak a golf-ball sized portion of the mix and flatten to a round shape. Decorate with pumpkin seeds and shallow fry in oil or oven-bake for 30 minutes at 220 c (gas mark 7).

Serve with roast potatoes or chips and a mixed salad or in a burger bun with toppings of your choice.