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!
We’re always on the look out at KCC for something to celebrate and this week we’re heading for Scotland. Coming up on 25 January is Burns Night, which marks the birthday of the country’s national bard, Robert Burns, with a night of poetry and songs accompanied by lots of drinking and feasting.
The celebration revolves around a hearty supper and commemorates the life and works of Scotland’s most famous poet with recitals of his work and comforting winter fare. It’s all washed down with a wee dram or two of whisky.
The first course of the supper is usually cock-a-leekie soup, this is followed by the main attraction, haggis, a savoury, offal-based dish that is similar to “a crumbly sausage, with a coarse oaty texture and a warming peppery flavour,” according to the BBC Good Food website. It’s usually served with neeps (mashed turnip) and tatties (mashed potato). Clootie dumpling, a steamed, dried fruit pudding, is served for dessert.
We’ve replaced the chicken usually found in the cock-a-leekie soup with green lentils to make our vegan version – Barleekie soup, named for its key ingredients of barley and leeks.
If you want to try your hand at haggis but are not keen on all those innards then check out this recipe from Emi’s Good Eating for a vegan take on Scotland’s national dish. As for the clootie dumpling, check out this recipe from the BBC.
Ingredients (for 3 – 4 servings)
100 g pearl barley
100 g green lentils
One leek (200 g)
One carrot (150 g)
50 ml olive oil
600 ml vegetable stock
One teaspoon cumin seeds
One teaspoon turmeric
One teaspoon ginger
One bay leaf
Soak the barley and green lentils separately for 4 hours. Zest the lemon and mix this into the soaking barley.
Heat the oil in a heavy-based pan and then wash the leek thoroughly and chop the white part into 1 cm rounds and roughly chop the green parts. Add the leek to the pan and then stir in the spices. Sweat the leek over a low heat until it is soft.
Stir in the chopped carrot, barley and green lentils and then add the vegetable stock and the juice of the lemon and the bay leaf. Simmer for 30 minutes or so over a low heat until the the lentils and carrots are cooked but the barley still has a bit of bite to it.
Serve hot with hunks of crusty bread or oatcakes if you have them.
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
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.
With lockdown mostly lifted here in Kazakhstan, a bit of a celebration was called for and what better way than with a cocktail – we had a root around the drinks cupboard and came up with this somewhat eclectic selection of spirits:
The tequila had taken a bit of hammering during lockdown, Tashkent Gold Whisky is something of an acquired taste, so it was left to Peru’s premier spirit, Pisco, to provide the base for the cocktail! A further root around kitchen produced some cinnamon, orange peel and sugar to provide the base for a syrup for our cocktail. A bottle of Moldovan sparkling wine left over from New Year provided the finishing fizzy touch.
Add orange and cinnamon syrup
to a shot of
pisco and ice
add orange juice
top up with Moldovan sparkling wine
to make the Post-Quarantini
To make a Pisco Spritz: Put some ice cubes in a cocktail glass, mix 25 ml Pisco (or any other clear spirit) with 25 ml syrup (see recipe below) and then add 50 ml fresh orange juice. Top up with sparkling wine (Champagne, Cava or Prosecco will work fine if Moldovan spumante is not available!) add a slice of orange and, bingo, your post-quarantini cocktail is ready! Knock yourself up a glass or two and join us to celebrate entering our brave new post-lockdown world.
Orange and cinnamon syrup (makes around 250 ml)
200 ml boiling water
20 g sliced orange peel
50 g brown sugar or honey
One cinnamon stick
Put all the ingredients into a bottle, shake well and allow to cool. Give it a vigorous shake every 15 minutes or so. When it has cooled down, store it in the fridge – leave for a few days for best results.
Welcome to the 100th post from the weird and wonderful culinary world of Knidos Cookery Club! To celebrate this occasion, we’ve come up with a rose-tinted cocktail, Pravda Punch.
Last Sunday saw Kazakhstan’s new president win a vote marred by allegations of rigging. The election campaign came to life when peaceful protestors put up a banner at Almaty’s marathon in May calling for a fair election and warning “От правды не убежишь” (You can’t run away from the truth) in Russian.
To celebrate both this act and our 100th post, we’d like to raise a glass of Pravda (Truth) Punch in the hope that one day there will be free and fair elections in Kazakhstan.
How to make your own Pravda Punch:
3 ice cubes
One part raspberry vodka
One part Martini Rosato
Two parts cucumber Sprite
Two parts still lemonade
Slice of lemon
Put the ice cubes in a tall glass and pour raspberry vodka over them. Add the mint leaves and muddle with a wooden spoon. Add the Martini Rosato, cucumber Fanta, still lemonade and stir. Add a slice of lemon and serve.
This week KCC is in London for the literary event of the year – the launch of Joanna Lillis’s compelling book Dark Shadows: Inside the Secret World of Kazakhstan.
To celebrate this momentous occasion, we have invented the Dark Shadows cocktail: a blend of one part vodka (Kazakhstan’s favourite tipple), three parts cloudy cider (apples are from Kazakhstan!), and a splash of blood-like Grenadine (or pomegranate syrup or juice) to convey something of the secretive nature of Kazakhstan. It makes the perfect companion when reading this gripping saga.
Based on 13-years of on-the-ground reporting, this book lifts the veil to take a glimpse at what’s really going on in this Central Asian oil and gas powerhouse, making it the ideal stocking-filler for Kazakhstan fans. you can order a copy from the publisher, I.B.Tauris or look for a copy signed by the author in Foyles in London.
We finally got round to tasting our first batch of cider made with apples sourced from Almaty, widely acknowledged as the place where the ancestors of today’s apples evolved. We’re pleased to announce that the experiment was a success!
