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.

Apricot and Lentil Courgette Roundels

13 October 2022

It’s that in-between time of year as the nights grow longer and thoughts turn towards more substantial meals after a long summer of salads and lighter fare. The last of the seasonal vegetables such as tomatoes and courgettes are perfect for stuffing and baking in the oven, making a bridge between summery salads and the heartier soups and stews of winter that are coming up.

Apricot and lentil courgette roundels drizzled with pomegranate sauce and served with a seasonal salad

We stuffed some courgettes with a mixture of red lentils, apricots, tomato, onion, bulgur wheat and lemon juice to make a versatile roundel that can be served as part of a main course or eaten on its own as a meze, a fully vegan alternative to the sausage roll!

Apricot and lentil courgette roundel – a vegan alternative to the sausage roll?

The autumn fruit is at its best at the moment, and we’ve added some pear and pomegranate to an autumnal red cabbage, carrot, celery and radish salad to accompany these apricot and lentil courgette roundels to make a great lunch or supper. By adding a jacket potato, you can make it into a more filling main course.

Ingredients (makes enough mixture for 10-12 roundels)

  • Three medium sized courgettes
  • 100 g red lentils
  • 50 g dried apricots (or four fresh apricots if available)
  • One small red onion (approx 75 g)
  • One medium tomato (approx 100 g)
  • 50 g fine bulgur wheat
  • 25 ml olive oil
  • 200 ml vegetable stock
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • One teaspoon cumin seeds
  • One teaspoon red chilli flakes
  • Black pepper to taste

Method

  • Cut the dried apricots into eight pieces and soak in hot water for at least 30 minutes. While the apricots are soaking, heat the oil in a heavy based pan and add the cumin seeds. When they start to sizzle, add the finely chopped onion and fry over a medium heat until they start to soften. Grate the tomato into the fried onion and cook over a low heat for five minutes or so, stirring occasionally.
  • Now add the washed lentils, pour in the stock and stir. Cook over a low heat for 15-20 minutes until most of the water has been absorbed. Add the fine bulgur wheat, mix it in well and leave covered for 15 minutes. Drain the apricots and stir them into the mixture. Add the lemon juice, chilli flakes and black pepper to taste and mix well.
  • While the lentils are cooking, start to prepare the courgettes by slicing off the ends to make them flat. Cut into 3 cm slices. Gouge out the seeds with a small spoon, leaving a little bit of flesh at the bottom of the roundel.
  • Pre-heat the oven to 180 c. When the lentil mix is cool, pack it into the courgette roundels and stand them on a baking tray with the filling topmost. Bake at 180 c for 30 minutes or so – the courgette should still be firm and not too squidgy and the lentil mix should rise slightly and be beginning to brown on top. 
  • Serve alongside a salad of red cabbage, carrot, celery, radish, pear and pomegranate and a jacket potato, drizzling pomegranate sauce over the roundels or allow to cool and serve the roundels as a snack on their own.

Ride the Raspberry Rocket

30 June 2022

With Wimbledon in full swing and the British hopes fading fast, it’s time to seek some consolation in some seasonal soft fruits. Strawberries and cream, of course, is a dish associated with the tennis extravaganza in SW19.

This summer, KCC has noticed a glut of strawberry recipes in the mainstream UK press and on Instagram, using these berries in salads or in gazpacho, a cold, blended vegetable soup.

KCC’S Raspberry, rocket and walnut delight

We popped along to see Gulzhaina, our local greengrocer in Almaty, but alas she only had raspberries in stock. Not to worry, though, as these tart berries are also great when used in a salad.

We served our raspberries on a bed of rocket, radish and spring onion and topped with toasted walnuts, pomegranate sauce and olive oil – a great combination on a hot summer’s day.

Bring on the Bazhe – Georgia’s Versatile Walnut Sauce

6 August 2020

We’re turning our attention back to Georgia to take a look at how walnuts form the backbone of the nation’s cuisine. This versatile nut can be made into a sauce, bazhe, and slathered on slices of fried aubergine or poured over a cucumber and tomato salad. It’s also used liberally in the vegetable dip, pkhali, in the thicker satsivi paste and in the red bean dish, lobio.

