Julienne Funchoza’s Noodle Extravaganza

18 July 2019

This time round on Knidos Cookery Club we’re looking at some ways to beat the heatwave with a noodle-based salad that can be whipped up with the minimum of fuss.

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Funchoza is a popular salad across Central Asia that combines glass noodles, which can be produced from various forms of starch such as rice or mung bean, with julienned raw vegetables and a spicy dressing. The noodles just need to be cooked in boiling water for a few minutes so it’s a cinch to prepare on a hot summer’s day.

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These noodles are a staple of Uighur cuisine, but have been adopted by the Central Asia’s Korean community who have made funchoza famous to a wider audience across the former Soviet Union and beyond.

The Uighurs are Turkic-speaking  muslims living mainly in Xinjiang, an autonomous territory in northwest China, where they face increasing persecution by the Chinese authorities, under the pretext of a crackdown on terrorism.

To this end, thousands of Uighurs, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz and Chinese muslims have been interred in ‘re-education’ camps and, as the Guardian put it in a recent editorial, “Those who are nominally free in fact exist in a digital gulag of constant surveillance.”

Earlier this month, 22 states – including Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Australia and Japan – signed a letter to UN human rights officials in condemnation of China’s treatment of Uighur and other minorities there.

Ingredients (makes 3-4 servings)

  • 150 g dried glass noodles
  • 10 g dried seaweed
  • 2 small cucumbers
  • 2 radishes
  • 8 spring onions
  • 2 red peppers
  • 2 carrots
  • Coriander seeds

For the dressing:

  • 4 teaspoons tahini
  • 2 tablespoons apple vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons pomegranate sauce (Nar Eksisi)
  • 2 teaspoons chilli powder

Method

  • Bring a large pan of water to the boil and cook the noodles in the water according to the pack instructions. Remove and put in a pan of cold water until needed.
  • Soak the dried seaweed in cold water for 15 minutes, drain the water. While the seaweed is soaking,  cut the spring onions into 1 cm slices, remove the seeds for the cucumber and then julienne along with the other vegetables into long, thin slices (use a grater  or chop finely if you don’t have a julienne peeler). Chop the seaweed into 5 cm strips.
  • Remove the noodles from the cold water and cut into 10 cm strips and put in a large bowl. Add the julienned vegetables and mix all the ingredients together. Put all the dressing ingredients into a glass jar with a screw top and shake well, then pour over the salad and mix well. Grind some coriander seeds over the salad.
  • Serve cold – let the flavours mingle by keeping the salad in the fridge for a couple of hours.

 

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A Must-Have Mastava

26 April 2018

Knidos Cookery Club is just back from a foodie fact-finding mission to uncover some new recipes along the Silk Roads. While on the expedition, we inadvertently fell foul of Kazakhstan’s strict zero tolerance laws while munching on a local delicacy, sunflower seeds.

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Sunflower seed munchers are not welcome in this park in Shymkent, Kazakhstan

It turns out that eating this tasty little snack in public is an offence, classified as “petty hooliganism”, and punishable by watching a video of Kazakhstan’s president Nursultan Nazarbayev railing against this social evil and the payment of a fine (4 x the Monthly Calculation Index (MCI) that is used to calculate benefits and fines – approx £25).

After this contribution was made to the Shymkent Police Nauryz party fund, the situation was resolved amicably and we were all able to go on our merry way, suitably chastised!

The road trip also took in a visit to Uzbekistan, which has inspired KCC to attempt Mastava a traditional Uzbek rice and chunky vegetable soup  – it’s usually prepared with lamb or beef but we’ve used lentils and red beans instead of meat to add the protein in our version.

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A hearty bowl of mastava and a cup of green tea

Mastava uses whatever seasonal vegetables are to hand – we had carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, pumpkin and some red peppers for our version. We’ve liberally spiced it with cumin, coriander seeds, red chilli flakes and black pepper as well as some fresh coriander to garnish the soup.

Ingredients (makes around 4 – 6 servings)

150 g green lentils or similar

250 g red beans

150 g pumpkin

150 g rice

200 g cherry tomatoes

Four small potatoes

One large carrot

One red pepper

Six spring onions

30 ml olive oil or other vegetable oil

1 litre vegetable stock

One teaspoon cumin seeds

One teaspoon coriander seeds

One teaspoon black pepper

One teaspoon red chilli flakes

One bunch fresh coriander

Method

Heat the oil in a heavy based pan and add the crushed black pepper, cumin and coriander seeds and chopped spring onions. fry for five minutes over a medium heat and then add chunks of carrots, tomatoes and red pepper. Cook for 10 minutes and then add the vegetable stock, red chilli flakes, potatoes and rice and bring to a boil.

Simmer over a low heat for 20 minutes, and then add the cooked green lentils and red beans and chunks of pumpkin. Keep simmering until the rice is cooked, stirring occasionally. Serve in bowls and garnish with fresh coriander.

 

 

 

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.

Bitter Melon Menemen

7 September 2017

While shopping at Datça market recently, this spectacular-looking, knobbly, bright orange fruit grabbed our attention.

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What’s in the dragon today? Bitter melon, of course

Subsequent googling revealed it to be a bitter melon, or bitter gourd, kudret narı in Turkish. Despute being popular in pan-Asian cooking, we couldn’t find too many Turkish recipes using bitter melon so we decided to mix it in with menemen, that breakfast fave in Turkey.

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You’ll probably be able to track down bitter melons in your local Asian grocer’s. When picked they are yellow-green, resembling a bumpy cucumber, and when ripe they turn orange. Cooking helps remove some of the bitter taste of this curious-looking member of the squash family. Inside are bright red coloured seeds that can be removed and eaten.

