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.
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.
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
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.
With spring greens making a welcome reappearance, it’s time for a brunch special – green shakshuka, North Africa’s breakfast star.
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
one teaspoon cumin seeds
one teaspoon chilli powder
25 ml olive oil
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
Today we’re celebrating KCC’s 5th anniversary with a hearty plate of laghman, hand-pulled wheat noodles, one of Central Asia’s favourite dishes. These thick, chewy noodles are often served with a rich, spicy sauce but we decided to make a drier version with spring greens and chickpeas.
We can’t believe that it’s been five years since we started our culinary journey in Datça, Turkey. KCC’s first recipe was this asparagus risotto, inspired by the fresh produce on sale in the town’s weekly market.
Over the last five years, we’ve branched out from Turkey and sought out dishes from around the globe with gastronomic excursions to Greece, Georgia, Russia, Albania, Italy, India, Sri Lanka, Central Asia and Mexico among others.
Since the start of the pandemic KCC has been confined to Almaty, Kazakhstan, so we’ve been trying out new recipes based on locally sourced ingredients which brought us to laghman.
When it came to making this dish we cheated a bit – Gulzada, our local greengrocer, now offers home made noodles along with whatever fruit and vegetables are in season.
If your local grocer doesn’t stock noodles and you have the time to pull your own noodles, then check out this recipe to make the key ingredient for your laghman.
Ingredients (for 3-4 servings)
150 g noodles per person
200 g mixed greens – we used cauliflower and radish leaves but you can use anything you have handy
200 g leek
50 g garlic chives (jusai)
50 g celery
350 g cooked chickpeas
100 ml chickpea cooking water (aquafaba)
One teaspoon cumin seeds
One teaspoon red chilli flakes
50 ml olive oil
Heat the olive oil in a heavy-based pan and add the cumin seeds. Wash the leek thoroughly and then chop in half lengthways and then cut into 1 cm slices. Use as much of the leek as you can including the leafy green bits. When the cumin seeds begin to pop, reduce the heat to a low setting and add the leek to the pan and stir fry for five minutes.
Add the red chilli flakes, celery, garlic chives and chopped radish and cauliflower leaves to the leek and cook until the the leaves start to wilt. Stir in the chickpeas and the aquafaba and cook until most of the liquid is absorbed and you have a fairly thick sauce.
Bring a large pan of water to the boil. Put the noodles in the pan and leave for 2-3 minutes to warm them through. Arrange on a plate and pour the sauce on top and serve.
With reports coming in from allotment owners in the UK of a bumper post-lockdown vegetable crop, we’re revisiting an old favourite — a quiche made with courgettes, peppery radish leaves and a healthy dash of horseradish.
In a topical touch, we’ve added a dash of horseradish (хрен in Russian), the latest plant to be touted as a defence against coronavirus in Central Asia, following hard on the heels of garlic.
Demand for horseradish, a root vegetable which is traditionally mixed with honey to fight colds and coughs, has soared in in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan in recent weeks, along with the price. We bought a jar of horseradish sauce, flavoured with beetroot, as the fresh roots are in short supply.
Crackers have also been hard to find in Almaty in recent weeks, so we used up the leftover pastry from making the quiche to prepare our own. Simply roll the pastry out to a thickness of 1 mm and then use a glass or mug to cut out a round shape. Bake in a hot oven (200 c) on a baking tray for 8-10 minutes until they start to brown.
Ingredients (3-4 portions)
For the pastry:
250 g flour (we used a 50/50 mix of rye and wheat flour)
60 ml olive oil
120 ml cold water
One teaspoon cumin seeds
One teaspoon sesame seeds
Healthy sprinkling of black pepper
For the filling:
One medium courgette
Bunch of radish leaves
One teaspoon horseradish sauce (or freshly grated if you can find it)
One small onion
100 g halloumi
50 ml olive oil
Put the flour in a large bowl with the cumin and sesame seeds and a sprinkling of black pepper. Mix the flour and oil together with a fork and then slowly add the water and keep mixing until it starts to come together. Knead with your hands for 5-10 minutes until you have a stretchy ball of pastry. Leave in the fridge covered in clingfilm for an hour or so.
Heat the oven to 200 c. Roll the pastry on a lightly floured surface until it is about 2 mm thick. Grease a baking dish and then put the pastry in the dish to form a pie crust. Prick all over with a fork and bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes. You can use any leftover pastry to make crackers – put them on the top shelf of the oven at the same time as you’re baking the pie base.
Heat 25 ml of oil in a heavy based pan and chop the courgette into 5 mm slices. Cook the courgettes on both sides until browning. Put the courgettes to one side and add the rest of the oil to the pan. While the pie base is baking, cook the sliced onion and chopped radish leaves in the hot oil.
Add the horseradish sauce and the egg to the mixture when the radish leaves are wilting. Stir well and then pour this into the pie crust. Place the fried courgette slices on top and put strips of halloumi around the courgettes. Bake for another 20-30 minutes at 180 c until the pastry is starting to go brown and the cheese has started to melt.
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.