Fesenjan for Beginners

18 January 2018

This week on Knidos Cookery Club we’re going to be bucking the January detox trend with this super-rich, calorie-laden Iranian stew, Fesenjan (pronounced fesenjoon), that combines three of our favourite go-to ingredients – pomegranate, walnut and pumpkin.

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KCC’s Fesenjan Tart

Usually served as a thick stew with rice, we’ve decided to put it in a pie case to make a tasty walnut and pomegranate infused tart. Making this stew can be quite labour-intensive – shelling the walnuts, toasting them, crushing them, extracting the pomegranate seeds and so on, but the end result makes it well worth all the effort.

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Can’t get much fresher than this!

Look out for Nar Ekşisi (pomegranate syrup) or the sweeter Nar Ekşili Sos (pomegranate sauce) in your local Middle-Eastern shop or make your own. If using Nar Ekşisi, add a teaspoon or two of honey to the stew to make it a bit sweeter.

To save time you can use shop-bought pastry, but we think it tastes better with a homemade pie crust. To keep it vegan, we’ve used olive oil instead of butter to make our shortcrust pastry.

Ingredients (serves 4)

125 g shelled walnuts

one medium onion

500 g pumpkin or butternut squash

300 ml vegetable stock

30 ml olive oil

2-3 tablespoons pomegranate syrup or sauce (Nar Ekşisi or Nar Ekşili Sos in Turkish)

0.5 teaspoon cumin seeds

0.25 teaspoon cinnamon and turmeric

Black pepper

Handful of pomegranate seeds

Bunch of fresh parsley

200 g shortcrust pastry

Method

Toast the walnuts for 10 minutes over a low heat and then mince in a blender. Heat the olive oil and fry the onion in a heavy-based pan over a medium heat for ten minutes. Add the spices and then add the cubed pumpkin and stir to cover.

Pour over the vegetable stock, add the pomegranate molasses and the minced walnuts and cook over a medium heat for 30 minutes until the pumpkin is cooked. Make sure the sauce is quite thick – if it’s runny, boil it until it starts to thicken.

Roll out the pastry and place it in a greased baking tray. Bake blind for ten minutes at 180c and then put the filling into the pie case. Cook for 40 minutes or so until the pastry starts to go golden brown.

Garnish the tart with chopped parsley and pomegranate seeds and serve with saffron rice and a green salad.

No Beef with the Beetburger

19 October 2017

The beet is back on Knidos Cookery Club and this time round we’ll be using our burgundy-coloured friend to tap into another zeitgeist treat in the form of the tasty beetburger.

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The stalls in Datça market last Saturday were overflowing with of bunches of beetroots so we picked up a bunch, chopped off the leaves and stems for sautéing, and wrapped the beets in foil and roasted them in the oven for an hour or so.

Beetroot burgers have been a bit of a barbecue craze in the UK over the summer, with supermarkets reporting soaring sales as people turn towards healthier options to meat.

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Turkey’s papatya, or daisy, loaf of bread

We’ve done some experimentation and come up with a patty that will hold together under the grill, on the barbie, in the oven or can be shallow-fried. Stuff it in a bun – we’ve used the papatya loaf as pictured above, and serve with chips and salad for a delicious yet healthy meal (the chips were roasted in the oven, not fried).

Ingredients (makes 6-8 burgers)

100 g red lentils

50 g fine bulgur wheat

150 g roasted beetroot, grated

One medium onion

One garlic clove

50 ml olive oil

Two teaspoons dried thyme

One teaspoon each of sumac, cumin and chilli flakes

Dash of soy sauce

Method

Heat 25 ml of the olive oil in a heavy-based pan, add the herbs and spices and the chopped onion and garlic and fry for five minutes until the onion starts to soften. Add the lentils and water, bring to the boil and then simmer until the liquid is absorbed.

Add the bulgur wheat to the mix and allow to cool for 30 minutes – this should thicken the mixture. Then add the grated beetroot and stir to combine all the ingredients. Form into burger shapes (take a dollop of walnut-sized mix and flatten with a spatula and shallow fry in the rest of the olive oil on both sides until going crispy on the outside.

Alternatively, these burgers can be baked in the oven for 30-40 minutes at 200 c or grilled   or cooked on the barbecue until crispy on both sides. Serve in a burger bun with salad and chips.

Olivier with an Edge

12 January 2017

Welcome to the first Knidos Cookery Club of the new year. While many of us have returned to the daily grind, it’s still party-time in some parts of the world.

in Russia, people are preparing to celebrate New Year’s Eve on 13 January – the Orthodox Church still follows the Julian calendar rather than the Gregorian calendar, which Russia adopted after 1917’s October Revolution. This switch created a 13-day lag between the calendars so, for followers of the Orthodox faith, Christmas Eve falls on 6 January and 13 January marks the end of the old year.

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KCC’s take on Russia’s classic Olivier salad

A centre-piece of Russian tables on this day, as people prepare to welcome in novy god, is the Olivier salad – a concoction of boiled potatoes, pickled cucumbers, peas, eggs, carrots and boiled beef or chicken in a mayonnaise dressing. This version dates from Soviet times as all the ingredients could usually be procured even in the depths of winter and despite chronic shortages.

A version of the salad, omitting the meat and eggs, is made in Turkey where it’s known as Rus Salatası – we’ve made our own veggie version that replaces the meat (Olivier purists look aside now, please) with black and green olives and uses sour cream in place of mayonnaise.

When I lived in Moscow in the 1990s I got it into my head that Olivier salad should include olives (mistakenly thinking that Olivier referred to olives rather than the salad’s originator!) and I was disappointed when it came minus olives – so now I finally have a chance to put this right!

