Nearing four weeks of lockdown in Almaty and supplies are holding up surprisingly well, especially now that spring greens are beginning to come on tap. This week our local veg shop had rocket, celery and sorrel – all the makings of a peppery green salad to perk up the lunch menu.
We’re coming to the end of our super-sized cabbage, which was bought in the early days of lockdown, so we decided to use the remaining leaves to make cabbage rolls, a popular dish in eastern and southern Europe.
We stuffed the leaves with some rip-red risotto, a recipe we made a few years back that combines coarse bulgur wheat with beetroot and walnuts (if you want a gluten-free option, you can use arborio rice or pearl barley instead).
Simmer the stuffed cabbage parcels in a tomato and herb sauce for thirty minutes for a winning lockdown lunch. It makes for a tasty veggie take on that beloved Ukrainian / Russian dish, golubtsi, or ‘little doves’, or dolma as they are dubbed in some parts of the Mediterranean and into the Caucasus.
Separate the leaves carefully from the cabbage. Place in boiling water for five minutes to soften. Put the leaves in cold water and then drain. Cut out the tough, lower bit of the stalk (about 2-3 cm). Place a tablespoon of filling above the cut and then fold and roll the leaves into cigar shapes.
To make the sauce, heat the olive oil in a frying pan, add the mustard seeds and when they start to pop, add the chopped spring onions, celery and parsley. Cook for five minutes and then add the chopped tomatoes. Add the tomato paste and water , stir well and bring to the boil.
Lay the stuffed leaves in an ovenproof baking dish and pour the hot tomato sauce over them. Cover the dish with tin foil and bake at 200 c for thirty minutes. Sprinkle the cooked cabbage leaves with basil leaves before serving with a green salad.
In the dog days of summer, a persistent tap-tapping sound can be heard resounding around the Datca Peninsula. Look for people huddled over piles of green shells to find the source of the tapping. This summer’s almond crop is in and the best way to get to the badass nuts is by hammering the shell open – labourious but ultimately worthwhile work!
The almond, badem in Turkish, is an important crop on the peninsula – check out this post from a few years ago on the many uses for almonds. We got hold of some of this year’s crop and combined them with some grilled peaches and halloumi cheese to make a super-tasty summer salad.
We got the idea for the grilled peaches from a salad we had in Kaş, Turkey. We grilled the peach and halloumi slices on the barbecue until they took on the required charred appearance. The combination of the sweetness of the peach with the saltiness of the cheese is a winning one.
Ingredients (serves 3-4)
250 g halloumi
One large peach
One large tomato
One bunch of rocket leaves
Two green peppers
Four spring onions
One teaspoon capers
One teaspoon dried thyme
Cut the peach into eight slices and grill until just starting to char. Cut the halloumi cheese into eight pieces and grill until it goes a golden-brown colour.
Roughly chop the rocket leaves and slice the cucumber and green peppers and mix together with the capers. Dress with the thyme, olive oil and pomegranate sauce.
Slice the tomato into wedges and arrange with the peach and halloumi slices on top of the green salad. Just before serving, place an almond on top of each halloumi slice and put four in the middle.
This summer has seen a rash of articles in the UK press about salads combining melon and white cheese and here at Knidos Cookery Club we love to tap into any zeitgeist that’s going – here’s our own take on this refreshing summery salad using watermelon, honeydew melon and halloumi cheese.
Halloumi, hellim in Turkish, is a salty white cheese with a high melting point that makes it perfect for grilling or frying. It originated in Cyprus – it’s a semi-hard cheese preserved in brine that can be stored for use in the winter months. It’s known in some quarters as ‘squeaky cheese’ because of its tendency to emit a mouse-like sound when you bite into it.
It’s peak season for melons at the moment in the Knidos area so the time was ripe to attempt our own melon cheese combo. With the addition of some halloumi, that had been grilled into submission on the barbecue, and some rocket leaves, fresh mint and basil, along with bulgur wheat and crushed almonds to add some body, the salad was a winner and set to be a fixture on the Knidos Cookery Club menu.
Ingredients (serves 3-4)
300 g watermelon cut into wedges
300 g honeydew melon cut into wedges
250 g halloumi cheese
One bunch of rocket (approx 125 g)
A handful of fresh mint and basil leaves
100 g fine bulgur wheat
50 g chopped almonds
100 ml hot water
One small lemon, juiced
A glug of olive oil
Soak the bulgur wheat in 100 ml hot water until all the water is absorbed
Tear the rocket, mint and basil leaves and scatter into a large bowl and then add the bulgur wheat. Add the melon wedges and mix well. Dress the salad with lemon juice and olive oil.
Cut the halloumi into slices and grill or fry until going golden-brown on the outside. Arrange the halloumi slices on top of the melon and leaves and sprinkle chopped almonds over the salad. Serve with crusty bread.
This week on Knidos Cookery Club we’re back in Turkey and we’ll be looking at a plant that grows in abundance on the salty shores of the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas – glasswort, or marsh samphire (salicornia europa). It’s known as glasswort because it used to be used as a source of sodium sulphate in the glass-making process until the nineteenth century.
This bright green plant thrives in salty conditions and grows wild along seashores, estuaries and salt marshes all over Europe. It used to be widely eaten in the UK, it’s rich in minerals and has a pleasing flavour of the sea, but has only recently started re-appearing on menus as a much sought after ‘designer vegetable’- you might see it referred to as ‘sea asparagus’.
It’s called deniz börülcesi in Turkey, which translates as sea beans, and is served as a side dish dressed with olive oil, lemon and garlic alongside an array of other starters.
For this simple dish, you’ll need around 50-75 g of glasswort for each person. When preparing the glasswort, take care to wash it thoroughly and clean any sand and grit away. Cut off any tough stalks and roots and then blanch it in unsalted, boiling water for three minutes.
Drain the water away and then dress the stems with olive oil, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and a sprinkling of black pepper – you won’t need to add any extra salt as it will already be salty enough. Serve warm alongside a salad of rocket, tomato, olives and onion and some fresh, crunchy bread for a light but tasty lunch.