Going Bananas for Christmas

23 December 2021

Seasoned greetings to all our readers from KCC — with Christmas fast approaching, here’s our recipe for a festive pie filled with a nutty, lentily barley roast, spinach pkhali and a mystery guest – banana peel!

A nutty, lentily barley filled piece with spinach pkhali and banana peel

We’ve come under the spell of The Great British Bake Off  winner Nadiya Hussain who caused a splash in lockdown in 2020 when she advocated the use of banana peel as an ingredient. KCC is always on the lookout for ingenious solutions that cut down on waste and this use of banana peel certainly fits the bill perfectly.

KCC’s Festive Feast 2021

The banana peel has a texture that is a bit like mushroom and makes for an unusual addition to the standard nut roast. The peel can also be put in curries and stir fries — a great move for fans of zero waste.

Ingredients (serves 3-4)

For the pie

  • 75 g pearl barley
  • 50 g green lentils
  • 2 cm cinnamon stick
  • 2 cm ginger
  • 3 cloves
  • Zest of one lemon
  • 1 litre hot water
  • 1 banana skin
  • 150 g onion 
  • 50 g celery
  • 75 g walnuts
  • 75 ml olive oil
  • 100 ml white wine
  • 250 ml vegetable stock
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • 1 teaspoon rosemary
  • 3 teaspoons chia seeds
  • 250 g puff pastry

For the spinach pkhali

  • 200 g fresh spinach
  • 75 g walnuts
  • One small onion (around 75 g)
  • One garlic clove
  • 5 g fresh parsley
  • 5 g fresh coriander
  • 1 teaspoon blue fenugreek powder
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 20 ml wine vinegar

Method 

  • Wash the pearl barley and green lentils until the water runs clear and then soak in the hot water for one hour with the cinnamon stick, chopped ginger, cloves and lemon zest. While this is soaking, cook 75 g of sliced onion in 25 ml of olive oil over a low heat until turning translucent. 
  • To prepare the banana skin, wash the peel thoroughly in cold water and then use a spoon or knife to remove the pulp from the inside of the peel (you can use this in a smoothie or a cake). Slice the peel into thin strips about 2 cm long and 2-3 mm thick. Now add to the fried onions and cook util the peel starts to go crispy. Set aside to cool.
  • Fry the sliced celery and the rest of the chopped onion in the remaining olive oil in a different pan, add the cumin seeds, oregano, thyme and rosemary and cook over a low heat for 10 minutes and then add the soaked barley and lentils along with the cinnamon stick, ginger, cloves and lemon zest (you can use the soaking water to make our LGBTQ drink).
  • Then add the white wine and vegetable stock and stir well. Leave to cook over a low heat, stirring occasionally, until all the liquid is absorbed, this should take up to 30 minutes.
  • While this is cooking, make the spinach pkhali. Cook the spinach in boiling water for 5 minutes until it begins to wilt. Remove and place in cold water and then drain. Finely chop the onion and put it in a mixing bowl with the garlic, herbs and spices. Toast the walnuts over a low heat for 5-10 minutes and then add to the bowl. Add the vinegar and use a blender to make a smooth paste. Add the spinach and keep blending until you have a gloopy mixture.
  • Toast the remaining chopped walnuts and then add to the cooled barley and lentil mix along with the cooked banana peel and chia seeds. Mix well. 
  • To assemble the pie, cut the pastry into two rectangles, one slightly smaller than the other. roll out the smaller piece and top with the nut roast mix, leaving 1 cm around the edges. Put a layer of spinach pkhali on top of the nut mix.
  • Roll out the other piece of pastry, brush the 1 cm edge of the pie with olive oil and then place the larger piece of pastry over the top of the nut and pkhali mix and then crimp down the edges with a fork. Brush the pie with olive oil and bake in an oven heated to 180 c for 30 minutes or until the pie is a golden brown colour.
  • Serve with seasonal roasted vegetables — we used potatoes, beetroot, onion and carrots, and a gravy of your choice (we made one with a pomegranate sauce base).

Spicy Peas ‘n’ Cheese

30 November 2021

This time round on KCC we’ve been inspired to take on a curry house favourite of ours, matar paneer, cubes of fresh white cheese cooked with peas in a spicy tomato-rich gravy.

Spicy peas ‘n’ cheese aka matar paneer

We’ve been in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan for the last two weeks to polish off the final chapter in a gruelling two-year run of Central Asian elections. While browsing around the supermarket, we came across a pack of locally made Ricotta cheese. Its dry, crumbly texture immediately reminded us of fresh paneer cheese from the Indian sub-continent, bringing to mind matar paneer.

