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.

 

Mezemania: Funky Lentil Pâté

26 July 2018

In our ongoing series on mezeler, or starters, we’ve come up with a funky little lentil spread to add to the collection.

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Funky Lentil Pâté

In the past on Knidos Cookery Club we’ve featured the following mezes: two types of fava (Turkish and Greek),  these little numbers (smoky aubergine dip, Psimeni Raki and feta dip and tsatsiki) inspired by the Greek island of Amorgos, fiery red pepper-fuelled muhammara and acili ezme and a creamy almond and courgette dip as part of our esteemed meze collection.

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Amorgoan Delight: smoky aubergine dip, Psimeni Raki and feta dip and tsatsiki

You can serve this simple to prepare red Lentil Pâté alongside these other dishes for a great spread of mezeler for a light feast that’s perfect for sharing with friends  on a balmy summer’s night.

Ingredients (makes around 200g)

125 g red lentils

One bayleaf

300 ml cold water

Two tablespoons fine bulgur wheat

4 or 5 spring onions

10 g fresh parsley

25 ml olive oil

One teaspoon mustard seeds

One teaspoon cumin seeds

Two teaspoons paprika

One teaspoon ground coriander seeds

One teaspoon black pepper

Half a teaspoon turmeric

Method

Clean the lentils in cold water and then put them in a pan with the bayleaf. Pour 300 ml of water over the lentils and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the lentils are beginning to go mushy and most of the water has been absorbed.

Remove the bayleaf and add the fine bulgur wheat to the lentils and mix well. Leave covered for 30 minutes. heat the oil in a heavy-based pan and add the mustard and cumin seeds. Fry for a few minutes and then add the paprika, coriander, black pepper and turmeric, cook for a minute stirring constantly and then add the finely chopped spring onion and parsley and cook for five more minutes over a medium heat.

Stir this into the lentil and bulgur mix and leave to stand for a few hours in the fridge. Garnish with a sprig of fresh mint and serve with crusty bread.

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.

 

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.

A Passion for Pkhali

20 April 2017

This time round on Knidos Cookery Club we’re returning to Georgia for some culinary inspiration in the form of pkhali, a type of starter made from walnuts, herbs, spices and whatever vegetable happens to be in season, such as spinach, beetroot, aubergine, cabbage or carrot.

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Walnuts are widely used in Georgian cooking – besides pkhali, they can be turned into  satsivi, a thick paste similar to hummus, and  bazha, a sauce made with the holy trinity of Georgian herbs – blue fenugreek, ground coriander (cilantro) and crushed marigold flowers. These combos can be mixed with fresh cucumbers and tomatoes as a salad dressing or stuffed into tongues of fried aubergine (eggplant).

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Staying on the walnut theme, on a recent visit to the former home of famous Kazakh writer Mukhtar Auezov in Almaty, Kazakhstan, the guide gave me a handful of walnuts from the gnarled old tree in the garden of the writer’s house. These nuts were used in the making  of today’s pkhali recipe.

Auezov was famous in Soviet times for writing The Path of Abai, an epic historical novel based on the life and teachings of Kazakhstan’s most famous poet and composer Abai Qunanbayuli, who had been a neighbour and friend of Auezov’s grandfather.

It was said in the Soviet era that all were equal, but some were more equal than others – and this was certainly the case for Auezov after he won the Lenin Prize in 1959 for his four-volume epic novel about Abai.

The prize came with a sackful of roubles which he invested in a two-storey house, which is now a museum dedicated to his life and work. The house was lavish by the standards of the time and was designed by the architect who designed Almaty’s Abai Opera Theatre.

Ingredients (Makes around four generous servings of each pkhali – see photo above)

For the beetroot pkhali

300 g cooked beetroot

100 g walnuts

One garlic clove

5 g fresh parsley

5 g fresh coriander

One teaspoon blue fenugreek powder

One teaspoon black pepper

20 ml wine vinegar

A scattering of pomegranate seeds and walnuts

 

For the spinach pkhali

250 g fresh spinach

100 g walnuts

One small onion (around 75 g)

One garlic clove

5 g fresh parsley

5 g fresh coriander

One teaspoon blue fenugreek powder

One teaspoon black pepper

20 ml wine vinegar

A scattering of pomegranate seeds and walnuts

 

Method

For the beetroot pkhali:

Boil the beetroot for 30 minutes or so until you can pierce it with a knife easily.

Leave to cool and then peel and chop into small chunks.

Toast the walnuts over a low heat for 5-10 minutes and then add to the garlic and herbs and spices in a bowl. Add the vinegar and use a blender to make a smooth paste. Add the beetroot chunks and keep blending until you have a gloopy mixture.

Leave overnight in the fridge and then serve with a scattering of pomegranate seeds and walnuts.

Method

For the spinach pkhali:

Cook the spinach in boiling water for 5 minutes until it begins to wilt. Remove and place in cold water and then drain.

