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.

 

 

 

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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.

Make Time for Tabbouleh

2 May 2019

This time round on Knidos Cookery Club we’re taking advantage of some fresh, seasonal ingredients to make one of our favourite springtime salads, tabbouleh.

This winning combination of freshly-picked herbs, vegetables, lemon and olive oil with a grain such as couscous or bulgur wheat, that origianets on the eastern shores of the Mediterranean Sea, makes for a light, fresh-tasting dish that works well as part of a meze platter or alongside a selection of barbecued food.

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It’s easy to prepare, giving you more time to lounge in the sun with a glass of chilled wine while making the most of the long evenings.

Ingredients (serves 3-4)

  • 100g grain – couscous or bulgur wheat (coarse or fine both work well here)
  • 200 ml vegetable stock
  • One medium red onion
  • 12 cherry tomatoes
  • One bunch of fresh parsley
  • One bunch of fresh mint
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 25 ml olive oil

Method

  • Heat the vegetable stock until it’s boiling and then pour it over the couscous or bulgur wheat. Cover and leave to stand for 30 minutes or until all the liquid is absorbed.
  • While the couscous or bulgur wheat is soaking, prepare the rest of the ingredients. Dice the onion, quarter the tomatoes, finely chop the mint and parsley and squeeze the lemon.
  • Mix all the ingredients together and then add the olive oil and stir well. Leave to stand in the fridge for 30 minutes and then serve.

 

 

Mezemania: Funky Lentil Pâté

26 July 2018

In our ongoing series on mezeler, or starters, we’ve come up with a funky little lentil spread to add to the collection.

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Funky Lentil Pâté

In the past on Knidos Cookery Club we’ve featured the following mezes: two types of fava (Turkish and Greek),  these little numbers (smoky aubergine dip, Psimeni Raki and feta dip and tsatsiki) inspired by the Greek island of Amorgos, fiery red pepper-fuelled muhammara and acili ezme and a creamy almond and courgette dip as part of our esteemed meze collection.

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Amorgoan Delight: smoky aubergine dip, Psimeni Raki and feta dip and tsatsiki

You can serve this simple to prepare red Lentil Pâté alongside these other dishes for a great spread of mezeler for a light feast that’s perfect for sharing with friends  on a balmy summer’s night.

Ingredients (makes around 200g)

125 g red lentils

One bayleaf

300 ml cold water

Two tablespoons fine bulgur wheat

4 or 5 spring onions

10 g fresh parsley

25 ml olive oil

One teaspoon mustard seeds

One teaspoon cumin seeds

Two teaspoons paprika

One teaspoon ground coriander seeds

One teaspoon black pepper

Half a teaspoon turmeric

Method

Clean the lentils in cold water and then put them in a pan with the bayleaf. Pour 300 ml of water over the lentils and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the lentils are beginning to go mushy and most of the water has been absorbed.

Remove the bayleaf and add the fine bulgur wheat to the lentils and mix well. Leave covered for 30 minutes. heat the oil in a heavy-based pan and add the mustard and cumin seeds. Fry for a few minutes and then add the paprika, coriander, black pepper and turmeric, cook for a minute stirring constantly and then add the finely chopped spring onion and parsley and cook for five more minutes over a medium heat.

Stir this into the lentil and bulgur mix and leave to stand for a few hours in the fridge. Garnish with a sprig of fresh mint and serve with crusty bread.

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!

 

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.

Haydari Stuffed Potato Balls

6 July 2017

Welcome to Knidos Cookery Club’s 50th post! To mark this momentous milestone, we’ve recreated a dish we discovered while visiting Ovabükü, a quiet beach on the Knidos peninsula – stuffed potato balls.

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Spicy potato balls stuffed with haydari

If you’ve enjoyed reading Knidos Cookery Club as much as we’ve enjoyed producing it, then could we ask a favour – please nominate us in the Saveur Blog Awards for 2017. This is a special award for food blogs and if you could spare a couple of minutes to nominate then enter our URL – https://knidoscookeryclub.wordpress.com – and choose the Best New Voice category. Your support would be much appreciated – thanks in advance!

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Haydari with walnuts

For Knidos Cookery Club one of the most enjoyable things about the local food scene is finding a new restaurant and checking out the dishes in the vitrine. There are always some surprise dishes lurking in the glass display cabinets that are made from fresh, seasonal ingredients.

In Ovabükü one of the dishes on the mixed meze plate was the aforementioned potato ball stuffed with cream cheese. We’ve put some delicious haydari, made from mint and strained yogurt, in our version, and spiced up the potato balls with some chili flakes. Strained yogurt is thicker than normal yogurt as the liquid whey and lactose has been strained off – it’s also known as Greek style yogurt in the UK.

Haydari

200 ml strained yogurt

20 g crumbly white cheese

1 garlic clove

3 teaspoons dried mint

1 teaspoon red chili flakes

2 walnuts

Mix the yogurt, cheese, garlic and mint together and leave in the fridge for a couple of hours. Decorate the haydari with walnut pieces and dust with chili flakes before serving.

Spicy Potato Balls

500 g baked or boiled potatoes

Handful of fresh parsley

1 teaspoon red chili flakes

Black pepper

50 ml unstrained yogurt

Mash the potato and mix in the other ingredients. Form into round, golf ball-sized shapes, make an indentation in the top with a teaspoon and fill the gap with haydari and top with a walnut half.