A Badass Peach and Halloumi Salad

23 August 2019

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!

A Nutcracker of Knidos beavering away in the summer haze in Turkey

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.

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A badass peach and halloumi 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)

  • 12 almonds
  • 250 g halloumi
  • One large peach
  • One large tomato
  • One bunch of rocket leaves
  • One cucumber
  • Two green peppers
  • Four spring onions
  • One teaspoon capers
  • One teaspoon dried thyme
  • Olive oil
  • Pomegranate sauce

Method

  • 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.

One Pot Wonder: A Trip to Knidos

23 November 2017

Knidos Cookery Club recently entertained Professor Fox, that doyen of the Christchurch Antiquarians, who came over to Turkey to check out the ruins of Knidos and some archaeological sites in the Datça area such as Burgaz (Old Knidos).

Here’s a slideshow of our visit to Knidos:

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After the trip we needed something quick and filling so this time round on Knidos Cookery Club we’ll be cooking pasta in a tasty sauce using only one pan.

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KCC’s one pot wonder in progress

This one pot wonder saves time, energy and washing up, both important  considerations in the world of KCC after a busy day on the archaeological trail.

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KCC’s one pot wonder – the finished product

Ingredients (serves 2-3)

Three medium-sized tomatoes (approx 150 g)

50 g olives (any you have handy will do, we used some green ones)

150 g cooked chick peas

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

500 ml hot water

15 g capers

One garlic clove

25 ml olive oil

One teaspoon dried thyme

One teaspoon sumac

One teaspoon chilli flakes

Method 

Chop the tomatoes into quarters and add to a large, heavy-based pan with the olives, chick peas, minced garlic, olive oil, thyme, sumac and chilli flakes. Pour the water over the top, add the pasta, stir and bring to a boil.

Cook the pasta as per the instructions on the pack over a medium to high heat – you need to keep it bubbling away and stir occasionally. Keep cooking until the most of the liquid is boiled off, leaving the cooked pasta in the sauce.

The type of pasta we used took around 15 minutes to cook – try it as you go to get the type of taste you prefer. Don’t forget to stir in the washed capers to the pasta and sauce when it is cooked.

Serve straight from the pan and garnish, if you want, with shavings of Parmigiano-Reggiano (Parmesan) cheese.

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.

Melon Almond a Go-Go

11 August 2016

As Knidos Cookery Club turns 20, we’re celebrating this week with a look at two of the mainstay crops of the Datça Peninsula – melons and almonds.

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This year’s almond crop has arrived!

This year’s new nut harvest is already arriving in the market. Datça’s almonds, badem in Turkish, are rightly famous in Turkey – I remember sitting at a terrace in Istanbul’s Beyoğlu district, back in the days when it still had street tables,  and a guy came round selling fresh Datça almonds, cooled on a bed of ice.

In the Knidos area, almonds are widely used in cooking, in making soaps and creams and in Datça many cafes offer a milky ‘almond coffee’. Last week we had some mezes at Kasapoğlu Pansiyon in Ovabükü which came liberally sprinkled with almonds – one green bean dish and another made from grated courgette and yogurt.

The area around Knidos is perfect for growing melons, kavun in Turkish. The market is full at the moment with a green and yellow striped variety – I’m not sure what it’s called, but it sure tastes good!

We’ve decided to attempt something unusual for the 20th edition of Knidos Cookery Club – stuffed melon. This dish was popular in the palaces of the Ottoman Empire, drawing on a Persian and Armenian-influenced fusion of sweet and savoury tastes.

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Plov in a melon

The Knidos Cookery Club version is fully veggie-friendly and uses mushrooms in place of meat, along with rice, dried fruit and fresh Datça almonds. The end result is basically plov in a melon, a most unusual taste sensation!

Ingredients (serves 4)

One melon (honeydew or similar – not watermelon!)

