Dark Shadows: The Cocktail

22 November 2018

This week KCC is in London for the literary event of the year – the launch of Joanna Lillis’s compelling book Dark Shadows: Inside the Secret World of Kazakhstan.

dark shadows cover

To celebrate this momentous occasion, we have invented the Dark Shadows cocktail: a blend of one part vodka (Kazakhstan’s favourite tipple), three parts cloudy cider (apples are from Kazakhstan!), and a splash of blood-like Grenadine (or pomegranate syrup or juice) to convey something of the secretive nature of Kazakhstan. It makes the perfect companion when reading this gripping saga.
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Dark Shadows – the cocktail
Based on 13-years of on-the-ground reporting, this book lifts the veil to take a glimpse at what’s really going on in this Central Asian oil and gas powerhouse, making it the ideal stocking-filler for Kazakhstan fans. you can order a copy from the publisher, I.B.Tauris or look for a copy signed by the author in Foyles in London.
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Joanna Lillis signing copies of her book in Foyles, London

 

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Le Cidre Nouveau est Arrivé !

8 November 2018

We finally got round to tasting our first batch of cider made with apples sourced from Almaty, widely acknowledged as the place where the ancestors of today’s apples evolved. We’re pleased to announce that the experiment was a success!

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We used locally grown aport apples, a large red and yellow coloured variety, that grows around Almaty, Kazakhstan. a big clue as to the apple’s origins can be found in the name Almaty which translates from the Kazakh as ‘the place of apples.’

For the experiment, we used five kilos of fruit, which was pressed to produce around three litres of juice. We used a juicer and a sieve with some cloth to press and filter the leftover apple pulp to squeeze out a bit more liquid.

Then the juice was poured into a clean 5-litre water container. We allowed nature to take its course, and no yeast was added to aid the fermentation process. We made an improvised airlock using a balloon with a pinhole in it (to allow the gas to escape from the fermenting liquid whilst keeping unwanted bacteria out).

Fermentation took around two weeks and then the cider was siphoned off into clean wine bottles, where it was left to mature for a year or so. The resulting cider, about 1.7 litres was produced from this batch, was a dry, pale-coloured liquid that went down all too easily.

Chiving around with Jusai

17 May 2018

This time round on Knidos Cookery Club, we’ll be cooking with jusai, one of the few leafy greens to make it past the strict controls of Kazakhstan’s carnivore police.

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Jusai in bloom

The fare in Kazakhstan is a salad-dodger’s delight – it’s very meat heavy with potatoes or carrots only occasionally making an appearance – Kazakhs like to joke that they are second only to wolves in their meat consumption, so jusai is a welcome addition to this diet.

Jusai’s official name is allium tuberosum, and it’s a member of the onion family – you might know it as Chinese chives or garlic chives in English. Jusai originated in China but it’s now grown all over Kazakhstan. It imparts a mild garlic flavour to dishes and is used as a filling for pasties and dumplings in Kazakh kitchens.

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Brown rice pilau with jusai, lemon and walnuts

We decided to cook it up in some cider with some brown rice, onion, lemon and walnuts to make a pilau, or a loose take on risotto. It pairs well with some oven-baked seasonal vegetables or a seasonal salad.

Ingredients (serves 3-4)

300 g brown rice

50 ml olive oil

one medium-sized onion

one lemon

100 g toasted walnuts

200 g garlic chives

250 ml dry cider

750 ml vegetable stock

one teaspoon mustard seeds

one teaspoon cumin seeds

Method

Heat the oil in a heavy-based pan and add the mustard seeds – when the seeds start to pop, put the finely diced onion in and fry for five minutes over a medium heat. Add the cumin seeds and stir well and then add the rice, stirring for a minute to coat the grains with oil.

Reduce the heat and pour in the cider, stirring occasionally as the mix simmers so the rice doesn’t stick to the pan. When the liquid is absorbed, add 250 ml stock and continue to simmer and stir every now and then. Add more stock when this is absorbed and keep going until the rice is almost cooked.  Add more stock if needed – the rice should be al-dente.

