KCC’s Courgette, Coconut and Mung Bean Mash Up

10 November 2022

As the first snow falls here in Almaty, it’s time for some heartier fare. This recipe started out life as courgette soup, but the sudden drop in temperature called for something with a bit more oomph so we added some mung beans and dried coconut to give it a more stew-like consistency. To add a bit of colour, we sprinkled some pomegranate seeds on top and gave it a drizzle of pomegranate sauce before serving.

KCC’s Courgette, Coconut and Mung Bean Mash Up

The delicate, thin courgettes of the summer are giving way to the robust, denser marrows of autumn – perfect for making into a soup. Mung beans are a versatile store cupboard basic – they can be added to stews or grown into bean sprouts for stir fries and salads – check out more recipe ideas here. They’re a staple in home-cooked meals in Uzbekistan, where they’re known as mash, hence the “mash up” in the name of this dish.

Winter is coming to Almaty…

Ingredients (makes four servings)

  • 1 kilo courgette
  • One celery stick
  • One medium onion
  • Bunch of radish leaves
  • 200 g dried mung beans (soaked overnight)
  • 50 g desiccated coconut
  • 50 ml olive oil
  • Two teaspoons dried thyme
  • Two teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 1.5 litres vegetable stock
  • Pomegranate seeds and Pomegranate sauce to garnish

Method

  • Heat the olive oil in a heavy-based pan and fry the cumin seeds until starting to crackle and then add the diced onion and cook for five minutes over a medium heat. Next add the diced celery, lower the heat and and cook for another five minutes, stirring occasionally. Cut the courgette into four pieces lengthwise and then slice into 1 cm thick chunks. Add to the pan along with the thyme and stir fry for ten minutes. Add one litre of vegetable stock and the chopped radish leaves and simmer over a low heat for twenty minutes.
  • While the soup is simmering, cook the mung beans in a separate pan with 500 ml vegetable stock and the coconut. Cook for twenty – thirty minutes or so until the beans are softening or until all the liquid is absorbed. 
  • Remove around 25% of the courgette mix and blend the rest to a smooth consistency with a stick blender. Add these blended courgettes to the cooked mung beans and stir well. Bring to a boil and then add the reserved courgette mix. Pour into soup bowls,  garnish with a few pomegranate seeds and a drizzle of pomegranate sauce and serve immediately.

Pumpkin-topped Beany Bake a.k.a. Halloweenish Shepherd’s Pie

28 October 2022

Here in the northern hemisphere we’re moving into the “darker half” of the year with the nights growing longer and the mercury dropping rapidly. Halloween is just around the corner so it’s that pumpkin time once again. Here at KCC we’re always looking cut down food waste so this year we’ve got another idea of how to use up your excess squash – a vegan variant on Shepherd’s pie.

Pumpkin-topped Beany Bake a.k.a. Halloweenish Shepherd’s Pie

Halloween has its origins in the Celtic pagan festival of Samhain that marked the end of the harvest period and the onset on the dark months of winter. It was an excuse for a wild party with feasting and drinking at a time when the boundary between our world and the spiritual world was held to be at its thinnest. 

Halloween, which is the evening before All Saints’ Day, 1 November, in the Christian calendar, is still the time when many remember the souls of the dead. Many Halloween traditions in North America were influenced by Irish and Scottish immigrants, harking back to the festival’s pagan roots.

The pumpkin, the round, oversized orange vegetable, native to the New World, has become a symbol of the festival. This has led to millions of pumpkins going to waste so here’s a reminder of some more of our pumpkin recipes to try and reduce the scale of this problem.

Ingredients (serves four)

  • 500 g pumpkin
  • One medium onion
  • One stick of celery
  • One medium carrot
  • One medium green pepper
  • One medium courgette
  • Two medium tomatoes
  • One tablespoon tomato paste (or Turkish hot pepper paste if you can find it)
  • 300 g cooked beans (cannellini or kidney beans 0r a mix of the two)
  • 75 g red lentils
  • 200 ml  vegetable stock
  • 50 ml olive oil
  • One teaspoon chilli flakes
  • One teaspoon turmeric 

