The Knidos Cookery Club kitchen was forced to decamp to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan this week as an unfolding political crisis rocked this Central Asian state that neighbours Kazakhstan.
In the spirit of the recently revived 90s TV cookery show, Ready Steady Cook, we grabbed a selection of items after a quick dash around the nearest supermarket and came up with a red bean and pumpkin chilli, continuing our October Squashfest theme.
We had to opt for a bit of convenience this time as it’s hard cooking in a strange kitchen, so we bought a jar of a spicy tomato sauce called Cobra, and used ready cooked red beans. If you have more time on your hands, then substitute the Cobra with KCC’s very own spicy tomato sauce and soak some dried beans overnight.
Ingredients (Makes 3-4 servings)
500 g pumpkin
250 g spicy tomato sauce
250 g cooked red beans
50 ml olive oil
Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and then add the pumpkin, chopped into 2 cm x 1 cm cubes, and stir fry for five minutes over a medium heat.
Add the spicy tomato sauce, stir well and simmer for 20 minutes or so until the pumpkin is cooked but firm.
Add the red beans and stir well and heat through. Serve with boiled rice and some crusty bread.
With movement getting ever more restricted in the lockdown — we’re now limited to not going more than 500 m from our flat in Almaty, which rules out big supermarkets for shopping trips, maintaining a supply of fresh ingredients is becoming more tricky – so this is the time when beansprouts come into their own…
So, this time round we’ll be looking at some things you can do in the home, such as sprouting beans and lentils, to add a fresh, nutritious kick to your salads and stir-fries. We’ve gone for mung beans which are easy to sprout – your first crop will be ready in a matter of days and all you need is a glass jar and some mesh netting (we re-purposed a yoga mat bag by recycling the nylon mesh for our sprouter).
Here are the steps for germinating mung beans:
Select clean, undamaged mung beans and wash them thoroughly.
Sterilise your glass jar and mesh lid with boiling water and/or in a hot oven.
Fill the jar about a quarter of the way with washed beans.
Soak the beans in cold water in the jar for at least four hours.
Drain off all the water and put the jar in a cool, dark cupboard.
Rinse the mung beans a few times a day with cold water and drain the liquid off.
After two or three days, your first crop will be ready for eating.
When the sprouts are around 2-3 cm long, put them in the fridge until using.
Warning: Raw bean sprouts can lead to food poisoning if not prepared in sterile conditions and regularly washed with clean water.
If the sprouts look slimy or smell strange, throw them away.
Once sprouted, store the sprouts in the fridge and try to use them as quickly as possible.
And don’t forget to wash your hands frequently, especially when preparing food.
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.
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:
Weekly Georgian Etymology: ლობიო lobio, kidney bean stew w/ herbs & spices. From Persian لوبیا lôbiyâ, < Anc Greek λόβια, pl of λόβιον cowpea, < Akkadian 𒇻𒂠𒊬 lubbu, < Sumerian 𒇻𒂠𒊬 lub cowpea. Now a central part of Georgian cuisine, it's not attested until the 17th century. pic.twitter.com/Bhirdwz4FC
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
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.
Lockdown has arrived in KCC’s current base of Almaty, Kazakhstan as the battle against the spread of COVID-19 rages on. Entry to the city is being restricted, cinemas, bars, restaurants and many shops have been shuttered and food shops are only allowed to operate between 10.00 and 18.00.
While we haven’t seen much of the panic buying, except for runs on buckwheat, reported in other parts of the world ourselves, with city-wide quarantine looming it was a good opportunity to make sure our cupboards were well stocked up.
Besides the usual bags of pasta, pulses, bulgur and rice and tins of tomatoes, beans and peas and packs of dried crackers, we’ve found the following items useful to have in supply: jars of olives, capers, sun-dried tomatoes and artichokes, olive oil, soy sauce, herbs, spices, mung beans, nuts, dried fruit and seeds.
Here’s a simple store cupboard bean salad to get us started. You’ll need a tin of beans, some sun-dried tomatoes, capers and olives. Add any fresh ingredients that you can get your hands on and dress with olive oil and vinegar or soy sauce.
With the staples listed above you can produce a healthy meal even if you have no way of cooking food as all the ingredients are ready to eat straight away (although the mung beans will of course need a few days to be sprouted into an edible form).
Zero Waste Tip: Don’t throw your spring onion roots away, instead use them to produce more leafy stems by following this tip from The Micro Gardener so you’ll have a ready-to-pick supply on your window sill to add to salads and soups:
Ingredients (serves 2)
250 g cooked white beans
50 g capers
10 black olives
3 sun-dried tomatoes
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon red chilli flakes (pul biber)
Drain and rinse the beans, if using canned ones, and put in a salad bowl. Chop the sun-dried tomatoes and olives into small chunks and then add to the beans with the capers. Dress the salad with olive oil and soy sauce and sprinkle with red chilli flakes. Serve with bread or crackers.
