Christmas Redux – the Party Continues…

4 January 2018

Happy 2018 to all our readers! Just when you thought the festive season was over, here’s a quick reminder that in some parts of the world Christmas is still to come. In Russia and parts of eastern Europe, the Orthodox church uses the Julian calendar, leaving a 13-day lag between the two Christmases.

To mark the big day we’re making our version of borsch – a dish that varies considerably across eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. The spelling also varies with both borshch and borscht in use.

In Ukraine, borsch forms an integral part of the Christmas Eve table, and it’s often veggie-friendly as this day is also the end of a period of fasting – meat and dairy products are not consumed in the run up to Christmas.

We’ve added some dried mushrooms to the beetrooty mix to give the stock more depth and put a bread topping over the pot to have something handy to tear up and dip into the borsch.

Ingredients (makes 3-4 servings)

500 g beetroot

1 medium- sized onion

1 garlic clove

200 g potato

200 g carrot

250 g red or white cabbage

50 ml olive oil

50 ml tomato puree

5 dried mushrooms

1 litre vegetable stock

2 bay leaves

Juice of one lemon

1 teaspoon red chilli flakes

50 g fresh parsley

For the bread top:

150 g flour

100 ml warm water

15 ml olive oil

Pinch of salt

Method

Clean the beetroot, wrap in tin foil and bake in an oven pre-heated to 180 c for one hour. Pour boiling water over the mushrooms and allow to stand for 30 minutes.

While the beetroot is cooking, heat the olive oil in a heavy-based pan and fry the chopped onion and garlic on a medium heat for ten minutes. Add the bay leaves and chilli flakes and then add the sliced mushrooms. Cook for five more minutes then add the tomato puree and the vegetable stock.

Bring to the boil and then add the diced potato and carrot and cook for 15 – 20 minutes over a low heat. After the beetroot has cooled, peel it and then dice it and add to the soup. Add the finely sliced cabbage, chopped parsley and lemon juice and cook for another 15 minutes.

Prepare the bread topping by combining the flour, water and oil and knead until you have an elastic mixture. Cover with cling film and leave to stand for 30 minutes.

Pour the borsch into individual serving bowls, place a disc of rolled out bread over the top of the bowl and cook in an oven pre-heated to 200 c until the bread is cooked and starting to go brown on top.

For non-vegans, add a dollop of sour cream after breaking through the bread cover. Use the bread to mop up the borsch.

Adjapsandali Adventures

20 July 2017

Knidos Cookery Club would like to say a big thank you to all its readers who voted for the site in the 2017 Saveur Food Blog awards!

This time round we’re looking once again to Turkey’s north-eastern neighbour Georgia for some culinary inspiration. Adjapsandali, a popular  dish in this mountainous former Soviet country, is Georgia’s spicier take on ratatouille.

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Adjapsandali with green beans and potato

This summer stew relies on a holy trinity of aubergine, tomato and peppers with whatever else is in season thrown into the mix.  We’ve added some green beans and some potato to give the dish a heartier edge, but these can be omitted and other seasonal veggies like courgettes and carrots can be used – there’s no hard and fast rules, it’s up to you!

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The adjapsandali ingredients in the raw

It can be served up  with all the veggies collapsing into a sublime sauce-rich stew or the veggies can be left on the firmer side, as in our example. Served with rice, it makes a meal on its own, but it is also great with salads and other Georgian staples such as pkhali.

Ingredients (makes 4 generous servings)

300 g potatoes

300 g aubergines

250 g tomatoes

2 red peppers

200 g green beans

1 onion

2 garlic cloves

50 ml olive oil

1 teaspoon coriander

1 teaspoon red chili flakes

2 teaspoons fresh basil

3 bayleaves

Method

Roughly chop up all the vegetables and throw them into a large, heavy-based pan. Pour the olive oil over the vegetables, add the herbs and spices and cook over a medium heat for 10 minutes or so stirring occasionally. Turn the heat down to low and cook for another 20-30 minutes until all the vegetables are cooked and beginning to break up.

Sprinkle with fresh basil and serve with crusty bread or rice and a selection of salads such as tomato, cucumber and onion with a walnut dressing and starters such as pkhali.

Haydari Stuffed Potato Balls

6 July 2017

Welcome to Knidos Cookery Club’s 50th post! To mark this momentous milestone, we’ve recreated a dish we discovered while visiting Ovabükü, a quiet beach on the Knidos peninsula – stuffed potato balls.

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Spicy potato balls stuffed with haydari

If you’ve enjoyed reading Knidos Cookery Club as much as we’ve enjoyed producing it, then could we ask a favour – please nominate us in the Saveur Blog Awards for 2017. This is a special award for food blogs and if you could spare a couple of minutes to nominate then enter our URL – https://knidoscookeryclub.wordpress.com – and choose the Best New Voice category. Your support would be much appreciated – thanks in advance!

