Going Bananas for Christmas

23 December 2021

Seasoned greetings to all our readers from KCC — with Christmas fast approaching, here’s our recipe for a festive pie filled with a nutty, lentily barley roast, spinach pkhali and a mystery guest – banana peel!

A nutty, lentily barley filled piece with spinach pkhali and banana peel

We’ve come under the spell of The Great British Bake Off  winner Nadiya Hussain who caused a splash in lockdown in 2020 when she advocated the use of banana peel as an ingredient. KCC is always on the lookout for ingenious solutions that cut down on waste and this use of banana peel certainly fits the bill perfectly.

KCC’s Festive Feast 2021

The banana peel has a texture that is a bit like mushroom and makes for an unusual addition to the standard nut roast. The peel can also be put in curries and stir fries — a great move for fans of zero waste.

Ingredients (serves 3-4)

For the pie

  • 75 g pearl barley
  • 50 g green lentils
  • 2 cm cinnamon stick
  • 2 cm ginger
  • 3 cloves
  • Zest of one lemon
  • 1 litre hot water
  • 1 banana skin
  • 150 g onion 
  • 50 g celery
  • 75 g walnuts
  • 75 ml olive oil
  • 100 ml white wine
  • 250 ml vegetable stock
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • 1 teaspoon rosemary
  • 3 teaspoons chia seeds
  • 250 g puff pastry

For the spinach pkhali

  • 200 g fresh spinach
  • 75 g walnuts
  • One small onion (around 75 g)
  • One garlic clove
  • 5 g fresh parsley
  • 5 g fresh coriander
  • 1 teaspoon blue fenugreek powder
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 20 ml wine vinegar

Method 

  • Wash the pearl barley and green lentils until the water runs clear and then soak in the hot water for one hour with the cinnamon stick, chopped ginger, cloves and lemon zest. While this is soaking, cook 75 g of sliced onion in 25 ml of olive oil over a low heat until turning translucent. 
  • To prepare the banana skin, wash the peel thoroughly in cold water and then use a spoon or knife to remove the pulp from the inside of the peel (you can use this in a smoothie or a cake). Slice the peel into thin strips about 2 cm long and 2-3 mm thick. Now add to the fried onions and cook util the peel starts to go crispy. Set aside to cool.
  • Fry the sliced celery and the rest of the chopped onion in the remaining olive oil in a different pan, add the cumin seeds, oregano, thyme and rosemary and cook over a low heat for 10 minutes and then add the soaked barley and lentils along with the cinnamon stick, ginger, cloves and lemon zest (you can use the soaking water to make our LGBTQ drink).
  • Then add the white wine and vegetable stock and stir well. Leave to cook over a low heat, stirring occasionally, until all the liquid is absorbed, this should take up to 30 minutes.
  • While this is cooking, make the spinach pkhali. Cook the spinach in boiling water for 5 minutes until it begins to wilt. Remove and place in cold water and then drain. Finely chop the onion and put it in a mixing bowl with the garlic, herbs and spices. Toast the walnuts over a low heat for 5-10 minutes and then add to the bowl. Add the vinegar and use a blender to make a smooth paste. Add the spinach and keep blending until you have a gloopy mixture.
  • Toast the remaining chopped walnuts and then add to the cooled barley and lentil mix along with the cooked banana peel and chia seeds. Mix well. 
  • To assemble the pie, cut the pastry into two rectangles, one slightly smaller than the other. roll out the smaller piece and top with the nut roast mix, leaving 1 cm around the edges. Put a layer of spinach pkhali on top of the nut mix.
  • Roll out the other piece of pastry, brush the 1 cm edge of the pie with olive oil and then place the larger piece of pastry over the top of the nut and pkhali mix and then crimp down the edges with a fork. Brush the pie with olive oil and bake in an oven heated to 180 c for 30 minutes or until the pie is a golden brown colour.
  • Serve with seasonal roasted vegetables — we used potatoes, beetroot, onion and carrots, and a gravy of your choice (we made one with a pomegranate sauce base).

