Slow Cooked Stuffed Zucchini

Old fashioned as they might be, there is a joy in stuffed vegetables, oozing with tomatoey rice or chickpea fillings, perhaps covered with cheese, melted and dripping down the sides. Nothing quite says cold weather more than stuffed vegetables. We love them. But then we were never one for fashion, especially in food.

This recipe is Turkish in origin, although many versions appear around the Middle East and gulf regions, from Israel to Afghanistan. We are stuffing our zucchini from the garden, the late ones that have grown slightly larger. We stuff them flat, that is, laying on their length, slit in half, and cooked with the stuffing in hollows left by the removal of their seeds and soft core. You can, of course, stuff them vertical – cutting into lengths without splitting down the middle, and using a manakra from your Middle Eastern store, to hollow out the middles – sort of like coring an apple.

We are using Ottolenghi’s recipe in Plenty More, but many similar recipes abound, using a range of grains to give substance to the filling. We are using Ottolenghi’s recipe because we have a little project at the moment, to cook through Plenty More, so it is a convenient way to add another dish to our project’s Cooked list.

The thing about many Zucchini dishes is that they are just as delightful served at room temperature as well as warm – this dish, for example, is divine. Today’s recipe is in the same class – serve it warmish, or at room temperature, with goat’s feta (Middle Eastern feta, beautifully creamy) and a salad of sliced onion, radish and tomato. Excellent. Make it a first course or a main dish.

Ottolenghi has changed the recipe for this dish over time, reducing the time taken to cook the stuffed zucchini from 2 hours to 40 mins. That raised a warning signal for us. We find that it all depends on your heat levels. I cooked mine with a heat diffuser to keep the heat low and it takes all of 2 hours to ensure the rice is cooked well. Higher heat levels will mean that cooking time is shorter.

Our suspicion is that the longer time might be more traditional, but less photogenic or visually pleasing. It is often the case with dishes from countries like Greece and Turkey, and neighbouring countries, that dishes are cooked longer than might be fashionable these days. Flavour goes through the roof but the visual appeal is lost. It’s a pity that we put so much store on visual presentation.

HOWEVER, we found that using Ottolenghi’s recipe, the zucchini was overcooked and the rice just a tad undercooked, even after 2 hours. After all, it is being steamed rather than boiled as is usual. Our recommendation is that the rice should be par-cooked before using in the stuffing, and that the cooking time is then reduced to 40 – 60 mins so that the rice is really soft. As it is, the recipe does not work. (See this Guardian article which also recommends precooking rice for stuffed courgettes in general.)

I am leaving the recipe as it appears in the book, in case I missed something or you have other insights and views. If so, let me know. It is unusual to have an Ottolenghi recipe that does not work.

It is Ottolenghi day on the blog – one of two days per month where we publish all the latest posts of recipes we have tried in our project of cooking from Ottolenghi books – those we have cooked directly and those we have been inspired by. Currently we are cooking from Plenty More, but not ignoring his other books completely. Note that I often massage the recipes to suit what is available from our garden and pantry. For the original recipes, check his books and his Guardian column.

Similar dishes include Stuffed Tomatoes with Cheese, Peppers Stuffed with Cherry Tomatoes, and Okra Stuffed with Chilli Paste.

Browse all of our Stuffed recipes and all of our Zucchini dishes. Our Ottolenghi dishes from Plenty More are here. We have written about our experiences cooking through this book. Or explore our Late Autumn recipes.

We use Australian measurements: 1 tspn = 5ml; 1 Tblspn = 20ml; 1 cup = 250ml.

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Green Beans Braised in Tomato and Olive Oil

In Turkey, slow braised vegetables in olive oil is common. It’s a cooking method that creates fabulous flavours. These green beans are cooked with tomatoes, olive oil and onions until meltingly soft – and the sauce! Oh my!

The method of cooking is very similar to a la Grecque style of cooking, where wine and olive oil are used to slowly cook the vegetables. This dish  has no wine, but uses lemon juice instead. Indeed France, Italy, Greece, all over the Middle East and Sephardic Jewish communities all have similar recipes for long cooked beans with tomatoes and olive oil. No wonder! It is delicious, with the beans absorbing the flavours of the sauce as they soften and meld into the dish.

Similar recipes include Gujarati Green Beans, Green Beans with Freekeh, Glorious Five Bean Salad, and Baby Sweetcorn and Green Bean Salad.

Browse our Green Bean dishes and our Turkish recipes. Our a la Grecque  recipes are here. Or explore our Late Summer dishes.

