The Life of Briam

21 May 2020

There were signs this week of life slowly beginning to return to some sort of normal.  Cafes and terraces are set to open once again in Almaty from next week and the streets are busier. We’re not planning on changing too much at the moment and, in the meantime, we’re content to continue our armchair culinary travels.

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Half-way there – assembling the briam…

Greece has been in the headlines this week with the news that its beaches are reopening and it’s preparing to open its borders to tourists next month. This news brought back memories of holidays in the Greek islands and the great food in the tavernas. One of our favourite dishes is briam (pronounced bree-AM) – a delicious stew of oven-roasted seasonal vegetables.

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Briam – good enough to eat

As usual, we’ve taken a few liberties with the recipe, omitting aubergines (usually a key ingredient) as they are not quite in season in Almaty yet, so foodie purists please look away. We’ve added carrot and spinach to the usual potatoes and courgettes and then cooked it slowly in a tomato sauce. We’ve also topped it with some breadcrumbs to enclose our briam.

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The name briam has an interesting history – it is a borrowed word – there is no letter ‘b’ in the Greek alphabet, instead this sound is represented by combining the letters ‘μ’ (m) and ‘π’ (p) – ‘μπ’. Many Greeks call this casserole tourlou tourlou (all mixed-up), so briam could have come from Greeks who lived in Anatolia until the mass population exchanges in the early 20th century.

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Briam and salad

 

In the Ottoman era, there was a word biryan, spelt büryan in modern Turkish, which refers to a side of lamb cooked slowly over charcoal in a pit in the ground – a speciality of Siirt in the Kurdish area on the borders with Iraq and Syria. This in turn could come from Persian, where biryan means roasted (notice the similarity with India’s biriyani). Whatever the name’s origin, it tastes great!

Ingredients (serves 4)

For the bake:

  • Two courgettes (approx 300 g)
  • Four potatoes (approx 300 g)
  • One carrot (approx 100 g)
  • 200 g spinach
  • 75 g breadcrumbs

For the tomato sauce:

  • One red onion
  • 250 g tomatoes
  • One bunch of parsley
  • 20 capers
  • 25 ml olive oil
  • One teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 250 ml vegetable stock or water

Method

  1. Make the tomato sauce first. Heat the oil in a heavy based pan, add the mustard seeds and when they start to pop add the chopped onions and cook over a medium heat, stirring occasionally. After five minutes reduce the heat and add the chopped tomatoes. Stir and simmer for ten minutes then add the stock, chopped parsley and capers. Cook until the liquid has reduced by half.
  2. Cook the spinach for a few minutes until it is beginning to wilt and then set aside. Cut the potato, courgette and carrot into 1 mm slices and put a layer of potatoes, then courgettes and then carrots into a greased baking dish. Add the spinach and pour half the tomato sauce over the vegetables. Add another layer of potatoes and courgettes and then pour the remainder of the tomato sauce over the layers. Spread the breadcrumbs over the top.
  3. Cover with tin foil and bake in an oven at 180 c for around 1.5 hours. After an hour, remove the foil and cook for another 20-30 minutes until the breadcrumbs go start to go a golden brown colour. Keep an eye on it to make sure the breadcrumbs aren’t burning. Serve immediately with a fresh salad – it’s also great when it’s cooled down a bit.

 

 

 

Lockdown Brunch: Bubble and Squeak

30 April 2020

Nearing the fifth week of lockdown here in Almaty, Kazakstan. We’ve found that one of the ways of coping with this situation it to try and stick to as normal a routine as possible. This means logging on in the working week to see if there’s any work around and then trying to switch off from everything as much as possible at the weekend.

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Bubble and squeak: the great British hangover cure

With this in mind, we’ve come up with a classic weekend, switching-off brunch featuring that classic British comfort food  – bubble and squeak, or fried potato and cabbage cakes to the uninitiated. You really can’t beat a good fry-up after a hectic evening spent zooming and netflixing and supporting the local viniculture industry.

Bubble and squeak takes its name from the sizzling, spitting sounds the mixture makes when being fried. Its a great way to use up any leftovers you have – you just need the base of mashed potato and boiled cabbage. We’ve spiced it up with some coriander, cumin and turmeric and also added in some fresh spinach. Serve with baked beans and a fried egg to get your weekend off to a flyer.