Bring on the Bazhe – Georgia’s Versatile Walnut Sauce

6 August 2020

We’re turning our attention back to Georgia to take a look at how walnuts form the backbone of the nation’s cuisine. This versatile nut can be made into a sauce, bazhe, and slathered on slices of fried aubergine or poured over a cucumber and tomato salad. It’s also used liberally in the vegetable dip, pkhali, in the thicker satsivi paste and in the red bean dish, lobio.

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Aubergine slices stuffed with bazhe, Georgia’s versatile walnut sauce

We made some bazhe to roll up in slices of fried aubergine, a favourite from the days of visiting Georgian restaurants. These aubergine rolls, nigvziani badrijani in Georgian, are usually served at the start of the meal, especially at lengthy wine and chacha (a grape-based spirit akin to Italy’s grappa or Greece’s tsipouro) fuelled banquets, but we think they’re great to eat at anytime and they’re particularly handy for picnics or barbecues.

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Bazhe – Georgia’s versatile walnut sauce

To remove the bitter taste of the aubergine, sprinkle with salt and leave for 30 minutes. Rinse in cold water and pat dry with kitchen roll. Make sure the oil is very hot when frying the slices – this will help them not to soak up too much fat while cooking.,

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Spread the sauce on the fried aubergine slice and then roll it up

Ingredients (for 16-20 aubergine rolls)

  • 3 or 4 large aubergines
  • 100 ml cooking oil
  • 100 g walnuts
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar (red or white wine or apple)
  • 1 tablespoon pomegranate sauce
  • 1 teaspoon blue fenugreek (use cumin seeds if you can’t find this)
  • 1 teaspoon marigold flower (use turmeric if you can’t find this)
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 50 ml cold water
  • Salt to sprinkle over the aubergine slices
  • Fresh basil and coriander leaves to garnish

Method

  • Make the walnut sauce first. Crush the nuts using the back of a wooden spoon on a wooden chopping board. This method gives the sauce a more crunchy texture. Mince the garlic and mix with the nuts in a bowl. Add the spices, vinegar and pomegranate sauce and combine all the ingredients into a smooth paste. Add water until the sauce has a more runny consistency but is still quite thick.
  • While the sauce is chilling in the fridge, fry the aubergine. Heat 50 ml of oil in a heavy based pan. Top and tail the aubergine and slice off a thin layer of skin on both sides. Cut the aubergine into 0.5 cm slices lengthways and then fry on both sides until golden brown. Drain on kitchen paper.
  • When the slices have cooled down, spread the walnut sauce onto the slice and then roll it up. Garnish with fresh herbs such as coriander and basil, and pomegranate seeds (if you have any – we’re not expecting any until autumn) and serve cold with other Georgian starters such as pkhali and crusty bread.

Unravelling Ravioli on the Path to Pkhali Pierogi

1 March 2018

This time round on Knidos Cookery Club we’ll be unravelling ravioli, one of the many forms of filled pasta pockets found around the world – from Turkey’s manti, Uzbekistan’s chuchvara and Kazakhstan’s tushpara to Russia’s pelmeni, Ukraine’s varenyky and Poland’s pierogi – the list is endless.

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KCC’s beetroot-filled pkhali pierogi

These pasta pockets, which are boiled rather than steamed, can come in a variety of shapes and sizes with a wide range of fillings such as pumpkin, potato, spinach and ricotta cheese, or different types of fruit.

We’ve opted for a semi-circular shaped pierogi which we’ve filled with beetroot and walnut pkhaliclick here for our feature on this classic Georgian dish from last year.

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Three steps to a perfect pierogi!

Ingredients (Makes 16-24 depending on how big you make the pierogi)

For the pasta:

200 g flour

3 teaspoons olive oil

100 ml water

pinch of salt

Method

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. After resting, roll the pasta out onto a lightly-floured surface to a thickness between 0.5 and 1.0 mm.