Spicy peas and cheese with pumpkin dhal and rice

This white cheese does not taste of much on its own so it needs to soak up some flavour. We prepared a tomato gravy and then marinated the cubes of cheese and the peas in the sauce overnight before heating it through just before serving. For any vegans reading, substitute chunks of plain tofu for the paneer cheese – tofu is another ingredient that benefits from being marinated for a while. Serve with our pumpkin dhal and rice or flat bread.

Ingredients (makes 4 servings)

  • 3 medium tomatoes (approx 250 g)
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 200 g paneer cheese or tofu
  • 250 g peas (tinned, frozen or fresh if you can get them) 
  • 25 ml olive oil or other vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon chilli powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 cm knob of chopped ginger
  • 1 small bunch fresh coriander

Method

  1. Finely chop the onion and cook for five minutes in the oil over a medium heat in a heavy-based pan. Turn down to a low heat and add the spices and the minced garlic and stir well. Cook for another two minutes and then add the chopped, peeled tomatoes. Cook for 20-30 minutes over a low heat until the tomatoes have formed a smooth gravy with the onions.
  2. Allow the sauce to cool and then add the white cheese (paneer) or tofu, cut into 1 cm cubes, and the peas and mix well. Leave to marinate for an hour or two at least – overnight in the fridge is better, and then heat through. Sprinkle with fresh coriander before serving with our pumpkin dhal and rice. Also goes well with a flat bread of your choice.

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.

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.

Cocktail Special: Summertime Meloncoolia!

5 August 2021

With the summer temperatures peaking, we’ve come up with a melon and raspberry fuelled rum cocktail to help you keep cool.

The melon season is in full swing in Kazakhstan with honeydew melons and watermelons both at their sweetest. You can find piles of ripe melons on sale all over the country. Its hot, arid climate is particularly well-suited to this instant summer dessert. Stalls appear on street corners with tempting mounds of golden yellow and green streaked melons.

We’ve used melon in a cocktail this time round, along with raspberries, white rum or vodka and Martini Fiero, an orange-flavoured aperitif that’s been a hit with the KCC crew this summer. You can also try melon in a seasonal salad with halloumi cheese – here’s our recipe for this summertime special from a few years back.

IMG_1324
                                                               Double meloned squeaky cheese salad

Ingredients (makes one litre)

  • 150 g honeydew melon
  • 100 g raspberries
  • 250 ml water
  • 200 ml Martini Fiero
  • 100 ml white rum or vodka
  • 250 – 300 ml tonic or soda water

Method

  • Put the fruit in a blender with the water and mix it into a smooth consistency. Pour the juice, spirit and Martini Fiero into an empty one litre plastic or glass bottle. Top up to a litre with tonic water or soda water and shake well. Fill a tumbler with ice and pour the Meloncoolia over the rocks, put your feet up and enjoy!

Innovations in Plov

8 July 2021

This time round on Knidos Cookery Club we’ll be looking at some innovative uses for plov, Central Asia’s favourite rice dish. As you probably know, we don’t like wasting food at KCC, so we’ve come up with a couple of ways to make the most of any leftover plov you may have — plov fritters and the plov wrap.

Plov makes a great base for fritters – simply add some grated carrot, potato, beetroot or courgette and some flour or an egg to bind the mixture together. Fry or grill until golden brown on both sides and then serve in a burger bun or as part of a meal with salad and other side dishes.

While walking around the streets of Almaty recently, KCC came across a fast food kiosk specialising in local dishes such as plov, lagman noodles and manty dumplings. One dish that caught our eye was the plovash, a plov burrito if you like!

Plovash is a clever play on words — lavash is a paper thin flat bread commonly found in the Caucasus and Central Asia — simply filling the lavash with plov gives us the plovash.

Ingredients (makes 4-6 fritters)

  • 250 g leftover plov (recipe link here)
  • 100 g grated raw carrot (or potato, courgette or beetroot)
  • 50 g chickpea flour (or one egg)
  • 25 ml oil

Method

  • Combine the leftover plov with the grated carrot and then stir in the chickpea flour (or egg) and mix until all the ingredients are combined well. Make into 4 – 6 burger shapes. Heat the oil in a heavy-based frying pan and fry the fritters until golden brown on both sides. The fritters can also be grilled or cooked on the barbecue. Serve with a salad or on its own in a burger bun or pita. 

Modern Day Plovers

17 June 2021

This time round on KCC we’re turning our attention to plov — Central Asia’s favourite rice dish. There are no hard and fast rules for plov, with regional variations prizing different ingredients and each family having its own take on what should go into the dish. One thing is for sure — this spicy rice, carrot, onion, garlic and dried fruit concoction makes for a great centrepiece for any party and is perfect for sharing with family and friends.