Ingredients (serves 3-4)

150 g potatoes

150 g carrots

150 g peas

150 g pickled cucumbers

150 g black and green olives

two hard boiled eggs

150 ml sour cream or natural yogurt

pinches of salt and black pepper

Method

Boil the whole carrots and potatoes until cooked but not going mushy and boil the eggs for 5 minutes or so. While they’re all cooking, chop the pickled cucumbers and olives into small cubes.

Drain the potatoes and carrots and cover with cold water to stop them cooking. Do the same with the eggs. Chop the potatoes, carrots and eggs into small cubes and arrange around the side of a large serving dish in separate sections with the olives, peas and cucumbers.

Pour the sour cream or yogurt into the middle of the bowl and season with salt and pepper. Now mix all the ingredients thoroughly, making sure they all get a good coating of sour cream or yogurt.

Leave in the fridge before serving alongside other Russian-themed salads, such as this veggie take on caviar made from beluga lentils, and wish a hearty S Novym Godom with shots of vodka and/or a glass of chilled Sovyetskoye Shampankskoye (if you can get hold of it in your local offie!) as you prepare to welcome Old New Year in true Russian-style!

Pass the Glasswort

30 June 2016

This week on Knidos Cookery Club we’re back in Turkey and we’ll be looking at a plant that grows in abundance on the salty shores of the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas – glasswort, or marsh samphire (salicornia europa). It’s known as glasswort because it used to be used as a source of sodium sulphate in the glass-making process until the nineteenth century.

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Freshly-picked samphire/glasswort

This bright green plant thrives in salty conditions and grows wild along seashores, estuaries and salt marshes all over Europe. It used to be widely eaten in the UK, it’s rich in minerals and has a pleasing flavour of the sea, but has only recently started re-appearing on menus as a much sought after ‘designer vegetable’- you might see it referred to as ‘sea asparagus’.

It’s called deniz börülcesi in Turkey, which translates as sea beans, and is served as a side dish dressed with olive oil, lemon and garlic alongside an array of other starters.

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Blanched glasswort dressed with olive oil, lemon juice and black pepper

For this simple dish, you’ll need around 50-75 g of glasswort for each person. When preparing the glasswort, take care to wash it thoroughly and clean any sand and grit away. Cut off any tough stalks and roots and then blanch it in unsalted, boiling water for three minutes.

Drain the water away and then dress the stems with olive oil, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and a sprinkling of black pepper – you won’t need to add any extra salt as it will already be salty enough. Serve warm alongside a salad of rocket, tomato, olives and onion and some fresh, crunchy bread for a light but tasty lunch.

 

 

 

Adventures with Artichokes

5 May 2016

This week Knidos Cookery Club is attempting to tackle one of the most daunting vegetables out there – the globe artichoke. This enormous edible thistle with its armadillo-like outer leaves has always intrigued me – you never quite know what might be lurking inside the beast.

Known as enginar in Turkish, it is widely cultivated in the Aegean and Mediterranean regions. It is a measure of the regard that this vegetable is held in that it has its own international festival in Urla near Izmir, Turkey (this year’s has just gone – it was held from 28 April – 1 May).

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An artichoke plant in Turkey

On 1 May, Knidos Cookery Club donned its walking boots and joined the annual walk from Datça on the Mediterranean Sea to the shore of the Aegean Sea, north of the village of Kızlan. On the way a number of artichokes were spotted growing in people’s gardens.

On returning home, my aim was to try and serve up something close to a dish that is a staple of many home-cooking restaurants in Turkey – an artichoke bottom filled to the brim with mixed vegetables or, sometimes, broad beans, but after peeling away the outer leaves and the choke my specimen’s bottoms were found to be a bit lacking in the size department.

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The planned dish of broad beans, bakla in Turkish, overflowing from an abundant base had to be modified at the last moment and instead I settled on a salad of diced artichoke and broad beans in a lemony sauce, garnished with strips of avocado.

Broad beans appear around the same time as artichokes in the market in early spring and the two team together well, especially with the addition of a lemon or two. For an even greener salad, I picked up some ripe avocadoes in the market and topped the finished dish with a few slices of alligator pear.

The tough outer leaves can be eaten as well. After steaming for 30 minutes or so, the bottoms of the leaves reveal some tasty artichoke flesh that you can pull through you teeth to get at the goodness. Dipping them in melted butter with a dash of garlic makes them even more delicious.

Ingredients

Two medium sized globe artichokes

250 g fresh broad beans

Two spring onions

The juice of one lemon

One ripe avocado

Olive oil

Herbs and spices

Method

Wash the artichoke and cut away the stem. Steam it in a large pan for 30 minutes or so until the outer leaves are tender.

Peel the leaves away from the main body and save to eat as a starter, dipped in olive oil or melted butter.

Now remove the fibrous choke that surrounds the fleshy, edible part of our oversized thistle. You should be left with a concave disc of artichoke.

Place the artichoke in lemon juice to stop it discolouring.

Heat the olive oil in a pan and add the diced spring onion.

After a few minutes stir in the peeled broad beans and chunks of squeezed lemon and cover with a mix of water and the rest of your lemon juice and keep at a rolling boil for 30 minutes. Boil off as much liquid as you can to leave a runny, lemony sauce.

Chop up the artichoke and mix with the broad beans in the lemony sauce. Add fresh herbs such as mint and parsley and season lightly with salt and pepper. Garnish with thin strips of avocado and serve with a tomato and onion salad to contrast the vivid reds with the verdant greens of the artichoke medley.