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.

 

 

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.

Bringing the Apples Home to Almaty

9 September 2021

We’re back in action after another glamping trip to Bubble Gum View near Almaty. This peaceful spot, located a 45-minute drive from the city centre, is situated in an orchard and consists of four pods. This time round we were treated to an upgrade to the en-suite pod that has a kitchen and an upstairs bedroom too.

Kazakhstan, Almaty region in particiular, is widely acknowledged as the place where the ancestors of today’s apples evolved. The name Almaty translates from the Kazakh as ‘the place of apples.’ With autumn approaching, the apples are beginning to ripen and we picked a few to bring back to Almaty.

Almaty apple, caper, courgette and rocket salad

With summer making a last stand – the mercury is still hitting the 30s here in Almaty, we used the apples in a salad based on one we had in Greece one time. The Greek version used pears and lettuce, but we’ve swapped in rocket and our homecoming apples. We served it in a wrap with some fresh, homemade hummus and crispy falafels, but it works equally well wherever you’d normally eat salad.

Ingredients (serves 3-4)

  • 125 g courgette
  • 100 g apple
  • 75 g rocket
  • 20 g capers
  • 1 teaspoon chia seeds
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 15 ml olive oil

Method

Roughly chop the rocket leaves and put at them at the bottom of your salad bowl. Grate the courgette over the rocket leaves. Now grate the apple over the courgette layer, add the capers and sprinkle the chia seeds over the top. Dress with lemon juice and olive oil and mix well.

 

Move Over Risotto, Here Comes Broccoli Orzotto!

23 September 2021

This time round on KCC we’re cooking up orzotto – the barley-based cousin of risotto. The name is taken from orzo, the Italian for barley with the ‘otto’ coming from the rice-fuelled risotto. There’s also a rice-shaped pasta called orzo, but for this recipe you’ll need pearl barley, not the pasta.

Broccoli Orzotto

Barley, a hardy crop that can be grown in challenging environments, was one of the first cereal crops to be cultivated around 10,000 years ago in the grasslands where Asia and Europe meet – modern day Central Asia, from where it spread into neighbouring areas and became a staple part of the diet.

Pearl barley is a grain that has been processed to remove the hull and some of the bran – this makes it easier to cook. It cooks in roughly the same time as rice, especially if you soak it for a few hours beforehand – you can kill two birds with one stone with our recipe for lemon barley water which can be drunk on its own or in cocktails.

We made our orzotto with broccoli and celery but you can substitute any vegetables you have to hand – mushrooms work well in this recipe, as do courgettes.

Ingredients (makes 4 servings)

  • 200 g pearl barley
  • 300 g broccoli
  • One medium-sized onion
  • One stick of celery
  • 50 ml olive oil
  • Two teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 500 ml vegetable stock
  • 125 ml dry white wine

Method

  • Soak the barley for a few hours in cold water – this will make it cook more quickly. Heat the oil in a heavy-based pan on a low heat.  Add the cumin seeds and when they begin to pop add the diced onion and celery and cook for five minutes. Break the broccoli into small florets and finely chop the stem and then add to the pan. Cook for another five minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Add the soaked barley and stir well to coat the individual grains. Pour on the white wine and stir occasionally. When the wine has been absorbed, add 125 ml of vegetable stock and when that is absorbed keep adding liquid until the barley is tender – you might not need to use all the stock. It will take about 30 minutes to cook the orzotto. Serve immediately with a green salad.

Lunar New Year Noodlefest

11 February 2021

With the Lunar New Year ushering in the Year of the Ox on 12 February, we’re turning our attention to the world of noodles – a dish eaten at this time of the year across Asia to bring health and prosperity in the months ahead.

In southern China, longevity noodles symbolise a long life and they are traditionally made from a single, long noodle strand. In Japan, a dish usually eaten on the eve of the new year is Toshikoshi Soba, which translates as ‘year crossing buckwheat noodle’.

According to the Japan Talk website, “the long shape of the noodle symbolises the crossing from one year to the next” and as the “noodles are easily cut, they symbolise letting go of the regrets of the past year.” As we prepare to enter the Year of the Ox, there are plenty of regrets built up from the past crazy year of the COVID-19 pandemic that need leaving behind, so soba noodles it is!

We’re always up for a challenge here on KCC so we decided to try and make the noodles from scratch. After a plethora of almost perfect noodle posts on social media, including this one from Saida Mirziyoyeva, the Uzbek president’s daughter, making laghman – what could be easier…

Hmm, it turns out that making these buckwheat noodles wasn’t so easy as it looked. After some trial and error, we mixed the buckwheat flour with some 00 (pizza) grade wheat flour and came up with a passable noodle.

Whilst not doing much on the longevity stakes, our noodles proved easy to cut, ensuring that all those regrets were left securely in the past!

Ingredients (for 4 servings)

  • 160 g buckwheat flour
  • 40 g 00 (pizza) grade wheat flour
  • 200 ml water
  • 10 ml olive oil

Method

  • Sieve the flours together in a large bowl and then add the olive oil and mix with a wooden spoon. Slowly add the water and mix until the dough starts to come together (You might not need all the water – don’t add too much as you don’t want the dough to get too sloppy).
  • Use your hands to mould the dough into a round shape and then knead it on a lightly-floured surface for 10-15 minutes. This will release the gluten in the wheat flour and help give the dough some elasticity. Wrap with clingfilm and leave to stand at room temperature for an hour.
  • Break off small pieces of dough and roll between your palms and then on a lightly-floured surface until you have a noodle around 10-15 cm in length. The first ones turned out quite short, but persevere and you’ll get there – the process got easier the more we rolled. Be careful not to leave any cracks in the noodle as this will cause it to break when cooking.
  • Cover the noodles with clingfilm and keep in the fridge until needed for cooking. Bring a large pan of water to the boil, add salt if you wish, and then add the noodles and boil for up to five minutes – they should be al dente and still have a bit of bite to them.
  • Use a slotted spoon to transfer the cooked noddles into a pan of cold water to remove any starchy residues. Serve in a soup, as part of a stir fry or with a topping of your choice – here’s a mushroom-based topping that we made a couple of years ago that worked well with buckwheat noodles. 

