Put a Bit of Zhug in your Life

14 November 2019

On a recent flying visit to Glasgow, KCC dropped into Ox and Finch in the city’s West End for a bite to eat. This Sauchiehall Street eatery offers a range of tapas-style sharing plates – we opted for the giant couscous with grilled halloumi, a plate of braised leeks, beetroot hummus, grilled baby gem lettuce and, with this being Glasgow, chips of course. 

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A spicy bowl of zhug sauce

This time round, we’ll be recreating the giant couscous dish, made with ptitim, toasted pearls of wheat and semolina, first cooked up in Israel in the 1950’s when rice was in short supply in the early days of the Israeli state. This couscous relative was dubbed Ben-Gurion rice after Israel’s first prime minister. After scouring our local supermarkets, ptitim proved to be in short supply so we’ve replaced them with mung beans!

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Mung beans, zhug, halloumi, pomegranate and pumpkin seeds

Key to this salad is the dressing, a piquant sauce called zhug,  which was brought to Israel by emigrées fleeing persecution in Yemen in the late 1940s. This spicy cousin of Italy’s milder pesto and Mexico’s equally fiery salsa verde, is served often alongside falafel and hummus. The name is said to be derived from mas-chag, the name of the grinding stone traditionally used to crush the spices and herbs into a paste.

Ingredients (serves 2-4)

  • 100 g mung beans
  • 125 g halloumi
  • Sprinkling of pomegranate seeds
  • Sprinkling of roasted pumpkin seeds

For the zhug sauce:

  • One bunch fresh coriander
  • One bunch fresh parsley
  • One garlic clove
  • Two teaspoons red chilli flakes
  • One teaspoon black peppercorns
  • One teaspoon cumin seeds
  • One teaspoon coriander seeds
  • One teaspoon cardamom seeds
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 25 ml olive oil

Method 

  • To make the zhug sauce, put all the ingredients except for the olive oil in a blender and give it quick blitz. Don’t overdo the blending as you want a slightly chunky texture. Now slowly add the olive oil, blitzing until it is mixed in with the other ingredients. Put in a glass jar – it should keep for a couple of weeks in the fridge.
  • Cook the mung beans until tender. While the mung beans are cooling, grill the halloumi until a golden-brown colour. Then mix the cooled mung beans with a tablespoon of zhug, arrange the grilled halloumi on top, sprinkle with pumpkin and pomegranate seeds and serve with a selection of your favourite meze dishes.

 

A Leek-Fuelled Lentil Pilaf

11 April 2019

This time round on Knidos Cookery Club we’re combining some of our favourite seasonal ingredients to mark the transition from the hearty stews and soups of winter to some lighter, spring eating.

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We’ve paired leeks, the mild-tasting cousin of the onion, with green lentils, coarse bulgur wheat and some spices to make a scrumptious pilaf that’s both cheap and easy to prepare.

Using bulgur wheat in the place of rice means that it can be on the table in less than an hour, which also allows enough time to roast some of our winter faves, pumpkin and beetroot, to add a splash of colour to the plate. Keep any leftovers in the fridge – they can be moulded into patties and fried in oil or baked in the oven to make a tasty brunch or supper.

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 50 ml olive oil
  • One leek
  • 250g pumpkin
  • 250g beetroot
  • 125g bulgur wheat (coarse not fine)
  • 125g green lentils
  • 600ml vegetable stock
  • Two teaspoons cumin seeds
  • One cinnamon stick
  • One teaspoon chilli powder
  • One bayleaf

Method

  • Pour 25 ml olive oil and one teaspoon of cumin seeds into an oven-proof dish and leave in the oven for 10 minutes at 200c. Cube the pumpkin and beetroot and put into the dish and stir well to coat with oil. Bake for 40 minutes at 200c.
  • Heat the other 25 ml of oil in a heavy-based pan, add the cumin seeds and then add the diced leek and sauté over a low to medium heat for about ten minutes. Add the cinnamon stick, chilli powder and bayleaf and stir well.
  • Now add the bulgur wheat and lentils and the vegetable stock and mix it all together. Cook for 30 minutes or so over a low heat, stirring occasionally, until all the liquid has been absorbed. Serve with the roasted beetroot and pumpkin.

Hasty Tasty Stuffed Peppers

12 July 2018

This time round on Knidos Cookery Club we’re taking inspiration again from our recent Balkan odyssey. While on our mission to Albania, we tasted the local take on stuffed peppers and on returning to KCC H.Q. we decided to recreate this delicious dish with a few time saving tricks of our own devising.

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Hasty tasty stuffed peppers with baked cauliflower and tomato

Rice is the usual go-to base for stuffing peppers, but it can be a bit time-consuming to prepare properly. With the World Cup reaching its conclusion, we didn’t fancy spending too much time slaving away in the kitchen so we’ve used some coarse bulgur wheat, which just needs soaking in hot water for a short while before it’s ready to use.

We cooked the peppers alongside some cauliflower, broken up into large  florets, and some quartered tomatoes to make a ready made meal for two with only a green salad needed to complete the show, allowing plenty of time to sit down and enjoy what’s left of the football!

