With spring greens making a welcome reappearance, it’s time for a brunch special – green shakshuka, North Africa’s breakfast star.
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
one teaspoon cumin seeds
one teaspoon chilli powder
25 ml olive oil
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
With reports coming in from allotment owners in the UK of a bumper post-lockdown vegetable crop, we’re revisiting an old favourite — a quiche made with courgettes, peppery radish leaves and a healthy dash of horseradish.
In a topical touch, we’ve added a dash of horseradish (хрен in Russian), the latest plant to be touted as a defence against coronavirus in Central Asia, following hard on the heels of garlic.
Demand for horseradish, a root vegetable which is traditionally mixed with honey to fight colds and coughs, has soared in in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan in recent weeks, along with the price. We bought a jar of horseradish sauce, flavoured with beetroot, as the fresh roots are in short supply.
Crackers have also been hard to find in Almaty in recent weeks, so we used up the leftover pastry from making the quiche to prepare our own. Simply roll the pastry out to a thickness of 1 mm and then use a glass or mug to cut out a round shape. Bake in a hot oven (200 c) on a baking tray for 8-10 minutes until they start to brown.
Ingredients (3-4 portions)
For the pastry:
250 g flour (we used a 50/50 mix of rye and wheat flour)
60 ml olive oil
120 ml cold water
One teaspoon cumin seeds
One teaspoon sesame seeds
Healthy sprinkling of black pepper
For the filling:
One medium courgette
Bunch of radish leaves
One teaspoon horseradish sauce (or freshly grated if you can find it)
One small onion
100 g halloumi
50 ml olive oil
Put the flour in a large bowl with the cumin and sesame seeds and a sprinkling of black pepper. Mix the flour and oil together with a fork and then slowly add the water and keep mixing until it starts to come together. Knead with your hands for 5-10 minutes until you have a stretchy ball of pastry. Leave in the fridge covered in clingfilm for an hour or so.
Heat the oven to 200 c. Roll the pastry on a lightly floured surface until it is about 2 mm thick. Grease a baking dish and then put the pastry in the dish to form a pie crust. Prick all over with a fork and bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes. You can use any leftover pastry to make crackers – put them on the top shelf of the oven at the same time as you’re baking the pie base.
Heat 25 ml of oil in a heavy based pan and chop the courgette into 5 mm slices. Cook the courgettes on both sides until browning. Put the courgettes to one side and add the rest of the oil to the pan. While the pie base is baking, cook the sliced onion and chopped radish leaves in the hot oil.
Add the horseradish sauce and the egg to the mixture when the radish leaves are wilting. Stir well and then pour this into the pie crust. Place the fried courgette slices on top and put strips of halloumi around the courgettes. Bake for another 20-30 minutes at 180 c until the pastry is starting to go brown and the cheese has started to melt.
Knidos Cookery Club has just arrived back at its home base on the Datça Peninsula in Turkey. We’re going to soak up some more culinary inspiration from the place where the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas meet around the ancient Greek settlement of Knidos.
To celebrate being back in Turkey, we’ve prepared a piyaz salad, one of the classic dishes of Turkish cooking, that combines small white beans with some readily available staples of the local kitchen; namely tomatoes, onions, green peppers, parsley and lemons.
Turkey’s çarliston peppers aka banana peppers
The secret of this dish is in getting the beans just right – not too mushy but not too firm either. They need a good, long overnight soak and some slow cooking to achieve the required consistency.
The dressing used varies across Turkey from the basic lemon, olive oil and apple vinegar one favoured in Istanbul to the tahini-infused one from Antalya, paying tribute to the Arabian influence from the Middle East on the city’s cuisine. We have opted for the creamy, nutty taste of the latter.
Ingredients (makes 3-4 servings)
200 g dried haricot beans or other small white beans soaked overnight
1 medium-sized plum tomato
1 long, green pepper (e.g. çarliston pepper – see photo above)
1 small onion
Small bunch of parsley
50 ml olive oil
50 ml apple vinegar
25 ml tahini
2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon red chilli flakes
Optional: Two boiled eggs or one avocado
Cook the beans over a low heat until tender but not starting to go mushy. When cooked, drain off the cooking water, reserving 100 ml to make the dressing. Pour the vinegar and sprinkle the thyme over the beans and leave to cool.
After leaving for a few hours, add the vinegar the beans were soaking in to the reserved bean juice and then blend with the olive oil, tahini and the juice of one lemon to make a smooth sauce.
Finely dice the tomato, slice the pepper and onions into rings and chop the parsley finely. Add these to the beans.
Cover the salad and put it in the fridge for a few hours. Serve with wedges of the second lemon and sprinkle the red chilli flakes over the salad.
Just before serving, pour the dressing over the bean salad and season with black pepper and gently mix all the ingredients together with a wooden spoon.
You can garnish with quarters of boiled egg if you wish or, for a vegan twist, you can garnish the salad with slices of avocado.
While shopping at Datça market recently, this spectacular-looking, knobbly, bright orange fruit grabbed our attention.
Subsequent googling revealed it to be a bitter melon, or bitter gourd, kudret narı in Turkish. Despute being popular in pan-Asian cooking, we couldn’t find too many Turkish recipes using bitter melon so we decided to mix it in with menemen, that breakfast fave in Turkey.
You’ll probably be able to track down bitter melons in your local Asian grocer’s. When picked they are yellow-green, resembling a bumpy cucumber, and when ripe they turn orange. Cooking helps remove some of the bitter taste of this curious-looking member of the squash family. Inside are bright red coloured seeds that can be removed and eaten.
