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.

 

 

 

Hummus to the Power of Turmeric

30th May 2019

Welcome back to Knidos Cookery Club, or KCC to those in the know. This time we’ll be whipping up some hummus spiked with the super-spice turmeric – it’s easier than you think and once you’ve tasted homemade hummus we’ll be surprised if you settle for a shop bought one again.

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Turmeric-infused hummus all ready to go with carrot and cucumber slices

There are a lot of claims around the eastern end of the  Mediterranean Sea as to where hummus originated, but  ownership of this dip has now become truly international – we first came across this turmeric-infused version in Mexico earlier this year.

You’ll need some tahini (sesame seed paste) to make this recipe, but don’t worry if you can’t track any down – it’s simple to prepare your own batch of this nutty-tasting spread. Toast 50 g of sesame seeds in a frying pan (without oil) over a low heat and shake continuously until they turn from white to a golden colour. Then mix with 50 ml of olive oil in a blender and, hey presto, you have tahini. Add more oil for a runnier consistency.

Ingredients (makes around 300 g)

  • 250 g cooked chickpeas
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 2 teaspoons tahini
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Juice of a lemon
  • 25 ml chickpea water
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 0.5 teaspoon cumin or caraway seeds
  • 1 teaspoon paprika or chilli powder

Method 

  • Place all the ingredients into a bowl, except for the paprika and cumin (or caraway) seeds. Mix with the blender setting or with a hand blender. Keep mixing until you have a creamy, smooth paste. If needed, add  more of the reserved chickpea water or lemon juice to achieve a smoother consistency.
  • Allow to chill in the fridge for a few hours then mix in the cumin (or caraway) seeds. Sprinkle the paprika over the top and serve with slices of cucumber and carrot.

 

 

 

 

Down Home Arizona Kızartma

14 February 2019

This time round on Knidos Cookery Club we’re swinging through Tucson, Arizona on the way back home. Whilst in Tucson, we met up with some old friends from Kazakhstan (via Turkey and the USA) and were treated to Tolga’s kızartma –  grilled peppers mixed in with fried aubergines and potatoes served in a garlic-infused tomato sauce and garnished with dollops of natural yogurt.

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Tolga’s classic down home Arizona kızartma

Tucson is located on the edge of the Sonora Desert which stretches up into Arizona from northern Mexico. It’s a surreal landscape of towering cacti called saguaro (Carnegiea gigantea), which can grow to be more than 12 m tall.

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There’s a lot of cactus….

The desert is a fascinating place populated with bobcats, coyotes, a variety of snakes and scorpions along with hallucinogenic Sonoran Desert toads (if you’re brave enough to lick them… ).

Having observed the master chef at work closely, here’s KCC’s take on the Turkish classic kızartma.

Ingredients (serves 3-4)

  • Two large potatoes
  • Three medium-sized tomatoes
  • Three garlic cloves
  • one small onion
  • One large aubergine
  • One avocado
  • Four peppers – a mix of green and red
  • Four jalapeño peppers
  • 75 ml olive oil
  • 100 ml natural yogurt

Method

  • Heat 25 ml of oil in a heavy-bottomed pan. Cut the potato into 1mm slices and fry in the oil, turning occasionally, until they are a golden-brown colour on both sides. Remove with a slotted spoon and put on a plate lined with kitchen towel.
  • Prick the peppers a couple of times with a fork and then roast them on a barbecue or over an open flame (here’s some tips on how to do this) until the skin is blackened all over. While the peppers are roasting, put 25ml oil in the pan and cut the aubergine into 1cm cubes and fry until golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and put on a plate lined with kitchen towel.
  • Add the rest of the oil to the pan, heat it up and then fry the finely chopped onion and garlic for five minutes over a medium heat and then grate the tomatoes into the pan and cook for 15-20 minutes. Peel the peppers, remove the seeds and chop the roasted peppers roughly.
  • In a large bowl put a layer potatoes, aubergine and peppers alternately. Pour the tomato sauce over the top and garnish with dollops of yogurt. Serve with slices of avocado.

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!

 

I Heard it through the Grapevine

26 October 2017

Welcome to the 60th post on Knidos Cookery Club – to celebrate we took a tour to Datça’s very own vineyard to check out some of the local vintages on offer.

The vineyard is located on a hilltop on the main road into Datça and has a reserve range of delicious reds, going under the name of Cnidus, an alternative spelling of Knidos, and some  excellent red and white blends along with a superb blush wine.

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It has been in its present site since 2011 and has both south and north-facing rows of vines to take advantage of the sun’s rays from both sides. Look out for the round brick windmill on a hillside on the left as you drive into Datça – the vineyard’s on the main road just before the turn off to the town.

This boutique vineyard produces around 40 – 50,000 bottles of wine a year –  using Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah (Shiraz) and the indigenous Öküzgözü and Boğazkere grape varieties to produce red wines and a blush, and Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and the local Sultaniye grape to make white wine.

