The Golden Soup of Samarkand

23 January 2020

This week’s offering – a soup made from chickpeas and carrots, was inspired by a recent visit to a funky Central Asian restaurant called Saksaul in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan. This soup appeared on the menu, but unfortunately there wasn’t any left that day. Spotting yellow carrots on sale in the market after returning home, we decided to cook up our own version.

KCC’s Golden Soup of Samarkand featuring yellow carrots and chickpeas

Our soup contains two ingredients that are common in the cookery of Samarkand in Uzbekistan – chickpeas and yellow carrots. Not all carrots are orange in Central Asia, you can even find black ones on occasion, but we find these yellow ones particularly sweet and tasty.

Yellow (and a bit green!) carrots on sale in Kazakhstan

This famed Silk Road city of Samarkand provided further inspiration for our golden potage with spices such as cumin, coriander and turmeric that are still bought and sold along this ancient trade route.

Ingredients (makes 4 portions)

  • 500 g yellow carrots
  • 500 g chickpeas
  • Two yellow onions
  • Two garlic cloves
  • Two teaspoons mustard seeds
  • Two teaspoons chilli powder
  • Two teaspoons cumin seeds
  • Two teaspoons coriander seeds
  • Two teaspoons turmeric
  • 50 ml vegetable oil
  • One litre vegetable stock

Method

  • Heat the oil in a heavy-based pan and add the mustard seeds. When the seeds begin to pop, add the chopped onion and garlic and cook over a medium heat for five minutes. Add the other spices and mix well.
  • Next add the diced carrot and stir to coat the carrot with the mix. Cook for five more minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the chickpeas and stir well, then add the stock and reduce to a low heat and simmer the soup for 30 minutes or so.
  • Using a stick blender, liquidise the soup. Pour into bowls and garnish with chickpeas and a sprinkling of cumin seeds. Serve with bread – we used a flatbread but any crusty bread will work just as well.

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.

 

Julienne Funchoza’s Noodle Extravaganza

18 July 2019

This time round on Knidos Cookery Club we’re looking at some ways to beat the heatwave with a noodle-based salad that can be whipped up with the minimum of fuss.

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Funchoza is a popular salad across Central Asia that combines glass noodles, which can be produced from various forms of starch such as rice or mung bean, with julienned raw vegetables and a spicy dressing. The noodles just need to be cooked in boiling water for a few minutes so it’s a cinch to prepare on a hot summer’s day.

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These noodles are a staple of Uighur cuisine, but have been adopted by the Central Asia’s Korean community who have made funchoza famous to a wider audience across the former Soviet Union and beyond.

The Uighurs are Turkic-speaking  muslims living mainly in Xinjiang, an autonomous territory in northwest China, where they face increasing persecution by the Chinese authorities, under the pretext of a crackdown on terrorism.

To this end, thousands of Uighurs, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz and Chinese muslims have been interred in ‘re-education’ camps and, as the Guardian put it in a recent editorial, “Those who are nominally free in fact exist in a digital gulag of constant surveillance.”

Earlier this month, 22 states – including Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Australia and Japan – signed a letter to UN human rights officials in condemnation of China’s treatment of Uighur and other minorities there.

Ingredients (makes 3-4 servings)

  • 150 g dried glass noodles
  • 10 g dried seaweed
  • 2 small cucumbers
  • 2 radishes
  • 8 spring onions
  • 2 red peppers
  • 2 carrots
  • Coriander seeds

For the dressing:

  • 4 teaspoons tahini
  • 2 tablespoons apple vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons pomegranate sauce (Nar Eksisi)
  • 2 teaspoons chilli powder

Method

  • Bring a large pan of water to the boil and cook the noodles in the water according to the pack instructions. Remove and put in a pan of cold water until needed.
  • Soak the dried seaweed in cold water for 15 minutes, drain the water. While the seaweed is soaking,  cut the spring onions into 1 cm slices, remove the seeds for the cucumber and then julienne along with the other vegetables into long, thin slices (use a grater  or chop finely if you don’t have a julienne peeler). Chop the seaweed into 5 cm strips.
  • Remove the noodles from the cold water and cut into 10 cm strips and put in a large bowl. Add the julienned vegetables and mix all the ingredients together. Put all the dressing ingredients into a glass jar with a screw top and shake well, then pour over the salad and mix well. Grind some coriander seeds over the salad.
  • Serve cold – let the flavours mingle by keeping the salad in the fridge for a couple of hours.

 

Mezemania: Funky Lentil Pâté

26 July 2018

In our ongoing series on mezeler, or starters, we’ve come up with a funky little lentil spread to add to the collection.

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Funky Lentil Pâté

In the past on Knidos Cookery Club we’ve featured the following mezes: two types of fava (Turkish and Greek),  these little numbers (smoky aubergine dip, Psimeni Raki and feta dip and tsatsiki) inspired by the Greek island of Amorgos, fiery red pepper-fuelled muhammara and acili ezme and a creamy almond and courgette dip as part of our esteemed meze collection.

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Amorgoan Delight: smoky aubergine dip, Psimeni Raki and feta dip and tsatsiki

You can serve this simple to prepare red Lentil Pâté alongside these other dishes for a great spread of mezeler for a light feast that’s perfect for sharing with friends  on a balmy summer’s night.

