The courgette is one of the most versatile vegetables in the Knidos Cookery Club kitchen. Earlier it featured in a stuffed platter and as a fritter. We also like it in an omelette, in a börek or just sliced and grilled on the barbecue.
This week we’ve incorporated this key ingredient into a creamy almond and courgette dip that can be used as part of a starter, or meze, combo with other dips such as our Carrot and Walnut Tarator.
Yogurt and chopped almonds were added to the grated courgette to make it creamy and some wholemeal flour was used to hold it all together.
Ingredients (Serves 3-4)
250 g grated courgette
100 ml plain, natural yogurt
50 g wholemeal flour
50 g chopped almonds
One garlic clove
25 ml olive oil
Heat the olive oil in a frying pan over a medium heat then add the grated courgette and garlic and stir fry for five minutes. Add the flour and stir fry for two more minutes. Take the frying pan off the heat, mix in the yogurt and almonds, reserving a few nuts to sprinkle over the top.
As Knidos Cookery Club turns 20, we’re celebrating this week with a look at two of the mainstay crops of the Datça Peninsula – melons and almonds.
This year’s new nut harvest is already arriving in the market. Datça’s almonds, badem in Turkish, are rightly famous in Turkey – I remember sitting at a terrace in Istanbul’s Beyoğlu district, back in the days when it still had street tables, and a guy came round selling fresh Datça almonds, cooled on a bed of ice.
Yogurt, courgette and almond dip
Beans with chopped almonds
In the Knidos area, almonds are widely used in cooking, in making soaps and creams and in Datça many cafes offer a milky ‘almond coffee’. Last week we had some mezes at Kasapoğlu Pansiyon in Ovabükü which came liberally sprinkled with almonds – one green bean dish and another made from grated courgette and yogurt.
The area around Knidos is perfect for growing melons, kavun in Turkish. The market is full at the moment with a green and yellow striped variety – I’m not sure what it’s called, but it sure tastes good!
We’ve decided to attempt something unusual for the 20th edition of Knidos Cookery Club – stuffed melon. This dish was popular in the palaces of the Ottoman Empire, drawing on a Persian and Armenian-influenced fusion of sweet and savoury tastes.
The Knidos Cookery Club version is fully veggie-friendly and uses mushrooms in place of meat, along with rice, dried fruit and fresh Datça almonds. The end result is basically plov in a melon, a most unusual taste sensation!
Ingredients (serves 4)
One melon (honeydew or similar – not watermelon!)
125 g rice
25 g orzu or pine nuts, if you’re feeling flush
One medium-sized onion
One garlic clove
100 g almonds
75 g mixed dried fruit (raisins, currants, chopped apricot, chopped fig)
250 g mushrooms
50 ml olive oil
One teaspoon of cumin, cinnamon and red pepper flakes
Salt and black pepper to season
Wash the rice and soak for an hour or so. Heat 25 ml olive oil in a pan and cook the orzu or pine nuts until golden brown. Add the rice and stir to coat the grains with oil. Pour in 300 ml cold water, add a pinch of salt and cook until all the liquid is absorbed.
Heat the rest of the olive oil in a heavy-based pan and add the chopped onion and garlic. Cook until translucent and then add the peeled almonds. Keep stirring for five minutes and then add the mixed dried fruit and one teaspoon of cumin, cinnamon and red pepper flakes.
Chop the mushrooms up and then pour into the sizzling mix. Stir regularly – you don’t need to add any liquid as the mushrooms contain a lot of water. Cook for ten minutes or so and then turn off the heat. Mix in the rice, blending well.
Prepare the melon by cutting it in half and scooping out the seeds. Then scoop out the flesh, leaving about 1 cm inside the melon. Stuff with the rice mix, arranging some almonds on top.
Place the melon halves in a shallow dish, add 100 ml warm water and bake at 200°C or gas mark 6 for one hour.
Serve a quarter of the melon to each person with an Uzbek-style salad of sliced tomatoes, onions and chili pepper – achik chuchuk.
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.
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.
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.
This week, Knidos Cookery Club is going to have a look at a local take on the pie – börek.
This member of the baked, filled pastry club is made from thin layers of filo pastry, known as yufka in Turkey. It comes with a variety of fillings including spinach, white cheese, potatoes, grated courgettes, swiss chard, leeks or combinations of these fillings.
There are two main ways of preparing börek – in a large pan and then sliced after baking, or as an individual serving in a cigar-shape. Either way, the börek is a moreish treat so always make more than you think you’ll need!
Kindos Cookery Club will tell you how to make the individual servings today. To make the pan version, layer 3-4 sheets of filo pastry in a large, greased dish, brushing glaze between the layers (as in this recipe for a zesty leek, goat cheese and walnut tart). Next add the filling of your choice and then top it off with 3-4 more sheets of filo and sprinkle with nigella seeds. Follow the baking instructions below for the individual pies to cook the pan version.
Follow these steps to make some tasty individual white cheese and spinach börek.
Ingredients (To make 5 individual pies)
15 sheets of filo pastry
500 g spinach
One medium-sized onion
100 g white cheese
50 ml olive oil
50 ml natural yogurt or milk
Fresh mixed herbs (mint, oregano, thyme,dill)
Salt and pepper
To make the filling, heat some olive oil in a heavy-based pan and cook the chopped onion over a medium heat until translucent. Add the chopped, fresh herbs and washed and shredded spinach. Season with dashes of salt and pepper.
Cook until the spinach wilts and then add the crumbled white cheese. Mix well and allow to cool.
Make a glaze for the filo pastry by blending equal parts of olive oil and natural yogurt (or milk). Brush the glaze over one 15 cm x 15 cm sheet of filo (or triangle shapes if you can find them), then place another layer of pastry, glaze and finally one more sheet and glaze.
