While walking through the market in Samarkand recently we came across tables laden with something we hadn’t seen for quite a while – rhubarb, those colourful stalks that instantly evoke childhood memories of rhubarb crumbles served with custard. In Samarkand, the favoured way to eat the stalks is raw.
Rhubarb is a classic harbinger of spring, with its short growing season over by summer. Often thought of as a fruit because of its use in puddings, complete with lashings of sugar to counteract its tartness, these stalks are in fact a vegetable.
Rhubarb has a long history in Chinese traditional medicine. It started to be imported into the west, where it was prized for its medicinal properties, along the Silk Roads in the 14th century. Transport costs, along with its popularity and relative scarcity, saw it command a higher price than cinnamon, saffron, and opium at one point.
Its high price spurred efforts to localise its cultivation and by the 18th century it was being successfully grown in Europe. The edible stalk’s greater availability, combined with the arrival of affordable sugar, led to it becoming a culinary staple in the world of desserts.
Rhubarb also has its uses in savoury dishes with its sharp flavour adding an interesting note to a lentil dhal. We served our dhal with a fruity plov and some flat bread. Any leftovers can be mixed with chickpea flour to make a fritter as part of an unusual brunch.
Ingredients (makes four servings)
200 g rhubarb
One large onion
150 g red lentils
75 g spinach
25 ml olive oil
500 ml vegetable stock
One teaspoon cumin seeds
One teaspoon cinnamon
One teaspoon red chilli flakes
50 g chickpea flour
Heat the oil and cumin seeds in a heavy-based pan. When the seeds start to sizzle, add the chopped onion. Cook for five minutes over a low heat, stirring occasionally. Add the cinnamon and red chilli flakes and the rhubarb stalk, cut into 1 cm slices – do not use the leaves as these can be bad for your health.
Cook for three minutes over a low heat, stirring occasionally, and then add the washed lentils and the vegetable stock. cook over a low heat for 20 minutes or until all the liquid has been absorbed. Stir in the washed spinach and serve hot with rice or flat bread (or both!)
To make rhubarb fritters, mix leftover 200 g dhal with 50 g chickpea flour. Form into eight walnut-sized balls and fry in oil on both sides until starting to brown, flattening with a fish slice as they cook.
It’s official – the 2021 Kazakhstan barbecue season has opened with a glamping grillfest in the hills near Talgar, a short drive from Almaty.
After receiving the second dose of the Sputnik V vaccine, we’re taking some tentative steps back to life in the world beyond Almaty. First stop was Bubble Gum View – a newly-opened glamping (glamour camping for the uninitiated) spot with four socially distanced pods in an apple orchard, perfect for a contact-free break. Each pod comes with its own barbecue area so it was time to kick off the 2021 season in style.
We’ve been working on a burger that will hold up to being put on the grill and this one, which combines potato, green lentils, onion and green leaves, uses chickpea flour to bind the mix together. We served it along with some grilled halloumi and some char grilled carrot slices. For a bit more variety, when courgettes and aubergines are in season, then put some of these on the grill.
Ingredients (makes 8 burgers)
250 g potato
100 g green lentils
50 g chickpea flour (also known as gram or besan)
One medium onion
100 g mixed green leaves (we used radish leaves but you can use any you have handy)
One teaspoon turmeric, cumin seeds, chilli pepper and cinnamon
25 ml olive oil
Soak the lentils for a few hours and then cook in 400 ml water until they begin to go mushy and have soaked up all the liquid. Cook the potatoes in a separate pan and when ready drain and mash in a large bowl.
Heat the oil in a heavy-based pan, add the cumin seeds and, when they start to pop, add the finely chopped onion and cook over a medium heat until translucent. Add the chopped mixed leaves and cook over a medium heat until they start to wilt.
Add the turmeric, chilli pepper and cinnamon and then add the cooked lentils to the mashed potato and then add the onions and leaves to the potato-lentil mix and stir well. Add the chickpea flour and combine all the ingredients.
Form the mix into golf ball sized rounds, flatten with your hand and then cook on the grill, turning after five minute or so when the burger is beginning to char. Serve immediately with other grilled vegetables, halloumi if you eat cheese and a salad of your choice.
The anniversaries are coming thick and fast here at Knidos Cookery Club and to celebrate our 150th post we’re bringing you a hassle-free recipe for pakora, a spicy fritter from the Indian subcontinent, that can be prepared in under 30 minutes.
Pakora are a great snack that you can eat at any time of the day and are easy to make – just coat vegetable or paneer cheese slices with a spiced chickpea flour batter and then deep-fry them. For a more user friendly and healthier take on this street food classic, you can bake them in the oven as we did with this batch.
We’ve used cauliflower to make pakora this time round, but you can use onion, carrot, potato, peppers, mushrooms or combinations of more or less any vegetable you have handy. Paneer cheese (or halloumi) also works well with this versatile batter. We like to serve the pakora straight from the oven with a yogurt-based cucumber raita to dip them into.
Ingredients (makes enough for 3-4 people)
100 g chickpea flour (also known as gram or besan)
100 ml water
250 g cauliflower broken into florets
One teaspoon each of: chia seeds, cumin seeds, turmeric, ginger, chilli powder, black pepper
Heat the oven to 200 c. Put the chickpea flour in a large bowl and add the seeds and spices. Slowly add the water and mix to form a batter that is neither too dry nor too runny. Stir in the cauliflower florets and coat thoroughly.
Place the individual florets on a baking tray and cook in the top half of the oven for 20 minutes or so – keep an eye on them and if they start to char a bit then they are ready.
Serve them straight away with a raita sauce made from yogurt, cucumber and mint.