Lentily Lecho Laghman

21 October 2021

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

Method

  • 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.

Bhaji Burger BBQ in a time of Glamping

13 May 2021

It’s official – the 2021 Kazakhstan barbecue season has opened with a glamping grillfest in the hills near Talgar, a short drive from Almaty.

After receiving the second dose of the Sputnik V vaccine, we’re taking some tentative steps back to life in the world beyond Almaty. First stop was Bubble Gum View – a newly-opened glamping (glamour camping for the uninitiated) spot with four socially distanced pods in an apple orchard, perfect for a contact-free break. Each pod comes with its own barbecue area so it was time to kick off the 2021 season in style.

We’ve been working on a burger that will hold up to being put on the grill and this one, which combines potato, green lentils, onion and green leaves, uses chickpea flour to bind the mix together. We served it along with some grilled halloumi and some char grilled carrot slices. For a bit more variety, when courgettes and aubergines are in season, then put some of these on the grill.

Ingredients (makes 8 burgers)

  • 250 g  potato
  • 100 g green lentils
  • 50 g chickpea flour (also known as gram or besan)
  • One medium onion
  • 100 g mixed green leaves (we used radish leaves but you can use any you have handy)
  • One teaspoon turmeric, cumin seeds, chilli pepper and cinnamon
  • 25 ml olive oil

Method

  • Soak the lentils for a few hours and then cook in 400 ml water until they begin to go mushy and have soaked up all the liquid. Cook the potatoes in a separate pan and when ready drain and mash in a large bowl. 
  • Heat the oil in a heavy-based pan, add the cumin seeds and, when they start to pop, add the finely chopped onion and cook over a medium heat until translucent. Add the chopped mixed leaves and cook over a medium heat until they start to wilt.
  • Add the turmeric, chilli pepper and cinnamon and then add the cooked lentils to the mashed potato and then add the onions and leaves to the potato-lentil mix and stir well. Add the chickpea flour and combine all the ingredients.
  • Form the mix into golf ball sized rounds, flatten with your hand and then cook on the grill, turning after five minute or so when the burger is beginning to char. Serve immediately with other grilled vegetables, halloumi if you eat cheese and a salad of your choice.

Barleekie – a Barley, Leek and Lentil Soup for Burns Night

21 January 2021

We’re always on the look out at KCC for something to celebrate and this week we’re heading for Scotland. Coming up on 25 January is Burns Night, which marks the birthday of the country’s national bard, Robert Burns, with a night of poetry and songs accompanied by lots of drinking and feasting.

The celebration revolves around a hearty supper and commemorates the life and works of Scotland’s most famous poet with recitals of his work and comforting winter fare. It’s all washed down with a wee dram or two of whisky.

The first course of the supper is usually cock-a-leekie soup, this is followed by the main attraction, haggis, a savoury, offal-based dish that is similar to “a crumbly sausage, with a coarse oaty texture and a warming peppery flavour,” according to the BBC Good Food website. It’s usually served with neeps (mashed turnip) and tatties (mashed potato). Clootie dumpling, a steamed, dried fruit pudding, is served for dessert.

We’ve replaced the chicken usually found in the cock-a-leekie soup with green lentils to make our vegan version – Barleekie soup, named for its key ingredients of barley and leeks.

If you want to try your hand at haggis but are not keen on all those innards then check out this recipe from Emi’s Good Eating for a vegan take on Scotland’s national dish. As for the clootie dumpling, check out this recipe from the BBC.

Ingredients (for 3 – 4 servings)

  • 100 g pearl barley
  • 100 g green lentils
  • One leek (200 g)
  • One carrot (150 g)
  • One lemon
  • 50 ml olive oil
  • 600 ml vegetable stock
  • One teaspoon cumin seeds
  • One teaspoon turmeric 
  • One teaspoon ginger
  • One bay leaf

Method

  • Soak the barley and green lentils separately for 4 hours. Zest the lemon and mix this into the soaking barley.
  • Heat the oil in a heavy-based pan and then wash the leek thoroughly and chop the white part into 1 cm rounds and roughly chop the green parts. Add the leek to the pan and then stir in the spices. Sweat the leek over a low heat until it is soft. 
  • Stir in the chopped carrot, barley and  green lentils and then add the vegetable stock and the juice of the lemon and the bay leaf. Simmer for 30 minutes or so over a low heat until the the lentils and carrots are cooked but the barley still has a bit of bite to it.
  • Serve hot with hunks of crusty bread or oatcakes if you have them.

