Results tagged “greens”

Early summer minestrone with pesto

italy
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This recipe is adapted from one in The River Café cookbook.  It is a fresh green soup, perfect for late spring or early summer.  I actually prefer it luke warm to hot, or even chilled.

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Herb jam

morocco
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This is a Moroccan recipe, which I first learnt while working as an intern at Alice Waters’ restaurant, Chez Panisse, in California.  ‘Herb jam’ is Paula Wolfert’s name for this delicious, savoury salad-cum-relish.  The recipe here is based on one of hers.
 
smherbjammaking0003.JPGThe key to success is patience.  You must wash vast quantities of greens and herbs, steam the greens, pound together the herbs and garlic, fry the olives and spices and then cook everything down together slowly in a wide pan until it resembles jam.  It’s a bit of a hassle, so I advise making a double batch (buy way more greens than you think it’s possible to cook) and freezing some.

smherbjammaking0004.JPG But when you taste it, perhaps on crostini or with warm Moroccan bread, you’ll realise why this is such a special recipe.  If you love greens, olives and lemony flavours, you’ll adore this. Everyone I have cooked it for has found it a revelation.

smherbjammaking0009.JPGFor the greens, use a mix of whatever you can find - spinach, chard, rocket, kale, sorrel, watercress, mustard greens, celery leaves, purslane…

Turkish style stuffed greens

turkey
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In Turkey all kinds of things get stuffed with delicious rice - aubergines, tomatoes, peppers, cabbage leaves, vine leaves and more.  ‘Dolma’ are stuffed things and ‘sarma’ are rolled or wrapped things, so strictly these parcels are sarma.  They work really well with spring or summer greens, which arrive in my weekly veg box.

smspringgreensarma0003.JPGVersions of sarma are also found in Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Poland and elsewhere - sometimes with meaty fillings.  This combination of rice, pine nuts, currants and warm spices is typical of western Turkey - around Istanbul and down the Aegean coast, where the Romans established pine tree plantations millennia ago to feed their pine nut addiction. 

The trick is to partially cook the rice before filling the leaves - cooked enough so they won’t burst their wrappers in the cooking pot, but uncooked enough to expand a little to form tight parcels.  Sarma might be fiddly to make, but when you taste the results of your labour, you’ll realise why they spread so far.  


We ate all the pies

greece
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For most British tourists, Greece is essentially a succession of islands and beaches.  For us, it was mostly a succession of pies.  We'd had börek in Turkey, heard talk of burek in Bulgaria; but it was in Greece that the bourek really came into its own.

Smsausagecheesepies0001.jpg For one thing, we generally avoided the islands (making an exception for Crete), and spent most of our time on the mainland, where most of the food (and wine) is - and discovering quite a different Greece from the one we'd seen before.  But for another, we quickly found that Greeks don't really go for big breakfasts.  After our twenty-three-jam feasts in Turkey, this left us with big breakfast-shaped holes, for which there was only one solution: pies.

OK, and cheese.  And spinach.  And quite a lot of weeds.  But if you try hard enough, you can get all those into pies too.  And we did ...

Turkey II: Syria (nearly) to Greece

turkey
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Smmountainpass0001.JPGAfter our epic journey to Erzurum, we had a very long day's drive ahead of us to get to Mardin and the south-east.  Partly because it's quite a long way; partly because we took quite a roundabout route.  But also because as well as getting stopped by the police as usual, we started getting stopped by the army.  This is PKK country: villages have military watchtowers, and roads have frequent checkpoints.  (Perhaps a bit like Northern Ireland in the 1970s, but with more kebabs.) There's a fair amount of traffic, though, so you'd have thought they'd have seen someone like Anna driving a Land Rover before, but apparently not: once the first soldier saw who was at the wheel, he immediately called the rest of the squad over for a laugh.

But it was definitely worth the drive.  Not only was the south-east probably the highlight of the trip (although it's a close call), we went on from that to see the centre and the coast in ways that most tourists don't get to do - mostly because of the people we met.

So read on for stories of underground ovens, underwater cities, pizzas as long as Anna is tall, and ice cream you eat with a knife and fork.

Wild about greens

turkey
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smsackwildgreens0001.JPGDon’t fall into the trap of thinking Turkish food is just meat and kebabs, despite what you may have seen on your local highstreet in England.  Some of the best cooking we had in Turkey was totally vegetarian.  Three of or favourite cooks in Turkey, Musa Dağdeviren, Zeliha İrez and Erhan Şeker, cooked predominantly with vegetables, and made abundant use of weird and wonderful wild greens and herbs that we’d never heard of before, let alone tasted.

Nettle bake

turkey
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Erhan Şeker is a talented Turkish chef who makes great use of wild greens and herbs.  He cooks all sorts of weird and wonderful leaves, shoots and tendrils, most of which I wouldn’t know how to find back at home in the UK.  But one thing we can definitely find at home is stinging nettles.  In many areas they’re abundant.  And of course they’re free, and very good for you.  

Smnettlebake0001.JPGThis dish, called ‘çırpma’ in Turkish (meaning ‘mixed’, as I guess you could mix up all sorts of greens in here if you wanted, wild or otherwise), was expertly made for us in Erhan’s kitchen by his assistant Nesrin, using Erhan’s homemade goat ricotta. It’s the kind of comfort food that feels like it should be bad for you it’s so satisfying, but is actually incredibly good for you.  Wild greens are more nutritious than cultivated ones as they’re higher in antioxidants and other goodies that the plants must have plenty of in order to defend themselves from pests.

As you will see, the ingredient quantities in the recipe need some refining, so let me know how it goes if you make it.
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