Let Them Eat KCC’s Vodka-fuelled Festive Fruitcake

6 January 2021

If you’re feeling down after all the partying in December, then never fear as Russian Christmas is here! To help celebrate it in style we’ve opened up our Vodkatopf (a slavic cousin of the Rumtopf) and used the fruit that’s been stewing in the vodka since summer to make a booze-infused fruitcake.

In Russia, Christmas is celebrated on 7 January – the Orthodox Church still follows the Julian calendar rather than the Gregorian calendar whereas Russia switched to the latter in 1917. The switch created a 13-day lag between the calendars so, for followers of the Orthodox faith, Christmas Eve falls on 6 January and 13 January marks the end of the old year

To make the vodkatopf we poured vodka over layers of different fruits as they appeared over the summer. The apricots, cherries and raspberries of early summer were followed by peaches and plums to make a great , fruity vodka for shooting or mixing. As an added bonus, the preserved fruit went into a the fruitcake mix. We decorated the cake with melted white chocolate and crushed almonds and used pumpkin and pomegranate seeds as the finishing touch.

Ingredients (for 6 – 8 servings)

  • 325 g vodka-soaked mixed fruit (soak overnight in 250 ml vodka or other spirit if using dried fruit)
  • 90 g olive oil
  • 100 g honey (or golden syrup for a vegan cake)
  • 175 g plain flour (we used rice flour for a gluten free cake) 
  • 50 g mixed nuts 
  • 100 ml coconut milk
  • 25 g desiccated coconut
  • One teaspoon baking powder
  • One teaspoon each of cloves, ginger, nutmeg and cinnamon
  • 25 ml vodka
  • 100 g melted white chocolate
  • pumpkin and pomegranate seeds to decorate the cake

Method

  • Line a 15cm cake tin with a double layer of parchment paper, this will help stop the cake from burning
  • Sieve the flour and combine with 30 g of chopped nuts, desiccated coconut, baking powder, cloves, ginger, nutmeg and cinnamon and stir together to make a thick batter
  • Melt the honey into the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pan over a low heat and stir.
  • Combine the honey and oil mix with the batter.
  • Stir in the soaked fruits into the batter, along with any leftover liquid.
  • Layer the batter into the prepared tin and use a spatula to spread it level. 
  • Melt the white chocolate in a glass or ceramic bowl over a pan of boiling water.
  • Spread the chocolate evenly over the top of the cake, sprinkle some mixed nuts over the icing and then decorate with pomegranate and pumpkin seeds.

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.

Lockdown Lunch: Tbilisi Calling

26 March 2020

For this week’s lockdown lunch we had a root around the cupboards and came up with some dried red beans, last autumn’s walnuts and a bottle of Turkish pomegranate sauce (Nar Ekşili Sos) – perfect ingredients for taking us on a culinary away day to Tbilisi for a bowl of lobio, Georgia’s signature bean dish.

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Take a trip to Georgia with KCC’s Lobio lockdown lunch

Lobio can be more like a soup, a stew, a salad or even re-fried beans depending on which region of Georgia it’s prepared in – we’ve gone for lobio nigvzit which is somewhere between a soup and a stew. Serve the lobio in a clay pot with white cheese and a hunk of fresh mchadi (corn bread – recipe link here) or any other bread for an authentic taste of Georgia.

To help pass the time during lockdown, here’s something on the etymology of lobio from @thomas_wier on twitter:

Ingredients (makes four servings)

  • 500 g cooked red beans
  • 50 g walnuts
  • One medium onion
  • Two garlic cloves
  • One teaspoon coriander seeds
  • One teaspoon blue fenugreek (use fenugreek or cumin seeds if you can’t find this)
  • One teaspoon red chilli flakes
  • One small bunch fresh coriander
  • Three bay leaves
  • 50 ml cooking oil
  • 50 ml pomegranate sauce
  • 250 ml water the beans were cooked in or vegetable stock

Method 

  • If cooking dried beans, then soak 250 g of beans overnight. Change water and cook for one hour or so until the beans are just cooked but not yet falling apart. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
  • Heat the oil in a heavy-based pan and add the coriander seeds and blue fenugreek. Cook for a few minutes and then add the diced onions, mashed garlic and chilli flakes. Cook for ten minutes over a low heat and then add the crushed walnuts and the pomegranate sauce. Cook for another five minutes.
  • Now add the drained beans, bay leaves and reserved cooking water. Leave to simmer until most of the liquid is absorbed. Stir frequently with a wooden spoon – don’t worry if the beans start to fall apart – they taste better like this and absorb more sauce.
  • Add the chopped fresh coriander and serve hot with bread and white cheese. It tastes even better if left overnight and reheated, but only add the fresh coriander after re-heating the mix.

