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.

Unravelling Ravioli on the Path to Pkhali Pierogi

1 March 2018

This time round on Knidos Cookery Club we’ll be unravelling ravioli, one of the many forms of filled pasta pockets found around the world – from Turkey’s manti, Uzbekistan’s chuchvara and Kazakhstan’s tushpara to Russia’s pelmeni, Ukraine’s varenyky and Poland’s pierogi – the list is endless.

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KCC’s beetroot-filled pkhali pierogi

These pasta pockets, which are boiled rather than steamed, can come in a variety of shapes and sizes with a wide range of fillings such as pumpkin, potato, spinach and ricotta cheese, or different types of fruit.

We’ve opted for a semi-circular shaped pierogi which we’ve filled with beetroot and walnut pkhaliclick here for our feature on this classic Georgian dish from last year.

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Three steps to a perfect pierogi!

Ingredients (Makes 16-24 depending on how big you make the pierogi)

For the pasta:

200 g flour

3 teaspoons olive oil

100 ml water

pinch of salt

Method

Make the pasta by sifting the flour into a large mixing bowl and then add the oil, a pinch of salt and half of the water in a well in the middle of the flour. Mix inwards from the outside with a wooden spoon and then add the rest of the water until the dough has absorbed all the flour.

Knead for ten minutes or so and then leave the pasta dough to rest in the fridge for at least one hour. After resting, roll the pasta out onto a lightly-floured surface to a thickness between 0.5 and 1.0 mm.

Use a glass to cut out round shapes from the dough, add a teaspoon of cooled beetroot pkhali in the bottom half of the circle and moisten the inside edge around the filling with a little water and then fold the top over. Use a fork to seal the pasta pocket.

Bring a large pan of water to the boil and then add the pierogi to the water and keep boiling over a low heat until the pierogi float to the surface. Remove the pierogi with a slotted spoon and serve hot – they’re good served with sour cream or melted butter or just plain.

Fesenjan for Beginners

18 January 2018

This week on Knidos Cookery Club we’re going to be bucking the January detox trend with this super-rich, calorie-laden Iranian stew, Fesenjan (pronounced fesenjoon), that combines three of our favourite go-to ingredients – pomegranate, walnut and pumpkin.

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KCC’s Fesenjan Tart

Usually served as a thick stew with rice, we’ve decided to put it in a pie case to make a tasty walnut and pomegranate infused tart. Making this stew can be quite labour-intensive – shelling the walnuts, toasting them, crushing them, extracting the pomegranate seeds and so on, but the end result makes it well worth all the effort.

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Can’t get much fresher than this!

Look out for Nar Ekşisi (pomegranate syrup) or the sweeter Nar Ekşili Sos (pomegranate sauce) in your local Middle-Eastern shop or make your own. If using Nar Ekşisi, add a teaspoon or two of honey to the stew to make it a bit sweeter.

To save time you can use shop-bought pastry, but we think it tastes better with a homemade pie crust. To keep it vegan, we’ve used olive oil instead of butter to make our shortcrust pastry.

Ingredients (serves 4)

125 g shelled walnuts

one medium onion

500 g pumpkin or butternut squash

300 ml vegetable stock

30 ml olive oil

2-3 tablespoons pomegranate syrup or sauce (Nar Ekşisi or Nar Ekşili Sos in Turkish)

0.5 teaspoon cumin seeds

0.25 teaspoon cinnamon and turmeric

Black pepper

Handful of pomegranate seeds

Bunch of fresh parsley

200 g shortcrust pastry

Method

Toast the walnuts for 10 minutes over a low heat and then mince in a blender. Heat the olive oil and fry the onion in a heavy-based pan over a medium heat for ten minutes. Add the spices and then add the cubed pumpkin and stir to cover.

Pour over the vegetable stock, add the pomegranate molasses and the minced walnuts and cook over a medium heat for 30 minutes until the pumpkin is cooked. Make sure the sauce is quite thick – if it’s runny, boil it until it starts to thicken.

