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!
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.
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
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
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).
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
We’re back in action after another glamping trip to Bubble Gum View near Almaty. This peaceful spot, located a 45-minute drive from the city centre, is situated in an orchard and consists of four pods. This time round we were treated to an upgrade to the en-suite pod that has a kitchen and an upstairs bedroom too.
Kazakhstan, Almaty region in particiular, is widely acknowledged as the place where the ancestors of today’s apples evolved. The name Almaty translates from the Kazakh as ‘the place of apples.’ With autumn approaching, the apples are beginning to ripen and we picked a few to bring back to Almaty.
With summer making a last stand – the mercury is still hitting the 30s here in Almaty, we used the apples in a salad based on one we had in Greece one time. The Greek version used pears and lettuce, but we’ve swapped in rocket and our homecoming apples. We served it in a wrap with some fresh, homemade hummus and crispy falafels, but it works equally well wherever you’d normally eat salad.
Ingredients (serves 3-4)
125 g courgette
100 g apple
75 g rocket
20 g capers
1 teaspoon chia seeds
Juice of half a lemon
15 ml olive oil
Roughly chop the rocket leaves and put at them at the bottom of your salad bowl. Grate the courgette over the rocket leaves. Now grate the apple over the courgette layer, add the capers and sprinkle the chia seeds over the top. Dress with lemon juice and olive oil and mix well.
This time round on KCC we’re cooking up orzotto – the barley-based cousin of risotto. The name is taken from orzo, the Italian for barley with the ‘otto’ coming from the rice-fuelled risotto. There’s also a rice-shaped pasta called orzo, but for this recipe you’ll need pearl barley, not the pasta.
Barley, a hardy crop that can be grown in challenging environments, was one of the first cereal crops to be cultivated around 10,000 years ago in the grasslands where Asia and Europe meet – modern day Central Asia, from where it spread into neighbouring areas and became a staple part of the diet.
Pearl barley is a grain that has been processed to remove the hull and some of the bran – this makes it easier to cook. It cooks in roughly the same time as rice, especially if you soak it for a few hours beforehand – you can kill two birds with one stone with our recipe for lemon barley water which can be drunk on its own or in cocktails.
We made our orzotto with broccoli and celery but you can substitute any vegetables you have to hand – mushrooms work well in this recipe, as do courgettes.
Ingredients (makes 4 servings)
200 g pearl barley
300 g broccoli
One medium-sized onion
One stick of celery
50 ml olive oil
Two teaspoons cumin seeds
500 ml vegetable stock
125 ml dry white wine
Soak the barley for a few hours in cold water – this will make it cook more quickly. Heat the oil in a heavy-based pan on a low heat. Add the cumin seeds and when they begin to pop add the diced onion and celery and cook for five minutes. Break the broccoli into small florets and finely chop the stem and then add to the pan. Cook for another five minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the soaked barley and stir well to coat the individual grains. Pour on the white wine and stir occasionally. When the wine has been absorbed, add 125 ml of vegetable stock and when that is absorbed keep adding liquid until the barley is tender – you might not need to use all the stock. It will take about 30 minutes to cook the orzotto. Serve immediately with a green salad.
With the summer temperatures peaking, we’ve come up with a melon and raspberry fuelled rum cocktail to help you keep cool.
The melon season is in full swing in Kazakhstan with honeydew melons and watermelons both at their sweetest. You can find piles of ripe melons on sale all over the country. Its hot, arid climate is particularly well-suited to this instant summer dessert. Stalls appear on street corners with tempting mounds of golden yellow and green streaked melons.
We’ve used melon in a cocktail this time round, along with raspberries, white rum or vodka and Martini Fiero, an orange-flavoured aperitif that’s been a hit with the KCC crew this summer. You can also try melon in a seasonal salad with halloumi cheese – here’s our recipe for this summertime special from a few years back.
Ingredients (makes one litre)
150 g honeydew melon
100 g raspberries
250 ml water
200 ml Martini Fiero
100 ml white rum or vodka
250 – 300 ml tonic or soda water
Put the fruit in a blender with the water and mix it into a smooth consistency. Pour the juice, spirit and Martini Fiero into an empty one litre plastic or glass bottle. Top up to a litre with tonic water or soda water and shake well. Fill a tumbler with ice and pour the Meloncoolia over the rocks, put your feet up and enjoy!