Ingredients (makes four hearty cakes)

  • One large potato
  • 100 g cabbage
  • 50 g spinach
  • Two spring onions
  • One teaspoon cumin seeds
  • One teaspoon turmeric
  • One teaspoon coriander
  • Oil for shallow frying

Method

  1. Cube the potato, cover with cold water and bring to the boil in a heavy-based pan. Simmer for five  minutes and then add the finely chopped cabbage along with the coriander, turmeric and cumin seeds. Simmer for another five minute and than add the chopped spring onion and spinach.
  2. Drain off any excess liquid then mash all the ingredients together with a fork or a potato masher.  Season with salt and black pepper according to taste. Heat the oil in a frying pan. Form the mixture into golf ball-sized pieces and then place in the frying pan. Flatten the balls with a spatula or fish slice and fry on a medium heat. After five minutes, turn the bubble and squeak over and cook for another five minutes until a golden-brown colour on both sides.

 

Grassy Green Samosas

19 September 2019

This time round we’ve filled some filo pastry triangles with some fresh leafy greens. Inspired by Central Asia’s kok samsa, a small, deep-fried pie filled stuffed with chopped up greens, our take on this popular street snack mixes some peppery radish leaves with some tart sorrel-like leaves, leek and carrot.

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A grassy, leafy green samosa

A few weeks ago, we left Datça’s weekly market laden down with a selection of leafy greens – called ot (grass) in Turkish, including a bunch of radishes complete with leaves and an unidentified bunch of greens with a tart, lemony taste.

Further inspired by Turkey’s otlu pide and otlu börek, we chopped up a leek and fried it in olive oil and then mixed in some grated carrot before adding the leafy greens and spices. To make these pies you can use any leafy greens – Swiss chard and spinach also work well here.

Then we wrapped the filling in filo pastry, which can be bought from your local supermarket or Middle Eastern grocery shop – or you can try and make your own – here’s some tips on how to do it.

Ingredients (makes 6-8 samosas)

  • 12 sheets of filo pastry (approx 15 cm x 15 cm)
  • One leek
  • One carrot
  • One bunch each of sorrel and  radish leaves (use spinach and/or Swiss chard if you can’t find these)
  • 50 ml olive oil
  • One teaspoon dried thyme
  • One teaspoon sumac
  • One teaspoon cumin
  • Sprinkling of nigella seeds

Method 

  1. To make the filling, heat 25 ml olive oil in a heavy-based pan and cook the chopped leek over a medium heat until translucent. Add the grated carrot and cook for five minutes, stirring regularly. Add the herbs and spices and the roughly chopped greens and cook until the leaves are wilting.
  2. Place a layer of filo pastry on a flat surface dusted with flour. Brush with olive oil and add another sheet, brush with oil and then add one more layer. Cut the layers of filo into two triangles along the diagonal.
  3. Place a generous dollop of the filling in the middle of each triangle. Fold the edges of pastry over, brushing with more oil, to create a triangle-shaped pie like a samosa. Repeat the process until all the filling is used up.
  4. Place the pies on a greased baking tray and brush with more oil and sprinkle nigella seeds over them. Place the tray into a pre-heated oven and bake at 200 °C  (gas mark 6) for 30 minutes or until the pies are golden brown in colour. Serve straight away with a salad of your choice.

Green Cheburekifest as KCC turns 3

28 March 2019

Wow, we can hardly believe it, but Knidos Cookery Club turns 3 this week! Our first post was published from Turkey on 31 March 2016, and since then we’ve brought you 94 editions of KCC, stuffed with veggie food from all over the world. We’d love to hear your feedback – what’s been your favourite post so far? Let us know in the comments section below.

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KCC’s spinach and celery pelmeni with sour cream

 

To mark this momentous occasion, we’ve prepared some mini chebureki filled with spring greens. We’re using chebureki in this context to refer to a crescent-shaped pie. Usually they’re deep-fried but we decided to turn them into more of a pelmeni by boiling them. It’s both healthier and quicker.

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KCC’s spinach and celery pelmeni – the full table

 

Chebureki and pelmeni are from the family of little pies that are made from an unleavened dough – their cousins are Italy’s ravioli,  Turkey’s manti, China’s wonton, Uzbekistan’s chuchvara and Kazakhstan’s tushpara, Ukraine’s varenyky and Poland’s pierogi – the list is endless.

