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.

 

 

 

KCC 100: You Can’t Run Away from Pravda Punch

13 June 2019

Welcome to the 100th post from the weird and wonderful culinary world of Knidos Cookery Club! To celebrate this occasion, we’ve come up with a rose-tinted cocktail, Pravda Punch.

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You can’t run away from Pravda Punch…

Last Sunday saw Kazakhstan’s new president win a vote marred by allegations of rigging. The election campaign came to life when peaceful protestors put up a banner at Almaty’s marathon in May calling for a fair election and warning “От правды не убежишь” (You can’t run away from the truth) in Russian.

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“You can’t run away form the truth” banner at Almaty Marathon, April 2019

To celebrate both this act and our 100th post, we’d like to raise a glass of Pravda (Truth) Punch in the hope that one day there will be free and fair elections in Kazakhstan.

How to make your own Pravda Punch:

  • 3 ice cubes
  • One part raspberry vodka
  • One part Martini Rosato
  • Two parts cucumber Sprite
  • Two parts still lemonade
  • Mint leaves
  • Slice of lemon

Put the ice cubes in a tall glass and pour raspberry vodka over them. Add the mint leaves and muddle with a wooden spoon. Add the Martini Rosato, cucumber Fanta, still lemonade and stir. Add a slice of lemon and serve.

Dark Shadows: The Cocktail

22 November 2018

This week KCC is in London for the literary event of the year – the launch of Joanna Lillis’s compelling book Dark Shadows: Inside the Secret World of Kazakhstan.

dark shadows cover

To celebrate this momentous occasion, we have invented the Dark Shadows cocktail: a blend of one part vodka (Kazakhstan’s favourite tipple), three parts cloudy cider (apples are from Kazakhstan!), and a splash of blood-like Grenadine (or pomegranate syrup or juice) to convey something of the secretive nature of Kazakhstan. It makes the perfect companion when reading this gripping saga.
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Dark Shadows – the cocktail
Based on 13-years of on-the-ground reporting, this book lifts the veil to take a glimpse at what’s really going on in this Central Asian oil and gas powerhouse, making it the ideal stocking-filler for Kazakhstan fans. you can order a copy from the publisher, I.B.Tauris or look for a copy signed by the author in Foyles in London.
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Joanna Lillis signing copies of her book in Foyles, London

 

KCC at 80: Sketches of Spain

30 August 2018

Welcome to the 80th edition of your favourite veggie food blog Knidos Cookery Club – we’re celebrating with a glass or two of Tinto de Verano, a close cousin to Sangria that’s a lot easier to make.

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Tinto de Verano with lazy patatas bravas

It’s a drink that sums up the lazy, hazy days of summer. Put some ice cubes in glass, add a glass of red wine and a slice of lemon and top up with soda water or lemonade, no need to chop up all that pesky fruit like in Sangria.

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Green Paella

KCC is currently on a fact-finding mission on the Iberian peninsula, taking in the tapas trail in Andalucia and walking the paella path on the Costa Blanca – we’ll be decoding some dishes from these trips at a later date on KCC, in the meantime enjoy the last days of summer with a lazy pinto of Tinto de Verano.

Figito Fiesta

17 August 2017

The year’s first succulent figs, in delicate green shades or striking mauve hues, are making their annual debut in Datça and to mark this moment we’ve come up with the figito, a cocktail that combines new season figs with white rum, mint and  lemon  – our spin on the classic mojito.

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Who’s for a figito?

One of the pleasures of walking round town at this time of year is stopping off to pick a juicy fig or two from the trees that abound in this area. Here’s a tree near the Knidos Cookery Club HQ with some prime fruits drying in the August heat.

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Figs drying in a garden in Datça, Turkey 

If you’ve got a glut of figs, then why not try this old favourite from last summer: Lord Venal’s Fiendishly Figgish Chutney, and enjoy a figito or two while you’re making it! Cheers, or Şerefe as they say in Turkey!

