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!
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
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 zhugsauce.
On a recent flying visit to Glasgow, KCC dropped into Ox and Finchin 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.
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!
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
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.
In the dog days of summer, a persistent tap-tapping sound can be heard resounding around the Datca Peninsula. Look for people huddled over piles of green shells to find the source of the tapping. This summer’s almond crop is in and the best way to get to the badass nuts is by hammering the shell open – labourious but ultimately worthwhile work!
The almond, badem in Turkish, is an important crop on the peninsula – check out this post from a few years ago on the many uses for almonds. We got hold of some of this year’s crop and combined them with some grilled peaches and halloumi cheese to make a super-tasty summer salad.
We got the idea for the grilled peaches from a salad we had in Kaş, Turkey. We grilled the peach and halloumi slices on the barbecue until they took on the required charred appearance. The combination of the sweetness of the peach with the saltiness of the cheese is a winning one.
Ingredients (serves 3-4)
250 g halloumi
One large peach
One large tomato
One bunch of rocket leaves
Two green peppers
Four spring onions
One teaspoon capers
One teaspoon dried thyme
Cut the peach into eight slices and grill until just starting to char. Cut the halloumi cheese into eight pieces and grill until it goes a golden-brown colour.
Roughly chop the rocket leaves and slice the cucumber and green peppers and mix together with the capers. Dress with the thyme, olive oil and pomegranate sauce.
Slice the tomato into wedges and arrange with the peach and halloumi slices on top of the green salad. Just before serving, place an almond on top of each halloumi slice and put four in the middle.
As promised a few weeks back on Knidos Cookery Club, here’s another use for those tasty vine leaves. While jetting down to KCC HQ in Datça recently, we spotted a Cypriot recipe in an airline magazine for halloumi cheese wrapped in vine leaves and we decided to adapt it by using some of the Datça Peninsula’s key ingredients:
Yep, that’s almonds, olives, thyme, capers and lemon. We mixed all these up to make our 5-star Datça paste which we then used to coat slices of our favourite squeaky cheese. After applying the paste, wrap the cheese slices with the leaves and then bake in the oven for 30 minutes or so until they look like this:
Ingredients (makes four servings)
200 g halloumi
12 vine leaves
75 g almonds
150 g olives
two teaspoons dried thyme
25 g capers
Soak and wash the vine leaves to remove any taste of brine, and then cut the stalk from the bottom of the leaf. You’ll need about three vine leaves for each slice of halloumi.
Now prepare the paste – stone the olives and place the bits of olive in a small dish. Soak the almonds in hot water for a minute or so and then put in cold water and peel off the skin. Break and add to the olives.
Add the capers and lemon juice and the thyme and use a hand blender to make a smooth paste. Cut the halloumi into four slices and smear each slice generously with the paste. Wrap the vine leaves around the cheese and then place in a baking dish or on a baking tray.
Bake in the oven at 180 c for thirty minutes or so and serve while hot with a seasonal salad and a selection of mezes.
This week at Knidos Cookery Club we have a guest post that combines two of our all-time fave foods: avocado and egg, dished up with olives, beetroot with walnuts and halloumi cheese.
Avocados love the mild winters of the Knidos region as the shores of the Mediterranean Sea provide ideal growing conditions for this large green fruit that’s packed with nutritious vitamins and healthy fats.
Our guest chef Jasha, who has worked in the hospitality industry in the UK, has kindly agreed to share her favourite way of combining eggs with avocado. Served up with pan-seared halloumi, olives and grated beetroot with walnut, this great dish sent us into brunch heaven!
One avocado per person
Two eggs per person
250 g pack halloumi cheese cut into four slices (enough for two people)
Black and green olives
A few scoops of olive paste
One grated large beetroot (raw or cooked) mixed with 50 g crushed walnuts and two teaspoons of sour cream or natural yogurt
Black pepper and red chili flakes
Slice the avocados in half and remove the stone. Be careful not to stab yourself in the hand as I once did – it’s apparently quite a common kitchen injury. Scoop out some of the flesh to leave a hollow space for the egg.
Place the avocado halves in a baking dish, round side down, and pour an egg into the scooped out shell. Grind some black pepper over each egg and bake the avocados in an oven pre-heated to to 200 c /gas mark 6 for 20 minutes or until the underside of the eggs are cooked. Finish the eggs off under a grill and then season with some red chili flakes and a grind of black pepper.
While the eggs are cooking, fry the halloumi slices in a non-stick or heavy-based frying pan until browned on both sides.
Serve the avocados immediately with the pan-seared halloumi, beetroot and walnuts, olive paste and olives and some doorsteps of fresh bread.
This summer has seen a rash of articles in the UK press about salads combining melon and white cheese and here at Knidos Cookery Club we love to tap into any zeitgeist that’s going – here’s our own take on this refreshing summery salad using watermelon, honeydew melon and halloumi cheese.
Halloumi, hellim in Turkish, is a salty white cheese with a high melting point that makes it perfect for grilling or frying. It originated in Cyprus – it’s a semi-hard cheese preserved in brine that can be stored for use in the winter months. It’s known in some quarters as ‘squeaky cheese’ because of its tendency to emit a mouse-like sound when you bite into it.
It’s peak season for melons at the moment in the Knidos area so the time was ripe to attempt our own melon cheese combo. With the addition of some halloumi, that had been grilled into submission on the barbecue, and some rocket leaves, fresh mint and basil, along with bulgur wheat and crushed almonds to add some body, the salad was a winner and set to be a fixture on the Knidos Cookery Club menu.
Ingredients (serves 3-4)
300 g watermelon cut into wedges
300 g honeydew melon cut into wedges
250 g halloumi cheese
One bunch of rocket (approx 125 g)
A handful of fresh mint and basil leaves
100 g fine bulgur wheat
50 g chopped almonds
100 ml hot water
One small lemon, juiced
A glug of olive oil
Soak the bulgur wheat in 100 ml hot water until all the water is absorbed
Tear the rocket, mint and basil leaves and scatter into a large bowl and then add the bulgur wheat. Add the melon wedges and mix well. Dress the salad with lemon juice and olive oil.
Cut the halloumi into slices and grill or fry until going golden-brown on the outside. Arrange the halloumi slices on top of the melon and leaves and sprinkle chopped almonds over the salad. Serve with crusty bread.