Let Them Eat KCC’s Vodka-fuelled Festive Fruitcake

6 January 2021

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

Method

  • 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 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.

Farinata Fiesta

12 November 2020

It’s time for a bit more armchair culinary tourism and we’re off to Genoa in northern Italy, birthplace of the farinata, a chickpea flour pancake that is a popular snack along the coast of the Ligurian Sea, where it’s known as fainâ, and down into France’s Côte d’Azur, where it’s known as socca.

With Diwali, the Festival of Lights celebrated by Hindus, coming up on 14 November this year, we decided to mark the occasion by topping our chickpea pancake with a dry, spicy Indian inspired combination of spinach, potato and roasted cauliflower.

These chickpea pancakes are usually baked in the oven but we didn’t have a suitable baking dish so we tracked down a recipe at Electric Blue Food for a pan–fried version. We replaced the water with aquafaba – the leftover liquid from cooking beans – to give the pancake a bit more oomph. This pancake proved really easy to cook compared with traditional ones made from flour, milk and eggs.

Farinata is often eaten plain with just a sprinkling of black pepper and rosemary, but it can also be served with other, more substantial, toppings. The taste of this chickpea pancake reminded us of a thicker version of southern India’s dosa, a much missed treat since the start of the pandemic. So we decided to top it with spicy vegetables to attempt an approximation of our favourite pancake.

Ingredients (serves 4)

For the farinata:

  • 200 g chickpea flour
  • 100 ml olive oil
  • 300 ml aquafaba

For the Saag Aloo Gobi topping:

  • 250 g spinach
  • 250 g cauliflower
  • 250 g potato
  • One onion 
  • One teaspoon cumin seeds
  • One teaspoon coriander seeds
  • One teaspoon chilli powder
  • One teaspoon cinnamon
  • One teaspoon turmeric
  • 50 ml olive oil

Method

For the farinata:

  • Use a wooden spoon to mix the chickpea flour with the oil in a large bowl and then slowly add the aquafaba and switch to a hand whisk and blend until smooth (you can use a blender or a stick blender for this).
  • Leave to stand for 30 minutes. Heat a few drops of oil in a large frying pan (around 30 cm in diameter) and then pour in a quarter of the pancake batter. Swirl it around to distribute the batter evenly. 
  • The pancake will start to puff up – when this happens, slide a spatula underneath and turn it over and cook on the other side until it slides off the pan easily. Put on a plate and keep in a pre-heated oven (100 c) until ready to serve.

For the Saag Aloo Gobi:

  • Break the cauliflower into florets, drizzle with olive oil and bake in the oven at 180 c for 30 minutes or until they start to char slightly.
  • Slice the potatoes into four or eight pieces depending on how big they are. Put in boiling, salted water and cook for five minutes.  Drain and put in cold water.
  • Heat the oil in a heavy based pan and then add the cumin seeds. When they start to sizzle, add the chopped onion. Add the rest of the spices and stir well. After five minutes or so, add the potato and stir fry for five minutes. 
  • Now put the chopped spinach on top of the potatoes and add a few of teaspoons water. Cook until the spinach begins to wilt. Stir in the baked cauliflower and serve immediately on top of a farinata.

Hash Greens: More Mücver Variations

17 September 2020

This time round on KCC we’re returning to mücver, Turkey’s versatile courgette fritter, with our take on that brunch staple Hash Browns. This mücver variation adds potato and garlic scapes to the mix to give us a fritter we’ve dubbed Hash Greens.

These fritters are super-easy to prepare and cook and are great as part of a breakfast or brunch. They can also be served in a roll to make it closer to a veggie burger.

We came across garlic scapes, the edible stem that grows from the bulb, on a recent visit to the local greengrocer while looking for green beans. This flavoursome peduncle gives a milder garlicky kick to soups, pestos and stir fries. It’s not an overpowering flavour as it adds a subtler, roasted garlic undernote to these dishes.

Ingredients (Makes 6-8 fritters)

  • One medium courgette (zucchini) (approx 200 g)
  • One medium potato (approx 200 g)
  • One small onion (approx 100 g)
  • 50 g garlic scapes
  • 100 g chickpea flour
  • 25 g mixed fresh herbs
  • One teaspoon cumin seeds
  • One teaspoon chilli flakes
  • One teaspoon turmeric
  • One teaspoon black pepper
  • 50 ml olive oil

Method

  • Grate the potato and courgette and mix together in a large bowl. Finely chop the garlic scapes and add to the bowl. Stir in the chickpea flour and add the herbs (use and fresh herbs you have e.g. parsley, coriander, mint) and spices and mix well so you have a smooth that’s neither too dry and crumbly nor too wet and sloppy.
  • Heat the oil in a frying pan. Form the mix into golf-ball sized patties and then put in the pan and flatten with a fish slice or spatula. Fry until golden-brown on both sides. Serve as part of a breakfast or brunch or in a bun as a burger with toppings of your choice.

