Circassian chicken salad

This salad is a rich paste made with chicken, walnuts, stock and breadcrumbs. It is delicious spread on bread, oatcakes and other savoury biscuits. I got this recipe from Cookistan, when we were on holiday in Istanbul. 

The Circassians were a tribal people who lived in the area between the Black Sea and the Caspian sea, north east of modern Turkey. They were part of the Ottoman Empire, and the dish has made its way into modern Turkish cookery. 

INGREDIENTS:

 
  • 2 chicken breasts, poached in 1 litre of well-seasoned stock
  • 250g walnuts
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 200g panko breadcrumbs, or other dried breadcrumbs
  • 4 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 12 tbsp plain yoghurt
  • Chopped dill, optional
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 3 tsp sweet paprika, to taste
  • 2 tsp salt and 1 tsp pepper to taste (quite a lot of salt and pepper)
  • 6 teaspoons paprika (sweet)
  • Garnish: 1 tsp paprika in olive oil and whole walnut halves

METHOD:

  • Cool the poached chicken, and strain and reserve the stock. 
  • Shred the cooked chicken breast very finely. 
  • Roughly crush the walnuts and finely crush the garlic.
  • Soften the breadcrumbs with stock to make a soft paste.
  • Add the chicken, olive oil, mayonnaise, yoghurt, cumin, paprika dill, and salt and pepper to make a paste, and stir in the walnuts and garlic. Check the seasoning; this needs quite a bit of salt to bring out the flavour. 
  • Garnish with 1 tsp paprika fried in 1 tbsp olive oil, walnut halves, and chopped dill. 

Borecik

Turkish savoury pastries come in many flavours and shapes, using different pastries, fillings, styles and cooking techniques. These Borecik roses were one of the dishes we made in Istanbul, when we participated in the Cookistan cookery school. 

The pastry that we used was prepared in a small shop in a traditional way, sold as large round circles of thin and pliable pastry. These sheets are called yufka, and are a bit more robust than filo pastry. They are available from Turkishop, but you could substitute filo. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 sheet of yufka
  • 150g mince
  • 2 small onions, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 150ml milk
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 egg
  • 250g plain yoghurt
  • salt and pepper
  • red pepper flakes
  • Butter

METHOD:

  • Cut the sheet of pastry into four.
  • Kneed the meat with the onions, pepper and salt. 
  • Mix the milk with the olive oil, and use this to wet one side of the sheet of pastry. 
  • Put a quarter of the mince mixture in a line along the curved edge of each segment of the pastry sheet. Roll the sheet around the mince to form a snake. These snake pastries can be frozen for use later, handy for making a feast at short notice.
  • Coil each snake to make a snail shape. 
  • Put the snail shapes onto a greased baking sheet, brush with beaten egg, and bake in the oven at 200C for 35 to 40 minutes. 
  • To serve, mix yoghurt and garlic, and put a dollop on the top of each pastry. 
  • Next, melt the butter and fry the chilli flakes, and drizzle this on top of the yoghurt. 

Turkish stuffed vegetables

This is the first of several recipes from Turkey, from our cooking class at Cookistan. I was really impressed with the quality of food that we produced. Some of these recipes are seasonal, so if you were to book with them, you’re sure to learn something new. 

We made stuffed dried aubergines, stuffed vine leaves, stuffed courgettes. The dried aubergines, pepper puree and vine leaves are available from Turkishop online, but peppers, beef tomatoes, or onions could be used. 

Ready for the oven

INGREDIENTS:

  • 8 dried aubergines, or 8 good sized courgettes, or a jar of vine leaves in brine. If you can’t get vine leaves, then chard leaves would do. 
  • 100g mince
  • 50g rice or fine bulgar wheat
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 tbsp pepper puree
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 tsp dried mint
  • 1/2 tsp sweet paprika
  • 1/2 tsp chilli powder or chilli flakes
  • 1 handful of chopped parsley
  • Plain yoghurt to serve (you could add garlic, salt and pepper to the yoghurt)

METHOD:

  • If you are using dried aubergines, these need to be soaked in boiling water for around 5 minutes. They need to be weighed down to ensure they are completely submerged, and then rinsed in cold water. If you are using courgettes, use a teaspoon, melon baller (or a special Turkish courgette knife) to hollow them out. First, cut them in half across the way, not lengthways, and trim the end to make them steady to stand up in the pan. Then, hollow them out carefully. Other vegetables can be prepared in a similar way. 
  • Mix all the other ingredients, and mix them together with your hands.
  • Stuff the vegetables to about 3/4 full. During the cooking, the rice expands, so you need to leave a little bit of room. 
  • To stuff vine leaves, put each leaf shiny side down with the pointy bits pointing away. Put a line of mince about the size of your little finger across the bottom of the vine leaf. Start rolling the leaf round the mince, working away from you, folding in the sides as you go. There are lots of versions on youtube to check for the method. 
  • Put the stuffed vegetables in a casserole dish large enough for them all to fit with the open ends up. Put a plate over the top to keep them in place, smaller than the pan. Pour in around 500ml boiling water, and simmer the vegetables until they are cooked, around 45 minutes. 
  • Serve as a meze dish with yoghurt flavoured with garlic. 

