I Heard it through the Grapevine

26 October 2017

Welcome to the 60th post on Knidos Cookery Club – to celebrate we took a tour to Datça’s very own vineyard to check out some of the local vintages on offer.

The vineyard is located on a hilltop on the main road into Datça and has a reserve range of delicious reds, going under the name of Cnidus, an alternative spelling of Knidos, and some  excellent red and white blends along with a superb blush wine.

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It has been in its present site since 2011 and has both south and north-facing rows of vines to take advantage of the sun’s rays from both sides. Look out for the round brick windmill on a hillside on the left as you drive into Datça – the vineyard’s on the main road just before the turn off to the town.

This boutique vineyard produces around 40 – 50,000 bottles of wine a year –  using Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah (Shiraz) and the indigenous Öküzgözü and Boğazkere grape varieties to produce red wines and a blush, and Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and the local Sultaniye grape to make white wine.

You can taste the wines in the windmill or in the beautiful garden with its spectacular views over the Mediterranean Sea and Greek islands on the horizon. You can also take a tour of the vineyard and buy wine in the shop at competitive prices.

Datça Vineyard’s wines are on sale in some restaurants in town and in two supermarkets – Erdi on the harbour front, and Dilge on the road to the town’s Saturday market.

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Green beans roasted with walnuts

With all this wine tasting to do, something simple was called for so this week we’re going to make a a quick pasta dish with roasted green beans and walnuts. It’s really easy to cook and there’s not much washing up either, leaving more time to enjoy the fruits of Datça’s vineyard!

Ingredients (serves 2-3)

250 g green beans

50 g walnuts

200 g pasta (penne, fusilli or spaghetti works well here)

One garlic clove

25 ml olive oil

One teaspoon dried thyme

Method 

Top and tail the green beans and cut into 3-4 cm slices. Put the beans in an oven dish, crush the walnuts and mince the garlic and scatter over the beans and then add the thyme and olive oil. Stir well and then put the dish in a pre-heated oven and cook for 30 minutes at 180 c.

While the beans are roasting, cook your favourite pasta as per the instruction on the pack. When cooked to your taste, drain and mix with the roasted beans and walnut and serve immediately on warmed plates with shavings of Parmigiano-Reggiano (Parmesan), if you’re a cheese fan.

As for the wine pairing, we’d recommend either a Silenus Chardonnay or a Silenus Blush – in Greek mythology Silenus was the god of wine making and drunkenness and the foster-father of Dionysos, the god of wine, vegetation, pleasure, festivity, madness and wild frenzy – enjoy!

 

 

 

 

Amorgos, mon Amour!

 

31 August 2017

Knidos Cookery Club is just back from a fact-finding mission to the Greek Islands and is bursting with new recipe ideas. Our main port of call was the island of Amorgos, the most easterly of the Cyclades group – a six-hour ferry trip from Piraeus, near Athens.

Our visit coincided with the Psimeni Raki festival, held annually on 26 July, a wild night of drinking and dancing (click here for video) fuelled by a local grappa-like spirit tempered with sugar, honey and herbs from the island to produce a drink that is around 20% alcohol by volume.

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Dancing the night away in Amorgos

The drink is based on Rakomelo, which is served by monks to people visiting the amazing Panagia Hozoviotissa Monastery – a spectacular white building carved high onto the side of an imposing cliff face.

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Working hard to keep the Psimeni raki flowing at the festival in Amorgos

For a small island Amorgos produces a significant quantity of alcoholic beverages – check out the site of this local producer, Amorgion, to see what’s on offer. As well as Psimeni Raki and Rakomelo, they also make an interesting local version of tequila, known as Mekila, from prickly pears.

Another interesting place to visit on the island is the Amorgos Botanical Park, a great project that is reviving a traditional garden that had been left derelict for decades. Here’s a link to their Instagram page.

A group of volunteers are aiming to bring the garden, complete with its own cistern fed by a spring, back to life by cultivating herbs endemic to Amorgos. The project is funded by grants and by the proceeds from the sale of herbs such as their intensely-flavoured oregano, teas such as rockrose, and tinctures made from produce grown on the island and dried and processed by the volunteers.