Remove for the heat and mix in the finely chopped garlic chives (leave some to garnish the pilau), the lemon zest, toasted, chopped walnuts and the lemon juice and mix well. Cover the pan and leave to stand for five minutes.

Serve with oven-roasted vegetables or a leafy green salad and garnish with the remaining garlic chives.

 

A Must-Have Mastava

26 April 2018

Knidos Cookery Club is just back from a foodie fact-finding mission to uncover some new recipes along the Silk Roads. While on the expedition, we inadvertently fell foul of Kazakhstan’s strict zero tolerance laws while munching on a local delicacy, sunflower seeds.

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Sunflower seed munchers are not welcome in this park in Shymkent, Kazakhstan

It turns out that eating this tasty little snack in public is an offence, classified as “petty hooliganism”, and punishable by watching a video of Kazakhstan’s president Nursultan Nazarbayev railing against this social evil and the payment of a fine (4 x the Monthly Calculation Index (MCI) that is used to calculate benefits and fines – approx £25).

After this contribution was made to the Shymkent Police Nauryz party fund, the situation was resolved amicably and we were all able to go on our merry way, suitably chastised!

The road trip also took in a visit to Uzbekistan, which has inspired KCC to attempt Mastava a traditional Uzbek rice and chunky vegetable soup  – it’s usually prepared with lamb or beef but we’ve used lentils and red beans instead of meat to add the protein in our version.

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A hearty bowl of mastava and a cup of green tea

Mastava uses whatever seasonal vegetables are to hand – we had carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, pumpkin and some red peppers for our version. We’ve liberally spiced it with cumin, coriander seeds, red chilli flakes and black pepper as well as some fresh coriander to garnish the soup.

Ingredients (makes around 4 – 6 servings)

150 g green lentils or similar

250 g red beans

150 g pumpkin

150 g rice

200 g cherry tomatoes

Four small potatoes

One large carrot

One red pepper

Six spring onions

30 ml olive oil or other vegetable oil

1 litre vegetable stock

One teaspoon cumin seeds

One teaspoon coriander seeds

One teaspoon black pepper

One teaspoon red chilli flakes

One bunch fresh coriander

Method

Heat the oil in a heavy based pan and add the crushed black pepper, cumin and coriander seeds and chopped spring onions. fry for five minutes over a medium heat and then add chunks of carrots, tomatoes and red pepper. Cook for 10 minutes and then add the vegetable stock, red chilli flakes, potatoes and rice and bring to a boil.

Simmer over a low heat for 20 minutes, and then add the cooked green lentils and red beans and chunks of pumpkin. Keep simmering until the rice is cooked, stirring occasionally. Serve in bowls and garnish with fresh coriander.

 

 

 

Unravelling Ravioli on the Path to Pkhali Pierogi

1 March 2018

This time round on Knidos Cookery Club we’ll be unravelling ravioli, one of the many forms of filled pasta pockets found around the world – from Turkey’s manti, Uzbekistan’s chuchvara and Kazakhstan’s tushpara to Russia’s pelmeni, Ukraine’s varenyky and Poland’s pierogi – the list is endless.

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KCC’s beetroot-filled pkhali pierogi

These pasta pockets, which are boiled rather than steamed, can come in a variety of shapes and sizes with a wide range of fillings such as pumpkin, potato, spinach and ricotta cheese, or different types of fruit.

We’ve opted for a semi-circular shaped pierogi which we’ve filled with beetroot and walnut pkhaliclick here for our feature on this classic Georgian dish from last year.

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Three steps to a perfect pierogi!

Ingredients (Makes 16-24 depending on how big you make the pierogi)

For the pasta:

200 g flour

3 teaspoons olive oil

100 ml water

pinch of salt

Method

Make the pasta by sifting the flour into a large mixing bowl and then add the oil, a pinch of salt and half of the water in a well in the middle of the flour. Mix inwards from the outside with a wooden spoon and then add the rest of the water until the dough has absorbed all the flour.