Under the Kosh of Egypt’s Street Food Star

3 September 2020

This time round on Knidos Cookery Club we’re taking an armchair culinary trip to Egypt to sample koshari, the country’s tasty street food staple – a hearty combo of lentils, rice and pasta, all topped off with a spicy tomato sauce and crispy, caramelised onions.

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KCC’s flavour-packed koshari

Koshari was brought to Egypt in the late 19th during the period when the country was part of the British Empire. Previously rice and pasta were not widely used in Egyptian cooking, but this combination caught on locally after occupying soldiers brought the dish with them from another part of the empire, the Indian sub-continent.

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Lemon, barley and ginger

Our version uses pearl barley in place of the rice as we have been using a lot of barley to make a lemon, ginger and barley tonic drink to mix with fizzy water or put in cocktails. The barley cooks at the same rate as the green lentils so they can be cooked together in the same pan.

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KCC’s multi-purpose spicy tomato sauce

With tomatoes cheap and in abundance at the moment, we’ve been making large amounts of a spicy sauce that goes well with this dish. It can be used with pasta or potatoes – we’ve been freezing any leftover sauce to use in the winter when tomatoes are much more pricey and not half as tasty, to spice up the staples.

Ingredients (for 3-4 servings)

  • 150 g pearl barley
  • 150 g green lentils
  • 300 ml vegetable stock
  • One large onion
  • 50 g vermicelli pasta
  • 50 ml olive oil

For the spicy tomato sauce:

  • 500 g plum (Roma) tomatoes
  • 100 g onion
  • One garlic clove
  • One stick of celery
  • One teaspoon mustard seeds
  • One teaspoon cumin seeds
  • One teaspoon chilli powder
  • 2.5 cm knob of ginger
  • Two bay leaves
  • 50 ml olive oil

Method (Spicy tomato sauce)

  • Heat the oil in a heavy-based pan and add the spices. When the oil is sizzling, add the finely chopped onion, diced garlic and sliced celery and stir fry until the onions go translucent. Turn down the heat.
  • Cut the tomatoes in half and grate into the onion and celery mix. Throw the tomato skins into a pot with the onion skins and 500 ml water to make vegetable stock. Add the bay leaves and cook over a low heat until the amount of liquid has halved and then pour over the barley and lentils. You can store any leftover sauce in a glass jar in the freezer.

Method (Lentils and barley)

  • Fry the onion in the olive oil over a low heat until crispy and caramalised and put aside – this can take up to an hour. Cook the barley and lentils in the same pot with the vegetable stock for 20-30 minutes over a low heat until all the liquid is absorbed.
  • Fry the pasta in a little oil until golden brown and then scatter on top of a bowl of lentils and barley. Pour a generous glug of spicy tomato sauce over the barley and lentil base top with caramalised onions before serving.

Lockdown Lunch: Beansprout Bonanza

2 April 2019

With movement getting ever more restricted in the lockdown — we’re now limited to not going more than 500 m from our flat in Almaty, which rules out big supermarkets for shopping trips, maintaining a supply of fresh ingredients is becoming more tricky – so this is the time when beansprouts come into their own…

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So, this time round we’ll be looking at some things you can do in the home, such as sprouting beans and lentils, to add a fresh, nutritious kick to your salads and stir-fries. We’ve gone for mung beans which are easy to sprout – your first crop will be ready in a matter of days and all you need is a glass jar and some mesh netting (we re-purposed a yoga mat bag by recycling the nylon mesh for our sprouter).

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KCC’s sprout-powered salad with carrot, chickpeas, spring onions and radish.

