Putting on the Piyaz: Turkey’s Versatile White Bean Salad

2 August 2019

Knidos Cookery Club has just arrived back at its home base on the Datça Peninsula in Turkey. We’re going to soak up some more culinary inspiration from the place where the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas meet around the ancient Greek settlement of Knidos.

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Piyaz – Turkish White Bean salad

To celebrate being back in Turkey, we’ve prepared a piyaz salad, one of the favourite dishes of Turkish cooking, that combines small white beans with some readily available staples of the local kitchen; namely tomatoes, onions, green peppers, parsley and lemons.

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Turkey’s çarliston peppers aka banana peppers

The secret of this dish is in getting the beans just right – not too mushy but not too firm either. They need a good, long overnight soak and some slow cooking to achieve the required consistency.

The dressing used varies across Turkey from the basic lemon, olive oil and apple vinegar one favoured in Istanbul to the tahini-infused one from Antalya, paying tribute to the Arabian influence from the Middle East on the city’s cuisine. We have opted for the creamy, nutty taste of the latter.

Ingredients (makes 3-4 servings)

  • 200 g dried haricot beans or other small white beans soaked overnight
  • 1 medium-sized plum tomato
  • 1 long, green pepper (e.g. çarliston pepper – see photo above)
  • 1 small onion
  • 2 lemons
  • Small bunch of parsley
  • 50 ml olive oil
  • 50 ml apple vinegar
  • 25 ml tahini
  • 2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon red chilli flakes
  • Optional: Two boiled eggs or one avocado

Method

  • Cook the beans over a low heat until tender but not starting to go mushy. When cooked, drain off the cooking water, reserving 100 ml to make the dressing. Pour the vinegar and sprinkle the thyme over the beans and leave to cool.
  • After leaving for a few hours, add the vinegar the beans were soaking in to the reserved bean juice and then blend with the olive oil, tahini and the juice of one lemon to make a smooth sauce.
  • Finely dice the tomato, slice the pepper and onions into rings and chop the parsley finely. Add these to the beans.
  • Cover the salad and put it in the fridge for a few hours. Serve with wedges of the second lemon and sprinkle the red chilli flakes over the salad.
  • Just before serving, pour the dressing over the bean salad and season with black pepper and gently mix all the ingredients together with a wooden spoon.
  • You can garnish with quarters of boiled egg if you wish or, for a vegan twist, you can garnish the salad with slices of avocado.
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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.

Getting Down to the Nuts and Roots

26 January 2017

This time round on Knidos Cookery Club we’re getting back to the roots with a comforting winter soup made from some of our favourite root vegetables, a leek or two and some roasted chestnuts.

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Roasted chestnuts – a winter treat

One of the big events in the world of Knidos Cookery Club so far in 2017 has been the relocation of Datça’s weekly market to a new, purpose-built site. Previously, when the market came to town on Friday and Saturday, it would spill down the hill in the centre of town, causing considerable congestion with the stallholders looking for parking spots and the customers squeezed in-between.

The new site has a covered area for the local fruit and vegetable growers with the other stalls – spices and nuts, clothes, household goods etc., setting up around the covered market. It’s a lot more user-friendly, with plenty of space for shoppers and stall holders.

The last few visits to the market have entailed searching for some of our regular suppliers in the new layout, and we’re pleased to report that most of them have been accounted for!

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A warming bowl of rooty, chestnut pureed soup

In season at the moment are chestnuts – anyone who’s visited Istanbul in winter will probably remember trying fresh roasted chestnuts while on the move around the centre, a delicious snack that epitomises the city in the colder months of the year to me.

There were also root vegetables aplenty – including black carrots (these root vegetables were first cultivated in Afghanistan and were yellow and purple in colour) and celeriac, lengthy leeks and lashings of oranges and lemons. So this week we’ll be making a rooty nutty soup containing celeriac, potato, carrot, leek, shallots and chestnuts.

Ingredients (serves 3-4)

75 g shallots

250 g leeks

250 g celeriac

one medium-sized potato

100 g carrot (black if you can find them!)