Method

  • Clean the pumpkin by removing the hard outer skin and the seeds (if there are any) and then chop into small cubes, put into a baking dish and drizzle with olive oil and mix well. Roast in a pre-heated oven at 180 c for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • While the pumpkin is roasting, heat the oil in a heavy-based pan and then cook the finely chopped onion over a medium heat for five minutes.  Add the diced celery, green pepper and carrots and cook for another five minutes.
  • Mix in the cooked beans, vegetable stock and tomato paste, chilli flakes and turmeric and stir well. When it boils, add the lentils, stir and then cook for 20 minutes or so until all the liquid is absorbed. While this is cooking, top and tail the courgettes and cut into 1cm thick rounds. Thinly slice the tomato.
  • Remove the pumpkin and mash with a fork or a potato masher. Put the bean mixture into the bottom of the baking dish and cover with courgette rounds. Cover the courgette with tomato slices and then pack the mashed pumpkin on top of the tomatoes. Decorate with pumpkin seeds and bake at 180 c for 30 minutes or until the top of the pie begins to char.

 

 

Apricot and Lentil Courgette Roundels

13 October 2022

It’s that in-between time of year as the nights grow longer and thoughts turn towards more substantial meals after a long summer of salads and lighter fare. The last of the seasonal vegetables such as tomatoes and courgettes are perfect for stuffing and baking in the oven, making a bridge between summery salads and the heartier soups and stews of winter that are coming up.

Apricot and lentil courgette roundels drizzled with pomegranate sauce and served with a seasonal salad

We stuffed some courgettes with a mixture of red lentils, apricots, tomato, onion, bulgur wheat and lemon juice to make a versatile roundel that can be served as part of a main course or eaten on its own as a meze, a fully vegan alternative to the sausage roll!

Apricot and lentil courgette roundel – a vegan alternative to the sausage roll?

The autumn fruit is at its best at the moment, and we’ve added some pear and pomegranate to an autumnal red cabbage, carrot, celery and radish salad to accompany these apricot and lentil courgette roundels to make a great lunch or supper. By adding a jacket potato, you can make it into a more filling main course.

Ingredients (makes enough mixture for 10-12 roundels)

  • Three medium sized courgettes
  • 100 g red lentils
  • 50 g dried apricots (or four fresh apricots if available)
  • One small red onion (approx 75 g)
  • One medium tomato (approx 100 g)
  • 50 g fine bulgur wheat
  • 25 ml olive oil
  • 200 ml vegetable stock
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • One teaspoon cumin seeds
  • One teaspoon red chilli flakes
  • Black pepper to taste

Method

  • Cut the dried apricots into eight pieces and soak in hot water for at least 30 minutes. While the apricots are soaking, heat the oil in a heavy based pan and add the cumin seeds. When they start to sizzle, add the finely chopped onion and fry over a medium heat until they start to soften. Grate the tomato into the fried onion and cook over a low heat for five minutes or so, stirring occasionally.
  • Now add the washed lentils, pour in the stock and stir. Cook over a low heat for 15-20 minutes until most of the water has been absorbed. Add the fine bulgur wheat, mix it in well and leave covered for 15 minutes. Drain the apricots and stir them into the mixture. Add the lemon juice, chilli flakes and black pepper to taste and mix well.
  • While the lentils are cooking, start to prepare the courgettes by slicing off the ends to make them flat. Cut into 3 cm slices. Gouge out the seeds with a small spoon, leaving a little bit of flesh at the bottom of the roundel.
  • Pre-heat the oven to 180 c. When the lentil mix is cool, pack it into the courgette roundels and stand them on a baking tray with the filling topmost. Bake at 180 c for 30 minutes or so – the courgette should still be firm and not too squidgy and the lentil mix should rise slightly and be beginning to brown on top. 
  • Serve alongside a salad of red cabbage, carrot, celery, radish, pear and pomegranate and a jacket potato, drizzling pomegranate sauce over the roundels or allow to cool and serve the roundels as a snack on their own.

Asparagus in the Ascendency

3 June 2022

It’s that asparagus time of year, a herald of early summer, although you wouldn’t know it in Sweden, where the weather remains distinctly chilly.

Spears of destiny – stir fried with broccoli and red onions

We wrote about asparagus in our very first post, a bulgur risotto, back in 2016. Already this summer we’ve come across locally grown varieties in Kazakhstan and Sweden.

These tasty spears are great in a vegan stir fry served with rice or noodles, or if you eat eggs, then you can turn it into an omelette or a quiche.

Continue reading “Asparagus in the Ascendency”

Grip Green Shakshuka

9 April 2022

With spring greens making a welcome reappearance, it’s time for a brunch special – green shakshuka, North Africa’s breakfast star.

