Ezo the Bride’s Soup

20 October 2016

Knidos Cookery Club is off to a wedding soon so we did a quick google to see what Turkey has in the way of wedding-related foodstuffs and chanced upon this soup with a great backstory.

One wedding day tradition in Turkey is to the feed up the bride-to-be with a hearty soup, Ezogelin Çorbası, to help her prepare for the rigours of her wedding day and the subsequent move into the groom’s household.

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The name translates as ‘Ezo the Bride’s Soup’ and the recipe comes from the tale of a woman, Ezo, short for Zöhre, who was born in 1909 in a village near Gaziantep, now in south-eastern Turkey on the border with Syria.

She became famed in the region for her her looks and was highly sought after as a bride. Eventually, she married a man from a neighbouring village but unfortunately the marriage didn’t work out. One version of the tale, that has inspired short stories, folk songs, a film and a TV series in Turkey, as well as the soup, has it that her husband loved another so Ezo left him.

In 1936, Ezo married again and moved with her husband over the border to the town of Jarabulus in Syria. She pined for her homeland and to quell her homesickness she would cook a soup that reminded her of Turkey – a filling combination of red lentils, bulgur wheat, rice, tomato paste, herbs and spices. She also used the soup to win over her mother-in-law, a move crucial to finding happiness in her new home.

Ezo had nine children with her second husband, but she only lived to her mid-40s, dying in 1956 in Jarabulus. Her last wish was to be buried on a hillside overlooking her beloved homeland. Her memory lives on in this soup and in the legends that have grown up around her life story.

Ingredients (Makes four servings)

150 g red lentils

50 g coarse bulgur wheat

25 g rice

one medium-sized onion

one or two cloves of garlic

one lemon

25 ml olive oil

1.2 l warm water

3-4 tablespoons of tomato paste (a more liquid form of tomato purée – if using purée then two tablespoons should suffice)

two teaspoons of dried mint

black pepper

two teaspoons of chili flakes

sprig of fresh mint

Method

Wash the red lentils, bulgur wheat and rice and soak for two hours in cold water.

Finely chop the onion and garlic and fry for five minutes in the olive oil in a heavy-based pan. Add the red lentils, bulgur wheat and rice, pour in one litre of water and simmer over a low to medium heat for 30 minutes or until everything is cooked.

Add the tomato paste, the dried mint, chili flakes and some black pepper and 200 ml of water and the juice of one lemon and stir well. Simmer for ten or fifteen minutes until the soup is taking on a creamy texture.

Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with a sprig of fresh mint and sprinkle more chili flakes over the top. Serve with a slice of lemon and some crusty bread.

A Spicy Finger in Every Pie

18 August 2016

This week, Knidos Cookery Club is cooking with okra, another vegetable that arouses strong emotions in the love it or hate it camps.

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Okra – washed, dried and ready for action

Many are put off this green pod, also known as lady’s fingers, for its tendency to taste a bit slimy at times. This sliminess can be avoided by making sure that after washing, the pods are thoroughly dried before being cooked. Stir frying can also help retain okra’s natural crunchiness.

The origins of okra are unclear – South Asia, West Africa and Ethiopia all make claims to be the home of this vegetable. Okra was brought to Turkey by Arab merchants and is known by its Arabic name, bamya.  It’s often cooked with olive oil and tomatoes and served as a side dish in Turkey.

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Bhindi bhaji – dry okra curry

Our favourite recipe for okra is to prepare it Indian-style, stir fried with spices to make a dry bhindi bhaji, which works as a standalone dish or can be accompanied with a lentil dhal and rice combo.

Ingredients (serves 3-4)

500 g okra washed and dried

250 g tomatoes

One medium-sized onion

One clove of garlic

1 cm fresh ginger

One teaspoon mustard seeds

One teaspoon cumin

One teaspoon dried coriander

One teaspoon cinnamon

One teaspoon turmeric

One teaspoon chili flakes

50 ml olive oil

Method 

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and tip in the mustard seeds. When the seeds begin to pop, add the diced onion and garlic and cook for five minutes or so until just starting to brown. Add the spices (ginger, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, turmeric and chili flakes) and stir well.

Throw the tomatoes into the spicy onion mix and cook for another five minutes or so until the tomatoes begin to break up. Now add the okra and stir fry for ten minutes, making sure the okra are well-coated with the curry sauce.

Serve immediately with a lentil dhal and basmati rice or chapatis, or both if you’re feeling famished.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Battle of the Beans 1: Small is Beautiful

14 July 2016

When it comes to food, Turkey and Greece have more in common than they’ll often admit. They share a love for small cups of strong coffee and sweet tooths all around the Aegean Sea love baklava,  made from chopped nuts and layers of filo pastry drenched in honey.

On the savoury side, no selection of starters is complete without that famous yogurt dip made with cucumber and garlic – known as cacık in Turkish, tzatziki in Greek. A Turk’s ıspanaklı börek is a spanakopita to a Greek.

One area where there is some clear water between the Greek and Turkish kitchen is the choice of which bean to combine with a rich tomato sauce. While the Greeks favour dried giant white beans to make the dish known as gigantes plaki, in Turkey this dish is made with the smaller haricot, or navy, bean and is called kuru fasulye. Greece also has a dish made from small white beans called fasolada, but this is more of a soup.