Baked celeriac

So easy. Serve with anything. Ottolenghi SIMPLE. I grew the celeriac. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 large celeriac, scrubbed clean and hairy roots removed. 
  • 50 ml olive oil 
  • 1 1/2 tsp crushed coriander seed
  • 1 lemon in wedges
  • salt

METHOD:

  • Preheat the oven to 170C
  • Pierce the celeriac all over with a sharp knife. Rub with the oil, season with the salt and coriander and put it in a small baking dish. 
  • Roast for around 2 1/2 hours, basting with olive oil if required. 
  • To serve, cut into wedges and serve with lemon, a sprinkle of salt, a drizzle of olive oil. 

Roast cabbage with tarragon and pecorino cheese

Another wonderfully easy and tasty recipe from the Levant. This recipe is from Ottolenghi’s book SIMPLE. Best recipe book I ever bought, possibly. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 60ml olive oil (4 tbsp)
  • 1 tbsp lemon zest
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 cloves of garlic
  • 1 spring cabbage (the pointy kind) cut lengthways into 8ths. 
  • 5g tarragon leaves, or 3 tsp dried tarragon
  • 20g pecorino cheese
  • Salt and pepper

METHOD:

  • Preheat the oven to 220C
  • In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, lemon zest, garlic, a good pinch of salt and a good grate of black pepper. Put 1 tbsp of this mixture in a separate bowl. 
  • Put the cabbage in a large bowl, season with a pinch of salt,  and pour the oil mixture over the cabbages, tossing well to coat. 
  • Arrange the cabbage in a roasting dish, and roast for 15 minutes, until the edges are getting crispy. Remove from the oven to set aside and cool a little. 
  • Add the lemon juice to the reserve tbsp of oil. Add the tarragon. 
  • Put the cabbage on a platter, drizzle over the oil, then add shavings of pecorino cheese and a good grating of black pepper. 

Menemen – Turkish dish of peppers, eggs and tomatoes.

We are about to go on holiday to Istanbul, so I was looking at Turkish recipes. This caught my eye, as I had a couple of green peppers from Tagsa Uist Grow your Community at East Camp. Very tasty, very easy. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 small onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 2 small green peppers, halved, seeded and sliced. 
  • 2 dried chilli peppers, crushed
  • 400g can of chopped tomatoes
  • 4 eggs
  • Could include herbs such as thyme, oregano, spices such as cumin
  • chopped parsley
  • Sour cream or greek yoghurt

METHOD:

  • Heat the oil in a heavy frying pan, and add the onions, then the garlic, and then the pepper and chillies. Fry slowly until the onions are soft. 
  • Add the tomatoes and any additional herbs and spices, and simmer slowly to reduce the mixture. Season with salt and pepper
  • Make 4 holes in the mixture, and into each hole, crack an egg. Cover the pan and cook slowly for around 5 minutes to cook the eggs. (You can scramble the eggs into the mixture as an alternative.) 
  • Beat the yogurt or sour cream with salt and pepper. 
  • Sprinkle the menemen with parsley, and serve from the pan with the yoghurt or sour cream. 
 

Beans, garlic, dill and eggs

I can hardly wait to tell you about this recipe, or to eat it again. It is delicious, and dangerously garlicky, so I think I will be in trouble at work tomorrow. I made it with tinned beans, but the original recipe starts from scratch. I got the recipe from the remarkable book, Nightingales and Roses. These are recipes from all over Iran, organised by seasonal availability of ingredients. Where she wins over my other current favourite book, Jerusalem, is her serving suggestions. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 can of cannellini or borlotti beans
  • 50g butter
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 small bulb of garlic, with the cloves peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 3 tsp of dill seed, or 5 tsp dried dill weed, or 30g fresh dill, chopped
  • salt, to taste
  • 4 eggs

METHOD:

  • Melt the butter in a medium lidded frying pan, add the oil and then the chopped garlic, and fry until the garlic is turning golden. 
  • Add the turmeric, pepper, dill, and salt, and then add the can of beans including the water they are in. 
  • Bring to a simmer, and cook, until the mixture is getting drier and thicker. 
  • Make 4 wells in the bean mixture, and into each well, break an egg. Cover the pan and cook on a low heat until the eggs are cooked to your liking. 