Finely chop the onion and put it in a mixing bowl with the garlic, herbs and spices. Toast the walnuts over a low heat for 5-10 minutes and then add to the bowl. Add the vinegar and use a blender to make a smooth paste. Add the spinach and keep blending until you have a gloopy mixture.

Leave overnight in the fridge and then serve with a scattering of pomegranate seeds and walnuts.

 

 

Operation Lentil

23 February 2017

It was on this day back in 1944  that the Chechen and Ingush  people of the North Caucusus had one of the darkest moments in their troubled history. Accused by the Soviets of siding with the Nazi forces, the entire population was herded onto cattle trucks and deported by force to Central Asia.

The mission was codenamed ‘Operation Lentil’ – after chechevitsa, the Russian word for lentil, which shares its first two syllables with Chechen. By way of commemoration of this tragedy that befell the Chechen and Ingush communities, who refer to the deportations as Aardakh, the exodus, this time around we’ll be sharing a recipe for the Turkish dish mercimek köftesi – a versatile red lentil patty.

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Mercimek köftesi – red lentil patties, served with green salad and cole slaw

These spicy, lentil patties are easy to prepare and are delicious when rolled up in flatbread, like lavash, with fresh cole slaw and a green salad. We used ajika sauce from Georgia on the other side of the Caucasus mountains, a fiery blend of red chili peppers and tomatoes, to flavour the patties – but if you can’t find this locally, then a mix of tomato paste with chili flakes will do nicely.

Ingredients (Makes around 20-24 lentil patties)

100 g red lentils (one cup)

150 g fine bulgur wheat (1.5 cups)

500 ml water

6-8 teaspoons of ajika sauce (see above)

5 spring (green) onions – chopped

A handful of fresh flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped

One teaspoon of cumin seeds

One teaspoon red chili flakes

Black pepper

25 ml olive oil

Juice of one lemon

Method

Wash the lentils until the water goes clear and then place in a pan with the water. Bring to the boil and simmer over a low heat for 20 minutes or so. The lentils should be going mushy and there should be about 1 cm of water covering the lentils – add more water if necessary.

Add the washed bulgur wheat to the cooked lentils and the ajika sauce and blend well. Allow to stand for 30 minutes or so and then add the olive oil, lemon juice, spring onions, parsley, cumin, red chili flakes and black pepper and mix well.

Allow to stand for a few hours to let the flavours combine and then mould a walnut-sized piece of the mix in the palm of your hand and use your fingers to form a  sausage-shape (see picture above).

Serve rolled in flatbread or stuffed into a pita with a cole slaw made from shredded cabbage, grated carrot, pomegranate seeds, spring onion and capers and  a salad of lettuce, sun dried tomatoes, pear and spring onion.

 

 

Muhammara: Spread the Word

15 December 2016

This time out on Knidos Cookery Club we’re going to make muhammara, a spicy roasted red pepper and toasted walnut dip. Originally from Syria, this spread made its way onto Turkish tables via Antakya, which is located at the easterly end of Turkey’s Mediterranean coast.

img_2503This delicious dip was brought to Knidos Cookery Club’s attention by our good friend Tolga, who introduced us to the method of roasting the peppers over an open flame on our gas hob.

img_2496Put some tin foil under the burner to stop your hob getting all messed up and cook the peppers over a medium-high flame. Using a chopstick or a wooden skewer can make the peppers easier to manoeuvre on the flame.

You can also grill the peppers or roast them in the oven, but the open-flame method gives them a smoky flavour that combines excellently with the toasted walnuts and chili flakes.

Muhammara works well when teamed with our courgette and almond dip and our carrot and walnut tarator as part of a scrumptious meze platter.

Ingredients 

two medium-sized red (bell) peppers

100 g walnuts (shelled and chopped)

one clove of minced garlic

one lemon – use the juice of half the lemon for the dip and use the rest as a garnish

two teaspoons chili flakes

two teaspoons pomegranate sauce or molasses

25 ml olive oil

Method

Roast the peppers over an open flame, under a grill or in a hot oven until all the skin is blackened. Turn them round regularly to ensure they are cooked evenly.

While the peppers are roasting, toast the walnut pieces in a frying pan over a medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring or shaking the pan regularly. Don’t overcook them as they can taste bitter if you do.

Place the peppers in brown paper bag and allow to cool – this will make it easier to peel the peppers. Now remove the outer skin from the peppers then halve  and de-seed them. Be careful when cutting the peppers as some hot liquid may spurt out if they’re not cooled down enough.

Cut up the peppers and put them with half the walnuts and other ingredients into a blender and mix until you have a smooth paste. Add the rest of the walnuts and give the dip another blast – but not for too long as you want some of the walnuts to still be crunchy.

Garnish with slices of lemon and fresh mint (if you have it) and serve alongside other dips with pita bread and/or slices of raw carrot, cucumbers and green peppers.