Grip Green Shakshuka

This dish, usually made with tomatoes and peppers, is originally from Tunisia but has now spread all over the Middle East.

For our spring greens version, we made a bed of cumin fried onions, banana peel, radish leaves and spinach on which to poach some eggs for our sublime, zero waste brunch special.

Ingredients (for two servings)

  • one medium onion
  • one banana peel
  • 100 g spinach
  • 50 g radish leaves
  • four eggs
  • one teaspoon cumin seeds
  • one teaspoon chilli powder
  • 25 ml olive oil

Method

  • Heat the oil in a heavy-based pan and add the cumin seeds. When they start to pop, add chopped onion and cook for five minutes over a low heat. Add the banana peel (to prepare, use a knife or spoon to scrape off any remaining banana flesh (use this in a cake, smoothie or banana bread) and then slice the peel into 1 mm strips).
  • Stir fry for another five minutes and then add the chopped radish leaves and three minutes later add the washed and chopped spinach. Cook until the spinach starts to wilt.
  • Make a depression in the mix and pour an egg into it, repeat with the other eggs, sprinkle chilli powder over the eggs put, put a lid on and steam until the eggs are set

Nauryz Noodles

21 March 2022

Happy Nauryz – the day of the Spring Equinox that marks the start of the new year in some parts of Asia. it’s a big celebration in Central Asia with a focus on things coming back to life after the long winter months. This year we’ve made some green noodles inspired by shivit oshi – dill noodles from Khiva, Uzbekistan, to mark the coming of spring.

As you may recall, here on KCC we’re not huge fans of dill, aka the devil’s weed, so we replaced it with spinach to give our noodles their distinctive green colour. We served our noodles with an orange and green stir fry made from pumpkin, carrots, spring onions, beansprouts and broccoli.

We washed our Nauryz noodles down with some Turan Tiger beer as a nod to the year of the tiger.

Ingredients (makes four servings)

For the noodles

  • 300 g plain flour
  • 100 ml water
  • 40 ml olive oil
  • 120 g spinach

For the stir fry

  • 100 g spring onion
  • 300 g pumpkin
  • 200 g carrot
  • 300 g broccoli
  • 200 g beansprouts
  • 50 ml olive oil
  • 20 ml soy sauce
  • Two teaspoons cumin seeds

Method

For the noodles

  • Pour boiling hot water over the washed spinach leaves and leave for one minute. Drain and then cover with cold water. Drain again and put in a blender with the water and blend to a smooth paste.
  • Stir the oil into the flour and then add the blended spinach. Mix well and knead the dough. Make sure it is neither too sticky (add more flour if so) or too crumbly (add more liquid if so). Cover with cling film and leave in the fridge until you are ready to use it.
  • Roll the dough to 1 mm thickness on a lightly floured surface. Fold the dough over three or four times and then cut off 2 mm slices and pull out the noodles by hand.
  • Cook in a pot of boiling water for five minutes – taste to check that the noodles have the texture that you prefer (e.g. al dente or softer). Drain and serve immediately.

For the stir fry

  • Heat the oil in a heavy-based pan and add the cumin seeds. When the seed begin to pop, add the chopped spring onions and stir fry over a medium heat. Add the pumpkin, cut into 1 cm cubes and stir fry for five minutes. 
  • Next add the broccoli and stir fry for another five minutes over a medium heat. Add the grated carrot and beansprouts along with the soy sauce and cook for a few more minutes. Serve on a bed of noodles.

Deruny – Cook for Ukraine

11 March 2022

As Putin’s horrific war rages on in Ukraine, now into its third week and with no signs of the death and destruction abating, we’ve been looking at some ways of making a contribution to help people on the ground.

One initiative that caught our eye was the #CookForUkraine project that was set up by London-based chefs Olia Hercules, who originally hails from Ukraine, and Alissa Timoshkina, originally from Russia. The initiative, which is inspired by 2016’s CookFor Syria project, uses food to raise awareness about the conflict whilst raising funds to support humanitarian causes (the money raised goes to Unicef UK).

KCC’s take on deruny, Ukraine’s potato pancake

Across the world, restaurants, chefs and amateur cooks are putting Ukrainian dishes on their menus and organising fund-raisers by hosting Ukrainian food-themed supper clubs or selling Ukrainian specialities such as syrnyky (cottage cheese pancakes), varenyky (Ukraine’s take on ravioli) and golubtsi (stuffed cabbage leaves) along with baked goods.

