The Turk-Mex Chronicles: A Crazy Cactus Salad

5 September 2019

This week we’re cooking up a cactus salad with the main ingredient foraged from some wild prickly pear bushes in Turkey. In an earlier post we reported on some of the similarities between Turkish and Mexican cooking – they both love hot chilli peppers in their food, there’s plenty of beans used, fresh white cheese is a key ingredient and wrapping food in flat bread is popular.

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A prickly pear cactus growing wild in Datça, Turkey

A key area of difference is the use of cacti, a staple of Mexican cuisine. In Mexico the prickly pear paddles, known as nopales or napolitoes (from the Spanish for cactus), are used in a variety of dishes. They can be found in salads, as a taco or tortilla filling, simply grilled or scrambled up with eggs. They have a crunchy taste similar to green beans.

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Kaktuslu acili ezme

Whilst the prickly pear cactus grows all over southern Turkey, only the fruit – the prickly pears, are usually eaten and sometimes used in cocktails! We’re about to change all that with the first of one of our irregular ventures into the world of Turk-Mex cuisine…

How to deal with a thorny problem…

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We harvested a few cactus paddles from a secret location in Datça, Turkey. After harvesting, we put on our marigolds and removed the thorns with a sharp knife, sliced the pads up and then boiled them. Next we mixed then in with a spicy tomato sauce, aka acili ezme, to create this Crazy Cactus Salad.

Ingredients (serves 3-4)

Four prickly pear cactus paddles (roughly hand-sized)

For the sauce:

  • One medium-sized onion
  • Three medium-sized plum tomatoes
  • One medium-sized green pepper
  • One garlic clove
  • One teaspoon capers
  • One bunch of parsley
  • One teaspoon dried mint
  • Three teaspoons red chilli flakes
  • Two teaspoons sumac
  • One teaspoon flavoured vinegar (such as apple or fig)
  • Three teaspoons pomegranate sauce

Method

Remove all the thorns from the pads with a sharp knife. Slice into 1 cm strips and then cut into 2 cm pieces. Boil in salted water for 8-10 minutes until cooked but still crunchy – cook them too long and they can go a bit slimy. Drain and rinse in cold water and then mix with the acili ezme salad (instructions below).

For the sauce:

  • Peel the tomatoes and de-seed (to peel: plunge the tomatoes into boiling water for 30 seconds then place in cold water – the skin should now come off easily). Chop the tomatoes, green pepper, onion, garlic and parsley as finely as you can.
  • Put all the ingredients into a bowl, add the herbs and spices, vinegar and pomegranate sauce and mix well. Leave to chill in the fridge for at least two hours before serving.

 

 

 

Make Time for Tabbouleh

2 May 2019

This time round on Knidos Cookery Club we’re taking advantage of some fresh, seasonal ingredients to make one of our favourite springtime salads, tabbouleh.

This winning combination of freshly-picked herbs, vegetables, lemon and olive oil with a grain such as couscous or bulgur wheat, that origianets on the eastern shores of the Mediterranean Sea, makes for a light, fresh-tasting dish that works well as part of a meze platter or alongside a selection of barbecued food.

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It’s easy to prepare, giving you more time to lounge in the sun with a glass of chilled wine while making the most of the long evenings.

Ingredients (serves 3-4)

  • 100g grain – couscous or bulgur wheat (coarse or fine both work well here)
  • 200 ml vegetable stock
  • One medium red onion
  • 12 cherry tomatoes
  • One bunch of fresh parsley
  • One bunch of fresh mint
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 25 ml olive oil

Method

  • Heat the vegetable stock until it’s boiling and then pour it over the couscous or bulgur wheat. Cover and leave to stand for 30 minutes or until all the liquid is absorbed.
  • While the couscous or bulgur wheat is soaking, prepare the rest of the ingredients. Dice the onion, quarter the tomatoes, finely chop the mint and parsley and squeeze the lemon.
  • Mix all the ingredients together and then add the olive oil and stir well. Leave to stand in the fridge for 30 minutes and then serve.

 

 

Vine Leaves Stuffed to Perfection

16 August 2018

This time round on Knidos Cookery Club we’re stuffing again to make one of favourite summertime snacks – dolma (stuffed vine leaves).

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These stuffed vine leaves are great as part of a barbecue spread or to add some rice oomph to a selection of dips and mezes.

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Ready to roll…

Rolling the leaves can be a bit fiddly at first, but you’ll soon find yourself getting into the rhythm. it’s best to make a big batch of these little stuffed marvels so you’ve got some ready-made snacks giving your more time at the beach.

