Over the last few days, we’ve been experimenting with perfecting a batter to make pakora – a deep-fried snack from the Indian sub-continent. After testing a few recipes we’ve hit on a formula that can be used to coat a variety of vegetables from cauliflowers to carrots, parsnips to peas, and also cheese!
While on a recent visit to the UK, we came across battered halloumi on many menus – the squeaky cheese from Cyprus that stays firm when cooked. We’ve discovered that it makes a perfect partner for our pakora batter when deep-fried. We recommend you try it with this spicy Yemini sauce, zhug.
But you’ll need to be quick, as halloumi has been a victim of its own success. Severe global shortages of this versatile cheese are predicted as demand far outstrips supply. Luckily for us here in Kazakhstan, a local producer has started making a version of this cheese. We’re pleased to report that it tastes pretty good, so for now the crisis has been averted in our winter base.
Ingredients (makes enough batter for a sliced up 250 g block of halloumi)
100 g chickpea flour (also known as gram flour or besan)
One small onion
1 cm knob of ginger
One garlic clove
One teaspoon red chilli flakes
One tablespoon of fresh coriander
50-100 ml cold water
Mix all the ingredients together with a fork or a whisk, adding water until you get a smooth consistency that is neither too runny not too thick with no lumps. Cover the batter with clingfilm and let it stand for an hour or so before using.
Heat a litre of cooking oil, we used sunflower oil but any will do, in a heavy-based pan over a medium heat until it reaches 180 c. To test the temperature, dip a chopstick or the handle of a wooden spoon in the oil – if the oil starts to bubble vigorously, then it is at the right temperature.
Slice a 250 g block of halloumi into eight pieces. Coat the halloumi slices in the pakora batter and drop into the oil. When the pakora rise to the surface and are a golden-brown colour, remove with a slotted metal spoon and drain on kitchen towel.
Serve hot with potato wedges or roast potatoes and minted peas. The pakora goes well with a coriander and coconut chutney – this site has a good recipe for this sauce, or with our zhugsauce.
This week we’ll be making our take on couscous, that staple of North African cooking. Our version uses fine bulgur wheat in place of the more usual durum wheat semolina base as bulgur wheat is easier to find on the supermarket shelves where we are based.
In our opinion, bulgur works just as well as semolina as a base to soak up the juices from the roasted vegetables and our chickpea chutney. Purists may disagree, but our philosophy is more about adapting recipes by using the ingredients you have at hand.
Ingredients (serves 2)
300 g pumpkin
2 medium carrots
2 medium courgettes
25 ml olive oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 cinnamon stick
25 ml olive oil
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 small red onion
2 small tomatoes
50 g currants
250 g chickpeas
1 teaspoon red chilli flakes
1 teaspoon black pepper
100 g fine bulgur wheat
200 ml vegetable stock
Pre-heat the oven to 200c, cut the vegetables into large chunks and put into a baking dish, drizzle with olive oil and add the cumin seeds and cinnamon stick and stir to coat the vegetable chunks. Roast for 30-40 minutes until the vegetables are cooked.
While the vegetables are roasting, prepare the chickpea chutney. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and add the mustard seeds. When they start to pop, add the finely chopped onion and cook over a low heat for five minutes. Add the spices and the chopped tomato and cook for five more minutes. Then add the currants and chickpeas and cook for fifteen minutes or so.
Bring the vegetable stock to the boil and then cover the bulgur wheat with it and leave it to soak up the liquid for 30 minutes or so, drain off the excess liquid (if there’s any) and than add a dash of olive oil and fluff up with a fork.
Put a layer of couscous on a warmed plate, arrange the roasted vegetables in a circular, wheel-spoke pattern and put a generous dollop of chickpea chutney in the centre and serve immediately.
Welcome back to Knidos Cookery Club, this time round we’re drawing on our summer trip to Spain to bring you a paella (Warning: any Valencians reading this, please stop now!) that’s packed with pumpkin and other seasonal vegetables such as celery and leeks.
With Halloween just around the corner, you might be looking for a dish that uses up some of the leftovers from carving out your Jack O’ Lantern – this rice combo should help shift some of the backlog.
Paella originates from Valencia in Spain, where it is taken very seriously. The name derives from the Old French word paelle for pan, which in turn is from the Latin word patella, which also means pan. The contemporary name refers to the shallow metal dish in which paella is prepared.
In essence, paella is a combination of whatever is to hand rather than a fixed, unchanging blend of ingredients. While visiting Dénia, which is part of the Community of Valencia, we had a great green paella made with artichokes one other green vegetables.
Ingredients (serves 2)
25ml olive oil
150g short grain rice
600ml vegetable stock
One teaspoon each of cumin/chilli powder/turmeric
heat oil in a frying pan (or paella pan if you have one)
add chopped leek and celery and sauté until soft
add spices and stir
add pumpkin cubes and cook for ten minutes, stirring occasionally
add vegetable stock
bring to a boil, then simmer to make a broth and allow it to reduce by half
add rice and simmer until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is cooked (around 20-30 minutes)
This week we’ll be cooking something for the chillier autumnal evenings, a tasty bake that combines chickpeas, tomatoes and courgettes with a breadcrumb topping.
The autumn months are always a busy time in the KCC kitchen with not much time for shopping so we dug deep into the kitchen cupboard and found some dried chickpeas and then located a bag of breadcrumbs in the freezer. After some googling, we came up with a recipe for this gratin.
If you’re using dried chickpeas, then we suggest soaking overnight in cold water and then simmering for an hour or so in fresh water until they are beginning to soften. You can even try this method that was featured in the Guardian recently, which soaks the chickpeas for 48 hours to make them ultra soft.
Ingredients (serves 3-4)
75 ml olive oil
1 teaspoon cumin
One medium-sized onion
250 g tomatoes
250 g chickpeas (cooked)
100 ml chickpea cooking liquid (or vegetable stock)
200 g courgettes
For the topping:
125 g breadcrumbs
15 g parsley
2 teaspoons red chilli flakes
Heat 25ml of olive oil in a frying pan and add the cumin seeds and finely chopped onion. Fry for 10 minutes or so over a medium heat until the onions are translucent. Add the peeled, chopped tomatoes and cook for another 10 minutes and then add the chickpeas and stock and simmer over a low heat for 10 more minutes.
While this is cooking, heat another 25ml of olive oil in a frying pan and fry the courgette (cut it into 0.5 cm rounds) over a medium heat, turn the courgette rounds over after five minutes so both sides are charred.
Pour the chickpea and tomato mix into a greased oven dish, cover this with fried courgettes. Mix the breadcrumbs, the remaining oil and the herbs and spices together well and then cover the bake with this mixture.
Bake in a pre-heated oven at 180 c for 30 minutes or so, until the mix is bubbling and the topping has gone a nice golden brown. Serve with a green salad and boiled or fried potatoes