Knidos Cookery Club is just back from a foodie fact-finding mission to uncover some new recipes along the Silk Roads. While on the expedition, we inadvertently fell foul of Kazakhstan’s strict zero tolerance laws while munching on a local delicacy, sunflower seeds.
It turns out that eating this tasty little snack in public is an offence, classified as “petty hooliganism”, and punishable by watching a video of Kazakhstan’s president Nursultan Nazarbayev railing against this social evil and the payment of a fine (4 x the Monthly Calculation Index (MCI) that is used to calculate benefits and fines – approx £25).
After this contribution was made to the Shymkent Police Nauryz party fund, the situation was resolved amicably and we were all able to go on our merry way, suitably chastised!
The road trip also took in a visit to Uzbekistan, which has inspired KCC to attempt Mastava a traditional Uzbek rice and chunky vegetable soup – it’s usually prepared with lamb or beef but we’ve used lentils and red beans instead of meat to add the protein in our version.
Mastava uses whatever seasonal vegetables are to hand – we had carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, pumpkin and some red peppers for our version. We’ve liberally spiced it with cumin, coriander seeds, red chilli flakes and black pepper as well as some fresh coriander to garnish the soup.
Ingredients (makes around 4 – 6 servings)
150 g green lentils or similar
250 g red beans
150 g pumpkin
150 g rice
200 g cherry tomatoes
Four small potatoes
One large carrot
One red pepper
Six spring onions
30 ml olive oil or other vegetable oil
1 litre vegetable stock
One teaspoon cumin seeds
One teaspoon coriander seeds
One teaspoon black pepper
One teaspoon red chilli flakes
One bunch fresh coriander
Heat the oil in a heavy based pan and add the crushed black pepper, cumin and coriander seeds and chopped spring onions. fry for five minutes over a medium heat and then add chunks of carrots, tomatoes and red pepper. Cook for 10 minutes and then add the vegetable stock, red chilli flakes, potatoes and rice and bring to a boil.
Simmer over a low heat for 20 minutes, and then add the cooked green lentils and red beans and chunks of pumpkin. Keep simmering until the rice is cooked, stirring occasionally. Serve in bowls and garnish with fresh coriander.
Last week in Datça market piles of psychedelic pink-podded barbunya beans arrayed against their green-podded cousins caught our eye. In Turkey these distinctive beans, also known as borlotti or cranberry beans, are made into a starter called barbunya pilaki, which is always high on our list when ordering a spread of mezeler.
There’s something very therapeutic about podding these beans, like a beanish mindfulness moment! Our kilo of beans in their pods yielded around 600 g of pink-marbled white beans.
When cooked and allowed to cool, the pink colour leaches out and the beans take on a delicate brown hue. They’re delicious stewed with olive oil, onion, carrot, potato and lemon juice, served with a sprinkling of fresh parsley and a chunk of lemon. Some recipes omit the potato, but we think this gives the dish more oomph and means you don’t need to cook up any additional carbs.
Heat the olive oil into a heavy-based pan, chop the onion and garlic finely and fry over a medium heat for five minutes or so. Add the chopped tomatoes, lower the heat and cook for another five minutes.
Dice the carrot and potato into small cubes and then add these along with the beans, the juice of half a lemon, the honey, chili flakes and hot water to the pan and bring to a boil. Simmer for 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the beans are cooked but not going mushy.
Serve hot or allow to cool and garnish with fresh parsley and lemon slices.
This time round on Knidos Cookery Club we’re off to Turkey’s far north-east corner and across the border into Georgia. This mountainous country shares some dishes in common with the people of Turkey’s Black Sea coast such as the bread and cheese concoction known as khachapuriin Georgia, pide in Turkey.
Georgian dishes rely on both fresh and dried local ingredients. The diet is generally meat-heavy – this point was crudely pushed home last year when outraged sausage-wielding activists attacked Kiwi Café, a vegan café in Georgia’s capital Tbilisi, throwing chunks of meat and fish at diners, but there are lots of options for non-carnivores as its cuisine also features a wide range of veggie dishes.
Georgia’s location on a number of east-west trade routes heading through the Caucasus Mountains has seen different influences make their mark on its eating culture over the years, with spices playing a key role.
Dried beans, or lobio, walnuts, pomegranates and spices like coriander and blue fenugreek give a distinctive taste to the local fare. Cheese also features strongly on the Georgian table, from the versatile sulguni, an elastic, brined cheese akin to mozzarella, that can be deep fried to the fresh white imeruli cheese.
