Greetings from Tashkent, Uzbekistan where KCC has been based for the last three weeks on a foodie fact finding mission. Uzbekistan is the land of plov, but is also home to a wide range of pasta dishes such as manti (dumplings), laghman noodles and many cousins of ravioli.
The autumn pickling and preserving season is in full swing with vegetables such as peppers, tomatoes and aubergines cheap and abundant. Our friend gave us a jar of her homemade lecho, a pepper, tomato and onion stew, with herbs and spices added according to your taste. Lecho originated in eastern Europe, so you should be able to track down a jar in your local Polish shop.
We decided to cook up this lecho with some courgettes and protein-rich red lentils to make a tasty laghman noodle sauce. One of the advantages of being in Central Asia is the ready availability of fresh, hand-pulled noodles in the shops, but if you don’t have access to laghman noodles where you are, then try making your own. Check out this laghman recipe here – it’s a bit time consuming but rewarding!
Ingredients (makes 3-4 servings)
125 g fresh noodles per person
2 small courgettes
1 large red onion
100 g red lentils
250 g lecho
50 ml olive oil
One teaspoon cumin seeds
One teaspoon red chilli flakes
Wash the lentils until the water goes clear and then soak for around 30 minutes. While the lentils are soaking, fry the thinly sliced onion in the olive oil and add the cumin seeds. Cook over a medium heat for ten minutes and then add the courgette that has been grated or cut into 1 mm thick, 5 mm long slices. Cook for ten more minutes over a low heat.
Take the red peppers from the lecho and cut into thin slices and add to the pan with the onion and courgette mix. Cook for another ten minutes over a low heat and then drain the lentils and add to the pan along with the red chilli flakes and the liquid from the lecho. Cook until the liquid has been absorbed and the lentils are chewy not mushy.
Bring a pan of salted water to the boil and then turn off the heat and put the noodles in for a few minutes, Drain and then add the noodles to the sauce and stir well. Serve straight away with a flat bread of your choice.
Today we’re celebrating KCC’s 5th anniversary with a hearty plate of laghman, hand-pulled wheat noodles, one of Central Asia’s favourite dishes. These thick, chewy noodles are often served with a rich, spicy sauce but we decided to make a drier version with spring greens and chickpeas.
We can’t believe that it’s been five years since we started our culinary journey in Datça, Turkey. KCC’s first recipe was this asparagus risotto, inspired by the fresh produce on sale in the town’s weekly market.
Over the last five years, we’ve branched out from Turkey and sought out dishes from around the globe with gastronomic excursions to Greece, Georgia, Russia, Albania, Italy, India, Sri Lanka, Central Asia and Mexico among others.
Since the start of the pandemic KCC has been confined to Almaty, Kazakhstan, so we’ve been trying out new recipes based on locally sourced ingredients which brought us to laghman.
When it came to making this dish we cheated a bit – Gulzada, our local greengrocer, now offers home made noodles along with whatever fruit and vegetables are in season.
If your local grocer doesn’t stock noodles and you have the time to pull your own noodles, then check out this recipe to make the key ingredient for your laghman.
Ingredients (for 3-4 servings)
150 g noodles per person
200 g mixed greens – we used cauliflower and radish leaves but you can use anything you have handy
200 g leek
50 g garlic chives (jusai)
50 g celery
350 g cooked chickpeas
100 ml chickpea cooking water (aquafaba)
One teaspoon cumin seeds
One teaspoon red chilli flakes
50 ml olive oil
Heat the olive oil in a heavy-based pan and add the cumin seeds. Wash the leek thoroughly and then chop in half lengthways and then cut into 1 cm slices. Use as much of the leek as you can including the leafy green bits. When the cumin seeds begin to pop, reduce the heat to a low setting and add the leek to the pan and stir fry for five minutes.
Add the red chilli flakes, celery, garlic chives and chopped radish and cauliflower leaves to the leek and cook until the the leaves start to wilt. Stir in the chickpeas and the aquafaba and cook until most of the liquid is absorbed and you have a fairly thick sauce.
Bring a large pan of water to the boil. Put the noodles in the pan and leave for 2-3 minutes to warm them through. Arrange on a plate and pour the sauce on top and serve.
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
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.
This time round on Knidos Cookery Club were welcoming cookery fans in Uzbekistan who can finally enjoy unfettered access to our superior vegan and vegetarian recipes after the government unblocked a host of websites, including WordPress, last week.
To celebrate this unprecedentedly momentous occasion, we’ll be riffing on laghman, a classic noodle dish from Uzbekistan. A friend recently turned up at KCC’s Almaty HQ with a proliferation of King Oyster Mushrooms (see the photo below), providing us with a challenge to come up with something tasty.
A quick root around the kitchen cupboards produced a pack of soba (buckwheat) noodles and some sesame seeds so we put a pan of water on to boil and chopped up some leek, celery and tomatoes and added a dash of wine for a rapid-fire stir fry involving the funky-looking mushrooms.
Ingredients (serves 4)
50 ml olive oil
two teaspoons cumin seeds
100 g celery
100 g leek
600 g king oyster mushrooms
400 g tomatoes
25 ml soy sauce
100 ml dry white wine
300 g Soba (buckwheat) noodles
Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and add the cumin seeds. Cook over a medium heat for a minute and then add the diced leek. After a few minutes add the chopped celery and cook for five minutes, stirring occasionally.
Put the leek and celery mixture to one side and put the diced king oyster mushrooms into the frying pan, add the soy sauce and cook over a low heat for ten minutes or so. If the mushrooms start to go dry, add a dash of water and stir.
Add the chopped tomatoes to the mushrooms and cook for five minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the leek and celery mixture and the wine and stir well. Braise everything for ten minutes or so until most of the liquid is absorbed.
While the mushroom mix is braising, put the soba noodles in a pan of boiling, salted water and simmer for four to five minutes. Drain the noodles and arrange on a bowl with the mushroom mix on top. Add a sprinkle of sesame seeds before serving.