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.

 

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Rip-Red Risotto

17 November 2016

This week on Knidos Cookery Club, we’re featuring beetroot as the basis for a rip-roaringly red risotto.

In Turkish, if you want to say something is, for instance, very blue, then you add a prefix. By adding mas to mavi (blue) you end up with masmavi.  As an example, to talk about the deep blue sea you could say Masmavi engin deniz.

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A rich red colour, such as that imparted by beetroot, would come out as kıpkırmızı, or, in English, rip-red, which seems a perfect way to describe out beetroot risotto. To add a Turkish-edge to the dish, we used coarse bulgur wheat, but you can use arborio rice if you prefer.

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We added some walnuts to the mix, as they combine so well with the sweet edge of beetroot. This is quite a common combination – in Georgia walnuts are blended with grated beetroot to make pkhali.

Ingredients (serves 3-4)

250 g  whole, uncooked beetroot

50 g walnuts

100 g coarse bulgur wheat

150 ml red wine

500 ml beetroot cooking water

25 ml olive oil

one medium-sized onion

one garlic clove

one teaspoon dried thyme

one teaspoon dried rosemary

one teaspoon cumin seeds

black pepper and salt to taste

sprig of fresh basil leaves

Method

Boil the washed but unpeeled beetroot in a saucepan for 30 minutes. Put the beetroot in cold water, keeping the water you used to cook the beetroot separate, and then peel and top and tail the beetroot when cool. Put to one side.

Heat the olive oil in a heavy-based pan and add the cumin seeds. Cook until the seeds are beginning to burn and then add the diced onion and garlic, dried thyme and rosemary and season with salt and pepper. Cook until the onion is going translucent.

Add the washed bulgur wheat and stir to coat the grains. Add the glass of wine and stir occasionally until the liquid is absorbed. Add a third of the vegetable stock and keep cooking and stirring until the liquid is absorbed. Add more stock until the bulgur wheat is cooked and the risotto has a creamy consistency and then turn off the heat.

Meanwhile, gently toast the walnut pieces in a small frying pan and chop the beetroot into small, 1 cm cubes. Mix the beetroot and toasted walnut into the bulgur wheat risotto.

Garnish with fresh basil leaves -green ones make a better contrast to the red of the risotto, but we could only find the mauve coloured variety. Serve with a green salad.

 

 

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.