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Layer the cylinders tightly in the pan

If you have any vine leaves left over, then hang on to them as we’ll be featuring another vine leaf recipe next time round on KCC.

Ingredients (makes 48 dolmas)

One onion

200 g long grain rice

50 ml olive oil

750 ml water

One lemon (zested and juiced)

50 g chopped almonds

two teaspoons dried thyme

one teaspoon cinnamon

one teaspoon cumin

10 g fresh mint

Pack of preserved vine leaves (or fresh leaves if you can get them)

Method

Fry the finely chopped onion in 25 ml of oil for five minute over a medium heat. While this is cooking, wash the rice until the water runs clear. Now soak the vine leaves for 30 minutes and then rinse well to remove any taste of brine or other preserving agents.

Add the thyme, cinnamon and cumin to the onion and stir. Now add the rice, mixing well to coat the grains. Cover with 375 ml of water and cook until the water is absorbed. The rice does not need to be fully cooked at this stage. When ready, add the chopped almonds, lemon zest and mint and mix well.

Now it’s time to stuff. Take a vine leaf, cut off the stalk and place a teaspoonful of rice mix on the leaf (see picture above). Tuck in the sides of the leaf and roll into a tight cylinder.

Put a layer of unstuffed vine leaves on the bottom of the pan to stop the stuffed ones sticking to the bottom. Layer the dolmas tightly in a heavy-based pan, putting another layer on top if you run out of space. Pour 25 ml of olive oil, the juice of the lemon and 375 ml of water over the vine leaf parcels.

Put a plate on top of the vine leaves and then put the lid on the pan and cook over a low heat for 45 minutes or until all the liquid is absorbed. Allow to cool before serving. If left in the fridge for a few hours, the stiffed vine leaves will firm up nicely.

Mezemania: Funky Lentil Pâté

26 July 2018

In our ongoing series on mezeler, or starters, we’ve come up with a funky little lentil spread to add to the collection.

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Funky Lentil Pâté

In the past on Knidos Cookery Club we’ve featured the following mezes: two types of fava (Turkish and Greek),  these little numbers (smoky aubergine dip, Psimeni Raki and feta dip and tsatsiki) inspired by the Greek island of Amorgos, fiery red pepper-fuelled muhammara and acili ezme and a creamy almond and courgette dip as part of our esteemed meze collection.

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Amorgoan Delight: smoky aubergine dip, Psimeni Raki and feta dip and tsatsiki

You can serve this simple to prepare red Lentil Pâté alongside these other dishes for a great spread of mezeler for a light feast that’s perfect for sharing with friends  on a balmy summer’s night.

Ingredients (makes around 200g)

125 g red lentils

One bayleaf

300 ml cold water

Two tablespoons fine bulgur wheat

4 or 5 spring onions

10 g fresh parsley

25 ml olive oil

One teaspoon mustard seeds

One teaspoon cumin seeds

Two teaspoons paprika

One teaspoon ground coriander seeds

One teaspoon black pepper

Half a teaspoon turmeric

Method

Clean the lentils in cold water and then put them in a pan with the bayleaf. Pour 300 ml of water over the lentils and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the lentils are beginning to go mushy and most of the water has been absorbed.

Remove the bayleaf and add the fine bulgur wheat to the lentils and mix well. Leave covered for 30 minutes. heat the oil in a heavy-based pan and add the mustard and cumin seeds. Fry for a few minutes and then add the paprika, coriander, black pepper and turmeric, cook for a minute stirring constantly and then add the finely chopped spring onion and parsley and cook for five more minutes over a medium heat.

Stir this into the lentil and bulgur mix and leave to stand for a few hours in the fridge. Garnish with a sprig of fresh mint and serve with crusty bread.

Fava a la Turca

5 October 2017

This time on Knidos Cookery Club we’ll be looking at fava, a popular Turkish meze made from broad beans (we’ve used dried but use fresh if you have them). Greece also has a dish called fava, but its version uses split peas and is an all-together different beast to Turkey’s variant which is left in the fridge to firm up into a spread that can be sliced into chunks (more on the Greek variation next time round).

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Knidos Cookery Club’s take on fava served with mint

Our variation on the Turkish fava theme turned out a bit less smooth than the one served up in Turkish cafes but it still tasted great! Having cooked up the beans into a mush, we went for a swim while it cooled down. Apparently, it should have been pushed through a sieve while still warm, but no worries – it turned out all right on the night albeit a bit lumpier than expected!