This time round on KCC we’re turning our attention to plov — Central Asia’s favourite rice dish. There are no hard and fast rules for plov, with regional variations prizing different ingredients and each family having its own take on what should go into the dish. One thing is for sure — this spicy rice, carrot, onion, garlic and dried fruit concoction makes for a great centrepiece for any party and is perfect for sharing with family and friends.
KCC travelled up to Kazakhstan’s capital Nur-Sultan to visit a modern day plov-meister who has perfected a tasty, meat-free take on this classic Uzbek dish. Our plov-meister learnt his trade on the mean streets of Hojeli, Karakalpakstan and in the student dorms of Tashkent, Uzbekistan.
There are no strict cooking times for this recipe — it’s more of a feeling than an exercise in clock watching. Apart from the holy trinity of onion, carrot and rice, our plov-meister deploys whatever is to hand in the kitchen, adding dried fruits and spices along with a surfeit of garlic. For best results, your plov should be cooked in a kazan, a cast iron cauldron, but a deep, heavy-based saucepan or a casserole dish will suffice at a pinch. The pan should retain the heat to enable the plov to cook slowly and for the myriad flavours to meld.
Serve the plov alongside a spicy achik chuchuk tomato and onion salad, steaming bowls of green tea and Uzbek bread, non, click here for a recipe from Caroline Eden’s excellent Central Asian focussed cookbookRed Sands.
Ingredients (makes enough for 8-10 servings)
100 ml cooking oil (For the authentic Uzbek taste track down some cottonseed oil, but failing that sunflower, rapeseed or olive oil works just as well)
500 g onion
500 g carrot
500 g short grain rice
6 heads of garlic
150 g currants /raisins /sultanas – or a mix of all three
100 g dried apricots (with stones)
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
For the salad:
250 g tomatoes
250 g onion
One teaspoon dried basil
1 – 3 Chilli peppers, finely sliced (adjust as to how hot you like your food)
Heat the oil over a low heat in a heavy-based pan and then add the sliced onion. Fry the onion until it gets a golden-brownish colour so that later the rice will get its distinctive orangey colour. Cut the carrots into 5 cm long slices, a few millimetres wide and then add to the onions. Cook until the carrots are very tender so that they can easily be cut by a spatula or a wooden spoon while stirring.
Now add the spices, the whole dried apricots, currants, sultanas or raisins (or all three) and whole heads of garlic. Cook for a few minutes to allow these ingredients to absorb the oil and the carrot/onion juice.
Rinse the rice carefully until the water runs clear and then put the washed rice on top of the spicy, fruity vegetable base and then pour water over the top through a fish slice to allow an even distribution of the liquid.
Cover the rice with an extra 1 cm of water and then cook over a high heat and when the water disappears from the top of the rice, turn it down to a very low heat, close the lid and allow it to steam for about 20 minutes.
Serve with a spicy tomato and onion salad — achik chuchuk — a salad made from thinly sliced tomato and onion, a sprinkling of dried basil and diced chilli peppers, according to how hot you like it, and oven-fresh non bread.
With the barbecue season in full swing, we’ve been sent this photo from a reader in Uzbekistan that reminded us that a while back we promised a recipe for Armenia’s favourite warm vegetable salad — khoravats, made from grilled aubergines, peppers and tomatoes.
Khoravats is a fixture on the menu in many post-Soviet countries — it’s name comes from the Armenian verb khorovel, which simply means to grill. With an abundance of seasonal vegetables appearing in the markets and sunny days and long evenings (in Kazakhstan at least!), it’s time to fire up your grill and get making some khoravats.
2 medium sized aubergines (eggplants)
3 medium-sized green peppers (bell peppers)
3 medium-sized tomatoes
1 small onion
1 bunch parsley or coriander (cilantro)
25 ml olive oil
Juice of one lemon
Wash the vegetables and prick the aubergines with a fork in a few places (to stop them exploding!). Grill the vegetables until the skins start to char, then keep turning so that the whole vegetable is cooked evenly. The tomatoes will cook first, then the aubergines and peppers. Remove from the grill and put in a paper bag to cool down — this will make it easier to peel the vegetables.
After 15 minutes or so, remove from the bag and peel. Then chop into chunks and mix together in a big bowl. Dress the chunks with the olive oil and lemon juice and season with black pepper and then add the finely chopped onion, parsley or coriander (cilantro) and serve with flat bread warmed up on the grill.
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.