Nearing four weeks of lockdown in Almaty and supplies are holding up surprisingly well, especially now that spring greens are beginning to come on tap. This week our local veg shop had rocket, celery and sorrel – all the makings of a peppery green salad to perk up the lunch menu.
We’re coming to the end of our super-sized cabbage, which was bought in the early days of lockdown, so we decided to use the remaining leaves to make cabbage rolls, a popular dish in eastern and southern Europe.
We stuffed the leaves with some rip-red risotto, a recipe we made a few years back that combines coarse bulgur wheat with beetroot and walnuts (if you want a gluten-free option, you can use arborio rice or pearl barley instead).
Simmer the stuffed cabbage parcels in a tomato and herb sauce for thirty minutes for a winning lockdown lunch. It makes for a tasty veggie take on that beloved Ukrainian / Russian dish, golubtsi, or ‘little doves’, or dolma as they are dubbed in some parts of the Mediterranean and into the Caucasus.
Separate the leaves carefully from the cabbage. Place in boiling water for five minutes to soften. Put the leaves in cold water and then drain. Cut out the tough, lower bit of the stalk (about 2-3 cm). Place a tablespoon of filling above the cut and then fold and roll the leaves into cigar shapes.
To make the sauce, heat the olive oil in a frying pan, add the mustard seeds and when they start to pop, add the chopped spring onions, celery and parsley. Cook for five minutes and then add the chopped tomatoes. Add the tomato paste and water , stir well and bring to the boil.
Lay the stuffed leaves in an ovenproof baking dish and pour the hot tomato sauce over them. Cover the dish with tin foil and bake at 200 c for thirty minutes. Sprinkle the cooked cabbage leaves with basil leaves before serving with a green salad.
This time round on Knidos Cookery Club, we’ll be cooking with jusai, one of the few leafy greens to make it past the strict controls of Kazakhstan’s carnivore police.
The fare in Kazakhstan is a salad-dodger’s delight – it’s very meat heavy with potatoes or carrots only occasionally making an appearance – Kazakhs like to joke that they are second only to wolves in their meat consumption, so jusai is a welcome addition to this diet.
Jusai’s official name is allium tuberosum, and it’s a member of the onion family – you might know it as Chinese chives or garlic chives in English. Jusai originated in China but it’s now grown all over Kazakhstan. It imparts a mild garlic flavour to dishes and is used as a filling for pasties and dumplings in Kazakh kitchens.
We decided to cook it up in some cider with some brown rice, onion, lemon and walnuts to make a pilau, or a loose take on risotto. It pairs well with some oven-baked seasonal vegetables or a seasonal salad.
Ingredients (serves 3-4)
300 g brown rice
50 ml olive oil
one medium-sized onion
100 g toasted walnuts
200 g garlic chives
250 ml dry cider
750 ml vegetable stock
one teaspoon mustard seeds
one teaspoon cumin seeds
Heat the oil in a heavy-based pan and add the mustard seeds – when the seeds start to pop, put the finely diced onion in and fry for five minutes over a medium heat. Add the cumin seeds and stir well and then add the rice, stirring for a minute to coat the grains with oil.
Reduce the heat and pour in the cider, stirring occasionally as the mix simmers so the rice doesn’t stick to the pan. When the liquid is absorbed, add 250 ml stock and continue to simmer and stir every now and then. Add more stock when this is absorbed and keep going until the rice is almost cooked. Add more stock if needed – the rice should be al-dente.
Remove for the heat and mix in the finely chopped garlic chives (leave some to garnish the pilau), the lemon zest, toasted, chopped walnuts and the lemon juice and mix well. Cover the pan and leave to stand for five minutes.
Serve with oven-roasted vegetables or a leafy green salad and garnish with the remaining garlic chives.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
This week on Knidos Cookery Club, we’re featuring beetroot as the basis for a rip-roaringly red risotto.
In Turkish, if you want to say something is, for instance, very blue, then you add a prefix. By adding mas to mavi (blue) you end up with masmavi. As an example, to talk about the deep blue sea you could say masmavi engin deniz.
A rich red colour, such as that imparted by beetroot, would come out as kıpkırmızı, or, in English, rip-red, which seems a perfect way to describe out beetroot risotto. To add a Turkish-edge to the dish, we used coarse bulgur wheat, but you can use arborio rice if you prefer.
We added some walnuts to the mix, as they combine so well with the sweet edge of beetroot. This is quite a common combination – in Georgia walnuts are blended with grated beetroot to make pkhali.
Ingredients (serves 3-4)
250 g whole, uncooked beetroot
50 g walnuts
100 g coarse bulgur wheat
150 ml red wine
500 ml beetroot cooking water
25 ml olive oil
one medium-sized onion
one garlic clove
one teaspoon dried thyme
one teaspoon dried rosemary
one teaspoon cumin seeds
black pepper and salt to taste
sprig of fresh basil leaves
Boil the washed but unpeeled beetroot in a saucepan for 30 minutes. Put the beetroot in cold water, keeping the water you used to cook the beetroot separate, and then peel and top and tail the beetroot when cool. Put to one side.
Heat the olive oil in a heavy-based pan and add the cumin seeds. Cook until the seeds are beginning to burn and then add the diced onion and garlic, dried thyme and rosemary and season with salt and pepper. Cook until the onion is going translucent.
Add the washed bulgur wheat and stir to coat the grains. Add the glass of wine and stir occasionally until the liquid is absorbed. Add a third of the vegetable stock and keep cooking and stirring until the liquid is absorbed. Add more stock until the bulgur wheat is cooked and the risotto has a creamy consistency and then turn off the heat.
Meanwhile, gently toast the walnut pieces in a small frying pan and chop the beetroot into small, 1 cm cubes. Mix the beetroot and toasted walnut into the bulgur wheat risotto.
Garnish with fresh basil leaves -green ones make a better contrast to the red of the risotto, but we could only find the mauve coloured variety. Serve with a green salad.