 

 

KCC’s Nutty Festive Fare

22 December 2019

Seasoned greetings from Knidos Cookery Club – we’d just like to take this opportunity to thank all our readers, old and new, in 2019 and wish you a great holiday season and all the best for the New Year.

With the winter solstice, Hanukkah, Christmas and New Year all upon us, we’d like to share this nutty lentil bake recipe with you. It makes a great centrepiece for a festive feast.

We served it with roast potatoes, charred cauliflower and smashed pumpkin and then poured a rich pomegranate sauce over everything.

Ingredients (for 6 servings)

  • 150 g green lentils
  • One carrot
  • One medium-sized onion
  • One stick of celery
  • 75 g walnuts
  • 75 g coarse bulgur
  • Two tablespoons tomato paste
  • Two teaspoons cumin seeds
  • One teaspoon coriander seeds
  • One teaspoon chilli powder
  • Half a teaspoon cloves
  • 50 ml olive oil
  • 250 ml vegetable stock
  • 25 g chickpea flour
  • Pomegranate seeds

Method

  • Cook the lentils in the vegetable stock until most of the liquid has been soaked up. The lentils should still be firm, not mushy. Stir in the bulgur and leave to stand for 30 minutes.
  • Heat the olive oil in a heavy based pan and add the spices. Cook for a few minutes and then add the chopped onions, grated carrot and thin slices of celery and cook for 10 minutes, stirring regularly.
  • Combine the vegetable mix with the lentils. Stir in the tomaro paste. Toast the chopped walnuts for 5 minutes then add to the lentil mix. Finally add the chickpea flour to thicken the mix.
  • Pack the mix into a greased baking dish and cook for 30 minutes in an oven pre-heated to 180 c. Garnish with pomegranate seeds and then cut the loaf into 6 slices and serve.

Chiving around with Jusai

17 May 2018

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.

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Jusai in bloom

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.

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Brown rice pilau with jusai, lemon and walnuts

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
  • one lemon
  • 100 g toasted walnuts
  • 200 g garlic chives
  • 250 ml dry cider
  • 750 ml vegetable stock
  • one teaspoon mustard seeds
  • one teaspoon cumin seeds

Method

  • 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.

 

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.

Fesenjan for Beginners

18 January 2018

This week on Knidos Cookery Club we’re going to be bucking the January detox trend with this super-rich, calorie-laden Iranian stew, Fesenjan (pronounced fesenjoon), that combines three of our favourite go-to ingredients – pomegranate, walnut and pumpkin.

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KCC’s Fesenjan Tart

Usually served as a thick stew with rice, we’ve decided to put it in a pie case to make a tasty walnut and pomegranate infused tart. Making this stew can be quite labour-intensive – shelling the walnuts, toasting them, crushing them, extracting the pomegranate seeds and so on, but the end result makes it well worth all the effort.

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Can’t get much fresher than this!

Look out for Nar Ekşisi (pomegranate syrup) or the sweeter Nar Ekşili Sos (pomegranate sauce) in your local Middle-Eastern shop or make your own. If using Nar Ekşisi, add a teaspoon or two of honey to the stew to make it a bit sweeter.

To save time you can use shop-bought pastry, but we think it tastes better with a homemade pie crust. To keep it vegan, we’ve used olive oil instead of butter to make our shortcrust pastry.

Ingredients (serves 4)

125 g shelled walnuts

one medium onion

500 g pumpkin or butternut squash

300 ml vegetable stock

30 ml olive oil

2-3 tablespoons pomegranate syrup or sauce (Nar Ekşisi or Nar Ekşili Sos in Turkish)

0.5 teaspoon cumin seeds

0.25 teaspoon cinnamon and turmeric

Black pepper

Handful of pomegranate seeds

Bunch of fresh parsley

200 g shortcrust pastry

Method

Toast the walnuts for 10 minutes over a low heat and then mince in a blender. Heat the olive oil and fry the onion in a heavy-based pan over a medium heat for ten minutes. Add the spices and then add the cubed pumpkin and stir to cover.

