This week were honing in on a favourite Italian starter, bruschetta – slices of toasted bread served with a range of different toppings. We’ve opted for a heartier version using chunky slices of bread that can double up as a main meal when you add a salad of your choice.
In Italy the slices of bread are toasted on abrustolina, a device made from sheet metal with holes on the bottom and a wire rack on the top (see pictures below taken from the Grand Voyage Italy website). This is placed over the heat source on your stove top and can be used to make toast, grill polenta and roast peppers, courgettes or aubergines.
Put the brustolina over the flame
A brustolina in action
Being unable to make it to Italy to pick up a brustolina at this point in time due to the pandemic, we’ve had to make do with our oven to toast the bread. Brush your thickly cut slices with olive oil and a rub of garlic and cover one side with a topping of your choice.
We went for capers, sun-dried tomatoes and black olives with thin slices of courgette and basil leaves for the first option and home-made guacamole, topped once again with thin slices of courgette and basil leaves, for option two. Simply leave in a hot oven (200 c) for ten minutes or so until the bread just begins to burn at the edges. Serve immediately with your favourite salad.
This time round on Knidos Cookery Club we’ll be taking an armchair culinary tour to the Middle East and looking at the origins of the humble falafel. Arguments abound as to where this street snack par excellence originated, but most likely it was Egypt according to the evidence.
The Egyptian version of this tasty bite is usually made with fava beans, known as fūl in Arabic, which is thought to be the base for the name falafel , whilst in other parts of the Mediterranean region chickpeas are preferred.
With both chickpeas and fava beans in short supply in Almaty at the moment, it was back to the drawing board to look for an alternative base for our falafel. While stocking up during lockdown in our local shop we came across a pack of millet and a spot of googling revealed that this would work just fine as the base for our take on the falafel.
We baked them in the oven rather than deep-fried them as it’s a lot less hassle. Be sure to use plenty of parsley, cumin, coriander and chilli powder to spice up the millet. The resulting falafel were crisp on the outside but soft and fluffy in the centre, just as they should be.
Be careful when cooking millet as it has a tendency to stick to the pan if you don’t keep an eye on it and stir regularly. We found it best to rinse and soak it for a few hours before cooking as this reduces the time needed to cook it.
Ingredients (makes 12-16 falafel)
150 g millet
300 ml water or vegetable stock
one garlic clove
one bunch of parsley
one teaspoon cumin
one teaspoon coriander
one teaspoon chilli powder
Sesame seeds to coat the falafel
Rinse and then soak the millet in a pan for four hours. Drain the millet and cover with water or vegetable stock. Bring to a boil and then simmer until the liquid is absorbed. Stir regularly as the millet will stick to the bottom of the pan if not watched carefully.
Finely chop the parsley, both leaves and stalks, mince the garlic clove and add to the cooked millet. Add the spices – if you want to give your falafel more oomph, double the amount. Mix well and then form into balls. Roll the balls in the sesame seeds and then place on a tray and oven bake for 20 minutes at 200 c, or until the falafel turn a golden-brown colour.
Serve in pita bread with salad and sauces of your choice or as part of a salad – we made one from cucumber, tomato, spring onion, celery, red cabbage and radish. These falafel will keep in the fridge for a few days so you can cook a large batch at the same time.
We’re heading towards the end of the second week of serious lockdown here in Almaty. Our local shops remain well-stocked with basics (we’re not supposed to go further than 500 metres form home) and the greengrocer’s reopened after closing for a week, so fresh vegetables are readily available.
For this week’s Lockdown Lunch we’re making kısır, Turkey’s bulgur wheat salad answer to the Middle East’s tabbouleh salad. Kısır is one of those dishes that everyone has their own recipe for, but the basic ingredients are fine bulgur wheat, onion, chilli pepper, tomato paste, olive oil, lemon juice parsley and pomegranate sauce.
We’ve added some radishes, tomatoes, spring onion and black olives to the standard package above that can be eaten as a main meal (you might want to add some nuts or beans for a protein punch) or as a side salad. If you are on a gluten-free diet, then you can use millet in place of bulgur wheat.
Kısır is easy to prepare and it benefits from sitting in the fridge overnight – leaving more time for all those Zoom parties and, of course, the Tajik football season, which kicked off last weekend.