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Knidos Cookery Club’s Greek trio with (clockwise from the top) smoky aubergine dip, Psimeni Raki and feta dip and tsatsiki, yogurt and cucumber.

One of the delicacies eaten during the Psimeni Raki festival to help soak up the booze are anevates, cheese pies baked with the aforementioned beverage. Unfortunately, Knidos Cookery Club couldn’t track down any of these pies but the use of Psimeni Raki has inspired us to make a boozy take on Greece’s spicy tirokefteri cheese dip.

Ingredients (serves 4-6 as part of a dip platter)

100 g feta cheese

100 ml Greek-style yogurt

25 ml Psimeni Raki

One teaspoon dried oregano

One teaspoon red chili flakes

Method

Crumble the feta with a fork, add the yogurt, psimeni raki (use sherry or vermouth if you don’t have access to psimeni raki!)and herbs and spices. Mix all the ingredients together thoroughly with the fork and chill for a couple of hours before serving with other dips such as tsatsiki (yogurt, cucumber and garlic) and a dip of roasted aubergines served with yogurt.

Relish the Radish

3 August 2017

In keeping with the ‘Waste not, want not‘ mantra, this week we’ll be using some radish greens in a mini quiche.

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Often discarded, these peppery leaves taste great when fried up with some spring onion, garlic and a dash of soy sauce.

Ingredients ( makes four mini-quiches)

150 g radish leaves

1 radish (for decoration)

2 spring onions

1 garlic clove

Dash of soy sauce

60 g crumbly white cheese

2 eggs

25 ml olive oil

150 g filo pastry or shortcrust pastry

Method

Saute the chopped onions and garlic in a little olive oil in a heavy-based pan for 2-3 minutes, add a dash of soy sauce and then add the radish leaves and cook for another 2-3 minutes until the leaves start to wilt.

Allow the mix to cool for ten minutes then mix in the eggs and cheese. Prepare cases in small baking dishes with the filo pastry, brushing each filo leaf with olive oil.

Pour the mix into each pastry case to half way and then bake for 20 minutes in an oven pre-heated to 180 c.

Garnish with radish slices and serve with a green salad laced with more sliced radish!

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.

Mr Alan’s Top Tips

18 May 2017

Knidos Cookery Club is just back from a flying visit to Uzbekistan where we met up with dilettante chef Mr Alan, who invited us round to sample his take on asparagus tips.

He’d tracked down some sizeable spears in Tashkent’s Alay, or Alaysky, bazaar and we added some first cold press Datça olive oil and some sun-dried tomatoes from the peninsula, which, with the addition of some toasted pine nuts and a smattering of grated pecorino cheese, made for quite a feast.

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Mr Alan’s way with asparagus

 

The asparagus tips, which are easy to bake and go well with potatoes, rice or pasta, were served up with a head of roasted cauliflower drizzled with truffle oil and roast new potatoes. Oh, and there was a duck and some fish for the carnivores, along with lashings of wine from Mr Alan’s cellar!

Ingredients (easily serves 6-8)

1 kg asparagus spears

200 g sun-dried tomatoes

50 ml olive oil

100 g pine nuts

50 g pecorino or similar hard cheese

One cauliflower, leaves removed

Truffle oil

Mixed dried herbs such as thyme or oregano

Method

Place a layer of sun-dried tomatoes on the bottom of a large baking dish. Arrange the spears over the top of the tomatoes, pour the olive oil on top, sprinkle some mixed herbs over the spears and grate the cheese over everything.

Bake in a hot, pre-heated oven at 200 c /gas mark 6 for twenty minutes or so until the spears are just beginning to char. Sprinkle the cauliflower with truffle oil and olive oil and cook for 30 minutes for so in the hot oven along with the asparagus tips. While the tips are baking, toast the pine nuts over a medium heat.

Serve the asparagus tips with the pine nuts alongside the cauliflower and potatoes and a bottle or two of your favourite wine.

 

 

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.