Pour over the vegetable stock, add the pomegranate molasses and the minced walnuts and cook over a medium heat for 30 minutes until the pumpkin is cooked. Make sure the sauce is quite thick – if it’s runny, boil it until it starts to thicken.

Roll out the pastry and place it in a greased baking tray. Bake blind for ten minutes at 180c and then put the filling into the pie case. Cook for 40 minutes or so until the pastry starts to go golden brown.

Garnish the tart with chopped parsley and pomegranate seeds and serve with saffron rice and a green salad.

I Heard it through the Grapevine

26 October 2017

Welcome to the 60th post on Knidos Cookery Club – to celebrate we took a tour to Datça’s very own vineyard to check out some of the local vintages on offer.

The vineyard is located on a hilltop on the main road into Datça and has a reserve range of delicious reds, going under the name of Cnidus, an alternative spelling of Knidos, and some  excellent red and white blends along with a superb blush wine.

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It has been in its present site since 2011 and has both south and north-facing rows of vines to take advantage of the sun’s rays from both sides. Look out for the round brick windmill on a hillside on the left as you drive into Datça – the vineyard’s on the main road just before the turn off to the town.

This boutique vineyard produces around 40 – 50,000 bottles of wine a year –  using Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah (Shiraz) and the indigenous Öküzgözü and Boğazkere grape varieties to produce red wines and a blush, and Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and the local Sultaniye grape to make white wine.

You can taste the wines in the windmill or in the beautiful garden with its spectacular views over the Mediterranean Sea and Greek islands on the horizon. You can also take a tour of the vineyard and buy wine in the shop at competitive prices.

Datça Vineyard’s wines are on sale in some restaurants in town and in two supermarkets – Erdi on the harbour front, and Dilge on the road to the town’s Saturday market.

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Green beans roasted with walnuts

With all this wine tasting to do, something simple was called for so this week we’re going to make a a quick pasta dish with roasted green beans and walnuts. It’s really easy to cook and there’s not much washing up either, leaving more time to enjoy the fruits of Datça’s vineyard!

Ingredients (serves 2-3)

250 g green beans

50 g walnuts

200 g pasta (penne, fusilli or spaghetti works well here)

One garlic clove

25 ml olive oil

One teaspoon dried thyme

Method 

Top and tail the green beans and cut into 3-4 cm slices. Put the beans in an oven dish, crush the walnuts and mince the garlic and scatter over the beans and then add the thyme and olive oil. Stir well and then put the dish in a pre-heated oven and cook for 30 minutes at 180 c.

While the beans are roasting, cook your favourite pasta as per the instruction on the pack. When cooked to your taste, drain and mix with the roasted beans and walnut and serve immediately on warmed plates with shavings of Parmigiano-Reggiano (Parmesan), if you’re a cheese fan.

As for the wine pairing, we’d recommend either a Silenus Chardonnay or a Silenus Blush – in Greek mythology Silenus was the god of wine making and drunkenness and the foster-father of Dionysos, the god of wine, vegetation, pleasure, festivity, madness and wild frenzy – enjoy!

 

 

 

 

Haydari Stuffed Potato Balls

6 July 2017

Welcome to Knidos Cookery Club’s 50th post! To mark this momentous milestone, we’ve recreated a dish we discovered while visiting Ovabükü, a quiet beach on the Knidos peninsula – stuffed potato balls.

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Spicy potato balls stuffed with haydari

If you’ve enjoyed reading Knidos Cookery Club as much as we’ve enjoyed producing it, then could we ask a favour – please nominate us in the Saveur Blog Awards for 2017. This is a special award for food blogs and if you could spare a couple of minutes to nominate then enter our URL – https://knidoscookeryclub.wordpress.com – and choose the Best New Voice category. Your support would be much appreciated – thanks in advance!

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Haydari with walnuts

For Knidos Cookery Club one of the most enjoyable things about the local food scene is finding a new restaurant and checking out the dishes in the vitrine. There are always some surprise dishes lurking in the glass display cabinets that are made from fresh, seasonal ingredients.