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Haydari with walnuts

For Knidos Cookery Club one of the most enjoyable things about the local food scene is finding a new restaurant and checking out the dishes in the vitrine. There are always some surprise dishes lurking in the glass display cabinets that are made from fresh, seasonal ingredients.

In Ovabükü one of the dishes on the mixed meze plate was the aforementioned potato ball stuffed with cream cheese. We’ve put some delicious haydari, made from mint and strained yogurt, in our version, and spiced up the potato balls with some chili flakes. Strained yogurt is thicker than normal yogurt as the liquid whey and lactose has been strained off – it’s also known as Greek style yogurt in the UK.

Haydari

200 ml strained yogurt

20 g crumbly white cheese

1 garlic clove

3 teaspoons dried mint

1 teaspoon red chili flakes

2 walnuts

Mix the yogurt, cheese, garlic and mint together and leave in the fridge for a couple of hours. Decorate the haydari with walnut pieces and dust with chili flakes before serving.

Spicy Potato Balls

500 g baked or boiled potatoes

Handful of fresh parsley

1 teaspoon red chili flakes

Black pepper

50 ml unstrained yogurt

Mash the potato and mix in the other ingredients. Form into round, golf ball-sized shapes, make an indentation in the top with a teaspoon and fill the gap with haydari and top with a walnut half.

Barbunya Bean Therapy

22 June 2017

Last week in Datça market piles of psychedelic pink-podded barbunya beans arrayed against their green-podded cousins caught our eye. In Turkey these distinctive beans, also known as borlotti or cranberry beans, are made into a starter called barbunya pilaki, which is always high on our list when ordering a spread of mezeler.

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Psychedelic pink barbunya beans piled high in Datça market

There’s something very therapeutic about podding these beans, like a beanish mindfulness moment!  Our kilo of beans in their pods yielded around 600 g of pink-marbled white beans.

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Bean therapy!

When cooked and allowed to cool, the pink colour leaches out and the beans take on a delicate brown hue. They’re delicious stewed with olive oil, onion, carrot, potato and lemon juice, served with a sprinkling of fresh parsley and a chunk of lemon. Some recipes omit the potato, but we think this gives the dish more oomph and means you don’t need to cook up any additional carbs.

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Barbunya pilaki all ready to go

They can be served hot as a less sugary take on baked beans, or served cold as part of the aforementioned selection of starters – Knidos Cookery Club recommends its carrot and walnut tarator, creamy almond and courgette dip, peppery muhammara and stuffed courgette flowers for a scrumptious feast of Turkish mezeler.

Ingredients (for 4-6 servings)

600 g shelled barbunya beans (or dried borlotti beans soaked overnight)

1 onion (around 100 g)

100 g carrot

100 g potato

100 g tomato

1 garlic clove

1 lemon

1 teaspoon honey

1 teaspoon red chili flakes

Fresh parsley to garnish

50 g olive oil

400 ml hot water

Method

Heat the olive oil into a heavy-based pan, chop the onion and garlic finely and fry over a medium heat for five minutes or so. Add the chopped tomatoes, lower the heat and cook for another five minutes.

Dice the carrot and potato into small cubes and then add these along with the beans, the juice of half a lemon, the honey, chili flakes and hot water to the pan and bring to a boil. Simmer for 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the beans are cooked but not going mushy.

Serve hot or allow to cool and garnish with fresh parsley and lemon slices.

Moussaka Mania

8 June 2017

As the UK continues its downward plunge to become the latest contender for the mantle of Europe’s most basket case economy, we’re turning our attention to the current holder of that title, Greece, for culinary inspiration this week in the form of moussaka, a great comfort food. We’ll be needing lots of comfort in the coming months as the lucky winner of today’s UK election navigates a course through the choppy waters of Brexit.

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Summer is here, and with Datça market overflowing with an array of fresh produce, Knidos Cookery Club is moving back to weekly posts for the foreseeable future. The aubergine is a vegetable that has had surprisingly little coverage in these pages, so it’s high time that was rectified.

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Moussaka is a perennial Greek favourite that is great fresh from the oven or eaten cooled down, allowing the flavours some time to collide. It combines layers of fluffy  potato and silky aubergine covered with a tomato-rich ragù, all topped with a creamy white béchamel sauce.

We’ve used black lentils in place of minced lamb to make our veggie take on moussaka, although any lentils should work well in this dish. It pairs excellently with a classic Greek salad of tomato, cucumber, onion, green pepper, olives and white cheese.

Ingredients (for 3-4 servings)

300 g aubergines

300 g potatoes

250 g tomatoes

100 g black lentils (or any other lentil)

3 spring onions

1 garlic clove

400 ml vegetable stock

100 ml red wine

1 teaspoon of cinnamon

1 teaspoon of dried sage

1 bayleaf

Pinch of black pepper

Pinch of red chili flakes

50 ml olive oil

For the white sauce:

50 ml olive oil

50 g flour

500 ml milk

5 peppercorns

1 bayleaf

75 g cheese (feta or  any crumbly white cheese)

Method

Heat 20 ml of olive oil in a heavy-based pan, chop the spring onions and garlic clove and add to the pan. Cook for five minutes then add the washed lentils and stir. Add the stock, bring to the boil then simmer for 20 minutes or so until most of the liquid is absorbed.

