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.
This time round we’ve filled some filo pastry triangles with some fresh leafy greens. Inspired by Central Asia’s kok samsa, a small, deep-fried pie filled stuffed with chopped up greens, our take on this popular street snack mixes some peppery radish leaves with some tart sorrel-like leaves, leek and carrot.
A few weeks ago, we left Datça’s weekly market laden down with a selection of leafy greens – called ot (grass) in Turkish, including a bunch of radishes complete with leaves and an unidentified bunch of greens with a tart, lemony taste.
Further inspired by Turkey’s otlu pide and otlu börek, we chopped up a leek and fried it in olive oil and then mixed in some grated carrot before adding the leafy greens and spices. To make these pies you can use any leafy greens – Swiss chard and spinach also work well here.
Then we wrapped the filling in filo pastry, which can be bought from your local supermarket or Middle Eastern grocery shop – or you can try and make your own – here’s some tips on how to do it.
Ingredients (makes 6-8 samosas)
12 sheets of filo pastry (approx 15 cm x 15 cm)
One bunch each of sorrel and radish leaves (use spinach and/or Swiss chard if you can’t find these)
50 ml olive oil
One teaspoon dried thyme
One teaspoon sumac
One teaspoon cumin
Sprinkling of nigella seeds
To make the filling, heat 25 ml olive oil in a heavy-based pan and cook the chopped leek over a medium heat until translucent. Add the grated carrot and cook for five minutes, stirring regularly. Add the herbs and spices and the roughly chopped greens and cook until the leaves are wilting.
Place a layer of filo pastry on a flat surface dusted with flour. Brush with olive oil and add another sheet, brush with oil and then add one more layer. Cut the layers of filo into two triangles along the diagonal.
Place a generous dollop of the filling in the middle of each triangle. Fold the edges of pastry over, brushing with more oil, to create a triangle-shaped pie like a samosa. Repeat the process until all the filling is used up.
Place the pies on a greased baking tray and brush with more oil and sprinkle nigella seeds over them. Place the tray into a pre-heated oven and bake at 200 °C (gas mark 6) for 30 minutes or until the pies are golden brown in colour. Serve straight away with a salad of your choice.
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.
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.
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…
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
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.
It’s believed that corn was first domesticated in southernMexico around 9-10,000 years ago. From there it slowly spread across the Americas before finding its way into Europe in the 16th century; brought back by the explorers who had landed in what became dubbed ‘The New World’.
These tasty fritters can be served like a burger in a bun, wrapped in a tortilla, stuffed into a pita bread or just plain with a jacket potato and some salad for a healthy snack that can be eaten at any time of the day.
Ingredients (makes around 8 large fritters)
One corn cob
Three tablespoons wholemeal flour
75 ml olive oil
Two teaspoons cumin
Two teaspoons red chilli flakes
Two teaspoons dried thyme
One teaspoon turmeric
Bring a pan of water to boiling and then switch off the heat. Soak the corn cob in the boiled water for five minutes and then put in a pan of cold water. Remove the kernels by slicing downwards with a knife on the sides of the cob.
Grate the courgettes into a large bowl and mix with the flour, herbs and spices, reserving 25 ml of the olive oil for cooking. Add the corn kernels and mix well. Leave the mix to stand for a few hours in the fridge.
Heat the remaining olive oil in a frying pan. Take a golf ball sized scoop of the mix and put it into the pan and flatten it with a spatula. Cook over a medium heat for five minutes and then flip over and cook for another five minutes. Alternatively, you can bake the fritters in the oven for 30 minutes at 180c or grill on a barbecue.
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.
Wow, we can hardly believe it, but Knidos Cookery Club turns 3 this week! Our first post was published from Turkey on 31 March 2016, and since then we’ve brought you 94 editions of KCC, stuffed with veggie food from all over the world. We’d love to hear your feedback – what’s been your favourite post so far? Let us know in the comments section below.
To mark this momentous occasion, we’ve prepared some mini chebureki filled with spring greens. We’re using chebureki in this context to refer to a crescent-shaped pie. Usually they’re deep-fried but we decided to turn them into more of a pelmeni by boiling them. It’s both healthier and quicker.
Chebureki and pelmeni are from the family of little pies that are made from an unleavened dough – their cousins are Italy’s ravioli, Turkey’s manti, China’s wonton, Uzbekistan’s chuchvara and Kazakhstan’s tushpara, Ukraine’s varenyky and Poland’s pierogi – the list is endless.
Ingredients (makes up to 24)
For the pasta:
200 g wholewheat flour
4 teaspoons olive oil
100 ml water
pinch of salt
For the filling:
One small onion
2 sticks of celery
25 ml olive oil
One teaspoon cumin seeds
Make the pasta by sifting the flour into a large mixing bowl and then add the oil, a pinch of salt and half of the water in a well in the middle of the flour. Mix inwards from the outside with a wooden spoon and then add the rest of the water until the dough has absorbed all the flour.
Knead for ten minutes or so and then leave the pasta dough to rest in the fridge for at least one hour. While the dough is in the fridge, prepare the filling. Heat the oil in a frying pan, add the cumin seeds and then add the finely chopped onion. After cooking for five minutes, add thin slices of celery stick and the leaves and cook for three minutes. Now add the chopped up spinach and cook for another five minutes stirring frequently. Allow to cool before making the mini pies.
Roll the pasta out onto a lightly-floured surface to a thickness between 0.5 and 1.0 mm.Use a glass or a mug to cut out round shapes from the dough, add a teaspoon of cooled spring greens in the bottom half of the circle and moisten the inside edge around the filling with a little water and then fold the top over. Use a fork to seal the pasta pocket.
Bring a large pan of water to the boil and then add the little pies to the water and keep boiling over a low heat until they float to the surface. Remove with a slotted spoon and serve hot – they’re good served with sour cream or melted butter or just plain.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
As promised a few weeks back on Knidos Cookery Club, here’s another use for those tasty vine leaves. While jetting down to KCC HQ in Datça recently, we spotted a Cypriot recipe in an airline magazine for halloumi cheese wrapped in vine leaves and we decided to adapt it by using some of the Datça Peninsula’s key ingredients:
Yep, that’s almonds, olives, thyme, capers and lemon. We mixed all these up to make our 5-star Datça paste which we then used to coat slices of our favourite squeaky cheese. After applying the paste, wrap the cheese slices with the leaves and then bake in the oven for 30 minutes or so until they look like this:
Ingredients (makes four servings)
200 g halloumi
12 vine leaves
75 g almonds
150 g olives
two teaspoons dried thyme
25 g capers
Soak and wash the vine leaves to remove any taste of brine, and then cut the stalk from the bottom of the leaf. You’ll need about three vine leaves for each slice of halloumi.
Now prepare the paste – stone the olives and place the bits of olive in a small dish. Soak the almonds in hot water for a minute or so and then put in cold water and peel off the skin. Break and add to the olives.
Add the capers and lemon juice and the thyme and use a hand blender to make a smooth paste. Cut the halloumi into four slices and smear each slice generously with the paste. Wrap the vine leaves around the cheese and then place in a baking dish or on a baking tray.
Bake in the oven at 180 c for thirty minutes or so and serve while hot with a seasonal salad and a selection of mezes.