KCC travelled up to Kazakhstan’s capital Nur-Sultan to visit a modern day plov-meister who has perfected a tasty, meat-free take on this classic Uzbek dish. Our plov-meister learnt his trade on the mean streets of Hojeli, Karakalpakstan and in the student dorms of Tashkent, Uzbekistan.

Keeping the vampires at bay…

There are no strict cooking times for this recipe — it’s more of a feeling than an exercise in clock watching. Apart from the holy trinity of onion, carrot and rice, our plov-meister deploys whatever is to hand in the kitchen, adding dried fruits and spices along with a surfeit of garlic. For best results, your plov should be cooked in a kazan, a cast iron cauldron, but a deep, heavy-based saucepan or a casserole dish will suffice at a pinch. The pan should retain the heat to enable the plov to cook slowly and for the myriad flavours to meld.

Serve the plov alongside a spicy achik chuchuk tomato and onion salad, steaming bowls of green tea and Uzbek bread, non, click here for a recipe from Caroline Eden’s excellent Central Asian focussed cookbook Red Sands.

Ingredients (makes enough for 8-10 servings)

  • 100 ml cooking oil (For the authentic Uzbek taste track down some cottonseed oil, but failing that sunflower, rapeseed or olive oil works just as well)
  • 500 g onion
  • 500 g carrot
  • 500 g short grain rice
  • 6 heads of garlic
  • 150 g currants /raisins /sultanas – or a mix of all three
  • 100 g dried apricots (with stones)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds

For the salad:

  • 250 g tomatoes
  • 250 g onion
  • One teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 – 3 Chilli peppers, finely sliced (adjust as to how hot you like your food)

Method

  • Heat the oil over a low heat in a heavy-based pan and then add the sliced onion. Fry the onion until it gets a golden-brownish colour so that later the rice will get its distinctive orangey colour. Cut the carrots into 5 cm long slices, a few millimetres wide and then add to the onions. Cook until the carrots are very tender so that they can easily be cut by a spatula or a wooden spoon while stirring. 
  • Now add the spices, the whole dried apricots, currants, sultanas or raisins (or all three) and whole heads of garlic. Cook for a few minutes to allow these ingredients to absorb the oil and the carrot/onion juice.
  • Rinse the rice carefully until the water runs clear and then put the washed rice on top of the spicy, fruity vegetable base and then pour water over the top through a fish slice to allow an even distribution of the liquid.
  • Cover the rice with an extra 1 cm of water and then cook over a high heat and  when the water disappears from the top of the rice, turn it down to a very low heat, close the lid and allow it to steam for about 20 minutes.
  • Serve with a spicy tomato and onion salad — achik chuchuk — a salad made from thinly sliced tomato and onion, a sprinkling of dried basil and diced chilli peppers, according to how hot you like it, and oven-fresh non bread.

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.

In Praise of Pakora

22 April 2021

The anniversaries are coming thick and fast here at Knidos Cookery Club and to celebrate our 150th post we’re bringing you a hassle-free recipe for pakora, a spicy fritter from the Indian subcontinent, that can be prepared in under 30 minutes.

Pakora are a great snack that you can eat at any time of the day and are easy to make – just coat vegetable or paneer cheese slices with a spiced chickpea flour batter and then deep-fry them. For a more user friendly and healthier take on this street food classic, you can bake them in the oven as we did with this batch.

We’ve used cauliflower to make pakora this time round, but you can use onion, carrot, potato, peppers, mushrooms or combinations of more or less any vegetable you have handy. Paneer cheese (or halloumi) also works well with this versatile batter. We like to serve the pakora straight from the oven with a yogurt-based cucumber raita to dip them into.

Ingredients (makes enough for 3-4 people)

  • 100 g chickpea flour (also known as gram or besan)
  • 100 ml water
  • 250 g cauliflower broken into florets
  • One teaspoon each of: chia seeds, cumin seeds, turmeric, ginger, chilli powder, black pepper

Method

  • Heat the oven to 200 c. Put the chickpea flour in a large bowl and add the seeds and spices. Slowly add the water and mix to form a batter that is neither too dry nor too runny. Stir in the cauliflower florets and coat thoroughly.
  • Place the individual florets on a baking tray and cook in the top half of the oven for 20 minutes or so – keep an eye on them and if they start to char a bit then they are ready.
  • Serve them straight away with a raita sauce made from yogurt, cucumber and mint.