Here are the steps for germinating mung beans:

  • Select clean, undamaged mung beans and wash them thoroughly.
  • Sterilise your glass jar and mesh lid with boiling water and/or in a hot oven.
  • Fill the jar about a quarter of the way with washed beans.
  • Soak the beans in cold water in the jar for at least four hours.
  • Drain off all the water and put the jar in a cool, dark cupboard.
  • Rinse the mung beans a few times a day with cold water and drain the liquid off.
  • After two or three days, your first crop will be ready for eating.
  • When the sprouts are around 2-3 cm long, put them in the fridge until using.

Warning: Raw bean sprouts can lead to food poisoning if not prepared in sterile conditions and regularly washed with clean water.

  • If the sprouts look slimy or smell strange, throw them away.
  • Once sprouted, store the sprouts in the fridge and try to use them as quickly as possible.
  • And don’t forget to wash your hands frequently, especially when preparing food.

Pump up the Dhal

20 February 2020

On these chilly, wintry nights there’s nothing better than a bowl of dhal, the Indian subcontinent’s beloved lentil-based comfort food, to warm you up. We’ve added some chunks of roasted pumpkin that blend perfectly with the red lentils, whilst adding a hint of sweetness to the rich, spicy blend.

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KCC’s pumpkin enriched red lentil dhal

In Sri Lanka, where Knidos Cookery Club has just been on a foodie fact-finding mission, dhal (also spelt dal or daal) is a mainstay of the island’s signature curry and rice dish. It’s served any time of the day – it was particularly good served with string hoppers, little nests of steamed rice noodles, and coconut sambol (grated coconut with chillies and lime juice) – a popular breakfast on the island.

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Breakfast Sri Lankan style – string hoppers with coconut sambol and red lentil dhal in the background

Dhal can be a meal on its own when served with rice or flatbreads, or try it alongside a selection of your favourite vegetable curries. It’s a dish that tastes even better the next day when the spices have been left over night, allowing the different flavours to mix and mingle.

Ingredients (makes 4-6 servings)

  • 125 g red lentils
  • 200 g roasted pumpkin
  • 250 ml water or vegetable stock
  • 50 ml coconut milk
  • 200 g tomatoes
  • One medium onion
  • One teaspoon each of mustard seeds, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, cloves and chilli flakes
  • Two teaspoons turmeric
  • 1 cm knob of ginger
  • One garlic clove
  • One cinnamon stick
  • One star anise
  • One bunch fresh coriander
  • 50 ml olive oil

Method

  • Roast the chunks of pumpkin in a hot oven at 200 c for 20 minutes. While the pumpkin is cooking, heat the oil in a heavy based pan and add the mustard seeds. When the seeds begin to pop, turn the heat down and add the chopped onions, ginger and garlic and the other spices and stir well. Cook for 10 minutes over a medium heat.
  • Wash the lentils until the water runs clear and then add them to the onion mix with the vegetable stock and chopped tomatoes, stir and cook until all the liquid is absorbed. Add the pumpkin chunks and coconut milk. Cook over a low heat until it starts to bubble. When cooked, remove the cinnamon stick and star anise. Garnish with the chopped coriander and serve with rice and/or a flat bread such as chapati or pita.

A Leek-Fuelled Lentil Pilaf

11 April 2019

This time round on Knidos Cookery Club we’re combining some of our favourite seasonal ingredients to mark the transition from the hearty stews and soups of winter to some lighter, spring eating.

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We’ve paired leeks, the mild-tasting cousin of the onion, with green lentils, coarse bulgur wheat and some spices to make a scrumptious pilaf that’s both cheap and easy to prepare.

Using bulgur wheat in the place of rice means that it can be on the table in less than an hour, which also allows enough time to roast some of our winter faves, pumpkin and beetroot, to add a splash of colour to the plate. Keep any leftovers in the fridge – they can be moulded into patties and fried in oil or baked in the oven to make a tasty brunch or supper.