Double Radish Courgette Quiche

23 July 2020

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.

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Courgette, radish leaf and halloumi quiche

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.

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Horseradish sauce with beetroot

 

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.

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Going a bit crackers in lockdown

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
  • One egg
  • 100 g halloumi
  • 50 ml olive oil

Method

  • 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.

Maslenitsa Pancake Special: Hoppers Mad

27 February 2020

We are currently in the middle of Maslenitsa, a week-long festival in which Russian Orthodox believers take the opportunity to indulge in rich foods like eggs and milk, personified by blini, pancakes, and some hard partying before the 40-day fast for Lent begins – this year on 2 March.

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Here comes the sun – a KCC egg hopper

Maslenitsa is based on a Slavic pagan sun festival that marked the coming end of winter. Pancakes were seen as an image of the sun and were prepared to help banish the winter gods and bring on the warmer days of spring. There are more nods to paganism with Maslenitsa week ending with the burning of an effigy of Lady Maslenitsa, whose ashes are then mixed with the snow to fertilise the soil.

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Hopper mix bubbling away

To mark the festival, this year we’ve gone for a non-traditional take on the pancake front with egg hoppers, fermented Sri Lankan rice flour and coconut milk pancakes with an egg in the middle. Spring is coming! The word hopper comes from appa, the name given to these pancakes in Sri Lanka and southern India.

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Egg hoppers – the real McCoy from Sri Lanka

Ingredients (makes 4-6 hoppers)

  • 100 g rice flour
  • 200 ml coconut milk
  • One teaspoon dried yeast
  • One teaspoon sugar
  • 4-6 eggs
  • 60 ml warm water
  • Oil for frying
  • Small bunch of fresh coriander

Method

  • Mix the yeast with the warm water and sugar. After a few minutes it should start frothing. Add to the rice flour in a large mixing bowl and stir. Now add the coconut milk stirring until the batter has a consistency that is not too runny and not too thick – it should pour easily. Cover the bowl and allow to ferment in a warm place for a few hours. The mix should double in size.
  • To make the pancakes, heat a few drops of oil in a small (6-7 cm), high-sided frying pan. Wipe with kitchen towel and pour in the batter, swirling it around the pan so that a thin layer coats the sides. The pancake should be thicker at the bottom. Crack an egg onto the pancake, cover and cook over a low heat until the egg is cooked. Serve with fresh coriander or a grating of black pepper (or both, if you wish).

 

 

Battered Halloumi = Pakora Paradise

5 December 2019

Over the last few days, we’ve been experimenting with perfecting a batter to make pakora – a deep-fried snack from the Indian sub-continent. After testing a few recipes we’ve hit on a formula that can be used to coat a variety of vegetables from cauliflowers to carrots, parsnips to peas, and also cheese!

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Halloumi pakora with potato wedges and peas

While on a recent visit to the UK, we came across battered halloumi on many menus – the squeaky cheese from Cyprus that stays firm when cooked. We’ve discovered that it makes a perfect partner for our pakora batter when deep-fried.  We recommend you try it with this spicy Yemini sauce, zhug.

But you’ll need to be quick, as halloumi has been a victim of its own success. Severe global shortages of this versatile cheese are predicted as demand far outstrips supply. Luckily for us here in Kazakhstan, a local producer has started making a version of this cheese. We’re pleased to report that it tastes pretty good, so for now the crisis has been averted in our winter base.

Ingredients (makes enough batter for a  sliced up 250 g block of halloumi)

  • 100 g chickpea flour (also known as gram flour or besan)
  • One small onion
  • 1 cm knob of ginger
  • One garlic clove
  • One teaspoon red chilli flakes
  • One tablespoon of fresh coriander
  • 50-100 ml cold water

Method  

  • Mix all the ingredients together with a fork or a whisk, adding water until you get a smooth consistency that is neither too runny not too thick with no lumps. Cover the batter with clingfilm and let it stand for an hour or so before using.
  • Heat a litre of cooking oil, we used sunflower oil but any will do, in a heavy-based pan over a medium heat until it reaches 180 c. To test the temperature, dip a chopstick or the handle of a wooden spoon in the oil – if the oil starts to bubble vigorously,  then it is at the right temperature.
  • Slice a 250 g block of halloumi into eight pieces. Coat the halloumi slices in the pakora batter and drop into the oil. When the pakora rise to the surface and are a golden-brown colour, remove with a slotted metal spoon and drain on kitchen towel.
  • Serve hot with potato wedges or roast potatoes and minted peas. The pakora goes well with a coriander and coconut chutney – this site has a good recipe for this sauce, or with our zhug sauce.