We hope we’re doing out little bit by featuring this recipe for deruny, the Ukrainian take on the potato pancake that finds many forms across Europe. Our version used grated potato mixed with onion, caraway seeds and chickpea flour. They had a coarser texture than some versions that use egg and sour cream in the mix but tasted great all the same.

To support the CookFor Ukraine project, you can host your own supper club or sell some Ukrainian food or just make a donation direct to their JustGiving page – click here to donate.

Ingredients (makes 8 pancakes)

  • 300 g potato
  • 150 g red onion
  • 50 g chickpea flour (or plain flour)
  • One teaspoon caraway seeds
  • 50 ml cooking oil

Method

  • Peel the potatoes and then roughly grate them. Wrap the grated potato in a tea towel and squeeze out the moisture. Add the chopped onion, caraway seeds and chickpea flour and mix well.
  • Form the mix into eight golf ball sized pieces and fry in the oil over a medium heat. Flatten the balls with a fish slice and  then flip them over and cook until golden brown on both sides. Serve with a dollop of sour cream.

Chocolate Chilli Chana

3 February 2022

This time round on KCC we’re going for a chickpea, aka chana, chilli that includes a slab of dark chocolate to balance out the acidity of the tomato sauce – a combination that works surprisingly well.

Chocolate chilli chana

We first came across the dark chocolate infused mole sauce many years ago in a Mexican restaurant in Barcelona. It’s been on the list of things to cook for a while and having received a selection of Green and Black’s chocolate that included an 85% cocoa bean bar there were no longer any excuses not to try it out.

We served our chickpea chilli with some pearl barley – it’s also good with brown rice, couscous, bulgur wheat or some flatbread to mop up the chocolate rich sauce. We also recommend washing it down with a margarita or two.

Ingredients (makes 3-4 servings)

  • 300 g chickpeas (cooked)
  • 150 g carrot
  • 150 g onion
  • 50 g red lentils
  • 250 g tomatoes
  • 20 g dark chocolate
  • 25 ml olive oil
  • 150 ml aquafaba (chick pea cooking water)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds 
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon paprika (smoked if you can get it)
  • 1 teaspoon chilli powder (or chilli flakes)
  • 2 cm cinnamon stick
  • 5 cloves
  • 1 bunch fresh coriander

Method (Cooking time approx 45 minutes)

  • Heat the olive oil in a heavy-based pan and add the cumin seeds. When the seeds start to pop add the diced onion. Stir fry for five minutes over a medium heat and then add the diced carrots. Cook for five more minutes and then reduce to a low heat. Add the chopped tomatoes and cook for another five minutes.
  • Add the aquafaba, ground coriander seeds,  cinnamon, cloves, paprika and chilli powder and stir well. When the mix starts to bubble, stir in the red lentils. Simmer the mixture and after 15 minutes add the cooked chick peas. Cook for another 10 minutes over a low heat and then add the dark chocolate. 
  • Serve with pearl barley or a grain of your choice and garnish the Chocolate Chilli Chana with fresh coriander. Take a slug of margarita and enjoy! 

Going Bananas for Christmas

23 December 2021

Seasoned greetings to all our readers from KCC — with Christmas fast approaching, here’s our recipe for a festive pie filled with a nutty, lentily barley roast, spinach pkhali and a mystery guest – banana peel!

A nutty, lentily barley filled piece with spinach pkhali and banana peel

We’ve come under the spell of The Great British Bake Off  winner Nadiya Hussain who caused a splash in lockdown in 2020 when she advocated the use of banana peel as an ingredient. KCC is always on the lookout for ingenious solutions that cut down on waste and this use of banana peel certainly fits the bill perfectly.

KCC’s Festive Feast 2021

The banana peel has a texture that is a bit like mushroom and makes for an unusual addition to the standard nut roast. The peel can also be put in curries and stir fries — a great move for fans of zero waste.