Ingredients (makes up to 24)

For the pasta:

  • 200 g wholewheat flour
  • 4 teaspoons olive oil
  • 100 ml water
  • pinch of salt

For the filling:

  • One small onion
  • 150g spinach
  • 2 sticks of celery
  • 25 ml olive oil
  • One teaspoon cumin seeds

Method

  • Make the pasta by sifting the flour into a large mixing bowl and then add the oil, a pinch of salt and half of the water in a well in the middle of the flour. Mix inwards from the outside with a wooden spoon and then add the rest of the water until the dough has absorbed all the flour.
  • Knead for ten minutes or so and then leave the pasta dough to rest in the fridge for at least one hour. While the dough is in the fridge, prepare the filling. Heat the oil in a frying pan, add the cumin seeds and then add the finely chopped onion. After cooking for five minutes, add thin slices of celery stick and the leaves and cook for three minutes. Now add the chopped up spinach and cook for another five minutes stirring frequently. Allow to cool before making the mini pies.
  • Roll the pasta out onto a lightly-floured surface to a thickness between 0.5 and 1.0 mm.Use a glass or a mug to cut out round shapes from the dough, add a teaspoon of cooled spring greens in the bottom half of the circle and moisten the inside edge around the filling with a little water and then fold the top over. Use a fork to seal the pasta pocket.
  • Bring a large pan of water to the boil and then add the little pies to the water and keep boiling over a low heat until they float to the surface. Remove  with a slotted spoon and serve hot – they’re good served with sour cream or melted butter or just plain.

Eating Albania

28 June 2018

Greetings from Albania, where, among other things, KCC has been on the trail of the byrek, the pie that fuels the Balkans.

From the capital Tirana to the resorts of the south via mountain strongholds such as Berat, we’ve tracked down some fine examples of this savoury pie. But more on this next time, as we haven’t yet had time to recreate this culinary delight at KCC H.Q.
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KCC’S Albanian feast
This time round we’ll have a look at some great salads that we’ve encountered on our travels. While in Tirana we visited a restaurant called Mullixhiu which cooks up some great dishes with organic Albanian ingredients.
At this time of year, the full array of fruit and vegetables are coming into season and we had a great salad made from thinly sliced courgettes and plums with a courgette flower sauce and another featuring beetroot, spinach and scattered fragments of dried filo pastry.
We’ve made a salad based on the first one that includes veggies and fruit: courgettes, pears, green peppers and capers served on a bed of lettuce to be precise.
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Waiting for a byrek to come along in Ksamil, Albania

With a spinach byrek sourced from one of the many byrektore shops in Ksamil a small resort on the Albanian Riviera, a tomato, pepper and onion salad, and some olives and white cheese, here’s our first Albanian feast.

Ingredients (serves 4)

One medium-sized courgette

One small pear

Two green peppers

One lettuce

Two juicy medium-sized tomatoes

One small red onion

A sprinkling of capers

Method

The key to the courgette salad is to make it just before eating – don’t let it sit around for too long. As for the tomato salad, make this one first and allow the flavours to mingle – the longer, the better.

Roughly chop the tomato and mix in a bowl with thin slices of red onion and green pepper. Set aside and let the flavours mix together while you make the courgette salad.

Shred the lettuce and line a serving bowl with it. Thinly slice the pepper and then the pear. Next slice the courgette as thinly as you can and then sprinkle the capers over the top. Add your preferred salad dressing and that’s it – you’re ready to go!

 

 

Unravelling Ravioli on the Path to Pkhali Pierogi

1 March 2018

This time round on Knidos Cookery Club we’ll be unravelling ravioli, one of the many forms of filled pasta pockets found around the world – from Turkey’s manti, Uzbekistan’s chuchvara and Kazakhstan’s tushpara to Russia’s pelmeni, Ukraine’s varenyky and Poland’s pierogi – the list is endless.

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KCC’s beetroot-filled pkhali pierogi

These pasta pockets, which are boiled rather than steamed, can come in a variety of shapes and sizes with a wide range of fillings such as pumpkin, potato, spinach and ricotta cheese, or different types of fruit.

We’ve opted for a semi-circular shaped pierogi which we’ve filled with beetroot and walnut pkhaliclick here for our feature on this classic Georgian dish from last year.

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Three steps to a perfect pierogi!

Ingredients (Makes 16-24 depending on how big you make the pierogi)

For the pasta:

200 g flour

3 teaspoons olive oil

100 ml water

pinch of salt

Method

Make the pasta by sifting the flour into a large mixing bowl and then add the oil, a pinch of salt and half of the water in a well in the middle of the flour. Mix inwards from the outside with a wooden spoon and then add the rest of the water until the dough has absorbed all the flour.

Knead for ten minutes or so and then leave the pasta dough to rest in the fridge for at least one hour. After resting, roll the pasta out onto a lightly-floured surface to a thickness between 0.5 and 1.0 mm.

Use a glass to cut out round shapes from the dough, add a teaspoon of cooled beetroot pkhali in the bottom half of the circle and moisten the inside edge around the filling with a little water and then fold the top over. Use a fork to seal the pasta pocket.

Bring a large pan of water to the boil and then add the pierogi to the water and keep boiling over a low heat until the pierogi float to the surface. Remove the pierogi with a slotted spoon and serve hot – they’re good served with sour cream or melted butter or just plain.

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.