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 50 ml olive oil
  • One leek
  • 250g pumpkin
  • 250g beetroot
  • 125g bulgur wheat (coarse not fine)
  • 125g green lentils
  • 600ml vegetable stock
  • Two teaspoons cumin seeds
  • One cinnamon stick
  • One teaspoon chilli powder
  • One bayleaf

Method

  • Pour 25 ml olive oil and one teaspoon of cumin seeds into an oven-proof dish and leave in the oven for 10 minutes at 200c. Cube the pumpkin and beetroot and put into the dish and stir well to coat with oil. Bake for 40 minutes at 200c.
  • Heat the other 25 ml of oil in a heavy-based pan, add the cumin seeds and then add the diced leek and sauté over a low to medium heat for about ten minutes. Add the cinnamon stick, chilli powder and bayleaf and stir well.
  • Now add the bulgur wheat and lentils and the vegetable stock and mix it all together. Cook for 30 minutes or so over a low heat, stirring occasionally, until all the liquid has been absorbed. Serve with the roasted beetroot and pumpkin.

Hasty Tasty Stuffed Peppers

12 July 2018

This time round on Knidos Cookery Club we’re taking inspiration again from our recent Balkan odyssey. While on our mission to Albania, we tasted the local take on stuffed peppers and on returning to KCC H.Q. we decided to recreate this delicious dish with a few time saving tricks of our own devising.

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Hasty tasty stuffed peppers with baked cauliflower and tomato

Rice is the usual go-to base for stuffing peppers, but it can be a bit time-consuming to prepare properly. With the World Cup reaching its conclusion, we didn’t fancy spending too much time slaving away in the kitchen so we’ve used some coarse bulgur wheat, which just needs soaking in hot water for a short while before it’s ready to use.

We cooked the peppers alongside some cauliflower, broken up into large  florets, and some quartered tomatoes to make a ready made meal for two with only a green salad needed to complete the show, allowing plenty of time to sit down and enjoy what’s left of the football!

Ingredients (for two people)

Two medium-sized green peppers

Two medium-sized tomatoes

Half a cauliflower

50 g cooked green lentils

50 g coarse bulgur wheat

200 ml hot water

25 ml olive oil

One teaspoon cumin seeds

One teaspoon dried thyme

25 g  raisins or currants

Black pepper (a generous twist)

Method

Cook the green lentils in twice the amount of water (put the lentils in a cup and then measure out twice as much water) until they start to go mushy. Put the bulgur wheat in a bowl and add the lentils and 200 ml hot water, stir and leave until the water is absorbed (20-30 minutes). Add the cumin, thyme, raisins and black pepper to the bulgur wheat and stir in well.

Pre-heat the oven to 180 c and prepare the peppers by slicing the top off and scooping out the seeds. Fill the hollowed-out peppers with the bulgur lentil mix, place the top back on and place in an oven dish. Arrange the cauliflower florets and quartered tomatoes around the pepper.

Drizzle the olive oil over the vegetables, add 50 ml water and bake in the oven for      40-50 minutes until the pepper skins start to burn and the florets are turning golden brown. Serve with a green salad.

 

 

 

A Must-Have Mastava

26 April 2018

Knidos Cookery Club is just back from a foodie fact-finding mission to uncover some new recipes along the Silk Roads. While on the expedition, we inadvertently fell foul of Kazakhstan’s strict zero tolerance laws while munching on a local delicacy, sunflower seeds.

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Sunflower seed munchers are not welcome in this park in Shymkent, Kazakhstan

It turns out that eating this tasty little snack in public is an offence, classified as “petty hooliganism”, and punishable by watching a video of Kazakhstan’s president Nursultan Nazarbayev railing against this social evil and the payment of a fine (4 x the Monthly Calculation Index (MCI) that is used to calculate benefits and fines – approx £25).

After this contribution was made to the Shymkent Police Nauryz party fund, the situation was resolved amicably and we were all able to go on our merry way, suitably chastised!

The road trip also took in a visit to Uzbekistan, which has inspired KCC to attempt Mastava a traditional Uzbek rice and chunky vegetable soup  – it’s usually prepared with lamb or beef but we’ve used lentils and red beans instead of meat to add the protein in our version.

