KCC’s Courgette, Coconut and Mung Bean Mash Up

10 November 2022

As the first snow falls here in Almaty, it’s time for some heartier fare. This recipe started out life as courgette soup, but the sudden drop in temperature called for something with a bit more oomph so we added some mung beans and dried coconut to give it a more stew-like consistency. To add a bit of colour, we sprinkled some pomegranate seeds on top and gave it a drizzle of pomegranate sauce before serving.

KCC’s Courgette, Coconut and Mung Bean Mash Up

The delicate, thin courgettes of the summer are giving way to the robust, denser marrows of autumn – perfect for making into a soup. Mung beans are a versatile store cupboard basic – they can be added to stews or grown into bean sprouts for stir fries and salads – check out more recipe ideas here. They’re a staple in home-cooked meals in Uzbekistan, where they’re known as mash, hence the “mash up” in the name of this dish.

Winter is coming to Almaty…

Ingredients (makes four servings)

  • 1 kilo courgette
  • One celery stick
  • One medium onion
  • Bunch of radish leaves
  • 200 g dried mung beans (soaked overnight)
  • 50 g desiccated coconut
  • 50 ml olive oil
  • Two teaspoons dried thyme
  • Two teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 1.5 litres vegetable stock
  • Pomegranate seeds and Pomegranate sauce to garnish

Method

  • Heat the olive oil in a heavy-based pan and fry the cumin seeds until starting to crackle and then add the diced onion and cook for five minutes over a medium heat. Next add the diced celery, lower the heat and and cook for another five minutes, stirring occasionally. Cut the courgette into four pieces lengthwise and then slice into 1 cm thick chunks. Add to the pan along with the thyme and stir fry for ten minutes. Add one litre of vegetable stock and the chopped radish leaves and simmer over a low heat for twenty minutes.
  • While the soup is simmering, cook the mung beans in a separate pan with 500 ml vegetable stock and the coconut. Cook for twenty – thirty minutes or so until the beans are softening or until all the liquid is absorbed. 
  • Remove around 25% of the courgette mix and blend the rest to a smooth consistency with a stick blender. Add these blended courgettes to the cooked mung beans and stir well. Bring to a boil and then add the reserved courgette mix. Pour into soup bowls,  garnish with a few pomegranate seeds and a drizzle of pomegranate sauce and serve immediately.

Apricot and Lentil Courgette Roundels

13 October 2022

It’s that in-between time of year as the nights grow longer and thoughts turn towards more substantial meals after a long summer of salads and lighter fare. The last of the seasonal vegetables such as tomatoes and courgettes are perfect for stuffing and baking in the oven, making a bridge between summery salads and the heartier soups and stews of winter that are coming up.

Apricot and lentil courgette roundels drizzled with pomegranate sauce and served with a seasonal salad

We stuffed some courgettes with a mixture of red lentils, apricots, tomato, onion, bulgur wheat and lemon juice to make a versatile roundel that can be served as part of a main course or eaten on its own as a meze, a fully vegan alternative to the sausage roll!

Apricot and lentil courgette roundel – a vegan alternative to the sausage roll?

The autumn fruit is at its best at the moment, and we’ve added some pear and pomegranate to an autumnal red cabbage, carrot, celery and radish salad to accompany these apricot and lentil courgette roundels to make a great lunch or supper. By adding a jacket potato, you can make it into a more filling main course.

Ingredients (makes enough mixture for 10-12 roundels)

  • Three medium sized courgettes
  • 100 g red lentils
  • 50 g dried apricots (or four fresh apricots if available)
  • One small red onion (approx 75 g)
  • One medium tomato (approx 100 g)
  • 50 g fine bulgur wheat
  • 25 ml olive oil
  • 200 ml vegetable stock
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • One teaspoon cumin seeds
  • One teaspoon red chilli flakes
  • Black pepper to taste

Method

  • Cut the dried apricots into eight pieces and soak in hot water for at least 30 minutes. While the apricots are soaking, heat the oil in a heavy based pan and add the cumin seeds. When they start to sizzle, add the finely chopped onion and fry over a medium heat until they start to soften. Grate the tomato into the fried onion and cook over a low heat for five minutes or so, stirring occasionally.
  • Now add the washed lentils, pour in the stock and stir. Cook over a low heat for 15-20 minutes until most of the water has been absorbed. Add the fine bulgur wheat, mix it in well and leave covered for 15 minutes. Drain the apricots and stir them into the mixture. Add the lemon juice, chilli flakes and black pepper to taste and mix well.
  • While the lentils are cooking, start to prepare the courgettes by slicing off the ends to make them flat. Cut into 3 cm slices. Gouge out the seeds with a small spoon, leaving a little bit of flesh at the bottom of the roundel.
  • Pre-heat the oven to 180 c. When the lentil mix is cool, pack it into the courgette roundels and stand them on a baking tray with the filling topmost. Bake at 180 c for 30 minutes or so – the courgette should still be firm and not too squidgy and the lentil mix should rise slightly and be beginning to brown on top. 
  • Serve alongside a salad of red cabbage, carrot, celery, radish, pear and pomegranate and a jacket potato, drizzling pomegranate sauce over the roundels or allow to cool and serve the roundels as a snack on their own.

