Modern Day Plovers

17 June 2021

This time round on KCC we’re turning our attention to plov — Central Asia’s favourite rice dish. There are no hard and fast rules for plov, with regional variations prizing different ingredients and each family having its own take on what should go into the dish. One thing is for sure — this spicy rice, carrot, onion, garlic and dried fruit concoction makes for a great centrepiece for any party and is perfect for sharing with family and friends.

KCC travelled up to Kazakhstan’s capital Nur-Sultan to visit a modern day plov-meister who has perfected a tasty, meat-free take on this classic Uzbek dish. Our plov-meister learnt his trade on the mean streets of Hojeli, Karakalpakstan and in the student dorms of Tashkent, Uzbekistan.

Keeping the vampires at bay…

There are no strict cooking times for this recipe — it’s more of a feeling than an exercise in clock watching. Apart from the holy trinity of onion, carrot and rice, our plov-meister deploys whatever is to hand in the kitchen, adding dried fruits and spices along with a surfeit of garlic. For best results, your plov should be cooked in a kazan, a cast iron cauldron, but a deep, heavy-based saucepan or a casserole dish will suffice at a pinch. The pan should retain the heat to enable the plov to cook slowly and for the myriad flavours to meld.

Serve the plov alongside a spicy achik chuchuk tomato and onion salad, steaming bowls of green tea and Uzbek bread, non, click here for a recipe from Caroline Eden’s excellent Central Asian focussed cookbook Red Sands.

Ingredients (makes enough for 8-10 servings)

  • 100 ml cooking oil (For the authentic Uzbek taste track down some cottonseed oil, but failing that sunflower, rapeseed or olive oil works just as well)
  • 500 g onion
  • 500 g carrot
  • 500 g short grain rice
  • 6 heads of garlic
  • 150 g currants /raisins /sultanas – or a mix of all three
  • 100 g dried apricots (with stones)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds

For the salad:

  • 250 g tomatoes
  • 250 g onion
  • One teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 – 3 Chilli peppers, finely sliced (adjust as to how hot you like your food)

Method

  • Heat the oil over a low heat in a heavy-based pan and then add the sliced onion. Fry the onion until it gets a golden-brownish colour so that later the rice will get its distinctive orangey colour. Cut the carrots into 5 cm long slices, a few millimetres wide and then add to the onions. Cook until the carrots are very tender so that they can easily be cut by a spatula or a wooden spoon while stirring. 
  • Now add the spices, the whole dried apricots, currants, sultanas or raisins (or all three) and whole heads of garlic. Cook for a few minutes to allow these ingredients to absorb the oil and the carrot/onion juice.
  • Rinse the rice carefully until the water runs clear and then put the washed rice on top of the spicy, fruity vegetable base and then pour water over the top through a fish slice to allow an even distribution of the liquid.
  • Cover the rice with an extra 1 cm of water and then cook over a high heat and  when the water disappears from the top of the rice, turn it down to a very low heat, close the lid and allow it to steam for about 20 minutes.
  • Serve with a spicy tomato and onion salad — achik chuchuk — a salad made from thinly sliced tomato and onion, a sprinkling of dried basil and diced chilli peppers, according to how hot you like it, and oven-fresh non bread.

Bukharan Potato Powered Chutney

11 October 2018

Autumn is well and truly here now, so it’s time to start preserving that  seasonal abundance of fruit and vegetables. While looking around the net for something quick and easy to make, we came across some variations on the theme of plum chutney.

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It’s amazing what you can learn when researching recipes – did you know, for instance, that in the Indian sub-continent aloo is the word for potato, as in that curry house fave aloo gobi (potato and cauliflower).

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More surprisingly, it is also used for the humble plum – known as aloo bukhara, so called because the plum first appeared in the sub-continent via the fabled Central Asian city of Bukhara.

Ingredients (makes around 880g – 1kg of chutney

  • 1kg ripe plums
  • 250 g red onion
  • 200g light brown sugar
  • 300 ml apple vinegar
  • 100 g raisins
  • 2 teaspoons mustard seeds
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 2 teaspoons  red pepper flakes
  • One cinnamon stick
  • 2 cm fresh ginger, peeled and diced
  • Glass jars for storage

Method

  • Wash and cut the plums in half, remove the stones then half again and half again so you have eight pieces of plum. Finely chop the onion and then mix all the ingredients together except for the sugar in a large stainless steel saucepan.
  • Bring to a boil over a medium heat, stirring occasionally, and when it’s bubbling add the sugar. Keep stirring until the sugar dissolves and then reduce the heat to low and keep it simmering for two hours or so, stirring every now and then so the mixture doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.
  • The mixture should thicken and turn a deep ruby red colour, as in the picture above. Allow the mix to cool a bit and then pour it into sterilised glass jars – wash them and leave in the oven at 50 c for 30 minutes. Put a lid on tightly and store the chutney for at least two weeks in a cool, dark place before eating.