125 g rice

25 g orzu or pine nuts, if you’re feeling flush

One medium-sized onion

One garlic clove

100 g almonds

75 g mixed dried fruit (raisins, currants, chopped apricot, chopped fig)

250 g mushrooms

50 ml olive oil

One teaspoon of cumin, cinnamon and red pepper flakes

Salt and black pepper to season

Method

Wash the rice and soak for an hour or so. Heat 25 ml olive oil in a pan and cook the orzu or pine nuts until golden brown. Add the rice and stir to coat the grains with oil. Pour in 300 ml cold water, add a pinch of salt and cook until all the liquid is absorbed.

Heat the rest of the olive oil in a heavy-based pan and add the chopped onion and garlic. Cook until translucent and then add the peeled almonds. Keep stirring for five minutes and then add the mixed dried fruit and one teaspoon of cumin, cinnamon and red pepper flakes.

Chop the mushrooms up and then pour into the sizzling mix. Stir regularly – you don’t need to add any liquid as the mushrooms contain a lot of water. Cook for ten minutes or so and then turn off the heat. Mix in the rice, blending well.

Prepare the melon by cutting it in half and scooping out the seeds. Then scoop out the flesh, leaving about 1 cm inside the melon. Stuff with the rice mix, arranging some almonds on top.

Place the melon halves in a shallow dish, add 100 ml warm water and bake at 200°C or gas mark 6 for one hour.

Serve a quarter of the melon to each person with an Uzbek-style salad of sliced tomatoes, onions and chili pepper  – achik chuchuk.

 

 

 

A Taste of Spring

31 March 2016

Welcome to Knidos Cookery Club, a new blog that will explore the culinary culture around the point where the Aegean Sea meets the Mediterranean Sea in south-west Turkey. The blog is inspired by the ancient port city of Knidos, the ruins of which can be seen on the tip of the Turkey’s Datça peninsula, and the amazing array of locally-sourced ingredients used in the region’s kitchens.

Every Friday evening the small town of Datça springs into life with farmers from all over the peninsula driving in by pick-up, tractor or even on horseback to sell their produce at the weekly market that stays in town until Saturday evening.

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Datça market in full swing on Saturday

Spring is in the air and vegetables like asparagus and artichokes are making an appearance alongside the staple root vegetables of the winter months.

Stalls are piled high with the last of the season’s citrus fruits – luscious lemons and juicy oranges; alongside enormous leeks, bulbous celeriac roots and the year’s first green almonds.

Some purple-tinged asparagus tips caught my eye, and the idea for the culinary club’s first recipe began to take shape – a risotto based around these flavour-packed spears of goodness.

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Asparagus on sale in the market

Asparagus, known in Turkish as kuşkonmaz, or ‘birds don’t land on it’, grows all around the Mediterranean region in springtime, with the first tips  ready for harvest shortly after the ground temperature hits 10°C.

To give the risotto a Turkish twist, I’ve used bulgur wheat, a parboiled grain which is a favourite in Turkey, in place of the usual Arborio rice.

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The finished product

Ingredients: (3-4 servings)

Bunch of asparagus spears

One medium onion

A smattering of garlic

One cup (100 g approx) of bulgur wheat (coarse not fine ground)

A generous sprinkle of fresh or dried herbs (oregano, mint, parsley, thyme)

Salt and pepper to taste

One 175 ml glass of white wine

750 ml vegetable stock

Two generous splashes of olive oil

Optional: Add fresh Parmesan or your preferred cheese to the finished risotto.

Method:

Arrange the asparagus spears on a baking tray and drizzle with olive oil. Oven bake at 180 °C (gas mark 5) for 30 minutes or so until tender.

While the asparagus is cooking, start the risotto. Fry the diced onion and garlic in olive oil until translucent, then add mixed herbs and season with salt and pepper if needed.

Add the bulgur wheat and stir to coat the grains. Pour the glass of wine into the mix and keep stirring until all the liquid has been absorbed.

Introduce a ladleful of stock at a time and keep stirring until it’s all soaked up. Continue until the risotto reaches the creamy consistency you prefer.

Chop the roasted asparagus into 2cm lengths and stir into the risotto.

Take the risotto off the heat and allow to stand for five minutes or so and then mix in cheese and herbs to taste and serve with a green salad.