Falafel to the Fore

18 June 2020

This time round on Knidos Cookery Club we’ll be taking an armchair culinary tour to the Middle East and looking at the origins of the humble falafel. Arguments abound as to where this street snack par excellence originated, but most likely it was Egypt according to the evidence.

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Millet falafel, anyone?

The Egyptian version of this tasty bite is usually made with fava beans, known as fūl in Arabic, which is thought to be the base for the name falafel , whilst in other parts of the Mediterranean region chickpeas are preferred.

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Falafel salad

With both chickpeas and fava beans in short supply in Almaty at the moment, it was back to the drawing board to look for an alternative base for our falafel. While stocking up during lockdown in our local shop we came across a pack of millet and a spot of googling revealed that this would work just fine as the base for our take on the falafel.

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Forming the falafel

We baked them in the oven rather than deep-fried them as it’s a lot less hassle. Be sure to use plenty of parsley, cumin, coriander and chilli powder to spice up the millet. The resulting falafel were crisp on the outside but soft and fluffy in the centre, just as they should be.

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Bake the falafel in the oven

Be careful when cooking millet as it has a tendency to stick to the pan if you don’t keep an eye on it and stir regularly. We found it best to rinse and soak it for a few hours before cooking as this reduces the time needed to cook it.

Ingredients (makes 12-16 falafel)

  • 150 g millet
  • 300 ml water or vegetable stock
  • one garlic clove
  • one bunch of parsley
  • one teaspoon cumin
  • one teaspoon coriander
  • one teaspoon chilli powder
  • Sesame seeds to coat the falafel

Method

  • Rinse and then soak the millet in a pan for four hours. Drain the millet and cover with water or vegetable stock. Bring to a boil and then simmer until the liquid is absorbed. Stir regularly as the millet will stick to the bottom of the pan if not watched carefully.
  • Finely chop the parsley, both leaves and stalks, mince the garlic clove and add to the cooked millet. Add the spices – if you want to give your falafel more oomph, double the amount. Mix well and then form into balls. Roll the balls in the sesame seeds and then place on a tray and oven bake for 20 minutes at 200 c, or until the falafel turn a golden-brown colour.
  • Serve in pita bread with salad and sauces of your choice or as part of a salad – we made one from cucumber, tomato, spring onion, celery, red cabbage and radish. These falafel will keep in the fridge for a few days so you can cook a large batch at the same time.

A Central Asian Chocolate Odyssey

07 May 2020

With Almaty’s lockdown showing tentative signs of easing – we’re now allowed out to exercise as well as shop, a bit of a celebration is called for and a root around the cupboards produced a splendid horde of country-themed, Central Asian chocolate .

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The Tower of Central Asian Chocolate

We unearthed some bars of chocolate named after Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan – perfect for a blindfold taste-test to see what Central Asia’s finest chocolate tastes like. To keep it interesting, we entered a wildcard – chocolate infused with kurut (a wind dried fermented milk product) from Kyrgyzstan.

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A cheesy wildcard with some great design work

Here are the blindfold taster’s notes:

  1. Dark but not too bitter, a bit orangey, quite like a hare – nice!
  2. Unusual, something Englishy, something a bit like a fox, not very sweet, nice!
  3. Sweeter than the others, like a soft horse chunkyish feel.
  4. Tobleroneish, darkish, a little bit bitter and chewy; like a naughty monkey.

Can you guess which description goes with which bar?

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Check in the comments below for the results…

Lockdown Lunch: Red-hot Hummus

16 April 2020

We’re now nearing the end of the third week of Almaty’s lockdown. Life has settled into a pattern of venturing out as little as possible and relying more on what we have stored away. After a delve in the cupboards, we came up with one of the stalwarts of the staple food world – a pack of dried beans.

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KCC’s Red-hot, red bean hummus

After soaking in cold water overnight, these red beans can be used in endless ways – from soups, stews and curries to burgers, salads and dips. We’ve gone for a easy-to-make red bean hummus; you’ll just need to add tahini, lemon juice, olive oil and some spices. Serve with flat bread and salad for a tasty lunch.

Don’t worry if you haven’t got any tahini on hand, you can make your own by toasting some sesame seeds and mixing them with olive oil – here’s a link to last year’s post on DIY tahini.

Ingredients (makes around 300 g)

  • 250 g cooked red beans (reserve 50 ml of the cooking water)
  • Two tablespoons tahini
  • 25 ml olive oil
  • One lemon
  • One garlic clove
  • One teaspoon cumin seeds
  • One teaspoon sumac
  • Two teaspoons red chilli flakes
  • A few sprigs of coriander

Method

  • Mash the beans with a potato masher or a fork and add the tahini. Mix well then add olive oil and lemon juice and blend until you get a smooth consistency. If the hummus is too thick, use some of the cooking water, Add the minced garlic and spices and mix a bit more with the fork. Garnish with a few beans, a drizzle of oil, a sprinkling of chilli flakes and a sprig of coriander.