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Fava served with … dill in a restaurant in Akyaka, Turkey’s slow food capital

In Turkey fava comes adorned with sprigs of dill (some recipes even put dill in the bean mix itself). Knidos Cookery Club is not a big fan of dill, so we’ve used some fresh mint leaves to adorn our take on this Turkish classic.

Ingredients (makes around 8-10 individual servings)

200 g dried broad beans (soaked overnight in cold water)

One small red onion

400 ml water

One teaspoon honey

25 ml olive oil

Pinch of salt

Mint leaves to garnish

Method

Put the drained beans into a heavy-based pan with the finely chopped onion, olive oil, honey and salt and pour the water over the top. Bring to the boil and simmer over a low heat for an hour or so until all the water is absorbed and the beans are breaking up to form a thick paste.

Allow the mix to cool and while still warm press through a metal sieve with a wooden spoon to remove any excess liquid. Oil a glass serving dish and pile the bean mix into the dish. Cover with clingfilm (clear plastic wrap) and leave overnight in the fridge.

Serve in cubes or diamond shapes, cutting the solid mass with a wet knife (to avoid it sticking). Garnish with mint leaves and a drizzle of lemon juice and olive oil and serve with crusty bread as part of a meze platter.

 

 

Spice it up with Sumac!

21 September 2017

This time round on Knidos Cookery Club we’ll be looking at a spice called sumac that is ubiquitous in Turkish cooking. Sumac comes from the flowering plants of the genus Rhus and its powdered purple-reddish berries give a tart but tangy boost to everything from soups and dips to grilled vegetables and kebabs. It also gives a rich dark burgundy hue to the dishes it flavours.

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Sumac

We’ve decided to use it in acili ezme, a fiery tomato, onion and pepper dip that is delicious eaten on it’s own with bread,  used as a sauce to accompany dishes such as pide, Turkey’s take on pizza, as part of a meze plate with our carrot and walnut tarator and our  creamy almond and courgette dip or with mücver, Turkey’s courgette fritter.

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A fearsome acili ezme

The secret to a successful acili ezme is to chop the ingredients as finely as you can with the sharpest knife you have and to chill it for a few hours before serving so the flavours have a chance to blend.

We’ve added red chilli flakes and sumac to give it a kick and used mint and parsley to balance out the flavours. If you like your dips hot, then use green chillies in place of green peppers in this recipe.

Ingredients (serves 3-4)

One medium-sized onion

Three medium-sized plum tomatoes

One medium-sized green pepper

One garlic clove

One bunch of parsley

One teaspoon dried mint

Three teaspoons red chilli flakes

Two teaspoons sumac

One teaspoon flavoured vinegar (such as apple or fig)

Three teaspoons pomegranate sauce

Method

Peel the tomatoes and de-seed (to peel: plunge the tomatoes into boiling water for 30 seconds then place in cold water – the skin should now come off easily). Chop the tomatoes, green pepper, onion, garlic and parsley as finely as you can.

Put all the ingredients into a bowl, add the herbs and spices, vinegar and pomegranate sauce and mix well. Leave to chill in the fridge for at least two hours before serving with flat bread.

Figito Fiesta

17 August 2017

The year’s first succulent figs, in delicate green shades or striking mauve hues, are making their annual debut in Datça and to mark this moment we’ve come up with the figito, a cocktail that combines new season figs with white rum, mint and  lemon  – our spin on the classic mojito.

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Who’s for a figito?

One of the pleasures of walking round town at this time of year is stopping off to pick a juicy fig or two from the trees that abound in this area. Here’s a tree near the Knidos Cookery Club HQ with some prime fruits drying in the August heat.

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Figs drying in a garden in Datça, Turkey 

If you’ve got a glut of figs, then why not try this old favourite from last summer: Lord Venal’s Fiendishly Figgish Chutney, and enjoy a figito or two while you’re making it! Cheers, or Şerefe as they say in Turkey!

Ingredients (makes one litre)

6 ripe, fresh figs

4 sprigs of mint

2 lemons

100 ml White Rum (Bacardi or Havana Club)

600 ml soda water

200 ml Schweppes Bitter Lemon

Method

Peel and dice four of the figs and muddle with the mint and the juice from the lemons with a wooden spoon in a glass serving jug. Add the rum and mix well and then top up with bitter lemon and soda water. Serve over ice with a slice of lemon, a mint sprig and half a fig.

