Stuffed Turkish peppers

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I picked six small peppers for this dish, so the quantities here are not large.  For larger or more peppers you’ll need more rice, etc.  These Kandil Dolma peppers have a distinctive, slightly spicy Turkish taste which reminds me of peppers I ate in Turkey as a child, and I think this variety tastes better when it’s green rather than ripe and red, but you can use any green or red peppers for this dish.

6 Kandil dolma peppers (or other small bell peppers)

1/2 cup Mediterranean rice (or other long grain rice) cooked in 1 cup water

1 small sweet onion, finely chopped

1 large clove garlic, finely chopped

a bunch of oregano, chopped

1 ripe tomato, peeled and finely chopped

salt, pepper

olive oil

Cut the stalk ends off the peppers and remove the seeds in the centre.  Mix the rice, onion, garlic, oregano, tomato, salt and pepper and use the mixture to stuff the peppers.  Put them all in an oiled oven-proof dish, drizzle olive oil over them and bake for about 25 minutes (longer for large peppers) in the oven at 190 degrees C.

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The tomato in the foreground here was simply to use up leftover stuffing and to support the peppers in the dish – it’s still tasty, though!

Serve the peppers hot or cold as part of a meal of mezes (Turkish tapas), with olives, feta cheese, fried aubergines, salads, hummus, for example, or on their own with a squeeze of lemon juice.

Iced cucumber soup

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At this time of the year when the cucumber plants start producing we have almost too many to eat and one delicious and refreshing way of using them in hot weather is to make this simple, iced cucumber soup.

Serves 3 – 4

3 small cucumbers (I use the small Mediterranean ones we grow, about 15 cms long, but you can use one or two long cucumbers if the small ones aren’t available)

1 sweet onion

a bunch of mint

6 tablespoons breadcrumbs

3 tablespoons olive oil

salt, pepper

yoghurt to garnish

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I peel the cucumbers as this variety has a slightly bitter peel which is fine in salads but not so good in soup.  Roughly chop the cucumbers, mint leaves (except for a few for the garnish) and sweet onion.  Put them all in the food processor or blender and process until you have a fine purée.  Add the breadcrumbs, olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.  Refrigerate until you’re ready to eat it.  It should be served chilled and on really hot days you can add ice cubes to it.  Serve garnished with yoghurt (or crème fraiche) and some chopped mint.

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Baked cuttlefish with capers and potatoes

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Serves 2 – 3

In the markets here in the Languedoc fish stalls commonly sell slices of large cuttlefish, which is what I’ve used in this dish.  You can use smaller cuttlefish if that is what is available in your market or fishmonger.

600 grams cuttlefish, sliced fairly thinly (about 5mm)

400 grams potatoes, boiled and sliced fairly thinly

100 grams green olives, stoned and roughly chopped

1 tablespoonful capers

1 large glass white wine

3 cloves garlic

4 tablespoons breadcrumbs

a sprig of thyme

olive oil

salt, pepper

Heat the cuttlefish in a pan until some of the liquid drains out of the pieces and drain.  Add a little olive oil and the chopped garlic and sauté for a few minutes, then add the wine, bring to the boil and simmer for 40 minutes.

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In an oiled ovenproof earthenware dish arrange layers of potato and cuttlefish slices, adding the chopped olives and the capers between the layers and seasoning each layer with salt and pepper.

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Pour over the cooking liquid – the mixture of wine, olive oil and liquid from the cuttlefish.  At this stage you can leave the dish ready to put in the oven later, if you wish.  When you are ready for the finishing stage, sprinkle a good layer of breadcrumbs over the top as well as the thyme leaves, then pour a little olive oil over it all.  Bake in the oven at 190 C for about 20 minutes, until the breadcrumbs are brown and crispy.  This is a complete dish so it can be served as it is with some bread to mop up the juices.

