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.

 

 

Lobiani Sausagiani

9 March 2017

This time round on Knidos Cookery Club we’re off to Turkey’s far north-east corner and across the border into Georgia. This mountainous country shares some dishes in common with the people of Turkey’s Black Sea coast such as the bread and cheese concoction known as khachapuri in Georgia, pide in Turkey.

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Georgian dishes rely on both fresh and dried local ingredients. The diet is generally meat-heavy – this point was crudely pushed home last year when outraged sausage-wielding activists attacked Kiwi Café, a vegan café in Georgia’s capital Tbilisi, throwing chunks of meat and fish at diners, but there are lots of options for non-carnivores as its cuisine also features a wide range of veggie dishes.

Georgia’s location on a number of east-west trade routes heading through the Caucasus Mountains has seen different influences make their mark on its  eating culture over the years, with spices playing a key role.

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KCC’s new brunch treat –lobiani sausagiani

Dried beans, or lobio, walnuts, pomegranates and spices like coriander and blue fenugreek give a distinctive taste to the local fare. Cheese also features strongly on the Georgian table, from the versatile sulguni, an elastic, brined cheese akin to mozzarella, that can be deep fried to the fresh white imeruli cheese.

Georgia’s dried red beans are made into a dish called lobio, that, depending on the region of the country it’s prepared in, can be like a soup, a stew or re-fried beans. It is usually cooked in a clay pot and sometimes comes with a thin layer of bread as a cover on top. Mashed red beans are also cooked inside bread in a dish called lobiani.

We’ve decided to do our own take on a lobio dish, and to get our own back on those meat-wielding activists, by making a Georgian-influenced veggie sausage, to be served as part of a brunch or main meal.

Ingredients (makes 8-10 sausages)

200 g dried red beans, soaked overnight

100 g red lentils (one cup)

150 g fine bulgur wheat (1.5 cups)

50 g chopped walnuts

1 teaspoon dried coriander

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon red chili flakes

25 ml olive oil for frying the sausages

1 tablespoon plain flour

Method

Soak the beans overnight and then cook for an hour or so over a low heat until the beans are cooked and beginning to break up. Drain and reserve the cooking water , then mash the beans roughly.

Wash the lentils until the water goes clear and then place in a pan with the water from the cooked beans – add more water so the lentils are covered by 2 cm of liquid. 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 blend well. Allow to stand for 30 minutes or so and then add the toasted, chopped walnuts and the mashed beans. Then grind the spices together and add to the mix. Leave overnight in the fridge to allow the flavours to blend.

Sprinkle some flour on a chopping board and roll lemon-sized portions of the mix  into sausage shapes, coating evenly with flour. Fry the sausages in the oil until browned on the outside and then serve with baked beans and a fried egg for a top brunch.

Avocado + Egg = Brunch Heaven

9 February 2017

This week at Knidos Cookery Club we have a guest post that combines two of our all-time fave foods: avocado and egg, dished up with olives, beetroot with walnuts and halloumi cheese.

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Avocados love the mild winters of the Knidos region as the shores of the Mediterranean Sea provide ideal growing conditions for this large green fruit that’s packed with nutritious vitamins and healthy fats.

Our guest chef Jasha, who has worked in the hospitality industry in the UK, has kindly agreed to share her favourite way of combining eggs with avocado. Served up with pan-seared halloumi, olives and grated beetroot with walnut, this great dish sent us into brunch heaven!

Ingredients 

One avocado per person

Two eggs per person

250 g pack halloumi cheese cut into four slices (enough for two people)

Black and green olives

A few scoops of olive paste

One grated large beetroot (raw or cooked) mixed with 50 g crushed walnuts and two teaspoons of sour cream or natural yogurt

Black pepper and red chili flakes

Method

Slice the avocados in half and remove the stone. Be careful not to stab yourself in the hand as I once did – it’s apparently quite a common kitchen injury. Scoop out some of the flesh to leave a hollow space for the egg.

Place the avocado halves in a baking dish, round side down, and pour an egg into the scooped out shell. Grind some black pepper over each egg and bake the avocados in an oven pre-heated to to 200 c /gas mark 6 for 20 minutes or until the underside of the eggs are cooked. Finish the eggs off under a grill and then season with some red chili flakes and a grind of black pepper.

While the eggs are cooking, fry the halloumi slices in a non-stick or heavy-based frying pan until browned on both sides.

Serve the avocados immediately with the pan-seared halloumi, beetroot and walnuts, olive paste and olives and some doorsteps of fresh bread.

 

 

KCC’s Festive Feast

22 December 2016

Season’s greetings from Knidos Cookery Club! Whether the Winter Solstice, Christmas or New Year tickles your fancy, celebrate in style with our festive feast.