 

 

Piccata: a Zingy Sauce to Pique your Interest

31 May 2018

As the market stalls overflow with fresh spring produce, this time round on Knidos Cookery Club we’ve selected some zingy greens to make a zesty, lemony piccata sauce to go with pasta and some other leafy greens.

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KCC’s Chick Pea Picatta on a bed of sorrel

The piccata sauce comes from Italy and is a lemon-fuelled accompaniment to a variety of dishes. The name derives form the Italian word for ‘annoyed’, piccato, and it is from the same root as the word used in English expressions such as ‘a fit of pique’ or ‘to pique your interest’.

We’ve used jusai, garlic chives, to add more flavour to the sauce, along with white wine, capers and lemon zest and juice to give it a picquant bite. Add some chick peas and serve on a mound of pasta placed on top of a bed of fresh sorrel leaves for a tangy treat.

Ingredients (serves 3-4)

250 g cooked chick peas

25 ml olive oil

50 g garlic chives

2 tablespoons flour

100 ml white wine

500 ml vegetable stock

12 capers

Zest and juice of one lemon

1 teaspoon dried thyme

black pepper

250g dried pasta (we used spirals) cooked according to instructions on pack

Bunch of fresh sorrel

Method

Heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pan over a medium heat and then add the chopped garlic chives. Cook for five minutes and then add the flour and stir well. Pour in the wine and mix to a paste and then slowly add the stock, stirring all the while.

Simmer over a low heat until the sauce starts to thicken, then add the chick peas, capers and thyme and cook for three minutes. While the sauce is simmering, cook the pasta. Grind a generous amount of black pepper into the sauce along with the lemon juice and zest.

Tear up the sorrel leaves and scatter over a plate. Place a pile of pasta in the middle of the plate on the leaves, and then pour the piccata sauce over the pasta and serve immediately.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Mücver Variations

29 June 2017

This time round on Knidos Cookery Club we’re revisiting an old favourite – mücver, Turkey’s tasty courgette fritter.

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Could this be called a pea fritter?

The mücver usually served up in Turkish eateries are made from grated courgettes, so we’ve decided to spice up this old favourite by adding some other ingredients. Why not try them with fresh peas or grated carrot? Mushrooms work well, as do green beans.

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Putting some carrots in the mix

You can even add all these ingredients to the basic mix, chuck in a few chopped almonds or walnuts and, hey presto, you have a chunky veggie nut burger!

Serve the fritters in a pita, on a baguette, in a burger bun, rolled up in flat lavaş bread or just plain with a salad and condiments of your choice.

Ingredients (for around 8 fritters)

Two medium-sized courgettes

One small onion

One egg (or 15 ml of olive oil for vegan version)

Choose one or more from: 100 g chopped mushroom / grated carrot / peas (fresh if you have them, otherwise frozen or tinned) / sliced green beans (use 50 g of each if using more ingredients)

50 g of plain flour

Bunch of parsley, mint and/or dill (if you like that sort of thing)

Dried herbs to taste

A generous sprinkle of sesame seeds

An  optional dusting of chili flakes and grated cinnamon

Salt and pepper

A dash of olive oil for frying

Plain yogurt for serving

Method

Grate or chop up the courgettes and the extra of your choice (mushroom, carrot  peas, green beans or even all three) finely and mix with the chopped onion. Add fresh parsley, mint and/or dill, dried herbs, chili flakes, cinnamon, sesame seeds salt and pepper and blend well.

Make a well in the centre of the mix and break the egg into it. Sprinkle in the crumbled white cheese. Mix well. (Vegan readers should skip the egg and add 25 ml of olive oil instead)

Gradually add the plain flour and blend  until the mixture has quite a thick consistency – you don’t want it to be too wet and sloppy.

Drizzle some olive oil in a frying pan and put over a medium heat.

Place golf ball-sized scoops of the courgette mixture into the pan and flatten with a spatula or fork.

After a few minutes turn the fritter. Keep cooking until both sided are a golden-brown colour.

Serve hot with a dollop of yogurt on top.