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I was inspired to make this dish by a combination of ideas from André Soulier’s bourride recipes in La Cuisine Secrète du Languedoc Roussillon and an Italian recipe for cuttlefish with capers and olives in The Silver Spoon, as always adapted to the ingredients available here in the market and our garden.

A sort of salade Niçoise

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There are many recipes for Salade Niçoise, and disagreements about whether or not it should contain potato, and so on, but it usually does have tomatoes in it.  At this time of year we can see the green tomatoes developing on our plants but it will be a couple of weeks at least before we pick ripe ones, so I decided to make a very simple salad without them.

Serves 4 as a first course or side dish, 2 as a main dish

400 grams cooked haricot beans, chopped into 3 – 4 cm pieces

1 small cucumber or half a long one, chopped

lettuce leaves to line the dish

4 hard-boiled eggs, quartered

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

8 anchovy fillets

18 – 20 black olives

8 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

salt, black pepper

Arrange the lettuce leaves around a large salad bowl.  Add the haricot beans in a layer, followed by the cucumber and the chopped garlic.  Arrange the anchovy fillets, pieces of hard-boiled egg and black olives on top.  Make a vinaigrette dressing by mixing a pinch of salt into the balsamic vinegar then whisking in the olive oil.  Pour this over the salad and grind plenty of black pepper over it as well.  Serve with crusty bread.

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I used marinaded anchovy fillets, usually eaten with drinks, but you can use salted ones too.

Barbecued quail

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1 quail per person

1/4 lemon per quail

1/2 teaspoon paprika per quail

olive oil

Spatchcock the quails – cut along the breast bone and flatten out the whole bird.  Marinade for a couple of hours in the juice and grated zest of the lemon and the paprika.

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When the barbecue fire is hot, pour a little olive oil over the birds and grill for about 15 minutes, turning over to ensure both sides are cooked.  We used a double-sided fish grill to make turning easier, but you can just put the quails onto the barbecue grill and turn them carefully.

Serve with a green salad and a glass of wine.  This isn’t a polite dish and it’s often easier to eat them with your hands rather than a knife and fork!

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Chard and feta pies

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Makes 8 small pies – can also be made with spinach instead of chard

250 gm flour

100  ml olive oil

1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

a pinch of salt

water to mix the pastry

100 gm feta cheese, or other sheep’s cheese

125 gm chard leaves, stalks removed, boiled for a few minutes and then chopped and drained well – squeeze the water out of the cooked leaves.

2 eggs

1 tablespoonful oregano leaves, chopped

pepper

Make the pastry by mixing the flour, bicarbonate of soda, salt and olive oil, then add enough water to make a dough. I do this in a food processor, but it can be mixed by hand.  Form the dough into eight balls.

Mix the crumbled feta cheese, chard, 1 beaten egg, oregano and pepper to taste.

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Roll out the dough balls to make circles about 10 cm across.  Put a tablespoonful of the cheese mixture on each one, brush half the edge of each circle with a little water and turn over to make a semi-circular pie, pressing down the edges with a fork to close.  Brush the pastry with beaten egg.

Bake in a hot oven (190 C) for 35-40 minutes, until lightly browned.

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Serve straight from the oven, or slightly warm, with a green salad.  Or they would make great picnic food.

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Cherry clafoutis

Clafoutis originated in the Limousin region of central France, so this isn’t really a Mediterranean recipe, but with such a good cherry crop this year and kind friends who asked us to pick some fruit from their tree I had to make it.

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Serves 6 – 8

500 gm cherries

250 ml milk

100 gm sugar

100 gm flour

2 eggs

a little butter to grease the oven dish

Stone the cherries and put them in a greased oven tin or dish so that they form a single layer. 

Make a batter by mixing the milk, flour, sugar and eggs in a liquidiser or by hand.  Pour the batter over the cherries.  Bake in a hot oven (200 C) for 40 minutes.

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Allow to cool and serve with cream or crème fraîche.

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