Roll out the pastry and place it in a greased baking tray. Bake blind for ten minutes at 180c and then put the filling into the pie case. Cook for 40 minutes or so until the pastry starts to go golden brown.

Garnish the tart with chopped parsley and pomegranate seeds and serve with saffron rice and a green salad.

KCC’s Festive Feast

22 December 2016

Season’s greetings from Knidos Cookery Club! Whether the Winter Solstice, Christmas or New Year tickles your fancy, celebrate in style with our festive feast.

When preparing this meal, a minor disaster struck – the knob that controls our oven broke. So, Plan B had to be enacted, with all the food prepared on the stove top.

For the feast, we’ve adapted our mungo pumpkin patty recipe by replacing the bulgur wheat with 50 g of crushed walnuts and 100 g of breadcrumbs, otherwise prepare as instructed.

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Is it a beetroot? Is it a radish? No, it’s a red turnip!

We came across what we thought to be some beetroot in the market, but on closer inspection they turned out to be, so the seller said, red turnips. Intrigued, we bought them and, on peeling the reddish skin off, discovered a white turnip lurking underneath.

The original plan was to oven bake the turnips, but after the knob malfunction we had to fry them instead  and, in the process, created the turnchip.

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Meet the turnchip!

Peel and slice the turnip into wedges and boil for 30 minutes. Then fry in olive oil sprinkled with rosemary until the outsides are golden brown.

We steamed some pumpkin and broccoli, and then made a sauce from red wine and vegetable stock to pour over the top and, voilà, Knidos Cookery Club’s Festive Feast was born!

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Muhammara: Spread the Word

15 December 2016

This time out on Knidos Cookery Club we’re going to make muhammara, a spicy roasted red pepper and toasted walnut dip. Originally from Syria, this spread made its way onto Turkish tables via Antakya, which is located at the easterly end of Turkey’s Mediterranean coast.

img_2503This delicious dip was brought to Knidos Cookery Club’s attention by our good friend Tolga, who introduced us to the method of roasting the peppers over an open flame on our gas hob.

img_2496Put some tin foil under the burner to stop your hob getting all messed up and cook the peppers over a medium-high flame. Using a chopstick or a wooden skewer can make the peppers easier to manoeuvre on the flame.

You can also grill the peppers or roast them in the oven, but the open-flame method gives them a smoky flavour that combines excellently with the toasted walnuts and chili flakes.

Muhammara works well when teamed with our courgette and almond dip and our carrot and walnut tarator as part of a scrumptious meze platter.

Ingredients 

two medium-sized red (bell) peppers

100 g walnuts (shelled and chopped)

one clove of minced garlic

one lemon – use the juice of half the lemon for the dip and use the rest as a garnish

two teaspoons chili flakes

two teaspoons pomegranate sauce or molasses

25 ml olive oil

Method

Roast the peppers over an open flame, under a grill or in a hot oven until all the skin is blackened. Turn them round regularly to ensure they are cooked evenly.

While the peppers are roasting, toast the walnut pieces in a frying pan over a medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring or shaking the pan regularly. Don’t overcook them as they can taste bitter if you do.

Place the peppers in brown paper bag and allow to cool – this will make it easier to peel the peppers. Now remove the outer skin from the peppers then halve  and de-seed them. Be careful when cutting the peppers as some hot liquid may spurt out if they’re not cooled down enough.

Cut up the peppers and put them with half the walnuts and other ingredients into a blender and mix until you have a smooth paste. Add the rest of the walnuts and give the dip another blast – but not for too long as you want some of the walnuts to still be crunchy.

Garnish with slices of lemon and fresh mint (if you have it) and serve alongside other dips with pita bread and/or slices of raw carrot, cucumbers and green peppers.

 

 

 

Rip-Red Risotto

17 November 2016

This week on Knidos Cookery Club, we’re featuring beetroot as the basis for a rip-roaringly red risotto.