Pre-heat the oven to 200 c / gas mark 6. Cut the potatoes into one cm slices and boil for five minutes in a pan of water. Drain immediately and allow to cool. While the potatoes are boiling, chop the aubergine into 1 cm slices. If you like, you can coat the aubergine slices with a little salt, leave to stand for 10 minutes and then rinse. This should make them less bitter and remove excess moisture.

Place the potato slices in an oven dish and coat with 15 ml olive oil and stir to coat thoroughly. Place the aubergine slices into a separate oven dish and pour 15 ml of olive oil over them. Put both the dishes into the oven and bake for 30-40 minutes or until the potatoes are a golden brown colour and the aubergine slices beginning to char.

Add the peeled, chopped tomatoes, 100 ml red wine, bayleaf, cinnamon, sage and pepper to the lentils and cook over a low heat for 45 minutes until the sauce has reduced by about half.

While this is cooking, make the white sauce. Heat the oil in a heavy-based pan and stir in the flour to make a roux of a runny consistency. Slowly stir in the milk and add the peppercorns and bayleaf, stirring constantly with a wooden spatula or spoon or a whisk over a low heat. When the sauce begins to thicken, add the grated cheese and continue stirring until the sauce sets.

Now it’s time to assemble the moussaka. Pour half the lentil ragù over the potatoes to coat, add a layer of aubergines and pour over the rest of the ragù. Place the remaining aubergine slices over this and then pour the white sauce over these.

Sprinkle with red chili flakes and place in the oven and bake at 180 c /gas mark 5 for an hour or so – the top should be going a nice spotted brown colour as in the photo above.

Allow to cool and serve with a classic Greek salad made from tomato, cucumber, onion, green pepper, olives and white cheese, liberally dressed with olive oil and thyme.

Getting Down to the Nuts and Roots

26 January 2017

This time round on Knidos Cookery Club we’re getting back to the roots with a comforting winter soup made from some of our favourite root vegetables, a leek or two and some roasted chestnuts.

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Roasted chestnuts – a winter treat

One of the big events in the world of Knidos Cookery Club so far in 2017 has been the relocation of Datça’s weekly market to a new, purpose-built site. Previously, when the market came to town on Friday and Saturday, it would spill down the hill in the centre of town, causing considerable congestion with the stallholders looking for parking spots and the customers squeezed in-between.

The new site has a covered area for the local fruit and vegetable growers with the other stalls – spices and nuts, clothes, household goods etc., setting up around the covered market. It’s a lot more user-friendly, with plenty of space for shoppers and stall holders.

The last few visits to the market have entailed searching for some of our regular suppliers in the new layout, and we’re pleased to report that most of them have been accounted for!

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A warming bowl of rooty, chestnut pureed soup

In season at the moment are chestnuts – anyone who’s visited Istanbul in winter will probably remember trying fresh roasted chestnuts while on the move around the centre, a delicious snack that epitomises the city in the colder months of the year to me.

There were also root vegetables aplenty – including black carrots (these root vegetables were first cultivated in Afghanistan and were yellow and purple in colour) and celeriac, lengthy leeks and lashings of oranges and lemons. So this week we’ll be making a rooty nutty soup containing celeriac, potato, carrot, leek, shallots and chestnuts.

Ingredients (serves 3-4)

75 g shallots

250 g leeks

250 g celeriac

one medium-sized potato

100 g carrot (black if you can find them!)

500 ml vegetable stock

25 ml olive oil

150 g chestnuts

one teaspoon dried thyme

salt and pepper for seasoning

juice of one lemon

Method 

Fry the finely sliced leeks and chopped shallots in the olive oil, which has been seasoned with dried thyme, over a medium-high heat until just beginning to brown. Peel and dice the celeriac, potato and carrot into 1 cm cubes  and add to the pan of leeks and shallots.

Stir in well to coat the cubed root vegetables with oil and thyme and then add the stock and the juice of the lemon and simmer for 20 minutes over a low-medium heat. While this is bubbling away, score the outside of each chestnut with a cross shape (on one side) and roast the chestnuts in an oven pre-heated to 220 c /gas mark 7.

Check the chestnuts after 20 minutes or so – if they are easy to peel and are roasted sufficiently, then they are ready for use. If not, check every 5 minutes until the shell comes off easily.

Add the peeled chestnuts to the soup pan, stir well and season with salt and pepper to taste. Then use a hand blender to make a smooth, thick soup and serve straight away with hunks of wholemeal bread.

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!