Ingredients (serves 3-4)

For the pie

  • 75 g pearl barley
  • 50 g green lentils
  • 2 cm cinnamon stick
  • 2 cm ginger
  • 3 cloves
  • Zest of one lemon
  • 1 litre hot water
  • 1 banana skin
  • 150 g onion 
  • 50 g celery
  • 75 g walnuts
  • 75 ml olive oil
  • 100 ml white wine
  • 250 ml vegetable stock
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • 1 teaspoon rosemary
  • 3 teaspoons chia seeds
  • 250 g puff pastry

For the spinach pkhali

  • 200 g fresh spinach
  • 75 g walnuts
  • One small onion (around 75 g)
  • One garlic clove
  • 5 g fresh parsley
  • 5 g fresh coriander
  • 1 teaspoon blue fenugreek powder
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 20 ml wine vinegar

Method 

  • Wash the pearl barley and green lentils until the water runs clear and then soak in the hot water for one hour with the cinnamon stick, chopped ginger, cloves and lemon zest. While this is soaking, cook 75 g of sliced onion in 25 ml of olive oil over a low heat until turning translucent. 
  • To prepare the banana skin, wash the peel thoroughly in cold water and then use a spoon or knife to remove the pulp from the inside of the peel (you can use this in a smoothie or a cake). Slice the peel into thin strips about 2 cm long and 2-3 mm thick. Now add to the fried onions and cook util the peel starts to go crispy. Set aside to cool.
  • Fry the sliced celery and the rest of the chopped onion in the remaining olive oil in a different pan, add the cumin seeds, oregano, thyme and rosemary and cook over a low heat for 10 minutes and then add the soaked barley and lentils along with the cinnamon stick, ginger, cloves and lemon zest (you can use the soaking water to make our LGBTQ drink).
  • Then add the white wine and vegetable stock and stir well. Leave to cook over a low heat, stirring occasionally, until all the liquid is absorbed, this should take up to 30 minutes.
  • While this is cooking, make 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.
  • Toast the remaining chopped walnuts and then add to the cooled barley and lentil mix along with the cooked banana peel and chia seeds. Mix well. 
  • To assemble the pie, cut the pastry into two rectangles, one slightly smaller than the other. roll out the smaller piece and top with the nut roast mix, leaving 1 cm around the edges. Put a layer of spinach pkhali on top of the nut mix.
  • Roll out the other piece of pastry, brush the 1 cm edge of the pie with olive oil and then place the larger piece of pastry over the top of the nut and pkhali mix and then crimp down the edges with a fork. Brush the pie with olive oil and bake in an oven heated to 180 c for 30 minutes or until the pie is a golden brown colour.
  • Serve with seasonal roasted vegetables — we used potatoes, beetroot, onion and carrots, and a gravy of your choice (we made one with a pomegranate sauce base).

Spicy Peas ‘n’ Cheese

30 November 2021

This time round on KCC we’ve been inspired to take on a curry house favourite of ours, matar paneer, cubes of fresh white cheese cooked with peas in a spicy tomato-rich gravy.

Spicy peas ‘n’ cheese aka matar paneer

We’ve been in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan for the last two weeks to polish off the final chapter in a gruelling two-year run of Central Asian elections. While browsing around the supermarket, we came across a pack of locally made Ricotta cheese. Its dry, crumbly texture immediately reminded us of fresh paneer cheese from the Indian sub-continent, bringing to mind matar paneer.

Spicy peas and cheese with pumpkin dhal and rice

This white cheese does not taste of much on its own so it needs to soak up some flavour. We prepared a tomato gravy and then marinated the cubes of cheese and the peas in the sauce overnight before heating it through just before serving. For any vegans reading, substitute chunks of plain tofu for the paneer cheese – tofu is another ingredient that benefits from being marinated for a while. Serve with our pumpkin dhal and rice or flat bread.

Ingredients (makes 4 servings)

  • 3 medium tomatoes (approx 250 g)
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 200 g paneer cheese or tofu
  • 250 g peas (tinned, frozen or fresh if you can get them) 
  • 25 ml olive oil or other vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon chilli powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 cm knob of chopped ginger
  • 1 small bunch fresh coriander

Method

  1. Finely chop the onion and cook for five minutes in the oil over a medium heat in a heavy-based pan. Turn down to a low heat and add the spices and the minced garlic and stir well. Cook for another two minutes and then add the chopped, peeled tomatoes. Cook for 20-30 minutes over a low heat until the tomatoes have formed a smooth gravy with the onions.
  2. Allow the sauce to cool and then add the white cheese (paneer) or tofu, cut into 1 cm cubes, and the peas and mix well. Leave to marinate for an hour or two at least – overnight in the fridge is better, and then heat through. Sprinkle with fresh coriander before serving with our pumpkin dhal and rice. Also goes well with a flat bread of your choice.