KCC’s Revolutionary Rhubarb Recipes

25 April 2022

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

Method

  • 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.

Grip Green Shakshuka

9 April 2022

With spring greens making a welcome reappearance, it’s time for a brunch special – green shakshuka, North Africa’s breakfast star.

Grip Green Shakshuka

This dish, usually made with tomatoes and peppers, is originally from Tunisia but has now spread all over the Middle East.

For our spring greens version, we made a bed of cumin fried onions, banana peel, radish leaves and spinach on which to poach some eggs for our sublime, zero waste brunch special.

Ingredients (for two servings)

  • one medium onion
  • one banana peel
  • 100 g spinach
  • 50 g radish leaves
  • four eggs
  • one teaspoon cumin seeds
  • one teaspoon chilli powder
  • 25 ml olive oil

Method

  • Heat the oil in a heavy-based pan and add the cumin seeds. When they start to pop, add chopped onion and cook for five minutes over a low heat. Add the banana peel (to prepare, use a knife or spoon to scrape off any remaining banana flesh (use this in a cake, smoothie or banana bread) and then slice the peel into 1 mm strips).
  • Stir fry for another five minutes and then add the chopped radish leaves and three minutes later add the washed and chopped spinach. Cook until the spinach starts to wilt.
  • Make a depression in the mix and pour an egg into it, repeat with the other eggs, sprinkle chilli powder over the eggs put, put a lid on and steam until the eggs are set

Nauryz Noodles

21 March 2022

Happy Nauryz – the day of the Spring Equinox that marks the start of the new year in some parts of Asia. it’s a big celebration in Central Asia with a focus on things coming back to life after the long winter months. This year we’ve made some green noodles inspired by shivit oshi – dill noodles from Khiva, Uzbekistan, to mark the coming of spring.

As you may recall, here on KCC we’re not huge fans of dill, aka the devil’s weed, so we replaced it with spinach to give our noodles their distinctive green colour. We served our noodles with an orange and green stir fry made from pumpkin, carrots, spring onions, beansprouts and broccoli.

We washed our Nauryz noodles down with some Turan Tiger beer as a nod to the year of the tiger.

Ingredients (makes four servings)

For the noodles

  • 300 g plain flour
  • 100 ml water
  • 40 ml olive oil
  • 120 g spinach

For the stir fry

  • 100 g spring onion
  • 300 g pumpkin
  • 200 g carrot
  • 300 g broccoli
  • 200 g beansprouts
  • 50 ml olive oil
  • 20 ml soy sauce
  • Two teaspoons cumin seeds

Method

For the noodles

  • Pour boiling hot water over the washed spinach leaves and leave for one minute. Drain and then cover with cold water. Drain again and put in a blender with the water and blend to a smooth paste.
  • Stir the oil into the flour and then add the blended spinach. Mix well and knead the dough. Make sure it is neither too sticky (add more flour if so) or too crumbly (add more liquid if so). Cover with cling film and leave in the fridge until you are ready to use it.
  • Roll the dough to 1 mm thickness on a lightly floured surface. Fold the dough over three or four times and then cut off 2 mm slices and pull out the noodles by hand.
  • Cook in a pot of boiling water for five minutes – taste to check that the noodles have the texture that you prefer (e.g. al dente or softer). Drain and serve immediately.

For the stir fry

  • Heat the oil in a heavy-based pan and add the cumin seeds. When the seed begin to pop, add the chopped spring onions and stir fry over a medium heat. Add the pumpkin, cut into 1 cm cubes and stir fry for five minutes. 
  • Next add the broccoli and stir fry for another five minutes over a medium heat. Add the grated carrot and beansprouts along with the soy sauce and cook for a few more minutes. Serve on a bed of noodles.

Chocolate Chilli Chana

3 February 2022

This time round on KCC we’re going for a chickpea, aka chana, chilli that includes a slab of dark chocolate to balance out the acidity of the tomato sauce – a combination that works surprisingly well.

Chocolate chilli chana

We first came across the dark chocolate infused mole sauce many years ago in a Mexican restaurant in Barcelona. It’s been on the list of things to cook for a while and having received a selection of Green and Black’s chocolate that included an 85% cocoa bean bar there were no longer any excuses not to try it out.

We served our chickpea chilli with some pearl barley – it’s also good with brown rice, couscous, bulgur wheat or some flatbread to mop up the chocolate rich sauce. We also recommend washing it down with a margarita or two.

