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 the coconut milk, vodka, 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.
In the dog days of summer, a persistent tap-tapping sound can be heard resounding around the Datca Peninsula. Look for people huddled over piles of green shells to find the source of the tapping. This summer’s almond crop is in and the best way to get to the badass nuts is by hammering the shell open – labourious but ultimately worthwhile work!
The almond, badem in Turkish, is an important crop on the peninsula – check out this post from a few years ago on the many uses for almonds. We got hold of some of this year’s crop and combined them with some grilled peaches and halloumi cheese to make a super-tasty summer salad.
We got the idea for the grilled peaches from a salad we had in Kaş, Turkey. We grilled the peach and halloumi slices on the barbecue until they took on the required charred appearance. The combination of the sweetness of the peach with the saltiness of the cheese is a winning one.
Ingredients (serves 3-4)
250 g halloumi
One large peach
One large tomato
One bunch of rocket leaves
Two green peppers
Four spring onions
One teaspoon capers
One teaspoon dried thyme
Cut the peach into eight slices and grill until just starting to char. Cut the halloumi cheese into eight pieces and grill until it goes a golden-brown colour.
Roughly chop the rocket leaves and slice the cucumber and green peppers and mix together with the capers. Dress with the thyme, olive oil and pomegranate sauce.
Slice the tomato into wedges and arrange with the peach and halloumi slices on top of the green salad. Just before serving, place an almond on top of each halloumi slice and put four in the middle.
As promised a few weeks back on Knidos Cookery Club, here’s another use for those tasty vine leaves. While jetting down to KCC HQ in Datça recently, we spotted a Cypriot recipe in an airline magazine for halloumi cheese wrapped in vine leaves and we decided to adapt it by using some of the Datça Peninsula’s key ingredients:
Yep, that’s almonds, olives, thyme, capers and lemon. We mixed all these up to make our 5-star Datça paste which we then used to coat slices of our favourite squeaky cheese. After applying the paste, wrap the cheese slices with the leaves and then bake in the oven for 30 minutes or so until they look like this:
Ingredients (makes four servings)
200 g halloumi
12 vine leaves
75 g almonds
150 g olives
two teaspoons dried thyme
25 g capers
Soak and wash the vine leaves to remove any taste of brine, and then cut the stalk from the bottom of the leaf. You’ll need about three vine leaves for each slice of halloumi.
Now prepare the paste – stone the olives and place the bits of olive in a small dish. Soak the almonds in hot water for a minute or so and then put in cold water and peel off the skin. Break and add to the olives.
Add the capers and lemon juice and the thyme and use a hand blender to make a smooth paste. Cut the halloumi into four slices and smear each slice generously with the paste. Wrap the vine leaves around the cheese and then place in a baking dish or on a baking tray.
Bake in the oven at 180 c for thirty minutes or so and serve while hot with a seasonal salad and a selection of mezes.