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Spiced Burghul Wrapped in Vine Leaves | Yaprak Sarma

Today we have a variety of Dolmades (stuffed vine leaves), of which there are many types across the Mediterranean and Middle East. This Turkish recipe uses Burghul, which forms a bright red and a little firey stuffing for the vine leaves. I like to use a type of Burghul available in Middle Eastern grocers, where burghul is mixed with vermicelli. Its a delicious alternative.

Use fresh vine leaves (my preference) or preserved vine leaves, but rinse the preserved ones well to get rid of any saltiness.

The recipe, which I have altered a little, comes via the SBS site which credits the book Istanbul: Recipes From the Heart of Turkey, by Rebecca Seal, for the original. Vine leaves can be stuffed with a number of fillings, but rice and burghul are the most common. The vine leaves are wrapped around the filling, and the little fat cigar-shaped dolmas are simmered in water, olive oil and lemon until the vine leaves are tender. In Turkey they are often served for mezze with yoghurt.

Similar recipes include Vine Leaf Powder, Pecorino in Vine Leaves, Grape Leaf Encrusted Rice Pie, and Mushrooms Baked in Grape Vine Leaves.

Try also Burghul with Pinenuts and Sultanas, and Spicy Chickpea and Burghul Soup.

Browse all of our Grape Vine Leaf recipes and all of our Turkish dishes. Our Burghul recipes are here. Or explore our Early Summer recipes.

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Baked Yoghurt Encrusted with Vine Leaves

Ottolenghi believes that Turkish cuisine is one of the most exciting and accomplished in the world. I would argue that Indian is, but the cuisines between Indian and the Mediterranean definitely come close. Ottolenghi’s Book Plenty contains this unusual savoury cake (perhaps a pie) from the Turkish part of Northern Cyprus (where it is called Kibris Böreği).  A version of this dish is also known in Greece, being made in the Drama Region of Greece’s Eastern Macedonia and Thrace, where it’s known as Asmapita. The name comes from the Turkish word Asma, which means grapevine.

Ottolenghi credits a book Classic Turkish Cooking by Ghillie Basan, so I borrowed the book to browse through. It is a great book if you are looking for Turkish recipes. I recommend it. There is also a version in Aglai Kremezi’s Mediterranean Vegetarian Feasts. She makes the pies in small terracotta pots and in shallow muffin tins. She uses more yoghurt for a thicker pie, but keeping it thinner means that it slices very well. Paula Wolfert suggests making these as wrapped parcels, and I suspect she grills them. But I love this recipe. It is delicious and can be cut into spectacular wedges.

The recipe caught our attention because we have a Vine Leaf thing going at the moment, using them in a number of ways. We haven’t made dolmades yet, but they are on the list. Have a look at what we have made so far. There are more to come.

This is a dish where a shallow layer of yoghurt mixed with herbs and thickened with rice flour is baked wrapped in vine leaves! Grape leaves impart their exceptional flavour and aroma to the filling as it bakes. The breadcrumbs and sesame seeds add a crunchy layer to each slice. How very delicious! This recipe comes together in minutes, tastes great, and can be eaten warm or cold. It is an excellent contribution to a table of mezze.

Have I mentioned too, how the grape vine leaves are scented, and the kitchen begins to smell like a grape arbour. As you scald them, they release the fragrance. As I dry them in the sun the outside deck is scented with grape vines. As they bake, they have a lovely woody, grapevine aroma.

Similar recipes include Dolmades, Grape Leaf Encrusted Rice Pie, Burghul Dolmas, Grape Vine Leaf Powder, Grilled Pecorino in Vine Leaves, and Mushrooms Baked in Vine Leaves.

Browse our Turkish dishes and all of our Vine Leaf recipes. All of our Yoghurt dishes are here. Or explore our other Early Summer recipes.

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Fava Bean Puree With Dill and Olive Oil | Turkish Fava | Dried Broad Bean Puree

It seems that no matter how you cook broad beans, they need peeling. Except perhaps for the extremely young fresh beans, you need to get your long thumb nail working and peel that outer skin off of the individual beans.

This applies also to the dried beans. I have heard that you can buy pre-peeled, dried broad beans, but I have not been able to find them. So trust me, it is not worth cooking the dried beans without peeling first. The dried skin is like a suit of armour, hard and tough even when the inner flesh has boiled away to nothing.

To peel these little battle beans, cover with boiling water, and leave to soak for 12 hours, no less, and up to 24 hours. The peels may have split a little, allowing you to peel the skin off. Once peeled, you can cook them as desired.

This recipe is a Broad Bean Purée with Dill, a Turkish dish. Turkish Fava is made with Fava beans (broad beans), unlike the Greek Fava which is made with yellow split lentils. Confusing, I know, but how great diversity is! The purée is left to set, then unmoulded or cut into cubes. It is then drizzled with olive oil, lemon, and some fresh dill.