Ingredients (makes 3-4 servings)

  • 300 g chickpeas (cooked)
  • 150 g carrot
  • 150 g onion
  • 50 g red lentils
  • 250 g tomatoes
  • 20 g dark chocolate
  • 25 ml olive oil
  • 150 ml aquafaba (chick pea cooking water)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds 
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon paprika (smoked if you can get it)
  • 1 teaspoon chilli powder (or chilli flakes)
  • 2 cm cinnamon stick
  • 5 cloves
  • 1 bunch fresh coriander

Method (Cooking time approx 45 minutes)

  • Heat the olive oil in a heavy-based pan and add the cumin seeds. When the seeds start to pop add the diced onion. Stir fry for five minutes over a medium heat and then add the diced carrots. Cook for five more minutes and then reduce to a low heat. Add the chopped tomatoes and cook for another five minutes.
  • Add the aquafaba, ground coriander seeds,  cinnamon, cloves, paprika and chilli powder and stir well. When the mix starts to bubble, stir in the red lentils. Simmer the mixture and after 15 minutes add the cooked chick peas. Cook for another 10 minutes over a low heat and then add the dark chocolate. 
  • Serve with pearl barley or a grain of your choice and garnish the Chocolate Chilli Chana with fresh coriander. Take a slug of margarita and enjoy! 

Spicy Peas ‘n’ Cheese

30 November 2021

This time round on KCC we’ve been inspired to take on a curry house favourite of ours, matar paneer, cubes of fresh white cheese cooked with peas in a spicy tomato-rich gravy.

Spicy peas ‘n’ cheese aka matar paneer

We’ve been in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan for the last two weeks to polish off the final chapter in a gruelling two-year run of Central Asian elections. While browsing around the supermarket, we came across a pack of locally made Ricotta cheese. Its dry, crumbly texture immediately reminded us of fresh paneer cheese from the Indian sub-continent, bringing to mind matar paneer.

Spicy peas and cheese with pumpkin dhal and rice

This white cheese does not taste of much on its own so it needs to soak up some flavour. We prepared a tomato gravy and then marinated the cubes of cheese and the peas in the sauce overnight before heating it through just before serving. For any vegans reading, substitute chunks of plain tofu for the paneer cheese – tofu is another ingredient that benefits from being marinated for a while. Serve with our pumpkin dhal and rice or flat bread.

Ingredients (makes 4 servings)

  • 3 medium tomatoes (approx 250 g)
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 200 g paneer cheese or tofu
  • 250 g peas (tinned, frozen or fresh if you can get them) 
  • 25 ml olive oil or other vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon chilli powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 cm knob of chopped ginger
  • 1 small bunch fresh coriander

Method

  1. Finely chop the onion and cook for five minutes in the oil over a medium heat in a heavy-based pan. Turn down to a low heat and add the spices and the minced garlic and stir well. Cook for another two minutes and then add the chopped, peeled tomatoes. Cook for 20-30 minutes over a low heat until the tomatoes have formed a smooth gravy with the onions.
  2. Allow the sauce to cool and then add the white cheese (paneer) or tofu, cut into 1 cm cubes, and the peas and mix well. Leave to marinate for an hour or two at least – overnight in the fridge is better, and then heat through. Sprinkle with fresh coriander before serving with our pumpkin dhal and rice. Also goes well with a flat bread of your choice.

Lentily Lecho Laghman

21 October 2021

Greetings from Tashkent, Uzbekistan where KCC has been based for the last three weeks on a foodie fact finding mission. Uzbekistan is the land of plov, but is also home to a wide range of pasta dishes such as manti (dumplings), laghman noodles and many cousins of ravioli.

The autumn pickling and preserving season is in full swing with vegetables such as peppers, tomatoes and aubergines cheap and abundant. Our friend gave us a jar of her homemade lecho, a pepper, tomato and onion stew, with herbs and spices added according to your taste. Lecho originated in eastern Europe, so you should be able to track down a jar in your local Polish shop.

We decided to cook up this lecho with some courgettes and protein-rich red lentils to make a tasty laghman noodle sauce. One of the advantages of being in Central Asia is the ready availability of fresh, hand-pulled noodles in the shops, but if you don’t have access to laghman noodles where you are, then try making your own. Check out this laghman recipe here – it’s a bit time consuming but rewarding!

Ingredients (makes 3-4 servings)

  • 125 g fresh noodles per person
  • 2 small courgettes
  • 1 large red onion
  • 100 g red lentils
  • 250 g lecho
  • 50 ml olive oil
  • One teaspoon cumin seeds
  • One teaspoon red chilli flakes

Method

  • Wash the lentils until the water goes clear and then soak for around 30 minutes. While the lentils are soaking, fry the thinly sliced onion in the olive oil and add the cumin seeds. Cook over a medium heat for ten minutes and then add the courgette that has been grated or cut into 1 mm thick,  5 mm long slices. Cook for ten more minutes over a low heat.
  • Take the red peppers from the lecho and cut into thin slices and add to the pan with the onion and courgette mix. Cook for another ten minutes over a low heat and then drain the lentils and add to the pan along with the red chilli flakes and the liquid from the lecho. Cook until the liquid has been absorbed and the lentils are chewy not mushy.
  • Bring a pan of salted water to the boil and then turn off the heat and put the noodles in for a few minutes, Drain and then add the noodles to the sauce and stir well. Serve straight away with a flat bread of your choice.