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.

 

 

 

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.

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.

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.