You can taste the wines in the windmill or in the beautiful garden with its spectacular views over the Mediterranean Sea and Greek islands on the horizon. You can also take a tour of the vineyard and buy wine in the shop at competitive prices.

Datça Vineyard’s wines are on sale in some restaurants in town and in two supermarkets – Erdi on the harbour front, and Dilge on the road to the town’s Saturday market.

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Green beans roasted with walnuts

With all this wine tasting to do, something simple was called for so this week we’re going to make a a quick pasta dish with roasted green beans and walnuts. It’s really easy to cook and there’s not much washing up either, leaving more time to enjoy the fruits of Datça’s vineyard!

Ingredients (serves 2-3)

250 g green beans

50 g walnuts

200 g pasta (penne, fusilli or spaghetti works well here)

One garlic clove

25 ml olive oil

One teaspoon dried thyme

Method 

Top and tail the green beans and cut into 3-4 cm slices. Put the beans in an oven dish, crush the walnuts and mince the garlic and scatter over the beans and then add the thyme and olive oil. Stir well and then put the dish in a pre-heated oven and cook for 30 minutes at 180 c.

While the beans are roasting, cook your favourite pasta as per the instruction on the pack. When cooked to your taste, drain and mix with the roasted beans and walnut and serve immediately on warmed plates with shavings of Parmigiano-Reggiano (Parmesan), if you’re a cheese fan.

As for the wine pairing, we’d recommend either a Silenus Chardonnay or a Silenus Blush – in Greek mythology Silenus was the god of wine making and drunkenness and the foster-father of Dionysos, the god of wine, vegetation, pleasure, festivity, madness and wild frenzy – enjoy!

 

 

 

 

No Beef with the Beetburger

19 October 2017

The beet is back on Knidos Cookery Club and this time round we’ll be using our burgundy-coloured friend to tap into another zeitgeist treat in the form of the tasty beetburger.

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The stalls in Datça market last Saturday were overflowing with of bunches of beetroots so we picked up a bunch, chopped off the leaves and stems for sautéing, and wrapped the beets in foil and roasted them in the oven for an hour or so.

Beetroot burgers have been a bit of a barbecue craze in the UK over the summer, with supermarkets reporting soaring sales as people turn towards healthier options to meat.

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Turkey’s papatya, or daisy, loaf of bread

We’ve done some experimentation and come up with a patty that will hold together under the grill, on the barbie, in the oven or can be shallow-fried. Stuff it in a bun – we’ve used the papatya loaf as pictured above, and serve with chips and salad for a delicious yet healthy meal (the chips were roasted in the oven, not fried).

Ingredients (makes 6-8 burgers)

100 g red lentils

50 g fine bulgur wheat

150 g roasted beetroot, grated

One medium onion

One garlic clove

50 ml olive oil

Two teaspoons dried thyme

One teaspoon each of sumac, cumin and chilli flakes

Dash of soy sauce

Method

Heat 25 ml of the olive oil in a heavy-based pan, add the herbs and spices and the chopped onion and garlic and fry for five minutes until the onion starts to soften. Add the lentils and water, bring to the boil and then simmer until the liquid is absorbed.

Add the bulgur wheat to the mix and allow to cool for 30 minutes – this should thicken the mixture. Then add the grated beetroot and stir to combine all the ingredients. Form into burger shapes (take a dollop of walnut-sized mix and flatten with a spatula and shallow fry in the rest of the olive oil on both sides until going crispy on the outside.

Alternatively, these burgers can be baked in the oven for 30-40 minutes at 200 c or grilled   or cooked on the barbecue until crispy on both sides. Serve in a burger bun with salad and chips.

Spice it up with Sumac!

21 September 2017

This time round on Knidos Cookery Club we’ll be looking at a spice called sumac that is ubiquitous in Turkish cooking. Sumac comes from the flowering plants of the genus Rhus and its powdered purple-reddish berries give a tart but tangy boost to everything from soups and dips to grilled vegetables and kebabs. It also gives a rich dark burgundy hue to the dishes it flavours.

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Sumac

We’ve decided to use it in acili ezme, a fiery tomato, onion and pepper dip that is delicious eaten on it’s own with bread,  used as a sauce to accompany dishes such as pide, Turkey’s take on pizza, as part of a meze plate with our carrot and walnut tarator and our  creamy almond and courgette dip or with mücver, Turkey’s courgette fritter.

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A fearsome acili ezme

The secret to a successful acili ezme is to chop the ingredients as finely as you can with the sharpest knife you have and to chill it for a few hours before serving so the flavours have a chance to blend.

We’ve added red chilli flakes and sumac to give it a kick and used mint and parsley to balance out the flavours. If you like your dips hot, then use green chillies in place of green peppers in this recipe.

Ingredients (serves 3-4)

One medium-sized onion

Three medium-sized plum tomatoes

One medium-sized green pepper

One garlic clove

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

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 with flat bread.