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Step one: Fry the bitter melon
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Step two: Add the tomato
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Step three: add the eggs and scramble

Ingredients (serves 2-4)

100 g bitter melon

60 g green peppers

2 spring onions

1 medium-sized tomato

1 teaspoon each of dried thyme, oregano, black pepper and red chilli flakes

4 eggs

A dash of soy sauce

25 ml olive oil

Method

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and when hot add the chopped spring onion. Cook for two minutes over a medium heat and then add the peppers and seeded bitter melon, cut into 1-2 mm strips.

Cook for another two minutes and then add the chopped tomato, herbs and spices and a dash of soy sauce. Fry for 5 minutes and then reduce the heat and break the eggs into the mix. Keep stirring until you achieve the desired consistency of scrambled egg to your taste.

Serve with lashing of  crusty bread.

Fill Yer Lentil Welly Boots!

15 June 2017

Next week should see the start of negotiations on the UK’s future relationship with the European Union as talks are scheduled to get underway on 19 June to hammer out the ultimate shape of Brexit.

In the lead up to this momentous day, this weekend also marks another seminal event in Britain’s troubled relationship with continental Europe – 18 June is the anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, a battle which saw forces under the command of the Duke of Wellington deliver a fatal blow to Napoleon Bonaparte’s ambitions in 1815.

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KCC’s Lentil Wellington ready for action

Only time will tell if the Maybot, in cahoots with the Rev Ian Paisely’s successors in the DUP, can produce a victory as decisive as Wellington’s – one thing is clear, some major sustenance is called for and what better than a hearty Lentil Wellington, our veggie take on Beef Wellington, a dish supposedly named after the duke.

Yes, besides giving his name to the wellington boot, the duke is also linked with this dish, which has a rich filling encased in pastry. Leah Hyslop suggests that the name was a patriotic makeover for a popular French dish:

The dish’s clear resemblance to that French specialty, filet de bœuf en croûte, could suggest the name was a timely patriotic rebranding of a trendy continental dish.

In our own era, food-patriotism was to the fore in 2003 when France refused to go along with the invasion of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, causing some in the USA to call for ‘french fries’ to be rebranded ‘freedom fries’.

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KCC’s Lentil Wellington ready for final assembly before baking

For a Turkish twist, we’ve used layers of yufka, the local version of filo pastry, to cover our rich lentil and vegetable sauce. Make sure you leave on overlap of pastry of about 8-10 cm around the edges of your dish in order to create a top to encase the filling.

Ingredients (serves 4)

250 g aubergines

250 g courgettes

250 g tomatoes

75 g black lentils

2 spring onions

1 garlic clove

1 bayleaf

1 teaspoon cinnamon, cumin, red chili flakes and coriander seeds

Pinches of black pepper and salt

250 ml vegetable stock

100 ml red wine

100 ml olive oil

Filo pastry (around 300 g)

Method

Wash the lentils until the water runs clear, and then cook in a heavy-based pan with the vegetable stock and bayleaf. Bring to the boil and then simmer over a low heat for 20 minutes or so until the liquid is absorbed.

While the lentils are cooking, prepare the vegetables: finely chop the spring onions and garlic, cut the aubergine and courgette into one cm thick slices and then cut into four. Place the vegetables into a heavy-based pan, add the herbs and spices and pour 50 ml olive oil over the veg and then cook over a medium heat for ten minutes, stirring occasionally.

Chop the tomatoes and add to the vegetables and cook for another five minutes, continue stirring every now and then. Now add the cooked lentils and the red wine and cook for another ten minutes or so until the liquid is absorbed.

While this is cooking, prepare the pie case. Grease a large pie dish with olive oil and layer leaves of filo pastry, brushing each layer with olive oil. Make sure you leave a pastry overlap of around 8-10 cm around the edges of the pie dish.

Pour the filling into the pie case and fold over the overlapping filo pastry, brushing with more olive oil to help seal the top of the case. Bake in an oven pre-heated to 180 c /gas mark 5 for 30 minutes or so until the top of the pie begins to turn a golden-brown colour.

Allow to cool for ten minutes and then serve slices of the pie with a crisp green salad and roasted new potatoes.

 

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.

Waste Not, Want Not: The Beet Goes On

1 June 2017

“Waste not, want not” was a familiar refrain at mealtimes when I was growing up. My parents had grown up with the rationing of World War II, and the lean years after it, and they were instilled with a mentality that saw nothing going to waste.

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Here at Knidos Cookery Club, we’re big fans of this philosophy as an antidote to our throwaway culture. We couldn’t resist this beetroot on sale with it stem and leaves in place – bits that are more usually removed and discarded before the root hits the supermarket shelves.

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The stems and leaves contain loads of nutrients and taste delicious when simply sautéed with a spring onion, a clove of garlic and a dash of soy sauce and lemon juice to make a great side dish.

Having been brought up to believe that beetroot was something that came pickled in jars and ready sliced, it was a revelation when I first came across the leaves and stems cooked in a similar way in Greece many years ago.

Don’t forget that you can also use the main part of the root in a vivid Rip Red Risotto or in a tasty Georgian pkhali  – the beet goes on!

Ingredients (serves 3-4 as a side dish)

the stems and leaves of a fresh beetroot

one garlic clove

one spring onion

soy sauce

olive oil for frying

juice of half a lemon

Method

Heat the olive oil in a wok or large frying pan over a medium heat and add the sliced spring onion and chopped garlic. Cut the stems from the beetroot (reserve the root for another dish). Separate the leaves from the stems.

Cut the stems into 2 cm slices and add to the onion and garlic and stir fry for five minutes. Shred the beetroot leaves and add to the pan, stirring constantly. Cook for two minutes, or until the leaves begin to wilt. Add a dash of soy sauce, stir and serve straight away, pouring the lemon juice over the beetroot  sauté.