 

 

Haydari Stuffed Potato Balls

6 July 2017

Welcome to Knidos Cookery Club’s 50th post! To mark this momentous milestone, we’ve recreated a dish we discovered while visiting Ovabükü, a quiet beach on the Knidos peninsula – stuffed potato balls.

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Spicy potato balls stuffed with haydari

If you’ve enjoyed reading Knidos Cookery Club as much as we’ve enjoyed producing it, then could we ask a favour – please nominate us in the Saveur Blog Awards for 2017. This is a special award for food blogs and if you could spare a couple of minutes to nominate then enter our URL – https://knidoscookeryclub.wordpress.com – and choose the Best New Voice category. Your support would be much appreciated – thanks in advance!

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Haydari with walnuts

For Knidos Cookery Club one of the most enjoyable things about the local food scene is finding a new restaurant and checking out the dishes in the vitrine. There are always some surprise dishes lurking in the glass display cabinets that are made from fresh, seasonal ingredients.

In Ovabükü one of the dishes on the mixed meze plate was the aforementioned potato ball stuffed with cream cheese. We’ve put some delicious haydari, made from mint and strained yogurt, in our version, and spiced up the potato balls with some chilli flakes. Strained yogurt is thicker than normal yogurt as the liquid whey and lactose has been strained off – it’s also known as Greek style yogurt in the UK.

Haydari

  • 200 ml strained yogurt
  • 20 g crumbly white cheese
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 3 teaspoons dried mint
  • 1 teaspoon red chili flakes
  • 2 walnuts

Mix the yogurt, cheese, garlic and mint together and leave in the fridge for a couple of hours. Decorate the haydari with walnut pieces and dust with chilli flakes before serving.

Spicy Potato Balls

  • 500 g baked or boiled potatoes
  • Handful of fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon red chili flakes
  • Black pepper
  • 50 ml unstrained yogurt

Mash the potato and mix in the other ingredients. Form into round, golf ball-sized shapes, make an indentation in the top with a teaspoon and fill the gap with haydari and top with a walnut half.

Seventh Heaven Samsas

 

23 March 2017

Happy Nowruz from Knidos Cookery Club!

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Nauryz (Nowruz) greetings from Almaty, Kazakhstan

To celebrate this spring equinox festival, we’ll be serving up kok samsa, deep-fried pies filled with a selection of spring greens.

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Seven tastes of spring: parsley, spinach, coriander, celeriac leaves, spring onion, garlic and mint

Originating in Persia some 3,000 years ago, Nowruz, or New Day, is a celebration of the end of winter and the start of a new year on the date when day and night are equal in the Northern Hemisphere. This date usually falls on or around 21 March.

The holiday is still widely celebrated in Iran and Iraq, across Central Asia, Russia, Afghanistan, Albania, Azerbaijan, in eastern Turkey and in parts of Syria, India, Pakistan and China. Food plays an important role in these celebrations – in Iran the table is set with seven items, as explained in this article from Iran Wire:

A few weeks before Nowruz, Iranians begin setting up their haft sin, or “seven Ss,” a ceremonial display of symbolic items whose names begin with the Persian letter “sin” or “s.” They include “sabzeh,” or green sprouts grown from lentils, which symbolize rebirth; “samanu,” a sweet pudding that represents affluence, “senjed,” or dried wild olives, which symbolize love; “seer,” or garlic, which symbolizes medicine; “seeb,” an apple, which represents health; “somaq” or sumac fruit, which symbolizes the color of sunrise, and “serkeh,” or vinegar, which symbolises maturity.

Kok samsa, a close relative of India’s samosa, are prepared in Uzbekistan, where the holiday is called Navruz. These tasty pies are filled with fresh spring greens.

We’ve developed our own take on the kok samsa using the Iranian magic number of seven ingredients: parsley, spinach, coriander, celeriac leaves, spring onion, garlic and mint. As fully signed-up members of Dillwatch, we omitted that scurrilous weed, dill, from this recipe.

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KCC’s Kok samsa with seven spring herbs inside

Ingredients (makes 8-10 pies)

  1. For the Pastry
  • 300 g plain flour
  • 75 ml olive oil
  • Pinch of salt
  • Up to 75 ml cold water
  • Two – three teaspoons of  sesame seeds

       2. For the Filling

150 g spring onions

  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 50 g fresh coriander
  • 50 g fresh parsley
  • 150 g spinach
  • 25 g the leafy bits from the top of a celeriac
  • 15 g fresh mint
  • Two teaspoons of cumin seeds
  • 25 ml olive oil

      3. For Deep Frying

  • 1 litre sunflower oil (for deep frying)

Method

      1.For the Pastry

Pour the flour into a large mixing bowl and add the salt. Pour in the olive oil and stir with a fork. The mixture should form into small clumps of flour and oil. Pour some of the cold water and continue mixing. Continue adding water until the mixture forms into a large ball shape. Cover with cling film and leave in the fridge until you’re ready to use it.