500 ml vegetable stock

25 ml olive oil

150 g chestnuts

one teaspoon dried thyme

salt and pepper for seasoning

juice of one lemon

Method 

Fry the finely sliced leeks and chopped shallots in the olive oil, which has been seasoned with dried thyme, over a medium-high heat until just beginning to brown. Peel and dice the celeriac, potato and carrot into 1 cm cubes  and add to the pan of leeks and shallots.

Stir in well to coat the cubed root vegetables with oil and thyme and then add the stock and the juice of the lemon and simmer for 20 minutes over a low-medium heat. While this is bubbling away, score the outside of each chestnut with a cross shape (on one side) and roast the chestnuts in an oven pre-heated to 220 c /gas mark 7.

Check the chestnuts after 20 minutes or so – if they are easy to peel and are roasted sufficiently, then they are ready for use. If not, check every 5 minutes until the shell comes off easily.

Add the peeled chestnuts to the soup pan, stir well and season with salt and pepper to taste. Then use a hand blender to make a smooth, thick soup and serve straight away with hunks of wholemeal bread.

Riding the Bread Bowl Zeitgeist

3 November 2016

Ok, so we’ve all heard of dunking bread into a wholesome bowl of soup, but, until last week, Knidos Cookery Club had not come across soup being served in a bread bowl. It’s a craze that had seemed to pass us by.

On a chilly night during a recent trip to Reykjavik, Iceland, we found a restaurant that was serving just two dishes – asparagus soup or a thick, meaty broth, both served in a bread bowl. We were instant converts.

20161030_160310A few days after this, a restaurant was spotted in Pendik, a district of Istanbul in Turkey, that had a poster for Ekmekte Çorba, yes, that’s right, soup in a bread bowl. Looks like there could be a craze starting here so let’s chase the zeitgeist and try and recreate this in the Knidos Cookery Club kitchen.

Wondering what to do with all that pumpkin left over from Halloween? Why not turn it into a hearty soup that should pass the bread bowl test – you don’t want your soup to be too liquid as there’s a danger of ending up with a soggy mess of soup and bread. We’ve thickened ours with red lentils and bulgur wheat, so combined with the bread, this one’s going to be a real winter warmer.

Ingredients: (serves 3-4)

four medium-sized round brown loaves

300 g pumpkin (save the seeds for roasting)

50 g red lentils

50 g coarse bulgur wheat

one medium-sized pear

one medium-sized onion

one garlic clove

750 ml vegetable stock

sprinkle of dried sage

one teaspoon of dried thyme

two bay leaves

one teaspoon of cumin seeds

one cinnamon stick

half a teaspoon of turmeric

Method:

Cut the pumpkin in half and remove the seeds, retain them to use later. Peel the pumpkin and dice into 1 cm cubes. Place the pumpkin cubes in a baking dish, pour in 50 ml of olive oil and sprinkle the sage and thyme over the pumpkin and mix well.

Bake in a pre-heated oven (220 c /gas mark 7) for 45 minutes or until the pumpkin mashes easily with a fork. While the pumpkin mix is cooking, put the seeds on some tin foil and roast in the oven until starting to char a little bit.

Finely chop the onion and garlic and fry in 50 ml olive oil over a medium heat. As they’re cooking add the cumin seeds, turmeric and cinnamon stick and bay leaves. Cook until the onions are starting to brown.

Chop up the pear finely and add with the roasted, mashed pumpkin to the onion mix and pour the stock over the top. Bring to the boil and then reduce the heat and add the bulgur wheat and red lentils. Cook over a medium heat for thirty minutes or so until the bulgur and lentils are beginning to go a bit mushy.

Slice the top off the loaf and scoop out the contents, leaving around 1 cm of bread as a lining for the bowl. Pour the soup into the bread bowl, garnish with roasted pumpkin seeds and serve immediately. Use the top of the bread to dip in the soup and eat the bowl as you go, depending on how hungry you are!