When preparing this meal, a minor disaster struck – the knob that controls our oven broke. So, Plan B had to be enacted, with all the food prepared on the stove top.

For the feast, we’ve adapted our mungo pumpkin patty recipe by replacing the bulgur wheat with 50 g of crushed walnuts and 100 g of breadcrumbs, otherwise prepare as instructed.

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Is it a beetroot? Is it a radish? No, it’s a red turnip!

We came across what we thought to be some beetroot in the market, but on closer inspection they turned out to be, so the seller said, red turnips. Intrigued, we bought them and, on peeling the reddish skin off, discovered a white turnip lurking underneath.

The original plan was to oven bake the turnips, but after the knob malfunction we had to fry them instead  and, in the process, created the turnchip.

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Meet the turnchip!

Peel and slice the turnip into wedges and boil for 30 minutes. Then fry in olive oil sprinkled with rosemary until the outsides are golden brown.

We steamed some pumpkin and broccoli, and then made a sauce from red wine and vegetable stock to pour over the top and, voilà, Knidos Cookery Club’s Festive Feast was born!

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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.

 

 

 

Rip-Red Risotto

17 November 2016

This week on Knidos Cookery Club, we’re featuring beetroot as the basis for a rip-roaringly red risotto.

In Turkish, if you want to say something is, for instance, very blue, then you add a prefix. By adding mas to mavi (blue) you end up with masmavi.  As an example, to talk about the deep blue sea you could say masmavi engin deniz.

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A rich red colour, such as that imparted by beetroot, would come out as kıpkırmızı, or, in English, rip-red, which seems a perfect way to describe out beetroot risotto. To add a Turkish-edge to the dish, we used coarse bulgur wheat, but you can use arborio rice if you prefer.

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We added some walnuts to the mix, as they combine so well with the sweet edge of beetroot. This is quite a common combination – in Georgia walnuts are blended with grated beetroot to make pkhali.

Ingredients (serves 3-4)

  • 250 g  whole, uncooked beetroot
  • 50 g walnuts
  • 100 g coarse bulgur wheat
  • 150 ml red wine
  • 500 ml beetroot cooking water
  • 25 ml olive oil
  • one medium-sized onion
  • one garlic clove
  • one teaspoon dried thyme
  • one teaspoon dried rosemary
  • one teaspoon cumin seeds
  • black pepper and salt to taste
  • sprig of fresh basil leaves

Method

  • Boil the washed but unpeeled beetroot in a saucepan for 30 minutes. Put the beetroot in cold water, keeping the water you used to cook the beetroot separate, and then peel and top and tail the beetroot when cool. Put to one side.
  • Heat the olive oil in a heavy-based pan and add the cumin seeds. Cook until the seeds are beginning to burn and then add the diced onion and garlic, dried thyme and rosemary and season with salt and pepper. Cook until the onion is going translucent.
  • Add the washed bulgur wheat and stir to coat the grains. Add the glass of wine and stir occasionally until the liquid is absorbed. Add a third of the vegetable stock and keep cooking and stirring until the liquid is absorbed. Add more stock until the bulgur wheat is cooked and the risotto has a creamy consistency and then turn off the heat.
  • Meanwhile, gently toast the walnut pieces in a small frying pan and chop the beetroot into small, 1 cm cubes. Mix the beetroot and toasted walnut into the bulgur wheat risotto.
  • Garnish with fresh basil leaves -green ones make a better contrast to the red of the risotto, but we could only find the mauve coloured variety. Serve with a green salad.

 

 

A Creamy Almond and Courgette Dipfest

8 September 2016

The courgette is one of the most versatile vegetables in the Knidos Cookery Club kitchen. Earlier it featured in a stuffed platter and as a fritter. We also like it in an omelette, in börek or just sliced and grilled on the barbecue.

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Creamy Almond and Courgette Dip

This week we’ve  incorporated this key ingredient into a creamy almond and courgette dip that can be used as part of a starter, or meze, combo with other dips such as our Carrot and Walnut Tarator.

Yogurt and chopped almonds were added to the grated courgette to make it creamy and some wholemeal flour was used to hold it all together.

Ingredients (Serves 3-4)

250 g  grated courgette

100 ml plain, natural yogurt

50 g wholemeal flour

50 g chopped almonds

One garlic clove

25 ml olive oil

Method

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan over a medium heat then add the grated courgette and garlic and stir fry for five minutes. Add the flour and stir fry for two more minutes. Take the frying pan off the heat, mix in the yogurt and almonds, reserving a few nuts to sprinkle over the top.