Ingredients (serves 2-4)
100 g bitter melon
60 g green peppers
2 spring onions
1 medium-sized tomato
1 teaspoon each of dried thyme, oregano, black pepper and red chilli flakes
A dash of soy sauce
25 ml olive oil
Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and when hot add the chopped spring onion. Cook for two minutes over a medium heat and then add the peppers and seeded bitter melon, cut into 1-2 mm strips.
Cook for another two minutes and then add the chopped tomato, herbs and spices and a dash of soy sauce. Fry for 5 minutes and then reduce the heat and break the eggs into the mix. Keep stirring until you achieve the desired consistency of scrambled egg to your taste.
In keeping with the ‘Waste not, want not‘ mantra, this week we’ll be using some radish greens in a mini quiche.
Often discarded, these peppery leaves taste great when fried up with some spring onion, garlic and a dash of soy sauce.
Ingredients ( makes four mini-quiches)
150 g radish leaves
1 radish (for decoration)
2 spring onions
1 garlic clove
Dash of soy sauce
60 g crumbly white cheese
25 ml olive oil
150 g filo pastry or shortcrust pastry
Saute the chopped onions and garlic in a little olive oil in a heavy-based pan for 2-3 minutes, add a dash of soy sauce and then add the radish leaves and cook for another 2-3 minutes until the leaves start to wilt.
Allow the mix to cool for ten minutes then mix in the eggs and cheese. Prepare cases in small baking dishes with the filo pastry, brushing each filo leaf with olive oil.
Pour the mix into each pastry case to half way and then bake for 20 minutes in an oven pre-heated to 180 c.
Garnish with radish slices and serve with a green salad laced with more sliced radish!
Welcome to the first Knidos Cookery Club of the new year. While many of us have returned to the daily grind, it’s still party-time in some parts of the world.
in Russia, people are preparing to celebrate New Year’s Eve on 13 January – the Orthodox Church still follows the Julian calendar rather than the Gregorian calendar, which Russia adopted after 1917’s October Revolution. This 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.
A centre-piece of Russian tables on this day, as people prepare to welcome in novy god, is the Olivier salad – a concoction of boiled potatoes, pickled cucumbers, peas, eggs, carrots and boiled beef or chicken in a mayonnaise dressing. This version dates from Soviet times as all the ingredients could usually be procured even in the depths of winter and despite chronic shortages.
A version of the salad, omitting the meat and eggs, is made in Turkey where it’s known as Rus Salatası – we’ve made our own veggie version that replaces the meat (Olivier purists look aside now, please) with black and green olives and uses sour cream in place of mayonnaise.
When I lived in Moscow in the 1990s I got it into my head that Olivier salad should include olives (mistakenly thinking that Olivier referred to olives rather than the salad’s originator!) and I was disappointed when it came minus olives – so now I finally have a chance to put this right!
Ingredients (serves 3-4)
150 g potatoes
150 g carrots
150 g peas
150 g pickled cucumbers
150 g black and green olives
two hard boiled eggs
150 ml sour cream or natural yogurt
pinches of salt and black pepper
Boil the whole carrots and potatoes until cooked but not going mushy and boil the eggs for 5 minutes or so. While they’re all cooking, chop the pickled cucumbers and olives into small cubes.
Drain the potatoes and carrots and cover with cold water to stop them cooking. Do the same with the eggs. Chop the potatoes, carrots and eggs into small cubes and arrange around the side of a large serving dish in separate sections with the olives, peas and cucumbers.
Pour the sour cream or yogurt into the middle of the bowl and season with salt and pepper. Now mix all the ingredients thoroughly, making sure they all get a good coating of sour cream or yogurt.
Leave in the fridge before serving alongside other Russian-themed salads, such as this veggie take on caviar made from beluga lentils, and wish a hearty S Novym Godom with shots of vodka and/or a glass of chilled Sovyetskoye Shampankskoye (if you can get hold of it in your local offie!) as you prepare to welcome Old New Year in true Russian-style!
Turkey has turned the first meal of the day into an art form with ever-more elaborate spreads of cheeses, jams, honey, olives, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and egg dishes spilling across the table with different regions of the country bringing local additions to the mix.
At the heart of the breakfast there is usually an egg dish – often a soft-boiled or fried egg, or a speciality dish such as menemen, a hearty scramble of eggs, onions peppers and tomatoes.
In Datça, the köy, or village, breakfast can come with lashings of local honey and gözleme, a pancake filled with white cheese and fresh herbs. The Van Breakfast, originating in the east of the country, has conquered the rest of Turkey with its array of 20 or more dishes. It includes otlu peynir, a herb-infused cheese, martuğa, made from flour, butter and egg, and kavut, a porridge made from cornmeal and ground barley.
This week on Knidos Cookery Club, we’ll be cooking up menemen. I first encountered this breakfast-time treat when staying in Izmir, on the Aegean coast. Walking out of my hotel, I was met be the mouth-watering aroma of eggs bubbling away with peppers and tomatoes. Street hawkers, hunched over single-burner camping stoves, were busily whipping up pans of scrambled delight.
Ingredients (for one hearty serving)
One spring onion
One small red or green pepper (if you like it hot, use a chili pepper)
One small tomato
Seasoning: pinches of salt, black pepper, cumin and chill pepper flakes
Parsley for garnishing
Olive oil for frying
Heat the oil in a small frying pan. Add the diced spring onion and cook over a medium heat until starting to brown. Add the diced tomato and diced pepper and season with salt, black pepper, cumin and chill pepper flakes.
Cook until the peppers begin to soften then reduce to a low heat and crack in the eggs. Keep stirring as you would for scrambled eggs. When the egg begins to set, remove from the heat – it’ll carry on cooking in the pan. Garnish with some chopped parsley.
Serve immediately with crusty bread and a plate of white cheese, honey, olives, tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers for the full-on Turk brekkie effect.