The Life of Briam

21 May 2020

There were signs this week of life slowly beginning to return to some sort of normal.  Cafes and terraces are set to open once again in Almaty from next week and the streets are busier. We’re not planning on changing too much at the moment and, in the meantime, we’re content to continue our armchair culinary travels.

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Half-way there – assembling the briam…

Greece has been in the headlines this week with the news that its beaches are reopening and it’s preparing to open its borders to tourists next month. This news brought back memories of holidays in the Greek islands and the great food in the tavernas. One of our favourite dishes is briam (pronounced bree-AM) – a delicious stew of oven-roasted seasonal vegetables.

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Briam – good enough to eat

As usual, we’ve taken a few liberties with the recipe, omitting aubergines (usually a key ingredient) as they are not quite in season in Almaty yet, so foodie purists please look away. We’ve added carrot and spinach to the usual potatoes and courgettes and then cooked it slowly in a tomato sauce. We’ve also topped it with some breadcrumbs to enclose our briam.

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The name briam has an interesting history – it is a borrowed word – there is no letter ‘b’ in the Greek alphabet, instead this sound is represented by combining the letters ‘μ’ (m) and ‘π’ (p) – ‘μπ’. Many Greeks call this casserole tourlou tourlou (all mixed-up), so briam could have come from Greeks who lived in Anatolia until the mass population exchanges in the early 20th century.

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Briam and salad

 

In the Ottoman era, there was a word biryan, spelt büryan in modern Turkish, which refers to a side of lamb cooked slowly over charcoal in a pit in the ground – a speciality of Siirt in the Kurdish area on the borders with Iraq and Syria. This in turn could come from Persian, where biryan means roasted (notice the similarity with India’s biriyani). Whatever the name’s origin, it tastes great!

Ingredients (serves 4)

For the bake:

  • Two courgettes (approx 300 g)
  • Four potatoes (approx 300 g)
  • One carrot (approx 100 g)
  • 200 g spinach
  • 75 g breadcrumbs

For the tomato sauce:

  • One red onion
  • 250 g tomatoes
  • One bunch of parsley
  • 20 capers
  • 25 ml olive oil
  • One teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 250 ml vegetable stock or water

Method

  1. Make the tomato sauce first. Heat the oil in a heavy based pan, add the mustard seeds and when they start to pop add the chopped onions and cook over a medium heat, stirring occasionally. After five minutes reduce the heat and add the chopped tomatoes. Stir and simmer for ten minutes then add the stock, chopped parsley and capers. Cook until the liquid has reduced by half.
  2. Cook the spinach for a few minutes until it is beginning to wilt and then set aside. Cut the potato, courgette and carrot into 1 mm slices and put a layer of potatoes, then courgettes and then carrots into a greased baking dish. Add the spinach and pour half the tomato sauce over the vegetables. Add another layer of potatoes and courgettes and then pour the remainder of the tomato sauce over the layers. Spread the breadcrumbs over the top.
  3. Cover with tin foil and bake in an oven at 180 c for around 1.5 hours. After an hour, remove the foil and cook for another 20-30 minutes until the breadcrumbs go start to go a golden brown colour. Keep an eye on it to make sure the breadcrumbs aren’t burning. Serve immediately with a fresh salad – it’s also great when it’s cooled down a bit.

 

 

 

KCC’s Lockdown BBQ – a char-grilled chapati feast

14 May 2020

After a couple of months of lockdown, a bit of garden envy is setting in as we hear about people getting outside and having barbecues. With no open space in the flat other than an enclosed balcony,  it was time to get inventive in order to get some char-grilled food.

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It’s barbecue time!

We’re fortunate to have a gas hob, so with some creative use of tin foil (some of it salvaged from last week’s chocolate fest!) and a rack from the oven, KCC came up with an improvised BBQ grill.

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A char-grilled platter

Use whatever vegetables are available – we had courgettes and green peppers, and cook them over the open flame, turning regularly. We grilled some halloumi as well. We cooked the jacket potato in the oven and made our own chapati, a flatbread from the Indian sub-continent, to serve with the indoor barbecue.