Ingredients (for 3-4 servings)
100g fine bulgur wheat
200 ml vegetable stock or water
One medium onion
One medium tomato
One spring onion
One garlic clove
Ten black olives
Two tablespoons tomato paste
25 ml olive oil
25 ml pomegranate sauce
Few sprigs of parsley
One teaspoon chilli pepper flakes
One teaspoon cumin seeds
One teaspoon sumac
Heat the oil in a frying pan and add the cumin seeds and fry until they start to sizzle. Add the finely chopped onion and mashed garlic and cook for a few minutes over a low heat, stirring occasionally. Add the chilli pepper and sumac and stir.
Add the fine bulgur wheat and stir to cover the grains then add the stock or water, Add the tomato paste, pomegranate sauce and the juice of half the lemon. Stir and bring to the boil. When boiling, turn off the heat, cover the pan and leave to stand for 30 minutes or so until most of the liquid is absorbed.
Fluff up the grains with a fork and add the grated radish, sliced spring onion and chopped parsley. Mix together and put in a salad bowl. Before serving, garnish with lemon and/or tomato slices and black olives.
With movement getting ever more restricted in the lockdown — we’re now limited to not going more than 500 m from our flat in Almaty, which rules out big supermarkets for shopping trips, maintaining a supply of fresh ingredients is becoming more tricky – so this is the time when beansprouts come into their own…
So, this time round we’ll be looking at some things you can do in the home, such as sprouting beans and lentils, to add a fresh, nutritious kick to your salads and stir-fries. We’ve gone for mung beans which are easy to sprout – your first crop will be ready in a matter of days and all you need is a glass jar and some mesh netting (we re-purposed a yoga mat bag by recycling the nylon mesh for our sprouter).
Here are the steps for germinating mung beans:
Select clean, undamaged mung beans and wash them thoroughly.
Sterilise your glass jar and mesh lid with boiling water and/or in a hot oven.
Fill the jar about a quarter of the way with washed beans.
Soak the beans in cold water in the jar for at least four hours.
Drain off all the water and put the jar in a cool, dark cupboard.
Rinse the mung beans a few times a day with cold water and drain the liquid off.
After two or three days, your first crop will be ready for eating.
When the sprouts are around 2-3 cm long, put them in the fridge until using.
Warning: Raw bean sprouts can lead to food poisoning if not prepared in sterile conditions and regularly washed with clean water.
If the sprouts look slimy or smell strange, throw them away.
Once sprouted, store the sprouts in the fridge and try to use them as quickly as possible.
And don’t forget to wash your hands frequently, especially when preparing food.
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!
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.
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)
250 g halloumi
One large peach
One large tomato
One bunch of rocket leaves
Two green peppers
Four spring onions
One teaspoon capers
One teaspoon dried thyme
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
This time round on Knidos Cookery Club we’re looking at some ways to beat the heatwave with a noodle-based salad that can be whipped up with the minimum of fuss.
Funchoza is a popular salad across Central Asia that combines glass noodles, which can be produced from various forms of starch such as rice or mung bean, with julienned raw vegetables and a spicy dressing. The noodles just need to be cooked in boiling water for a few minutes so it’s a cinch to prepare on a hot summer’s day.
These noodles are a staple of Uighur cuisine, but have been adopted by the Central Asia’s Korean community who have made funchoza famous to a wider audience across the former Soviet Union and beyond.
The Uighurs are Turkic-speaking muslims living mainly in Xinjiang, an autonomous territory in northwest China, where they face increasing persecution by the Chinese authorities, under the pretext of a crackdown on terrorism.
To this end, thousands of Uighurs, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz and Chinese muslims have been interred in ‘re-education’ camps and, as the Guardian put it in a recent editorial, “Those who are nominally free in fact exist in a digital gulag of constant surveillance.”
Earlier this month, 22 states – including Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Australia and Japan – signed a letter to UN human rights officials in condemnation of China’s treatment of Uighur and other minorities there.
Ingredients (makes 3-4 servings)
150 g dried glass noodles
10 g dried seaweed
2 small cucumbers
8 spring onions
2 red peppers
For the dressing:
4 teaspoons tahini
2 tablespoons apple vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons pomegranate sauce (Nar Eksisi)
2 teaspoons chilli powder
Bring a large pan of water to the boil and cook the noodles in the water according to the pack instructions. Remove and put in a pan of cold water until needed.
Soak the dried seaweed in cold water for 15 minutes, drain the water. While the seaweed is soaking, cut the spring onions into 1 cm slices, remove the seeds for the cucumber and then julienne along with the other vegetables into long, thin slices (use a grater or chop finely if you don’t have a julienne peeler). Chop the seaweed into 5 cm strips.
Remove the noodles from the cold water and cut into 10 cm strips and put in a large bowl. Add the julienned vegetables and mix all the ingredients together. Put all the dressing ingredients into a glass jar with a screw top and shake well, then pour over the salad and mix well. Grind some coriander seeds over the salad.