In Turkish, if you want to say something is, for instance, very blue, then you add a prefix. By adding mas to mavi (blue) you end up with masmavi.  As an example, to talk about the deep blue sea you could say masmavi engin deniz.

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A rich red colour, such as that imparted by beetroot, would come out as kıpkırmızı, or, in English, rip-red, which seems a perfect way to describe out beetroot risotto. To add a Turkish-edge to the dish, we used coarse bulgur wheat, but you can use arborio rice if you prefer.

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We added some walnuts to the mix, as they combine so well with the sweet edge of beetroot. This is quite a common combination – in Georgia walnuts are blended with grated beetroot to make pkhali.

Ingredients (serves 3-4)

  • 250 g  whole, uncooked beetroot
  • 50 g walnuts
  • 100 g coarse bulgur wheat
  • 150 ml red wine
  • 500 ml beetroot cooking water
  • 25 ml olive oil
  • one medium-sized onion
  • one garlic clove
  • one teaspoon dried thyme
  • one teaspoon dried rosemary
  • one teaspoon cumin seeds
  • black pepper and salt to taste
  • sprig of fresh basil leaves

Method

  • Boil the washed but unpeeled beetroot in a saucepan for 30 minutes. Put the beetroot in cold water, keeping the water you used to cook the beetroot separate, and then peel and top and tail the beetroot when cool. Put to one side.
  • Heat the olive oil in a heavy-based pan and add the cumin seeds. Cook until the seeds are beginning to burn and then add the diced onion and garlic, dried thyme and rosemary and season with salt and pepper. Cook until the onion is going translucent.
  • Add the washed bulgur wheat and stir to coat the grains. Add the glass of wine and stir occasionally until the liquid is absorbed. Add a third of the vegetable stock and keep cooking and stirring until the liquid is absorbed. Add more stock until the bulgur wheat is cooked and the risotto has a creamy consistency and then turn off the heat.
  • Meanwhile, gently toast the walnut pieces in a small frying pan and chop the beetroot into small, 1 cm cubes. Mix the beetroot and toasted walnut into the bulgur wheat risotto.
  • Garnish with fresh basil leaves -green ones make a better contrast to the red of the risotto, but we could only find the mauve coloured variety. Serve with a green salad.

 

 

A Creamy Almond and Courgette Dipfest

8 September 2016

The courgette is one of the most versatile vegetables in the Knidos Cookery Club kitchen. Earlier it featured in a stuffed platter and as a fritter. We also like it in an omelette, in börek or just sliced and grilled on the barbecue.

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Creamy Almond and Courgette Dip

This week we’ve  incorporated this key ingredient into a creamy almond and courgette dip that can be used as part of a starter, or meze, combo with other dips such as our Carrot and Walnut Tarator.

Yogurt and chopped almonds were added to the grated courgette to make it creamy and some wholemeal flour was used to hold it all together.

Ingredients (Serves 3-4)

250 g  grated courgette

100 ml plain, natural yogurt

50 g wholemeal flour

50 g chopped almonds

One garlic clove

25 ml olive oil

Method

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan over a medium heat then add the grated courgette and garlic and stir fry for five minutes. Add the flour and stir fry for two more minutes. Take the frying pan off the heat, mix in the yogurt and almonds, reserving a few nuts to sprinkle over the top.

 

Sundowner Time

2 June 2016

Welcome to the tenth edition of Knidos Cookery Club! This calls for a celebration and this week we’ll be looking at some snacks and starters commonly associated with Turkey’s favourite alcoholic tipple, rakı.

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A classic sundowner set with rakı, white cheese and cucumber

Rakı is a member of the family of anise-flavoured drinks common to many countries with coastlines on the Mediterranean  Sea – ouzo in Greece, pastis in France, sambuca in Italy, arak in Lebanon and chinchón in Spain.

When rakı is diluted with water, it turns a milky white colour leading to its Turkish nickname, aslan sütü, or lion’s milk. It’s drunk as an aperitif and is accompanied by white cheese and cucumber. In spring and early summer, it’s often served with tart, sour green plums, known as can erik.

