Battered Halloumi = Pakora Paradise

5 December 2019

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!

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Halloumi pakora with potato wedges and peas

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

Method  

  • 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 zhug sauce.

 

 

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.

 

KCC’s Buckwheat Cottage Pie

31 October 2019

This time round on Knidos Cookery Club we’re using buckwheat, a cereal (or rather a pseudocereal) that has thus far been neglected on our site.  Buckwheat’s name is misleading as it’s not really wheat, but rather a plant that is more closely related to sorrel, knotweed and rhubarb, which makes it suitable for those of you on a gluten-free diet.

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KCC’s Buckwheat Cottage Pie

Buckwheat, or grechka, is wildly popular across the countries of the former Soviet Union and eastern Europe – you can find whole aisles in supermarkets dedicated to it. The groats are used to make porridge and the flour to make pancakes. In Japan, the flour is  used to make soba noodles.

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Row upon row of buckwheat groats in a supermarket in Almaty, Kazakhstan

We’ve taken that classic British comfort food, Cottage Pie, and replaced the meat with a mix of the nutty-tasting buckwheat and vegetables all topped with a thick slab of mashed potato – perfect fodder for the colder autumn and winter evenings and ready to eat in around an hour.

Cottage pie and two veg

Ingredients (makes 4 servings)

  • 150 g buckwheat groats
  • One carrot
  • One medium-sized onion
  • One green pepper
  • Three medium-sized tomatoes
  • Three medium-sized potatoes
  • Six small dried mushrooms
  • 25 ml olive oil
  • 500 ml vegetable stock
  • One teaspoon sumac
  • One teaspoon chilli flakes
  • Two teaspoons dried thyme
  • One bay leaf

Method

  • Heat the olive oil in a heavy-based pan and add the minced onion. Cook for five minutes over a medium heat and then add the diced carrot and green pepper and cook for another five minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the sumac, chilli flakes and thyme and the chopped tomatoes and diced mushrooms.
  • Reduce the heat and cook for another 10 minutes then add the buckwheat and stir well. Pour the stock over the mixture, add the bay leaf and simmer for 20 minutes or so or until the moisture has been absorbed. While this is bubbling away, cook the potatoes, drain and then mash them.
  • Put the buckwheat mixture in the bottom half of a baking dish and then cover the mix with a layer of mashed potato. Run a fork across the top of the potato to get a ridged finish and than bake at 180 c for 30 minutes. Serve hot with roasted or  steamed, seasonal vegetables such as  cauliflower and pumpkin.

 

 

The Turk-Mex Chronicles: A Crazy Cactus Salad

5 September 2019

This week we’re cooking up a cactus salad with the main ingredient foraged from some wild prickly pear bushes in Turkey. In an earlier post we reported on some of the similarities between Turkish and Mexican cooking – they both love hot chilli peppers in their food, there’s plenty of beans used, fresh white cheese is a key ingredient and wrapping food in flat bread is popular.

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A prickly pear cactus growing wild in Datça, Turkey

A key area of difference is the use of cacti, a staple of Mexican cuisine. In Mexico the prickly pear paddles, known as nopales or napolitoes (from the Spanish for cactus), are used in a variety of dishes. They can be found in salads, as a taco or tortilla filling, simply grilled or scrambled up with eggs. They have a crunchy taste similar to green beans.

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Kaktuslu acili ezme

Whilst the prickly pear cactus grows all over southern Turkey, only the fruit – the prickly pears, are usually eaten and sometimes used in cocktails! We’re about to change all that with the first of one of our irregular ventures into the world of Turk-Mex cuisine…

How to deal with a thorny problem…

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We harvested a few cactus paddles from a secret location in Datça, Turkey. After harvesting, we put on our marigolds and removed the thorns with a sharp knife, sliced the pads up and then boiled them. Next we mixed then in with a spicy tomato sauce, aka acili ezme, to create this Crazy Cactus Salad.

Ingredients (serves 3-4)

Four prickly pear cactus paddles (roughly hand-sized)

For the sauce:

  • One medium-sized onion
  • Three medium-sized plum tomatoes
  • One medium-sized green pepper
  • One garlic clove
  • One teaspoon capers
  • One bunch of parsley
  • One teaspoon dried mint
  • Three teaspoons red chilli flakes
  • Two teaspoons sumac
  • One teaspoon flavoured vinegar (such as apple or fig)
  • Three teaspoons pomegranate sauce

Method

Remove all the thorns from the pads with a sharp knife. Slice into 1 cm strips and then cut into 2 cm pieces. Boil in salted water for 8-10 minutes until cooked but still crunchy – cook them too long and they can go a bit slimy. Drain and rinse in cold water and then mix with the acili ezme salad (instructions below).