In Ovabükü one of the dishes on the mixed meze plate was the aforementioned potato ball stuffed with cream cheese. We’ve put some delicious haydari, made from mint and strained yogurt, in our version, and spiced up the potato balls with some chilli flakes. Strained yogurt is thicker than normal yogurt as the liquid whey and lactose has been strained off – it’s also known as Greek style yogurt in the UK.

Haydari

  • 200 ml strained yogurt
  • 20 g crumbly white cheese
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 3 teaspoons dried mint
  • 1 teaspoon red chili flakes
  • 2 walnuts

Mix the yogurt, cheese, garlic and mint together and leave in the fridge for a couple of hours. Decorate the haydari with walnut pieces and dust with chilli flakes before serving.

Spicy Potato Balls

  • 500 g baked or boiled potatoes
  • Handful of fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon red chili flakes
  • Black pepper
  • 50 ml unstrained yogurt

Mash the potato and mix in the other ingredients. Form into round, golf ball-sized shapes, make an indentation in the top with a teaspoon and fill the gap with haydari and top with a walnut half.

A Passion for Pkhali

20 April 2017

This time round on Knidos Cookery Club we’re returning to Georgia for some culinary inspiration in the form of pkhali, a type of starter made from walnuts, herbs, spices and whatever vegetable happens to be in season, such as spinach, beetroot, aubergine, cabbage or carrot.

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Walnuts are widely used in Georgian cooking – besides pkhali, they can be turned into  satsivi, a thick paste similar to hummus, and  bazhe, a sauce made with the holy trinity of Georgian herbs – blue fenugreek, ground coriander (cilantro) and crushed marigold flowers. These combos can be mixed with fresh cucumbers and tomatoes as a salad dressing or stuffed into tongues of fried aubergine (eggplant).

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Staying on the walnut theme, on a recent visit to the former home of famous Kazakh writer Mukhtar Auezov in Almaty, Kazakhstan, the guide gave me a handful of walnuts from the gnarled old tree in the garden of the writer’s house. These nuts were used in the making  of today’s pkhali recipe.

Auezov was famous in Soviet times for writing The Path of Abai, an epic historical novel based on the life and teachings of Kazakhstan’s most famous poet and composer Abai Qunanbayuli, who had been a neighbour and friend of Auezov’s grandfather.

It was said in the Soviet era that all were equal, but some were more equal than others – and this was certainly the case for Auezov after he won the Lenin Prize in 1959 for his four-volume epic novel about Abai.

The prize came with a sackful of roubles which he invested in a two-storey house, which is now a museum dedicated to his life and work. The house was lavish by the standards of the time and was designed by the architect who designed Almaty’s Abai Opera Theatre.

Ingredients (Makes around four generous servings of each pkhali – see photo above)

For the beetroot pkhali

  • 300 g cooked beetroot
  • 100 g walnuts
  • One garlic clove
  • 5 g fresh parsley
  • 5 g fresh coriander
  • One teaspoon blue fenugreek powder
  • One teaspoon black pepper
  • 20 ml wine vinegar
  • A scattering of pomegranate seeds and walnuts

 

For the spinach pkhali

  • 250 g fresh spinach
  • 100 g walnuts
  • One small onion (around 75 g)
  • One garlic clove
  • 5 g fresh parsley
  • 5 g fresh coriander
  • One teaspoon blue fenugreek powder
  • One teaspoon black pepper
  • 20 ml wine vinegar
  • A scattering of pomegranate seeds and walnuts

 

Method

  • For the beetroot pkhali:
  • Boil the beetroot for 30 minutes or so until you can pierce it with a knife easily.
  • Leave to cool and then peel and chop into small chunks.
  • Toast the walnuts over a low heat for 5-10 minutes and then add to the garlic and herbs and spices in a bowl. Add the vinegar and use a blender to make a smooth paste. Add the beetroot chunks and keep blending until you have a gloopy mixture.
  • Leave overnight in the fridge and then serve with a scattering of pomegranate seeds and walnuts.

Method

  • For 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.
  • Leave overnight in the fridge and then serve with a scattering of pomegranate seeds and walnuts.