 

 

 

A Fiendishly Figgish Chutney

22 September 2016

As another summer slips into the history books with the autumn equinox almost upon us, there’s a tang of vinegar in the air. The days are getting shorter and the nights cooler, and thoughts have started turning towards using the autumnal abundance of fruit and vegetables to make pickles and chutneys for the winter months.

In Turkey at this time of year people are busy preserving vegetables such as peppers, cucumbers, carrot, tomatoes, garlic, cauliflower and cabbage in vinegar and salt to make tursu, the ubiquitous pickle plate that adorns the dinner table.

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When Lord Venal was visiting Knidos in August he was very taken with the local fig crop and was inspired to knock up a jar or two of his Fiendish Fig Chutney.

He helpfully explained the difference between a pickle and a chutney; a pickle involves raw vegetables preserved in a liquid such as brine, oil or vinegar, whilst chutney cooks vegetables or fruits in a sugary vinegar base.

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Lord Venal hopes you’ll enjoy his spicy chutney with all types of cheeses and crackers.

Ingredients (Makes around 1.5 kg of chutney)

1 kg fresh figs

250 g raisins or currants

250 g onions

300 ml cider vinegar

200 g brown sugar

2 cloves of garlic

5 cm fresh ginger

one teaspoon coriander seeds

one cinnamon stick

one teaspoon cloves

one teaspoon turmeric

one teaspoon chili flakes

Assorted jam jars

Method

Chop the figs roughly and remove any stems. Throw them into a large stainless steel pan and add the vinegar, chopped onions, garlic and spices (remember to grind the coriander seeds, break up the cinnamon stick and peel and finely chop the ginger).

Bring to the boil and then allow the mix to simmer, stirring occasionally, for half an hour or so until the figs are softening. Now add the sugar and keep stirring until it’s dissolved. Cook for another 15 minutes or so until the mix starts to thicken. Unlike jam, as soon as you turn the chutney off it stops thickening, so turn the heat off when you reach your desired consistency.

While the chutney is bubbling away, sterilise the jam jars in the oven at 50°c for thirty minutes. Spoon the chutney into the jars while still hot and put a lid on when it’s cooled down a bit. It’s ready to eat straight away, but, like most things in life, it improves with age.

 

Dolma Dreaming

21 April 2016

This week, Knidos Cookery Club is turning its attention to stuffed vegetables – dolma in Turkish, from the verb dolmak which means to fill or stuff.

Any vegetable that can be hollowed out can be used to make dolma – aubergines, courgettes, peppers or tomatoes are great for this. The filling can consist of rice mixed with herbs and spices and sometimes dried fruit such as raisins or currants and pine nuts.

Knidos Cookery Club particularly likes the way tomatoes go all soft and mushy when baked and some perfect specimens were sourced from the market. Courgettes are beginning to re-appear after their winter break and a kilo were added to the shopping basket for subsequent stuffing. With spinach also in abundance, we picked up a few bunches to add to the rice for the dolma mix.

Here’s what the finished dish should look like …

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Ingredients (serves 3-4)

Two medium-sized courgettes

Four medium-sized tomatoes

250 g fresh spinach

One cup (approx. 100g) of short or long grain rice (We recommend brown rice for its nuttier flavour)

250 ml vegetable stock

One medium-sized onion

Mixed herbs and spices (thyme, parsley, mint, oregano, black pepper, chili pepper, salt)

A handful of dried fruit (currants and/or raisins) and a few pine nuts

Olive oil for cooking

Juice of two medium-sized lemons

A knob of garlic

For the cucumber sauce: one small cucumber, fresh chopped mint, 100ml thick natural yogurt

Method

Pour a generous glug of olive oil into a heavy-based pan and add the chopped onion and garlic. Cook over a medium heat until the onion becomes translucent. Add mixed herbs, seasoning, dried fruit and pine nuts.

Add the washed and soaked rice to the onion mix and stir to cover the grains with oil. Next add the stock and cook over a low heat until the liquid is absorbed.

While the rice is cooking, pre-heat the oven to 200 °C (gas mark 6) and soften the washed spinach in a frying pan with a little splash of olive oil until it starts to wilt.

Slice the tops off the tomatoes and scoop out the liquid from the middle. Top and tail the courgettes and scoop out the contents with a teaspoon in a drilling motion. (Keep the tomato liquid and courgette middles to cook with later).

When the rice has absorbed all the liquid, add the wilted spinach to the mixture, stirring it thoroughly into the cooked rice.

Stuff the tomatoes and courgettes with the rice mixture and arrange in a baking dish. Pour the lemon juice and a healthy dash of olive oil over the vegetables. Put the tops back on the tomatoes.

Place in the pre-heated oven and bake at 200 °C (gas mark 6) for 30 minutes or so or until the skin of the vegetables starts to go brown and bubbly. Add a small amount of water if the lemon juice is all absorbed.

While they’re cooking, make the cucumber sauce. Combine the grated cucumber with the yogurt and fresh mint. Add garlic to taste.

Serve immediately or allow to cool – it’s up to you. Don’t forget to pour the cucumber sauce over the dolma before eating.