For the sauce:

  • Peel the tomatoes and de-seed (to peel: plunge the tomatoes into boiling water for 30 seconds then place in cold water – the skin should now come off easily). Chop the tomatoes, green pepper, onion, garlic and parsley as finely as you can.
  • Put all the ingredients into a bowl, add the herbs and spices, vinegar and pomegranate sauce and mix well. Leave to chill in the fridge for at least two hours before serving.

 

 

 

Welcoming Uzbekistan with a Royal Feast of Oyster Mushrooms with Buckwheat Noodles

16 May 2019

This time round on Knidos Cookery Club were welcoming cookery fans in Uzbekistan who can finally enjoy unfettered access to our superior vegan and vegetarian recipes after the government unblocked a host of websites, including WordPress, last week.

To celebrate this unprecedentedly momentous occasion, we’ll be riffing on laghman, a classic noodle dish from Uzbekistan. A friend recently turned up at KCC’s Almaty HQ with a proliferation of King Oyster Mushrooms (see the photo below), providing us with a challenge to come up with something tasty.

A quick root around the kitchen cupboards produced a pack of soba (buckwheat) noodles and some sesame seeds so we put a pan of water on to boil and chopped up some leek, celery and tomatoes and added a dash of wine for a rapid-fire stir fry involving the funky-looking mushrooms.

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 50 ml olive oil
  • two teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 100 g celery
  • 100 g leek
  • 600 g king oyster mushrooms
  • 400 g tomatoes
  • 25 ml soy sauce
  • 100 ml dry white wine
  • Sesame seeds
  • 300 g Soba (buckwheat) noodles

Method

  • Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and add the cumin seeds. Cook over a medium heat for a minute and then add the diced leek. After a few minutes add the chopped celery and cook for five minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Put the leek and celery mixture to one side and put the diced king oyster mushrooms into the frying pan, add the soy sauce and cook over a low heat for ten minutes or so. If the mushrooms start to go dry, add a dash of water and stir.
  • Add the chopped tomatoes to the mushrooms and cook for five minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the leek and celery mixture and the wine and stir well. Braise everything for ten minutes or so until most of the liquid is absorbed.
  • While the mushroom mix is braising, put the soba noodles in a pan of boiling, salted water and simmer for four to five minutes. Drain the noodles and arrange on a bowl with the mushroom mix on top. Add a sprinkle of sesame seeds before serving.

Couscous on the Loose

6 December 2018

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.

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KCC’s couscous with chickpea chutney and roasted vegetables

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)

Roasted vegetables:

  • 300 g pumpkin
  • 2 medium carrots
  • 2 medium courgettes
  • 25 ml olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 cinnamon stick

Chickpea chutney:

  • 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

Couscous:

  • 100 g fine bulgur wheat
  • 200 ml vegetable stock

Method

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.

Punked-Up Vichyssoise

14 June 2018

With football’s World Cup kicking off in Russia today, this time round on Knidos Cookery Club we’ve decided to take on that classic French soup – Vichyssoise, as we have a sneaking suspicion that after 20 years this could be France’s year to lift the FIFA World Cup Trophy.

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The usual flavouring of this soup can be a bit bland to our Asian influenced taste buds, so we’ve spiked it with some chilli powder and mustard seeds to give it a bit of oomph. We’ve called this punked-up creamy combo of leek and potato, that can be eaten hot or cold, Sid Vichyssoise, excuse the pun, after the late, great Sex Pistols bassist.

As we said, this soup can be served hot or cold, making it perfect for the long, balmy nights of mid-June when chilled or as hearty winter fare when served hot in colder times. Just make sure you clean those leeks properly. as you don’t want any grit in the end product.

Ingredients (for 4 servings)

  • 50 ml olive oil
  • 200 g leeks
  • 200 g baby carrots
  • 200 g new potatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons red chilli flakes
  • 300 ml vegetable stock
  • Dash of soy sauce

Method

  • Heat the olive oil and mustard seeds in a heavy-based pan until the seeds begin to pop. Next, add the leeks, sliced into 1 cm rounds, the cumin seeds, black pepper and red chilli flakes and cook for five minutes. Then add the finely diced carrots and potatoes and cook for five more minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Now add the stock and the soy sauce, stir well and let it simmer over a low heat until the potatoes are beginning to fall apart. Remove from the heat and blend with an electric hand whisk to create a smooth, creamy soup and then leave to chill in the fridge before serving with another sprinkling of red chilli flakes.