Georgia’s dried red beans are made into a dish calledlobio, that, depending on the region of the country it’s prepared in, can be like a soup, a stew or re-fried beans. It is usually cooked in a clay pot and sometimes comes with a thin layer of bread as a cover on top. Mashed red beans are also cooked inside bread in a dish called lobiani.
We’ve decided to do our own take on a lobio dish, and to get our own back on those meat-wielding activists, by making a Georgian-influenced veggie sausage, to be served as part of a brunch or main meal.
Ingredients (makes 8-10 sausages)
200 g dried red beans, soaked overnight
100 g red lentils (one cup)
150 g fine bulgur wheat (1.5 cups)
50 g chopped walnuts
1 teaspoon dried coriander
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon red chili flakes
25 ml olive oil for frying the sausages
1 tablespoon plain flour
Soak the beans overnight and then cook for an hour or so over a low heat until the beans are cooked and beginning to break up. Drain and reserve the cooking water , then mash the beans roughly.
Wash the lentils until the water goes clear and then place in a pan with the water from the cooked beans – add more water so the lentils are covered by 2 cm of liquid. Bring to the boil and simmer over a low heat for 20 minutes or so. The lentils should be going mushy and there should be about 1 cm of water covering the lentils – add more water if necessary.
Add the washed bulgur wheat to the cooked lentils and blend well. Allow to stand for 30 minutes or so and then add the toasted, chopped walnuts and the mashed beans. Then grind the spices together and add to the mix. Leave overnight in the fridge to allow the flavours to blend.
Sprinkle some flour on a chopping board and roll lemon-sized portions of the mix into sausage shapes, coating evenly with flour. Fry the sausages in the oil until browned on the outside and then serve with baked beans and a fried egg for a top brunch.
As Knidos Cookery Club turns 20, we’re celebrating this week with a look at two of the mainstay crops of the Datça Peninsula – melons and almonds.
This year’s new nut harvest is already arriving in the market. Datça’s almonds, badem in Turkish, are rightly famous in Turkey – I remember sitting at a terrace in Istanbul’s Beyoğlu district, back in the days when it still had street tables, and a guy came round selling fresh Datça almonds, cooled on a bed of ice.
Yogurt, courgette and almond dip
Beans with chopped almonds
In the Knidos area, almonds are widely used in cooking, in making soaps and creams and in Datça many cafes offer a milky ‘almond coffee’. Last week we had some mezes at Kasapoğlu Pansiyon in Ovabükü which came liberally sprinkled with almonds – one green bean dish and another made from grated courgette and yogurt.
The area around Knidos is perfect for growing melons, kavun in Turkish. The market is full at the moment with a green and yellow striped variety – I’m not sure what it’s called, but it sure tastes good!
We’ve decided to attempt something unusual for the 20th edition of Knidos Cookery Club – stuffed melon. This dish was popular in the palaces of the Ottoman Empire, drawing on a Persian and Armenian-influenced fusion of sweet and savoury tastes.
The Knidos Cookery Club version is fully veggie-friendly and uses mushrooms in place of meat, along with rice, dried fruit and fresh Datça almonds. The end result is basically plov in a melon, a most unusual taste sensation!
Ingredients (serves 4)
One melon (honeydew or similar – not watermelon!)
125 g rice
25 g orzu or pine nuts, if you’re feeling flush
One medium-sized onion
One garlic clove
100 g almonds
75 g mixed dried fruit (raisins, currants, chopped apricot, chopped fig)
250 g mushrooms
50 ml olive oil
One teaspoon of cumin, cinnamon and red pepper flakes
Salt and black pepper to season
Wash the rice and soak for an hour or so. Heat 25 ml olive oil in a pan and cook the orzu or pine nuts until golden brown. Add the rice and stir to coat the grains with oil. Pour in 300 ml cold water, add a pinch of salt and cook until all the liquid is absorbed.
Heat the rest of the olive oil in a heavy-based pan and add the chopped onion and garlic. Cook until translucent and then add the peeled almonds. Keep stirring for five minutes and then add the mixed dried fruit and one teaspoon of cumin, cinnamon and red pepper flakes.
Chop the mushrooms up and then pour into the sizzling mix. Stir regularly – you don’t need to add any liquid as the mushrooms contain a lot of water. Cook for ten minutes or so and then turn off the heat. Mix in the rice, blending well.
Prepare the melon by cutting it in half and scooping out the seeds. Then scoop out the flesh, leaving about 1 cm inside the melon. Stuff with the rice mix, arranging some almonds on top.
Place the melon halves in a shallow dish, add 100 ml warm water and bake at 200°C or gas mark 6 for one hour.
Serve a quarter of the melon to each person with an Uzbek-style salad of sliced tomatoes, onions and chili pepper – achik chuchuk.