Put two generous dollops of filling onto the bottom edge of the layered filo sheets, leaving about 2 cm at each end. Roll the pie into a cigar shape and press the ends down.
Brush with glaze and sprinkle nigella seeds over the cigar.
Place on a greased baking tray and put 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.
Welcome to the tenth edition of Knidos Cookery Club! This calls for a celebration and this week we’ll be looking at some snacks and starters commonly associated with Turkey’s favourite alcoholic tipple, rakı.
Rakı is a member of the family of anise-flavoured drinks common to many countries with coastlines on the Mediterranean Sea – ouzo in Greece, pastis in France, sambuca in Italy, arak in Lebanon and chinchón in Spain.
When rakı is diluted with water, it turns a milky white colour leading to its Turkish nickname, aslan sütü, or lion’s milk. It’s drunk as an aperitif and is accompanied by white cheese and cucumber. In spring and early summer, it’s often served with tart, sour green plums, known as can erik.
Rakı also accompanies a long, lazy lunch or evening meal with the drink served alongside a selection of mezeler, or appetizers that include, among many others, a spicy tomato and chili paste, acılı ezme, yogurt, grated cucumber and crushed garlic, cacık, and semizotu, purslane mixed with yogurt. These starters are usually followed by a grilled fish course and the meal is finished with slices of fresh melon.
We couldn’t resist these great carrots in the market last week, and they’ve inspired this meze to go with a glass or two of lion’s milk. This week’s recipe is for cezizli havuç tarator, a combo of walnuts, carrots and yogurt.
Ingredients (serves 3-4)
200 g baby carrots
200 ml Greek (strained) yogurt
One or two garlic cloves
Splash of olive oil
Salt, black pepper, dried oregano, chili flakes, cumin and nigella seeds
Heat the olive oil in a frying pan. Clean and grate the carrots (keep the carrot tops to make this pesto) then cook the grated carrot over a low heat for ten minutes or so to help release the natural sugars in the carrots. While it’s cooking, keep stirring and add pinches of salt, black pepper, dried oregano, chili flakes and cumin.
Allow the carrots to cool then add the crushed walnuts (use a blender or a rolling pin to crush them), as much garlic as you prefer and the yogurt. Blend together well and drizzle with nigella seeds.
Serve as a dip with crackers and slices of red pepper and cucumber along with a glass of rakı, water and ice.
Swiss chard, a surprisingly divisive green leaf, is in the spotlight on Knidos Cookery Club this week.
Swiss chard, pazı in Turkish, is one of those love it or hate it vegetables. In arestaurant in Istanbul a few years ago, a Turkish friend was fine with the spinach order but when I suggested the pazı side dish he looked at me as if I had gone mad. He refused to countenance eating it, leaving these particular green leaves to the three foreigners he was with.
On the positive side, in Croatia last summer friends from HaMASin the UK introduced me to blitva, a local take on this leafy green vegetable that sees it sautéed with potatoes and garlic.
Here at Knidos Cookery Club we love it, especially when the vitamin-packed leaves are combined with red peppers, added more for colour than heat, and topped off with a healthy dollop of natural yogurt, to re-create a dish that is a mainstay in Turkey’s home-cooking lokanta restaurants.
Try this recipe yourself to see which side of the Swiss chard fence you fall on.
Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and when hot add the finely chopped spring onions.
After a few minutes over a medium heat, add the finely chopped red pepper and the bay leaf. Season with pinches of cumin, cinnamon, salt and black pepper.
Clean the Swiss chard thoroughly, shake dry and then roughly chop the leaves and stalks. After cooking the red peppers for five minutes, add the Swiss chard to the pan and stir continuously. You shouldn’t need to add any extra water. Continue cooking and stirring until the Swiss chard begins to soften – 8-10 minutes or so.
Serve with a dollop of yogurt and sprinkle the chili flakes and nigella seeds over this.
This week on Knidos Cookery Club we’ll be looking at some ways of using purslane, our favourite weed. This highly-nutritious plant is called semizotu and is widely cultivated in Turkey, where it also grows wild. It’s used in salads, soups and stews.
Purslane has a crunchy texture and a lemony taste and can be used as a substitute for spinach and watercress. This superweed is packed with vitamins – it has the highest concentration of vitamin E of any plant and also contains a useful essential omega-3 fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid, reports motherearthnews.com.
In the Knidos area, it’s a mainstay of meze, or starter, combos when served with yogurt and a hint of garlic. The leaves and stems are also good as a simple but tasty salad dressed with a tahini sauce.
We’ve opted for a vitamin-packed spring stew, Semizotu Nohutlu Bulgur Pilavı with purslane, chick peas (garbanzo beans), tomato. carrot and bulgur wheat. Here’s what the finished dish should look like:
One bunch of purslane
One medium-sized onion
Four medium-sized tomatoes
100 g coarse bulgur wheat
One can chick peas or 150 g dried chick peas soaked overnight and boiled for an hour or so
One bay leaf
Fresh herbs – parsley and mint
A pinch of cumin, cinnamon, black pepper, red chili flakes, thyme and salt
250 ml warm water
25 ml olive oil
Heat the olive oil in a heavy-based pan and add the chopped onion, the bay leaf and a sprinkle of dried thyme.
Slice the carrot into 50 mm rounds then chop up the tomatoes. When the onions are translucent, add the carrots to the mix and after five minutes or so add the tomatoes.
Cook for another five minutes then add the chick peas, bulgur wheat and water and season with the fresh herbs and spices.
Stir well and bring to the boil. Then turn the heat down, add the purslane and cook over a low heat for 20-25 minutes until the bulgur wheat is cooked but still a bit chewy.
Allow to rest for 5-10 minutes then serve with yogurt and garnish with mint.