The book suggests serving this with a little rice, with side dishes of olives, chopped radishes, smoked fish. We were not so dainty, and served this with a side salad with herbs and some bread, olives and labneh

Roasted butternut squash and red onion with tahini

This is another recipe from Jerusalem by Sami Tamimi and Yotam Ottolenghi. It fits well with my lifestyle in summer; food that can be put in the oven, and then served hot or cold, straight away or for the next meal, part of a large meal or just as a light lunch. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 Large butternut squash. 
  • 3 red onions
  • 50ml olive oil
  • 3 tbsp light tahini paste (available locally!)
  • 1.5 tbsp lemon or lime juice
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • 30g pine nuts
  • 1 tbsp za’atar (from Seasoned pioneers)
  • 1 tbsp chopped parsley
  • salt and pepper

METHOD:

  • Preheat the oven to 240C gas mark 9
  • Cut the onions and butternut squash into wedges. I peeled and cut each onion into 6-8 wedges. I cut the squash into 3 equal bits across the way, and then cut each bit into 6-8 wedges, measuring around 2cm by 6cm. Remove the seeds.
  • Put the squash and onions in a large bowl, and add 3 tbsp of olive oil, stir to coat, and then add 1 tsp salt, black pepper and mix well. 
  • Spread the onions and squash onto a baking tray, and turn the squash skin-side down. 
  • Roast in the hot oven for 30 minutes. 
  • Meanwhile, use a small bowl and a fork to mix the tahini with the lemon juice, 2 tbsp water, crushed garlic, and 1/4 tsp salt. The mixture should be runny, like honey. 
  • Pour a little olive oil into a pan, and toast the pine nuts over a medium heat with a pinch of salt. Stir, keeping a close eye, until the pine nuts are toasty brown. Transfer to a small bowl. 
  • Put the roast vegetables onto a serving platter, drizzle over with the tahini dressing, sprinkle over with the toasted pine-nuts in oil, and then sprinkle over the za’atar and chopped parsley. 

I enjoyed this better when cooled down to a warm dish, rather than hot. Also good cold the next day. 

 

New potatoes with green beans, celeriac and halloumi

I’ve been playing with this recipe for about a month, which means we have been eating various versions of it every few days. It is quite delicious, and it is easy to adapt to what you have available. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 400 to 500g new potatoes, chopped into bite-size chunks (Jersey Royals work well, one bag full)
  • 5 cloves garlic, skin-on, lightly squished
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt, and ground black pepper to taste
  • 200g green beans, halved (one pack is usually between 140 and 250g – one pack will do)
  • 1/2 celeriac, peeled and cut into bite-sized chunks (optional)
  • 225g halloumi, cut into 2cm cubes (one pack)
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice (equally delicious with lime juice)
  • 1 tsp cumin or caraway seed (optional)

METHOD:

  • Preheat oven to 200°C/180°C fan/gas 6.
  • Put the potatoes and celeriac in a large roasting tray with the garlic, add the olive oil, salt and pepper, the cumin or caraway seed, and mix well. Cook for 30 minutes in the oven.
  • Remove from the oven, add the beans and halloumi and toss to combine. Return the tray to the oven for 15 mins until the beans are tender and the cheese is starting to caramelise.
  • Add a generous squeeze of lemon juice and toss everything again, then transfer to a serving dish. 

This is really good cold the next day as well. You could serve it as a side-dish, a starter or as a light lunch. 

Ratatouille

I have tried many recipes for ratatouille, this is the best. I think I got it off the internet, with a promise that this was the most authentic.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 aubergine, diced
  • 4 courgettes, halved and sliced
  • 300g french beans, cut to 1 inch lengths
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 2 cans of chopped tomatoes
  • 3/4 cup of chopped fennel leaves
  • fresh basil leaves, torn
  • Pinch of sugar
  • Salt and pepper to taste

METHOD:

  • Salt the diced aubergines and courgettes and set aside. Rinse the salt off after 20 minutes (I do this in a colander)
  • Heat the oil in a large pan, and gently fry the onion and garlic until soft.
  • Add the aubergines and courgettes, and cook for another five minutes or so.
  • Add the remaining ingredients and simmer with the lid on for 20 minutes, and then with the lid off for 20 minutes. Keep a close eye and stir occasionally, to stop the mixture sticking to the bottom of the pan.

This freezes OK, but it is best reheated the day after making it.