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Dried white beans awaiting a soaking

This week on Knidos Cookery Club, we’ll be looking at the Turkish version. When thinking about Turkey’s national dish the döner kebab or köfte, meatballs, generally spring to mind, but in fact it is the humble kuru fasulye that takes the honour. It’s the ultimate Turkish comfort food when served up with pilav, a portion of rice cooked with orzo pasta.

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Kindos Cookery Club’s take on the Turkish classic kuru fasulye and pilav

The version that came out of the Knidos Cookery Club kitchen was a bit drier than some found in Turkish cafes. For a saucier version of this dish, add more liquid during the cooking stage; perhaps 100 ml more of water or stock or reserved cooking liquid from the beans.

Ingredients (serves 3-4)

250 g dried white beans (haricot or any small white beans you can find) soaked overnight

Four medium-sized plum tomatoes

One medium-sized red onion

One green pepper (the long, thin banana-shaped one)

3-4 teaspoons red pepper paste

200 ml cooking liquid reserved from the beans (use 100 ml more for a runnier sauce)

Seasoning: pinches  of salt and pepper, a teaspoon of cumin

Fresh parsley to garnish the finished dish

50 ml olive oil

100 g orzo pasta (pasta shaped like grains of rice)

300 g washed rice

Method 

Cook the beans in a pan of water. Bring to the boil, then simmer over a lower heat for up to 45 minutes or so until the beans are cooked but not going soft. Skim off the foam periodically.

Heat the 25 ml of oil in a heavy-based pan and then add the chopped onion. Cook until translucent over a medium heat. Add the diced green pepper and keep cooking for another 4-5 minutes.

Add  the tomatoes – grate them to remove the skins. Add the red pepper paste and season with salt, black pepper and cumin. Pour in the reserved cooking water from the beans and stir. Add the beans, give it a good stir and keep it bubbling away for 15 minutes or so. You want the beans to stay firm.

To make the rice, heat 25 ml olive oil in a heavy-based pan then add the orzo and stir. Cook until the orzo starts to turn a golden colour. Now add the drained, washed rice and keep stirring. When the rice is coated with oil, pour in water or stock so the rice is covered by about 1 cm of liquid. Add salt if required.

Turn the heat down and cook until all the water is absorbed. turn off the heat and allow it to stand for 10 minutes or so and cover with a clean tea towel or some kitchen roll and put the lid on.

Serve the rice and beans together, garnishing the beans with some chopped parsley. have some crusty bread like a baguette on hand to soak up the juices.

 

 

Dolma Dreaming

21 April 2016

This week, Knidos Cookery Club is turning its attention to stuffed vegetables – dolma in Turkish, from the verb dolmak which means to fill or stuff.

Any vegetable that can be hollowed out can be used to make dolma – aubergines, courgettes, peppers or tomatoes are great for this. The filling can consist of rice mixed with herbs and spices and sometimes dried fruit such as raisins or currants and pine nuts.

Knidos Cookery Club particularly likes the way tomatoes go all soft and mushy when baked and some perfect specimens were sourced from the market. Courgettes are beginning to re-appear after their winter break and a kilo were added to the shopping basket for subsequent stuffing. With spinach also in abundance, we picked up a few bunches to add to the rice for the dolma mix.

Here’s what the finished dish should look like …

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Ingredients (serves 3-4)

Two medium-sized courgettes

Four medium-sized tomatoes

250 g fresh spinach

One cup (approx. 100g) of short or long grain rice (We recommend brown rice for its nuttier flavour)

250 ml vegetable stock

One medium-sized onion

Mixed herbs and spices (thyme, parsley, mint, oregano, black pepper, chili pepper, salt)

A handful of dried fruit (currants and/or raisins) and a few pine nuts

Olive oil for cooking

Juice of two medium-sized lemons

A knob of garlic

For the cucumber sauce: one small cucumber, fresh chopped mint, 100ml thick natural yogurt

Method

Pour a generous glug of olive oil into a heavy-based pan and add the chopped onion and garlic. Cook over a medium heat until the onion becomes translucent. Add mixed herbs, seasoning, dried fruit and pine nuts.

Add the washed and soaked rice to the onion mix and stir to cover the grains with oil. Next add the stock and cook over a low heat until the liquid is absorbed.

While the rice is cooking, pre-heat the oven to 200 °C (gas mark 6) and soften the washed spinach in a frying pan with a little splash of olive oil until it starts to wilt.

Slice the tops off the tomatoes and scoop out the liquid from the middle. Top and tail the courgettes and scoop out the contents with a teaspoon in a drilling motion. (Keep the tomato liquid and courgette middles to cook with later).

When the rice has absorbed all the liquid, add the wilted spinach to the mixture, stirring it thoroughly into the cooked rice.

Stuff the tomatoes and courgettes with the rice mixture and arrange in a baking dish. Pour the lemon juice and a healthy dash of olive oil over the vegetables. Put the tops back on the tomatoes.

Place in the pre-heated oven and bake at 200 °C (gas mark 6) for 30 minutes or so or until the skin of the vegetables starts to go brown and bubbly. Add a small amount of water if the lemon juice is all absorbed.

While they’re cooking, make the cucumber sauce. Combine the grated cucumber with the yogurt and fresh mint. Add garlic to taste.

Serve immediately or allow to cool – it’s up to you. Don’t forget to pour the cucumber sauce over the dolma before eating.