Serve cold – let the flavours mingle by keeping the salad in the fridge for a couple of hours.
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.
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
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.
This time round on Knidos Cookery Club we’re taking inspiration again from our recent Balkan odyssey. While on our mission to Albania, we tasted the local take on stuffed peppers and on returning to KCC H.Q. we decided to recreate this delicious dish with a few time saving tricks of our own devising.
Rice is the usual go-to base for stuffing peppers, but it can be a bit time-consuming to prepare properly. With the World Cup reaching its conclusion, we didn’t fancy spending too much time slaving away in the kitchen so we’ve used some coarse bulgur wheat, which just needs soaking in hot water for a short while before it’s ready to use.
We cooked the peppers alongside some cauliflower, broken up into large florets, and some quartered tomatoes to make a ready made meal for two with only a green salad needed to complete the show, allowing plenty of time to sit down and enjoy what’s left of the football!
Ingredients (for two people)
Two medium-sized green peppers
Two medium-sized tomatoes
Half a cauliflower
50 g cooked green lentils
50 g coarse bulgur wheat
200 ml hot water
25 ml olive oil
One teaspoon cumin seeds
One teaspoon dried thyme
25 g raisins or currants
Black pepper (a generous twist)
Cook the green lentils in twice the amount of water (put the lentils in a cup and then measure out twice as much water) until they start to go mushy. Put the bulgur wheat in a bowl and add the lentils and 200 ml hot water, stir and leave until the water is absorbed (20-30 minutes). Add the cumin, thyme, raisins and black pepper to the bulgur wheat and stir in well.
Pre-heat the oven to 180 c and prepare the peppers by slicing the top off and scooping out the seeds. Fill the hollowed-out peppers with the bulgur lentil mix, place the top back on and place in an oven dish. Arrange the cauliflower florets and quartered tomatoes around the pepper.
Drizzle the olive oil over the vegetables, add 50 ml water and bake in the oven for 40-50 minutes until the pepper skins start to burn and the florets are turning golden brown. Serve with a green salad.
We’re back and, with Orthodox Easter just around the corner, this time round on Knidos Cookery Club we’ll be making our own version of pastitsio, a Greek take on Italy’s lasagne. Our version comes with a red wine, tomato and lentil ragu and a leek infused béchamel sauce.
A few weeks ago, I left some beans soaking overnight and when I checked them in morning the pan was mysteriously filled with soaked penne rigate pasta! A quick look online to determine if the pasta was usable led me to this post on the Ideas in Food blog, and this confirmed pre-soaking in cold water as an effective way of preparing dried pasta.
Pastitsio is one of those dishes that tastes great straight from the oven but improves with age as the cinnamon, nutmeg and other flavours have time to blend properly. It works well heated up the next day or even tastes good cold. We served ours with a crisp salad of rocket leaves, carrot. radish and tomato.
Ingredients (For 3-4 hearty servings)
200 g penne rigate pasta
For the ragu:
25 ml olive oil
4 spring onions
200 g cherry tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
100 g red lentils
175 ml red wine
1 teaspoon of cinnamon, cumin, black pepper and red chilli flakes
For the Béchamel sauce:
50 ml olive oil
250 g leek
3 tablespoons flour
400 ml milk (dairy or non-dairy)
60 g cheese (dairy or non-dairy)
One teaspoon of nutmeg
Soak the pasta in a pan of cold water for two hours and while it’s soaking cook the red lentils in 200 ml water until mushy and all the liquid is absorbed. Then prepare the ragu and after that the béchamel sauce.
For the ragu, heat the oil in a heavy-based pan and then fry the chopped spring onions for a few minutes. Add the quartered cherry tomatoes, tomato paste and spices and mix well. Add the wine and when it starts to bubble add the cooked and drained lentils. Cook for ten minutes over a low heat.
For the béchamel sauce, heat the oil in a heavy-based pan and then add the sliced leeks and cook for five minutes over a medium heat. Add the flour and mix well and then ad the milk slowly, stirring continuously with a wooden spoon. Add half the grated cheese and nutmeg and cook until the sauce is just starting to boil, stirring all the while.
Layer half the soaked penne in the bottom of an oven proof dish and pour the ragu over. then layer the rest of the pasta on top of this and pout the béchamel sauce over. Add the remainder of the grated cheese and bake in a pre-heated oven at 200c for thirty minutes.
Serve straight away with a green salad or let it sit overnight in the fridge for a tastier pastitsio that can be served hot or cold.