Ingredients (for two people)

Two medium-sized green peppers

Two medium-sized tomatoes

Half a cauliflower

50 g cooked green lentils

50 g coarse bulgur wheat

200 ml hot water

25 ml olive oil

One teaspoon cumin seeds

One teaspoon dried thyme

25 g  raisins or currants

Black pepper (a generous twist)

Method

Cook the green lentils in twice the amount of water (put the lentils in a cup and then measure out twice as much water) until they start to go mushy. Put the bulgur wheat in a bowl and add the lentils and 200 ml hot water, stir and leave until the water is absorbed (20-30 minutes). Add the cumin, thyme, raisins and black pepper to the bulgur wheat and stir in well.

Pre-heat the oven to 180 c and prepare the peppers by slicing the top off and scooping out the seeds. Fill the hollowed-out peppers with the bulgur lentil mix, place the top back on and place in an oven dish. Arrange the cauliflower florets and quartered tomatoes around the pepper.

Drizzle the olive oil over the vegetables, add 50 ml water and bake in the oven for      40-50 minutes until the pepper skins start to burn and the florets are turning golden brown. Serve with a green salad.

 

 

 

Leeky Pastitsio

5 April 2018

We’re back and, with Orthodox Easter just around the corner, this time round on Knidos Cookery Club we’ll be making our own version of pastitsio, a Greek take on Italy’s lasagne. Our version comes with a red wine, tomato and lentil ragu and a leek infused béchamel sauce.

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KCC’s Leeky Pastitsio

A few weeks ago, I left some beans soaking overnight and when I checked them in morning the pan was mysteriously filled with soaked penne rigate pasta! A quick look online to determine if the pasta was usable led me to this post on the Ideas in Food blog, and this confirmed pre-soaking in cold water as an effective way of preparing dried pasta.

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Leeky pastitsio and salad

Pastitsio is one of those dishes that tastes great straight from the oven but improves with age as the cinnamon, nutmeg and other flavours have time to blend properly. It works well heated up the next day or even tastes good cold. We served ours with a crisp salad of rocket leaves, carrot. radish and tomato.

Ingredients (For 3-4 hearty servings)

200 g penne rigate pasta

For the ragu:

25 ml olive oil

4 spring onions

200 g cherry tomatoes

2 tablespoons tomato paste

100 g red lentils

175 ml red wine

1 teaspoon of cinnamon, cumin, black pepper and red chilli flakes

For the Béchamel sauce:

50 ml olive oil

250 g leek

3 tablespoons flour

400 ml milk (dairy or non-dairy)

60 g cheese (dairy or non-dairy)

One teaspoon of nutmeg

Method

Soak the pasta in a pan of cold water for two hours and while it’s soaking cook the red lentils in 200 ml water until mushy and all the liquid is absorbed. Then prepare the ragu and after that the béchamel sauce.

For the ragu, heat the oil in a heavy-based pan and then fry the chopped spring onions for a few minutes. Add the quartered cherry tomatoes, tomato paste and spices and mix well. Add the wine and when it starts to bubble add the cooked and drained lentils. Cook for ten minutes over a low heat.

For the béchamel sauce, heat the oil in a heavy-based pan and then add the sliced leeks and cook for five minutes over a medium heat. Add the flour and mix well and then ad  the milk slowly, stirring continuously with a wooden spoon. Add half the grated cheese and nutmeg and cook until the sauce is just starting to boil, stirring all the while.

Layer half the soaked penne in the bottom of an oven proof dish and pour the ragu over. then layer the rest of the pasta on top of this and pout the béchamel sauce over. Add the remainder of the grated cheese and bake in a pre-heated oven at 200c for thirty minutes.

Serve straight away with a green salad or let it sit overnight in the fridge for a tastier pastitsio that can be served hot or cold.

Fava à la Grecque

12 October 2017

There are a lot of similarities between Turkish and Greek cuisine with both claiming baklava as their own and many other shared dishes, but there are also some striking differences. One variation we’ve noticed on our travels around Turkey and Greece has been with the dish known as fava in both countries.

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Fava à la Grecque

Last week we featured Turkey’s take on fava, made with broad beans, so this week we’re going to balance things up and have a look at Greece’s take on this dish, which is made with yellow split peas.

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Ingredients for fava à la Grecque

These dried peas proved quite hard to track down in Turkey – most supermarkets don’t stock them, but we eventually found them on sale in Datça market, mixed in with a few lentils and whole grains for good measure!

Greece’s version of this dish is runnier than Turkey’s, more like a hummus consistency, so it’s more suitable to use as a dip or spread. We’ve added some sumac to bring together these two esteemed cuisines in a spirit of gastronomic entente cordiale!

Ingredients (makes 6-8 healthy servings)

250 g yellow split peas, soaked in cold water for 1-2 hours

One medium red onion

One garlic clove

One teaspoon dried thyme

25 ml olive oil

500 ml water

Juice of one lemon

Pinches of salt and black pepper

Use a pinch of sumac, slices of red onion and a squeeze of lemon juice to garnish the fava

Method

Fry the finely chopped onion and garlic in the olive oil over a medium to high heat until the onions start to caramelise. Add the split peas and thyme, season with salt and pepper and stir well. Pour in the water, bring to the boil and then reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes or so until all the liquid is absorbed.

Allow the cooked mixture to cool for ten minutes and then use a hand blender to make it into a smooth paste. As you’re blending the mix, add the lemon juice to give it a creamier consistency.

Use a pinch of sumac, slices of red onion and a squeeze of lemon juice to garnish the fava and then serve warm with crusty bread and a green salad.