Are you looking for Broad Bean recipes? Try Broad Bean and Butter Bean Dip, Glorious Five Bean Salad, and Tawa Broad Beans.

For our dried Broad Beans, we have Fava Bean Soup with Potatoes, and Dried Fava Bean Soup with Turmeric and Herbs.

Or perhaps you are looking for dips for your Mezza table? Try Broad Bean and Mint Puree, Green Tomato Salsa with CorianderRoasted Cauliflower and White Bean Puree, Hummus, and Tomato and Chilli Jam.

Try some other Turkish dishes too. We recommend Beets in a Herbed Dressing, Semi Dried Tomatoes with Pomegranate Molasses, and Rose Petals and Yoghurt.

You can find all of our Dips here, or browse all of our Broad Bean recipes. You might like to look through all of our Turkish dishes. Or simply take some time to explore our Mid Autumn dishes.

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Beets in a Herb Dressing

Beautiful Beetroot, roasted, and dressed with herbs

Beetroot is a great vegetable, and baby beets are sweet and tender. This recipe treats them minimally. You can use baby beets or larger, medium sized ones.

The inspiration for this dish came from Turquoise by Greg Malouf. I recommend this cookbook of Turkish recipes. It is beautiful.

Are you looking for similar recipes? Try Roasted Beetroot with Maple Dressing, Beetroot and Yoghurt Salad, Slightly Pickled Beetroot Salad with MustardRaw Beetroot and Herb Salad, Beetroot and Goat Cheese Salad with RocketBeetroot, Orange and Olive Salad, and Beetroot with Honey Dressing.

Feel free to browse other recipes from Turquoise.  You might also like our Beetroot recipes. Or you might like to browse Salad recipes too. Check out our easy Mid Spring recipes here.

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Salty, Garlicky Labneh | Thick Thick Yoghurt

A beautiful, garlicky thick yoghurt for salads, soups and dips.

Labneh is a particular favourite, going into salads, soups, pasta dishes, dips, vegetable dishes, deserts and breakfast dishes.

We call it Thick Thick Yoghurt. See these previous posts on our love for this wonderful food. And this is how to make it: Making Thick Thick Yoghurt. Recently we began making it pre-flavoured with salt and garlic. You will love it too.

Similar recipes include Green Peppers and Yoghurt, and Thick Thick Yoghurt with Walnuts and Zaatar.

You might like to browse all of our yoghurt recipes, our Middle Eastern dishes and all of our Salads. Our Dips are here if you are after dips and sauces. Or simply take some time to explore our Mid Autumn dishes.

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Cacik | Turkish Cucumber and Yoghurt Mezze

Cool off in hot weather with a classic yoghurt dip from Turkey.

Cacik is a wonderful dish, cooling in summer and endlessly versatile. It can be made very thick with thick thick yoghurt to serve as a dip or along side curries, rice dishes and pastry dishes. Make it with ordinary yoghurt as a sauce to drizzle over vegetables or salads or some filo pastry dish. Or make it thin with some ice cold water and eat as a soup.

Are you looking for similar recipes? Try Green Tahini Dip and Sauce, Yoghurt Tahina Dip with Herbs, and Green peppers in yoghurt.

Here we love yoghurt, so there is quite a collection of yoghurt recipes, including drinks, dips, raitas, yoghurt curries and salad dressings. I hope something inspires you there. Or our Dips are here, Turkish dishes here and Middle Eastern recipes here. Or be inspired by our Late Spring recipes.

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Yoghurt, Feta and Mustard Dip

Take some yoghurt, feta and mustard and you have a dip for a Summery day.

Gathering the thick thick yoghurt, some home made mustard, a smidgen of honey, and a copy of Turquoise, Greg Malouf’s mustardy creation was manifested. It can be a dip, sauce or dressing and the combination of flavours is quite synergistic – beyond what you might expect.

Are you looking for similar recipes? Try our Roast Capsicum Sauce and Dressing and Chickpea, Almond and Sesame Sauce.

You might like to try other Yoghurt dishes here and here, and other Dips here and here. All of our Turquoise dishes are here. Be inspired by our Spring recipes here and here.

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Rose Petals and Yoghurt with Fruits

Yoghurt and roses. A wonderful marriage.

Yoghurt forms the basis of so many great dishes, savoury and sweet. Dried rose buds which can be purchased at Asian and Middle Eastern groceries, have a natural affinity to yoghurt, sweetening and perfuming it. This recipe brings the two of them together.

We have a wealth of yoghurt recipes, from drinks to curries to salad dressings, desserts, dips, toppings and more. Browse through them here and here. Dessert recipes are here and here. Or find inspiration in our Spring recipes here and here.

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