We used locally grown aport apples, a large red and yellow coloured variety, that grows around Almaty, Kazakhstan. a big clue as to the apple’s origins can be found in the name Almaty which translates from the Kazakh as ‘the place of apples.’
For the experiment, we used five kilos of fruit, which was pressed to produce around three litres of juice. We used a juicer and a sieve with some cloth to press and filter the leftover apple pulp to squeeze out a bit more liquid.
Then the juice was poured into a clean 5-litre water container. We allowed nature to take its course, and no yeast was added to aid the fermentation process. We made an improvised airlock using a balloon with a pinhole in it (to allow the gas to escape from the fermenting liquid whilst keeping unwanted bacteria out).
Fermentation took around two weeks and then the cider was siphoned off into clean wine bottles, where it was left to mature for a year or so. The resulting cider, about 1.7 litres was produced from this batch, was a dry, pale-coloured liquid that went down all too easily.
Welcome to the 80th edition of your favourite veggie food blog Knidos Cookery Club – we’re celebrating with a glass or two of Tinto de Verano, a close cousin to Sangria that’s a lot easier to make.
It’s a drink that sums up the lazy, hazy days of summer. Put some ice cubes in glass, add a glass of red wine and a slice of lemon and top up with soda water or lemonade, no need to chop up all that pesky fruit like in Sangria.
KCC is currently on a fact-finding mission on the Iberian peninsula, taking in the tapas trail in Andalucia and walking the paella path on the Costa Blanca – we’ll be decoding some dishes from these trips at a later date on KCC, in the meantime enjoy the last days of summer with a lazy pinto of Tinto de Verano.
As the market stalls overflow with fresh spring produce, this time round on Knidos Cookery Club we’ve selected some zingy greens to make a zesty, lemony piccata sauce to go with pasta and some other leafy greens.
The piccata sauce comes from Italy and is a lemon-fuelled accompaniment to a variety of dishes. The name derives form the Italian word for ‘annoyed’, piccato, and it is from the same root as the word used in English expressions such as ‘a fit of pique’ or ‘to pique your interest’.
We’ve used jusai, garlic chives, to add more flavour to the sauce, along with white wine, capers and lemon zest and juice to give it a picquant bite. Add some chick peas and serve on a mound of pasta placed on top of a bed of fresh sorrel leaves for a tangy treat.
Ingredients (serves 3-4)
250 g cooked chick peas
25 ml olive oil
50 g garlic chives
2 tablespoons flour
100 ml white wine
500 ml vegetable stock
Zest and juice of one lemon
1 teaspoon dried thyme
250g dried pasta (we used spirals) cooked according to instructions on pack
Bunch of fresh sorrel
Heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pan over a medium heat and then add the chopped garlic chives. Cook for five minutes and then add the flour and stir well. Pour in the wine and mix to a paste and then slowly add the stock, stirring all the while.
Simmer over a low heat until the sauce starts to thicken, then add the chick peas, capers and thyme and cook for three minutes. While the sauce is simmering, cook the pasta. Grind a generous amount of black pepper into the sauce along with the lemon juice and zest.
Tear up the sorrel leaves and scatter over a plate. Place a pile of pasta in the middle of the plate on the leaves, and then pour the piccata sauce over the pasta and serve immediately.
Knidos Cookery Club is just back from a fact-finding mission to the Greek Islands and is bursting with new recipe ideas. Our main port of call was the island of Amorgos, the most easterly of the Cyclades group – a six-hour ferry trip from Piraeus, near Athens.
Our visit coincided with the Psimeni Raki festival, held annually on 26 July, a wild night of drinking and dancing (click here for video) fuelled by a local grappa-like spirit tempered with sugar, honey and herbs from the island to produce a drink that is around 20% alcohol by volume.
The drink is based on Rakomelo, which is served by monks to people visiting the amazing Panagia Hozoviotissa Monastery – a spectacular white building carved high onto the side of an imposing cliff face.
For a small island Amorgos produces a significant quantity of alcoholic beverages – check out the site of this local producer, Amorgion, to see what’s on offer. As well as Psimeni Raki and Rakomelo, they also make an interesting local version of tequila, known as Mekila, from prickly pears.
Another interesting place to visit on the island is the Amorgos Botanical Park, a great project that is reviving a traditional garden that had been left derelict for decades. Here’s a link to their Instagram page.
A group of volunteers are aiming to bring the garden, complete with its own cistern fed by a spring, back to life by cultivating herbs endemic to Amorgos. The project is funded by grants and by the proceeds from the sale of herbs such as their intensely-flavoured oregano, teas such as rockrose, and tinctures made from produce grown on the island and dried and processed by the volunteers.
One of the delicacies eaten during the Psimeni Raki festival to help soak up the booze are anevates, cheese pies baked with the aforementioned beverage. Unfortunately, Knidos Cookery Club couldn’t track down any of these pies but the use of Psimeni Raki has inspired us to make a boozy take on Greece’s spicy tirokefteri cheese dip.
Ingredients (serves 4-6 as part of a dip platter)
100 g feta cheese
100 ml Greek-style yogurt
25 ml Psimeni Raki
One teaspoon dried oregano
One teaspoon red chili flakes
Crumble the feta with a fork, add the yogurt, psimeni raki (use sherry or vermouth if you don’t have access to psimeni raki!)and herbs and spices. Mix all the ingredients together thoroughly with the fork and chill for a couple of hours before serving with other dips such as tsatsiki (yogurt, cucumber and garlic) and a dip of roasted aubergines served with yogurt.