Our cookbook of the week is Ripe Figs: Recipes and Stories from Turkey, Greece, and Cyprus by Yasmin Khan. Tomorrow, we’ll feature an interview with the author.
To try another recipe from the book, check out: Eggs with yogurt and chili butter; and halloumi saganaki.
Yasmin Khan’s recipe for louvi — black-eyed peas with chard — was inspired by an exceptional meal she chanced upon at a bare-bones restaurant across from a Cypriot bus terminal.
“It’s a really great memory of this little roadside café in the heart of Nicosia in Cyprus,” she recalls. “As well as this beautiful bowl of braised beans and lemony chard, what made it were the beautiful bowls of olives, and then the sliced tomatoes, the bread, some yogurt, some olive oil, some lemon.”
In Eastern Mediterranean cuisine in general, Khan adds, such accompaniments are essential — as is setting a bottle of extra-virgin olive oil on the table for drizzling over immediately before eating. Given this classic Cypriot dish is so simple, she suggests buying the best olive oil you can afford as the difference in flavour will be noticeable.
Cook this: Eggs with yogurt and chili butter — cilbir — from Ripe Figs
Cook this: Halloumi saganaki from Ripe Figs
In Ripe Figs, Yasmin Khan shares stories of resilience and recipes from the Eastern Mediterranean
“One of the things that I always encourage people to do when they’re cooking food from this part of the world is not just think of serving one dish. The accompaniments are often what makes it,” says Khan.
“It’s kind of that mezze vibe of being able to have a nibble of this (or that), so it keeps the textures and the flavours different with each mouthful, which I think keeps dishes really exciting whilst you’re eating them.”
BLACK-EYED PEAS WITH CHARD
1 1/4 cup (250 g) dried black-eyed peas
Extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp sunflower oil, plus more if needed
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 fat garlic cloves, minced
1 lb 2 oz (500 g) chard, leaves roughly chopped, stalks finely chopped
1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
Generous pinch of nutmeg
1 cup (240 mL) vegetable stock
Finely grated zest of 1 unwaxed lemon
3 tbsp lemon juice, or to taste
Salt and black pepper
Cilantro leaves, to serve (optional)
Extra-virgin olive oil
Thick slices of tomato, cucumber and raw onion
Green or black olives
Rinse the peas and soak them in a bowl of cold water with 1 1/2 tablespoons salt for 8 hours, or overnight.
Drain and rinse the peas and place them in a large saucepan. Add just-boiled water to cover the peas by 1 1/4 inches (3 cm), then add 1/4 teaspoon salt. Bring the water to a boil for 5 minutes, spooning off any scum that rises to the top. Decrease the heat to medium-low, cover and cook for 30 to 45 minutes, or until the peas are soft. After 20 minutes, add 2 tablespoons olive oil.
Heat the sunflower oil in a large saucepan, add the onion and fry over low heat for 15 minutes. Add the garlic and half the chard stalks (use the rest for a soup) and cook for 5 minutes.
Toast the cumin seeds by placing them in a dry frying pan over low heat until their aromas are released, then grind them in a mortar and pestle. Add the cumin to the chard stalks with a generous pinch of nutmeg. Fry for a few minutes, adding more oil if you need it, then turn off the heat.
Add the cooked peas to the pan with the stock, chard leaves, lemon zest, lemon juice, 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Cook for about 5 minutes, or until the chard leaves have wilted. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt, pepper or lemon juice. Peas need lots of salting, so be generous! Scatter the chopped cilantro leaves on top just before serving warm, or at room temperature, with the accompaniments. I always pour oil on my serving before eating it and encourage others to do the same.
Serves: 4 with bread and salad accompaniments
Recipe and image excerpted from Ripe Figs: Recipes and Stories from Turkey, Greece, and Cyprus. Copyright 2021 by Yasmin Khan. Photographs copyright 2021 by Matt Russell. Used with permission of the publisher, W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. All rights reserved.