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A hearty bowl of mastava and a cup of green tea

Mastava uses whatever seasonal vegetables are to hand – we had carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, pumpkin and some red peppers for our version. We’ve liberally spiced it with cumin, coriander seeds, red chilli flakes and black pepper as well as some fresh coriander to garnish the soup.

Ingredients (makes around 4 – 6 servings)

150 g green lentils or similar

250 g red beans

150 g pumpkin

150 g rice

200 g cherry tomatoes

Four small potatoes

One large carrot

One red pepper

Six spring onions

30 ml olive oil or other vegetable oil

1 litre vegetable stock

One teaspoon cumin seeds

One teaspoon coriander seeds

One teaspoon black pepper

One teaspoon red chilli flakes

One bunch fresh coriander

Method

Heat the oil in a heavy based pan and add the crushed black pepper, cumin and coriander seeds and chopped spring onions. fry for five minutes over a medium heat and then add chunks of carrots, tomatoes and red pepper. Cook for 10 minutes and then add the vegetable stock, red chilli flakes, potatoes and rice and bring to a boil.

Simmer over a low heat for 20 minutes, and then add the cooked green lentils and red beans and chunks of pumpkin. Keep simmering until the rice is cooked, stirring occasionally. Serve in bowls and garnish with fresh coriander.

 

 

 

Leeky Pastitsio

5 April 2018

We’re back and, with Orthodox Easter just around the corner, this time round on Knidos Cookery Club we’ll be making our own version of pastitsio, a Greek take on Italy’s lasagne. Our version comes with a red wine, tomato and lentil ragu and a leek infused béchamel sauce.

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KCC’s Leeky Pastitsio

A few weeks ago, I left some beans soaking overnight and when I checked them in morning the pan was mysteriously filled with soaked penne rigate pasta! A quick look online to determine if the pasta was usable led me to this post on the Ideas in Food blog, and this confirmed pre-soaking in cold water as an effective way of preparing dried pasta.

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Leeky pastitsio and salad

Pastitsio is one of those dishes that tastes great straight from the oven but improves with age as the cinnamon, nutmeg and other flavours have time to blend properly. It works well heated up the next day or even tastes good cold. We served ours with a crisp salad of rocket leaves, carrot. radish and tomato.

Ingredients (For 3-4 hearty servings)

200 g penne rigate pasta

For the ragu:

25 ml olive oil

4 spring onions

200 g cherry tomatoes

2 tablespoons tomato paste

100 g red lentils

175 ml red wine

1 teaspoon of cinnamon, cumin, black pepper and red chilli flakes

For the Béchamel sauce:

50 ml olive oil

250 g leek

3 tablespoons flour

400 ml milk (dairy or non-dairy)

60 g cheese (dairy or non-dairy)

One teaspoon of nutmeg

Method

Soak the pasta in a pan of cold water for two hours and while it’s soaking cook the red lentils in 200 ml water until mushy and all the liquid is absorbed. Then prepare the ragu and after that the béchamel sauce.

For the ragu, heat the oil in a heavy-based pan and then fry the chopped spring onions for a few minutes. Add the quartered cherry tomatoes, tomato paste and spices and mix well. Add the wine and when it starts to bubble add the cooked and drained lentils. Cook for ten minutes over a low heat.

For the béchamel sauce, heat the oil in a heavy-based pan and then add the sliced leeks and cook for five minutes over a medium heat. Add the flour and mix well and then ad  the milk slowly, stirring continuously with a wooden spoon. Add half the grated cheese and nutmeg and cook until the sauce is just starting to boil, stirring all the while.

Layer half the soaked penne in the bottom of an oven proof dish and pour the ragu over. then layer the rest of the pasta on top of this and pout the béchamel sauce over. Add the remainder of the grated cheese and bake in a pre-heated oven at 200c for thirty minutes.

Serve straight away with a green salad or let it sit overnight in the fridge for a tastier pastitsio that can be served hot or cold.