Use a glass to cut out round shapes from the dough, add a teaspoon of cooled beetroot pkhali 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 pierogi to the water and keep boiling over a low heat until the pierogi float to the surface. Remove the pierogi with a slotted spoon and serve hot – they’re good served with sour cream or melted butter or just plain.

Adjapsandali Adventures

20 July 2017

Knidos Cookery Club would like to say a big thank you to all its readers who voted for the site in the 2017 Saveur Food Blog awards!

This time round we’re looking once again to Turkey’s north-eastern neighbour Georgia for some culinary inspiration. Adjapsandali, a popular  dish in this mountainous former Soviet country, is Georgia’s spicier take on ratatouille.

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Adjapsandali with green beans and potato

This summer stew relies on a holy trinity of aubergine, tomato and peppers with whatever else is in season thrown into the mix.  We’ve added some green beans and some potato to give the dish a heartier edge, but these can be omitted and other seasonal veggies like courgettes and carrots can be used – there’s no hard and fast rules, it’s up to you!

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The adjapsandali ingredients in the raw

It can be served up  with all the veggies collapsing into a sublime sauce-rich stew or the veggies can be left on the firmer side, as in our example. Served with rice, it makes a meal on its own, but it is also great with salads and other Georgian staples such as pkhali.

Ingredients (makes 4 generous servings)

300 g potatoes

300 g aubergines

250 g tomatoes

2 red peppers

200 g green beans

1 onion

2 garlic cloves

50 ml olive oil

1 teaspoon coriander

1 teaspoon red chili flakes

2 teaspoons fresh basil

3 bayleaves

Method

Roughly chop up all the vegetables and throw them into a large, heavy-based pan. Pour the olive oil over the vegetables, add the herbs and spices and cook over a medium heat for 10 minutes or so stirring occasionally. Turn the heat down to low and cook for another 20-30 minutes until all the vegetables are cooked and beginning to break up.

Sprinkle with fresh basil and serve with crusty bread or rice and a selection of salads such as tomato, cucumber and onion with a walnut dressing and starters such as pkhali.

Waste Not, Want Not: The Beet Goes On

1 June 2017

“Waste not, want not” was a familiar refrain at mealtimes when I was growing up. My parents had grown up with the rationing of World War II, and the lean years after it, and they were instilled with a mentality that saw nothing going to waste.

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Here at Knidos Cookery Club, we’re big fans of this philosophy as an antidote to our throwaway culture. We couldn’t resist this beetroot on sale with it stem and leaves in place – bits that are more usually removed and discarded before the root hits the supermarket shelves.

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The stems and leaves contain loads of nutrients and taste delicious when simply sautéed with a spring onion, a clove of garlic and a dash of soy sauce and lemon juice to make a great side dish.

Having been brought up to believe that beetroot was something that came pickled in jars and ready sliced, it was a revelation when I first came across the leaves and stems cooked in a similar way in Greece many years ago.

Don’t forget that you can also use the main part of the root in a vivid Rip Red Risotto or in a tasty Georgian pkhali  – the beet goes on!

Ingredients (serves 3-4 as a side dish)

the stems and leaves of a fresh beetroot

one garlic clove

one spring onion

soy sauce

olive oil for frying

juice of half a lemon

Method

Heat the olive oil in a wok or large frying pan over a medium heat and add the sliced spring onion and chopped garlic. Cut the stems from the beetroot (reserve the root for another dish). Separate the leaves from the stems.

Cut the stems into 2 cm slices and add to the onion and garlic and stir fry for five minutes. Shred the beetroot leaves and add to the pan, stirring constantly. Cook for two minutes, or until the leaves begin to wilt. Add a dash of soy sauce, stir and serve straight away, pouring the lemon juice over the beetroot  sauté.