      2. For the Filling

Heat the olive oil in a heavy-based pan and add the chopped spring onions and minced garlic. Fry for five minutes over a medium heat, stirring occasionally. Add the coriander and parsley and cumin and fry for two to three minutes. Add the torn up spinach leaves, chopped celeriac leaves and mint and continue cooking until the spinach has wilted, about 10 more minutes or so, stirring every now and then.

      3. For Deep Frying

Heat the sunflower oil in a heavy-based pan. For deep frying you need to get the oil to around 180 c – to check the temperature use this tip from Delishably:

When the oil has preheated, dip the handle of a wooden spoon or a chopstick into the oil. If the oil starts steadily bubbling, then the oil is hot enough for frying. If the oil bubbles very very vigorously, then the oil is too hot and needs to cool off a touch. If no or very few bubbles pop up, then it’s not hot enough.

While the oil is heating, prepare the pies. Form the pastry into 8-10 walnut-sized balls. Put the pastry ball onto a lightly floured surface and roll out into a 1 mm thick circle. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and turn the circle over.

Place three teaspoons of filling on half of the pastry round and then close the other half over the top of the filling. Use a fork to mould the edges of the pie together. Prick the pie’s top to allow air to escape.

Place two or three pies at a time in the hot oil and fry for around 8 minutes or until the pie is golden brown in colour. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen roll. Serve the kok samsa either hot or cold.

 

 

 

Ezo the Bride’s Soup

20 October 2016

Knidos Cookery Club is off to a wedding soon so we did a quick google to see what Turkey has in the way of wedding-related foodstuffs and chanced upon this soup with a great backstory.

One wedding day tradition in Turkey is to the feed up the bride-to-be with a hearty soup, Ezogelin Çorbası, to help her prepare for the rigours of her wedding day and the subsequent move into the groom’s household.

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The name translates as ‘Ezo the Bride’s Soup’ and the recipe comes from the tale of a woman, Ezo, short for Zöhre, who was born in 1909 in a village near Gaziantep, now in south-eastern Turkey on the border with Syria.

She became famed in the region for her her looks and was highly sought after as a bride. Eventually, she married a man from a neighbouring village but unfortunately the marriage didn’t work out. One version of the tale, that has inspired short stories, folk songs, a film and a TV series in Turkey, as well as the soup, has it that her husband loved another so Ezo left him.

In 1936, Ezo married again and moved with her husband over the border to the town of Jarabulus in Syria. She pined for her homeland and to quell her homesickness she would cook a soup that reminded her of Turkey – a filling combination of red lentils, bulgur wheat, rice, tomato paste, herbs and spices. She also used the soup to win over her mother-in-law, a move crucial to finding happiness in her new home.

Ezo had nine children with her second husband, but she only lived to her mid-40s, dying in 1956 in Jarabulus. Her last wish was to be buried on a hillside overlooking her beloved homeland. Her memory lives on in this soup and in the legends that have grown up around her life story.

Ingredients (Makes four servings)

150 g red lentils

50 g coarse bulgur wheat

25 g rice

one medium-sized onion

one or two cloves of garlic

one lemon

25 ml olive oil

1.2 l warm water

3-4 tablespoons of tomato paste (a more liquid form of tomato purée – if using purée then two tablespoons should suffice)

two teaspoons of dried mint

black pepper

two teaspoons of chili flakes

sprig of fresh mint

Method

Wash the red lentils, bulgur wheat and rice and soak for two hours in cold water.

Finely chop the onion and garlic and fry for five minutes in the olive oil in a heavy-based pan. Add the red lentils, bulgur wheat and rice, pour in one litre of water and simmer over a low to medium heat for 30 minutes or until everything is cooked.

Add the tomato paste, the dried mint, chili flakes and some black pepper and 200 ml of water and the juice of one lemon and stir well. Simmer for ten or fifteen minutes until the soup is taking on a creamy texture.

Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with a sprig of fresh mint and sprinkle more chili flakes over the top. Serve with a slice of lemon and some crusty bread.