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Sour plums

Rakı also accompanies a long, lazy lunch or evening meal with the drink served alongside a selection of mezeler, or appetizers that include, among many others, a spicy tomato and chili paste, acılı ezme, yogurt, grated cucumber and crushed garlic, cacık, and semizotu, purslane mixed with yogurt. These starters are usually followed by a grilled fish course and the meal is finished with slices of fresh melon.

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The new season’s carrots have arrived!

We couldn’t resist these great carrots in the market last week, and they’ve inspired this meze to go with a glass or two of lion’s milk. This week’s recipe is for cezizli havuç tarator, a combo of walnuts, carrots and yogurt.

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Carrot and Walnut Tarator

Ingredients (serves 3-4)

200 g baby carrots

Eight walnuts

200 ml Greek (strained) yogurt

One or two garlic cloves

Splash of olive oil

Salt, black pepper, dried oregano, chili flakes, cumin and nigella seeds

Method

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan. Clean and grate the carrots (keep the carrot tops to make this pesto) then cook the grated carrot over a low heat for ten minutes or so to help release the natural sugars in the carrots. While it’s cooking, keep stirring and add pinches of salt, black pepper, dried oregano, chili flakes and cumin.

Allow the carrots to cool then add the crushed walnuts (use a blender or a rolling pin to crush them), as much garlic as you prefer and the yogurt. Blend together well and drizzle with nigella seeds.

Serve as a dip with crackers and slices of red pepper and cucumber along with a glass of rakı, water and ice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Nutty, Zesty Leekfest

14 April 2016

Welcome to leek week on Knidos Cookery Club. Last weekend, the market stalls in Datça, south-west Turkey, were laden with a selection of oversized leeks of proportions that would turn Welsh rugby fans green with envy. The last of the season’s plump lemons were also well represented, providing the inspiration for a lemony leeky fest.

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The leek, pırasa in Turkish, is a cousin of garlic and onion and the largest member of the Allium family. Leeks are used in a number of dishes in Turkey – braised in olive oil with rice, in a hearty vegetable stew, in a lighter, creamy soup or baked in something akin to a pasty.

In this week’s recipe, Knidos Cookery Club will combine the mild oniony flavour of sliced leek with other ingredients readily found in Turkey – tangy lemon juice and zest, some salty white cheese and fresh walnuts, and put it all in a filo pastry case to make a zesty leek, goat cheese and walnut tart.

All systems go on assembling the tart:

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Thirty minutes later – the finished product:

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Ingredients (3-4 servings)

One large leek, cleaned and sliced into 50 mm rounds

Zest of one lemon (use a grater or vegetable peeler to slice off the yellow outer layer of the lemon)

Juice of one lemon

100 g crumbled goat cheese or feta cheese

Ten walnuts chopped into small pieces

Ten sheets of filo pastry

50 ml olive oil blended with 50 ml of milk or natural yogurt to make a glaze for the filo pastry

A sprinkling of thyme and chili pepper flakes

Method

Pre-heat the oven to 200 °C (gas mark 6)

While the oven warms up, heat a dash of olive oil and a knob of butter in a heavy-based pan. Add the leeks and half the lemon zest and cook over a medium heat. When the leeks are softened, add the lemon juice and a sprinkle of thyme and raise the heat to reduce the liquid for a minute or so.

Now prepare the tart base. Layer sheets of filo pastry in a greased dish; as you go brush the glaze over each layer of filo pastry. (NB: If you can’t find filo pastry, any other sort of pastry will do the job).

Pour the leaks onto the tart base then crumble the goat cheese and sprinkle the walnuts pieces over the leeky layer. Add chili flakes, black pepper and thyme to taste – the salt from the cheese should be sufficient, but add more if you want. Drizzle a bit more olive oil over the tart.

Bake at 200 °C (gas mark 6) for 30 minutes or until the cheese starts to brown.

Remove from the oven and garnish with the rest of the lemon zest and a few more sprigs of thyme.

Serve with a green salad or side dishes of your choice.