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Aubergine slices stuffed with bazhe, Georgia’s versatile walnut sauce

We made some bazhe to roll up in slices of fried aubergine, a favourite from the days of visiting Georgian restaurants. These aubergine rolls, nigvziani badrijani in Georgian, are usually served at the start of the meal, especially at lengthy wine and chacha (a grape-based spirit akin to Italy’s grappa or Greece’s tsipouro) fuelled banquets, but we think they’re great to eat at anytime and they’re particularly handy for picnics or barbecues.

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Bazhe – Georgia’s versatile walnut sauce

To remove the bitter taste of the aubergine, sprinkle with salt and leave for 30 minutes. Rinse in cold water and pat dry with kitchen roll. Make sure the oil is very hot when frying the slices – this will help them not to soak up too much fat while cooking.,

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Spread the sauce on the fried aubergine slice and then roll it up

Ingredients (for 16-20 aubergine rolls)

  • 3 or 4 large aubergines
  • 100 ml cooking oil
  • 100 g walnuts
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar (red or white wine or apple)
  • 1 tablespoon pomegranate sauce
  • 1 teaspoon blue fenugreek (use cumin seeds if you can’t find this)
  • 1 teaspoon marigold flower (use turmeric if you can’t find this)
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 50 ml cold water
  • Salt to sprinkle over the aubergine slices
  • Fresh basil and coriander leaves to garnish

Method

  • Make the walnut sauce first. Crush the nuts using the back of a wooden spoon on a wooden chopping board. This method gives the sauce a more crunchy texture. Mince the garlic and mix with the nuts in a bowl. Add the spices, vinegar and pomegranate sauce and combine all the ingredients into a smooth paste. Add water until the sauce has a more runny consistency but is still quite thick.
  • While the sauce is chilling in the fridge, fry the aubergine. Heat 50 ml of oil in a heavy based pan. Top and tail the aubergine and slice off a thin layer of skin on both sides. Cut the aubergine into 0.5 cm slices lengthways and then fry on both sides until golden brown. Drain on kitchen paper.
  • When the slices have cooled down, spread the walnut sauce onto the slice and then roll it up. Garnish with fresh herbs such as coriander and basil, and pomegranate seeds (if you have any – we’re not expecting any until autumn) and serve cold with other Georgian starters such as pkhali and crusty bread.

Lockdown Lunch: Tbilisi Calling

26 March 2020

For this week’s lockdown lunch we had a root around the cupboards and came up with some dried red beans, last autumn’s walnuts and a bottle of Turkish pomegranate sauce (Nar Ekşili Sos) – perfect ingredients for taking us on a culinary away day to Tbilisi for a bowl of lobio, Georgia’s signature bean dish.

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Take a trip to Georgia with KCC’s Lobio lockdown lunch

Lobio can be more like a soup, a stew, a salad or even re-fried beans depending on which region of Georgia it’s prepared in – we’ve gone for lobio nigvzit which is somewhere between a soup and a stew. Serve the lobio in a clay pot with white cheese and a hunk of fresh mchadi (corn bread – recipe link here) or any other bread for an authentic taste of Georgia.

To help pass the time during lockdown, here’s something on the etymology of lobio from @thomas_wier on twitter:

Ingredients (makes four servings)

  • 500 g cooked red beans
  • 50 g walnuts
  • One medium onion
  • Two garlic cloves
  • One teaspoon coriander seeds
  • One teaspoon blue fenugreek (use fenugreek or cumin seeds if you can’t find this)
  • One teaspoon red chilli flakes
  • One small bunch fresh coriander
  • Three bay leaves
  • 50 ml cooking oil
  • 50 ml pomegranate sauce
  • 250 ml water the beans were cooked in or vegetable stock

Method 

  • If cooking dried beans, then soak 250 g of beans overnight. Change water and cook for one hour or so until the beans are just cooked but not yet falling apart. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
  • Heat the oil in a heavy-based pan and add the coriander seeds and blue fenugreek. Cook for a few minutes and then add the diced onions, mashed garlic and chilli flakes. Cook for ten minutes over a low heat and then add the crushed walnuts and the pomegranate sauce. Cook for another five minutes.
  • Now add the drained beans, bay leaves and reserved cooking water. Leave to simmer until most of the liquid is absorbed. Stir frequently with a wooden spoon – don’t worry if the beans start to fall apart – they taste better like this and absorb more sauce.
  • Add the chopped fresh coriander and serve hot with bread and white cheese. It tastes even better if left overnight and reheated, but only add the fresh coriander after re-heating the mix.