Knead for ten minutes or so and then leave the pasta dough to rest in the fridge for at least one hour. After resting, roll the pasta out onto a lightly-floured surface to a thickness between 0.5 and 1.0 mm.

Use a glass to cut out round shapes from the dough, add a teaspoon of cooled beetroot pkhali in the bottom half of the circle and moisten the inside edge around the filling with a little water and then fold the top over. Use a fork to seal the pasta pocket.

Bring a large pan of water to the boil and then add the pierogi to the water and keep boiling over a low heat until the pierogi float to the surface. Remove the pierogi with a slotted spoon and serve hot – they’re good served with sour cream or melted butter or just plain.

A Passion for Pkhali

20 April 2017

This time round on Knidos Cookery Club we’re returning to Georgia for some culinary inspiration in the form of pkhali, a type of starter made from walnuts, herbs, spices and whatever vegetable happens to be in season, such as spinach, beetroot, aubergine, cabbage or carrot.

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Walnuts are widely used in Georgian cooking – besides pkhali, they can be turned into  satsivi, a thick paste similar to hummus, and  bazha, a sauce made with the holy trinity of Georgian herbs – blue fenugreek, ground coriander (cilantro) and crushed marigold flowers. These combos can be mixed with fresh cucumbers and tomatoes as a salad dressing or stuffed into tongues of fried aubergine (eggplant).

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Staying on the walnut theme, on a recent visit to the former home of famous Kazakh writer Mukhtar Auezov in Almaty, Kazakhstan, the guide gave me a handful of walnuts from the gnarled old tree in the garden of the writer’s house. These nuts were used in the making  of today’s pkhali recipe.

Auezov was famous in Soviet times for writing The Path of Abai, an epic historical novel based on the life and teachings of Kazakhstan’s most famous poet and composer Abai Qunanbayuli, who had been a neighbour and friend of Auezov’s grandfather.

It was said in the Soviet era that all were equal, but some were more equal than others – and this was certainly the case for Auezov after he won the Lenin Prize in 1959 for his four-volume epic novel about Abai.

The prize came with a sackful of roubles which he invested in a two-storey house, which is now a museum dedicated to his life and work. The house was lavish by the standards of the time and was designed by the architect who designed Almaty’s Abai Opera Theatre.

Ingredients (Makes around four generous servings of each pkhali – see photo above)

For the beetroot pkhali

300 g cooked beetroot

100 g walnuts

One garlic clove

5 g fresh parsley

5 g fresh coriander

One teaspoon blue fenugreek powder

One teaspoon black pepper

20 ml wine vinegar

A scattering of pomegranate seeds and walnuts

 

For the spinach pkhali

250 g fresh spinach

100 g walnuts

One small onion (around 75 g)

One garlic clove

5 g fresh parsley

5 g fresh coriander

One teaspoon blue fenugreek powder

One teaspoon black pepper

20 ml wine vinegar

A scattering of pomegranate seeds and walnuts

 

Method

For the beetroot pkhali:

Boil the beetroot for 30 minutes or so until you can pierce it with a knife easily.

Leave to cool and then peel and chop into small chunks.

Toast the walnuts over a low heat for 5-10 minutes and then add to the garlic and herbs and spices in a bowl. Add the vinegar and use a blender to make a smooth paste. Add the beetroot chunks and keep blending until you have a gloopy mixture.

Leave overnight in the fridge and then serve with a scattering of pomegranate seeds and walnuts.

Method

For the spinach pkhali:

Cook the spinach in boiling water for 5 minutes until it begins to wilt. Remove and place in cold water and then drain.

Finely chop the onion and put it in a mixing bowl with the garlic, herbs and spices. Toast the walnuts over a low heat for 5-10 minutes and then add to the bowl. Add the vinegar and use a blender to make a smooth paste. Add the spinach and keep blending until you have a gloopy mixture.

Leave overnight in the fridge and then serve with a scattering of pomegranate seeds and walnuts.