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.

 

 

 

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.

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.

Welcoming Uzbekistan with a Royal Feast of Oyster Mushrooms with Buckwheat Noodles

16 May 2019

This time round on Knidos Cookery Club were welcoming cookery fans in Uzbekistan who can finally enjoy unfettered access to our superior vegan and vegetarian recipes after the government unblocked a host of websites, including WordPress, last week.

To celebrate this unprecedentedly momentous occasion, we’ll be riffing on laghman, a classic noodle dish from Uzbekistan. A friend recently turned up at KCC’s Almaty HQ with a proliferation of King Oyster Mushrooms (see the photo below), providing us with a challenge to come up with something tasty.

A quick root around the kitchen cupboards produced a pack of soba (buckwheat) noodles and some sesame seeds so we put a pan of water on to boil and chopped up some leek, celery and tomatoes and added a dash of wine for a rapid-fire stir fry involving the funky-looking mushrooms.

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 50 ml olive oil
  • two teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 100 g celery
  • 100 g leek
  • 600 g king oyster mushrooms
  • 400 g tomatoes
  • 25 ml soy sauce
  • 100 ml dry white wine
  • Sesame seeds
  • 300 g Soba (buckwheat) noodles

Method

  • Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and add the cumin seeds. Cook over a medium heat for a minute and then add the diced leek. After a few minutes add the chopped celery and cook for five minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Put the leek and celery mixture to one side and put the diced king oyster mushrooms into the frying pan, add the soy sauce and cook over a low heat for ten minutes or so. If the mushrooms start to go dry, add a dash of water and stir.
  • Add the chopped tomatoes to the mushrooms and cook for five minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the leek and celery mixture and the wine and stir well. Braise everything for ten minutes or so until most of the liquid is absorbed.
  • While the mushroom mix is braising, put the soba noodles in a pan of boiling, salted water and simmer for four to five minutes. Drain the noodles and arrange on a bowl with the mushroom mix on top. Add a sprinkle of sesame seeds before serving.

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.

 

 

Artful Artichokes Meet Crafty Celeriac in Solstice Showdown

20 December 2018

To celebrate the Winter Solstice, we’re combining two of our favourite oddball vegetables  – globe artichokes and celeriac. For the longest night of the year, we’ve come up with phallic artichokes steamed in a hearty winter root vegetable broth – Knidos Cookery Club’s take on the Turkish classic Zeytinyağlı Enginar, a dish of artichokes served with cubed vegetables cooked in olive oil and lemon juice.

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An artful artichoke

To get to the heart of the matter, artichokes need a bit of preparation to reveal the edible heart of the vegetable. If you don’t have a neighbourhood artichoke peeler on the corner of your street, as we do in Istanbul, than check out this link from The Spruce Eats website for some useful tips on removing the fibrous, inedible choke.

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Let the simmering begin

Celeriac, with its bulbous appearance, is an often overlooked root vegetable. It’s nutty taste, with a hint of celery, makes a delicious addition to soups and stews and it’s also great served raw in salads. We’ve used it as a replacement for potato in this Turkish favourite.

Ingredients (for four servings)

  • Four artichoke hearts
  • Two leeks
  • Four small carrots
  • Two small celeriac bulbs
  • Two medium-sized tomato
  • Four green peppers
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 50 ml olive oil
  • 500 ml cold water
  • Two teaspoons garam masala (or curry powder)
  • Pinch of black pepper

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a heavy based-pan (with a lid) and and  the finely sliced leeks and peppers and cook over a medium heat for five minutes. Cube the carrots and celeriac and stir into the leek and pepper base and cook for a further five minutes. Add the chopped tomato, garam masala and black pepper and cook for five more minutes, stirring frequently.
  2. Pour the water over the vegetables, add the lemon juice and place the artichoke hearts on top of the bubbling veggies. Put the lid on the pan and cook over a low to medium heat for 30 minutes.
  3. Put one artichoke heart on each plate and pour the vegetables and cooking liquid over the top and around the artichoke and serve hot with crusty bread.

 

Couscous on the Loose

6 December 2018

This week we’ll be making our take on couscous, that staple of North African cooking. Our version uses fine bulgur wheat in place of the more usual durum wheat semolina base as bulgur wheat is easier to find on the supermarket shelves where we are based.

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KCC’s couscous with chickpea chutney and roasted vegetables

In our opinion, bulgur works just as well as semolina as a base to soak up the juices from the roasted vegetables and our chickpea chutney. Purists may disagree, but our philosophy is more about adapting recipes by using the ingredients you have at hand.

Ingredients (serves 2)

Roasted vegetables:

  • 300 g pumpkin
  • 2 medium carrots
  • 2 medium courgettes
  • 25 ml olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 cinnamon stick

Chickpea chutney:

  • 25 ml olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1 small red onion
  • 2 small tomatoes
  • 50 g currants
  • 250 g chickpeas
  • 1 teaspoon red chilli flakes
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

Couscous:

  • 100 g fine bulgur wheat
  • 200 ml vegetable stock

Method

Pre-heat the oven to 200c, cut the vegetables into large chunks and put into a baking dish, drizzle with olive oil and add the cumin seeds and cinnamon stick and stir to coat the vegetable chunks. Roast for 30-40 minutes until the vegetables are cooked.

While the vegetables are roasting, prepare the chickpea chutney. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and add the mustard seeds. When they start to pop, add the finely chopped onion and cook over a low heat for five minutes. Add the spices and the chopped tomato and cook for five more minutes. Then add the currants and chickpeas and cook for fifteen minutes or so.

Bring the vegetable stock to the boil and then cover the bulgur wheat with it and leave it to soak up the liquid for 30 minutes or so, drain off the excess liquid (if there’s any) and than add a dash of olive oil and fluff up with a fork.

Put a layer of couscous on a warmed plate, arrange the roasted vegetables in a circular, wheel-spoke pattern and put a generous dollop of chickpea chutney in the centre and serve immediately.