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KCC’s chapati: ideal for a BBQ

Chapati recipe (makes 4):

  • 150 g wholemeal flour
  • 75 ml water
  • 50 ml oil ( we used olive oil, but you can use whatever you have handy)
  • A pinch of bicarbonate of soda

Method

  1. Sieve the flour into a large, ceramic mixing bowl and add the oil and bicarbonate of soda. Combine with a wooden spoon or your fingers until the mixture resembles bread crumbs. Slowly add the water until you have a fairly elastic dough – not too wet and not too dry. Knead for ten minutes and then leave covered with a tea towel for an hour or so.
  2. Heat up a non-stick frying pan or a cast iron pan. Divide the mixture into four and form into balls. Flatten with your hands and then use a rolling pin to roll the dough into 1 mm thick rounds. Cook over a high heat on both sides until the chapatis take on a leopard-spotted look as in the picture above.

 

Nauryz Spring Cleaning: Mung Bean Detox

14 March 2019

With another Nauryz, the spring equinox, just around the corner, we’re looking at this turning point of the year as a good place to start some spring cleaning for the body.

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The Mighty Mung Bean

You can detox your digestive system by utilising the mighty mung bean, considered by both traditional Chinese medicine and India’s Ayurvedic medicine as an effective aid to remove toxins from the body.

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Knidos Cookery Club’s Mung Bean Detox Soup

When combined with spices such as turmeric, cumin, ginger and black pepper, the mung bean can do a lot to help flush out unwanted material from your body.  While some practitioners recommend following a detox diet based on mung bean soup for 7-10 days to really cleanse yourself, it’s quite a powerful process so we’d recommend a bowl or two every week as being beneficial to your general well-being.

Ingredients (Makes 3-4 servings)

  • 200 g mung beans
  • One carrot
  • One courgette
  • One stick of celery
  • 1 litre water
  • Four tablespoons tomato paste
  • One teaspoon turmeric
  • One teaspoon cumin
  • One teaspoon chilli powder
  • 1cm fresh ginger
  • Black pepper

Method

  • Wash and then soak the mung beans for at least four hours (the longer you soak them, the quicker they’ll cook). Then put them in a pan, cover with the water and add the turmeric, cinnamon, cumin and chilli powder.
  • Bring to a boil and then simmer for 30 minutes, add the tomato paste, grated carrot and courgette, the thinly-sliced celery and the minced ginger, stir well and simmer for another ten minutes or so. The mung beans should just be beginning to go soft. Pour into bowls and serve with a generous grind of black pepper.

 

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.

Chickpea and Courgette au Gratin – Autumn Comfort Food

27 September 2018

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.

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Chickpea and Courgette au Gratin

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
  • Black pepper

Method

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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

 

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.

The Mücver Variations

29 June 2017

This time round on Knidos Cookery Club we’re revisiting an old favourite – mücver, Turkey’s tasty courgette fritter.

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Could this be called a pea fritter?

The mücver usually served up in Turkish eateries are made from grated courgettes, so we’ve decided to spice up this old favourite by adding some other ingredients. Why not try them with fresh peas or grated carrot? Mushrooms work well, as do green beans.

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Putting some carrots in the mix

You can even add all these ingredients to the basic mix, chuck in a few chopped almonds or walnuts and, hey presto, you have a chunky veggie nut burger!

Serve the fritters in a pita, on a baguette, in a burger bun, rolled up in flat lavaş bread or just plain with a salad and condiments of your choice.

Ingredients (for around 8 fritters)

Two medium-sized courgettes

One small onion

One egg (or 15 ml of olive oil for vegan version)

Choose one or more from: 100 g chopped mushroom / grated carrot / peas (fresh if you have them, otherwise frozen or tinned) / sliced green beans (use 50 g of each if using more ingredients)

50 g of plain flour

Bunch of parsley, mint and/or dill (if you like that sort of thing)

Dried herbs to taste

A generous sprinkle of sesame seeds

An  optional dusting of chili flakes and grated cinnamon

Salt and pepper

A dash of olive oil for frying

Plain yogurt for serving

Method

Grate or chop up the courgettes and the extra of your choice (mushroom, carrot  peas, green beans or even all three) finely and mix with the chopped onion. Add fresh parsley, mint and/or dill, dried herbs, chili flakes, cinnamon, sesame seeds salt and pepper and blend well.

Make a well in the centre of the mix and break the egg into it. Sprinkle in the crumbled white cheese. Mix well. (Vegan readers should skip the egg and add 25 ml of olive oil instead)

Gradually add the plain flour and blend  until the mixture has quite a thick consistency – you don’t want it to be too wet and sloppy.

Drizzle some olive oil in a frying pan and put over a medium heat.

Place golf ball-sized scoops of the courgette mixture into the pan and flatten with a spatula or fork.

After a few minutes turn the fritter. Keep cooking until both sided are a golden-brown colour.

Serve hot with a dollop of yogurt on top.