Ingredients (makes one litre)

6 ripe, fresh figs

4 sprigs of mint

2 lemons

100 ml White Rum (Bacardi or Havana Club)

600 ml soda water

200 ml Schweppes Bitter Lemon

Method

Peel and dice four of the figs and muddle with the mint and the juice from the lemons with a wooden spoon in a glass serving jug. Add the rum and mix well and then top up with bitter lemon and soda water. Serve over ice with a slice of lemon, a mint sprig and half a fig.

 

 

Brandy Almonzandas All Round!

It’s time to kick back and enjoy a cocktail or two as this week we’re celebrating Knidos Cookery Club’s first anniversary.

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Our first post was made on 31 March 2016, and over the last year we’ve been on a journey that has taken in many seasonal dishes from Turkey and guest appearances inspired by travels to Greece, Georgia, Iceland, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.

To celebrate this momentous milestone, we’ve gone back to our roots in Datça, Turkey and come up with our second ever cocktail – the Brandy Almonzanda, a very close relative to the Brandy Alexander, a creamy combination of brandy, homemade almond milk and Dalkowski Chocotella (we couldn’t find Creme de Cacao) with a dusting of grated nutmeg on top.

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Dalkowski Chocotella – a chocolate liqueur from Poland

Datça’s tasty almonds, badem in Turkish, are rightly famous all over Turkey – I remember sitting on a terrace in Istanbul’s Beyoğlu district, back in the days when it still had tables on the street, when a guy came round selling ice-chilled Datça almonds.

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A cup of frothy almond coffee served up at Karia Cafe, Datça, Turkey

Not content with selling the raw nuts, adding them to rice in a stuffed melon or adding them to local mezes, many enterprising cafes along the town’s beachfront have started offering Datça almond coffee – a frothy concoction made from the peninsula’s staple product.

Almond coffee came about because of the isolated position of Datça and the Knidos Peninsula. Sometimes bad weather would mean that supplies of coffee beans could not make it onto the peninsula so the locals made do with something they had in abundance – almonds.

For our Brandy Almonzanda we’ve prepared our own almond milk – it’s pretty easy to do: just soak the raw (unsalted) nuts overnight (or up to 48 hours – the longer you leave them, the better the milk tastes), adding a pinch of salt, a cinnamon stick and a date (we didn’t have any dates so we used some dried apricots).

After soaking overnight, drain and rinse the nuts in fresh water and then put in a blender with 400 ml of cold water and blend to a smooth paste. Strain the almond milk to remove any remaining bits in a metal strainer, using a wooden spoon to press out all the liquid – this will produce around 450 ml – and, hey presto, your almond milk is ready!

To make the cocktail, pour one part of brandy, one part of Creme de Cacao (or similar) and two parts almond milk into a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously and pour into suitable glasses, sprinkle nutmeg over the top, add a straw and serve immediately.

A Prickly Pear Pick-Me-Up

25 August 2016

Move aside Bloody Mary – there’s a new hair of the dog on the block: Lord Venal’s Prickly Pear Pick-Me-Up!

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Lord Venal’s Prickly Pear Pick-Me-Up

After overindulging while celebrating Ukraine’s 25th anniversary of independence from the Soviet Union, Knidos Cookery Club was in need of a little kickstart to the day. This was provided by Lord Venal with his patent Prickly Pear Pick-Me-Up.

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Prickly pears growing wild in south-west Turkey

Apparently, the prickly pear, which grows in arid regions on the Opuntia cactus, has properties that make it a perfect antidote to a hangover. This spiny fruit is full of vitamin C, so that may explain some of its health-giving powers.

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Peeling the prickly pear

Care must be taken to peel the pear properly as the spines are painful if ingested. Top and tail the prickly pear then slice the peel off with a sharp knife. Halve the pear and scoop out the seeds, or leave them in for a crunchier cocktail.

Lord Venal recommends the following for his pick-me-up:

Ingredients (makes two large cocktails)

3 prickly pears
200g honeydew melon
100 ml white rum

2 cm fresh ginger
Ice
100 ml cold water

Method

Peel the pears and slice the melon into small cubes. Put into a plastic container with the water and the chopped ginger and use a hand blender to juice the fruit.

Pour in the rum and ice and stir well. Serve with a slice of orange.