Ingredients (makes around 200g)

125 g red lentils

One bayleaf

300 ml cold water

Two tablespoons fine bulgur wheat

4 or 5 spring onions

10 g fresh parsley

25 ml olive oil

One teaspoon mustard seeds

One teaspoon cumin seeds

Two teaspoons paprika

One teaspoon ground coriander seeds

One teaspoon black pepper

Half a teaspoon turmeric

Method

Clean the lentils in cold water and then put them in a pan with the bayleaf. Pour 300 ml of water over the lentils and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the lentils are beginning to go mushy and most of the water has been absorbed.

Remove the bayleaf and add the fine bulgur wheat to the lentils and mix well. Leave covered for 30 minutes. heat the oil in a heavy-based pan and add the mustard and cumin seeds. Fry for a few minutes and then add the paprika, coriander, black pepper and turmeric, cook for a minute stirring constantly and then add the finely chopped spring onion and parsley and cook for five more minutes over a medium heat.

Stir this into the lentil and bulgur mix and leave to stand for a few hours in the fridge. Garnish with a sprig of fresh mint and serve with crusty bread.

Viva l’Armenian (Revolutionary) Peppers

3 May 2018

With Nikol Pashinyan, leader of the largest political protests  in Armenia’s post-Soviet history, looking likely to become this impoverished  Caucasus Mountains nation’s next  prime minister, Knidos Cookery Club is celebrating this momentous event with an Armenian recipe cooked up by our friend Bagila.

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Bagila’s Armenian (Revolutionary) Peppers take centre stage

This mountainous, landlocked country sandwiched between Turkey, Iran, Azerbaijan and Georgia, has a rich cuisine that draws on an array of fresh vegetables such as aubergines and peppers, pulses and beans and fruits and nuts.

Bagila’s recipe uses red peppers that are fried and then marinated overnight in her signature marinade and they taste amazing served alongside a platter of other dips and salads as in the picture above.

Ingredients (serves 4-6)
500 gr red peppers, cut lengthwise in quarters
50 ml olive oil
For the marinade:
2 fresh tomatoes, skinned and grated
5 crushed/mashed garlic cloves
75 ml of lemon juice
1 bunch of fresh coriander, chopped
1 bunch of fresh parsley, chopped
1.5 tablespoons of sugar
a little less than 1 tablespoon spoon of salt
black pepper to taste;
oil  left over from frying
Method
Fry the quartered peppers in hot olive oil  until soft and then set aside. While they’re cooking, mix all the marinade ingredients together in a bowl.

Combine it all together: a layer of peppers, followed with a layer of marinade and so on.

Put something heavy on top for pressure (a saucer with a stone on top, or a jar of honey (jam), or whatever you can think of), and keep in the fridge for at least several hours (better one night/day) before eating. Enjoy!

 

Korea’s All-Conquering Carrots

15 February 2018

Happy Lunar New Year to all our readers – wishing you all many culinary adventures in the Year of the Dog!

With both South and North Korea back in the headlines with the Winter Olympics in full swing in Pyeongchang and the ongoing tensions on the Korean peninsula, this week Knidos Cookery Club will be making a dish that has become a hit in the former Soviet Union and beyond – spicy Korean carrots.

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Spicy Korean Carrots

It’s a dish that’s not really from Korea, north or south – largely unknown outside of the countries of the former Soviet Union until recently, this simple dish has now gone full circle and can now be found on tables in South Korea.

It originated with the Koryo-saram, Korean people, who were deported en masse from the borderlands of Russia’s far east to Central Asia in the late 1930s. Fearing a Japanese fifth column in the Soviet Union via this Korean community, Stalin ordered the mass deportations in 1937.

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Korean carrots and other salads on sale in Almaty’s Green Bazaar, Kazakhstan

The deportees adapted their cuisine to local conditions and replaced traditional ingredients with carrots to create a spicy, coriander-rich side dish and it remains a popular choice on dinner tables in Central Asian countries such as Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, which are still home to around 300,000 ethnic Koreans, descendants of the deportees from the 1930s.

There’s a Turkish connection with the Koreas as well. With Turkey on a war footing once again, wading into battle against the Kurds in northern Syria, a recent film has brought a mostly forgotten war involving Turkey from the 1950s back into the spotlight. Can Ulkay’s “Ayla: The Daughter of War” tells the story of a Turkish soldier who saves a young Korean girl during the Korean War of 1950-53.

Turkey sent troops as part of a United Nations led brigade to defend South Korea against North Korea in the war. The soldier finds himself unable to take the orphan back to Turkey so the pair lose touch after the war, but in a fairytale ending are reunited 60 years later. Put your feet up and enjoy the movie with a bowl of spicy Korean carrots!

Ingredients (serves around 4)

200 g carrots peeled into thin slices – use a julienne peeler or a sharp knife

One garlic clove minced

One small onion minced

One teaspoon crushed coriander seeds

Half teaspoon red chilli flakes

Dash of olive oil

Two teaspoons cider vinegar

Half teaspoon honey

Pinch of salt

One teaspoon sesame seeds

Method

Mix the julienned carrots with the garlic and leave to marinate in a container with a tight-fitting lid (this carrot salad can get quite pungent, so this is important!).

Heat the olive oil and fry the onion until just beginning to brown. Mix the vinegar with the honey and salt and then pour over the carrots, add the coriander and chilli and the fried onions and mix well.

Leave the carrots to marinate in the air tight container in the fridge for at least four hours, the longer the better, to allow the flavours to blend fully.

Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve as a side dish with fritters such as our mücver.