Category Archives: Food and drink

Mixing it up

We have not done anything food related for a while. so.  Time to correct this.

We have a load of basil growing in pots.  Far more than we can eat or give away, and the locals do not seem keen on the idea of using it in food.  It is not the Italian variety, but a local broad leaved one, just as tasty but a little less sweet.  Ashley thought it a good idea to make pesto.  Pesto can of course be made with many things, here it gets called ezme whether made with basil and pine nuts, or black olives.  Tapenade = olive ezme.  Pesto = green ezme, or herb ezme, or something else similar.  A Mexican habenero salsa would probably be chilli ezme.    I am sure you get the idea.  Anyway, I digress.

Back to pesto.  Pine nuts are expensive.  So we hit on the idea of using pumpkin kernels.  Sunflower seeds were also considered but the local Migros did not have any and other options  were closed for bayram, so pumpkin kernels it was.  We briefly considered grinding the kernels and basil by hand, it is hot, 36C hot, grinding stuff by hand, no, way too much sweat and effort.  So the huge pile of basil leaves went into in a pot, along with loads of pumpkin kernels and olive oil, and out came the hand blender.  Blend, taste, blend, add more oil, a little salt, a few more kernels.  Blend, taste.  Until it seems right.

Adding cheese was considered, but, we had no Parmesan, and cheese can always be added at point of use.  Talking of point of use, and the theme of mixing things up, today we went out and bought some manti.  Manti is sometimes called Turkish ravioli.  It is little pinched together pieces of pasta with a filling, so yes, much like tiny ravioli.  Commonly in Turkey it is served topped with yoghurt and flavoured oil, which is of course delicious.

So we cooked manti, it is easy enough simply drop it in boiling water for 5 minutes.  Then we spooned over some of the home made pesto and pieces of local goat cheese, turned it all very gently to coat all the manti, and served.  Delicious. Perfect with a salad of tomatoes dressed in oil and balsamic vinegar.

Ashley adds. I need to learn to make pasta.  So many different fillings and sauces.  So many options to mix things up.  Ravioli, Manti, Dim Sum, Gyoza,

The olive oil museum and Değrimen restaurant

collected-pressesLast week, in the course of a shopping trip arranged for us by a friend with a car,  we were treated to a visit to the olive oil museum which is in the grounds of the Değrımen at Davutlar.  The restaurant itself has an excellent reputation – somewhere to try on a special occasion.  There is also a small tea garden on the lake where we sat and watched the swans and listened to the geese for a while.  There is a children’s zoo with opportunities to pet various animals and they also do pony rides.  So it would be an excellent place to visit with children.

What interested us, though, was the museum, which shows the production of olive oil from Roman times through to modern days.  There are dioramas of Roman’s crushing olives and extracting oil.  There is a wonderful collection of old wooden olive presses.  Clearly assembled as a labour of love.  Each one slightly different.  And then there were the steam presses (sadly not working when we visited but still…..steam).

There is also a shop which sells organic produce.  The bread, we can assure you, is delicious!

Something else to do with celeriac

celeriac-doneWe can’t get celery here but all winter long we get fantastic celeriac.  The leaves give soups and stews a celery flavour but the stems are too tough to use for anything that isn’t cooked for several hours.  The traditional way to cook it here is as a zeytinyağlı mezze which is, indeed, delicious, but we have also roasted it and used it in soup.  Recently, though we adapted a River Cottage recipe for celeriac and chilli gratin.  Well, we did try the original and found it a bit too richly creamy and not cheesy enough.  So we used bechamel instead of cream and, because fresh chilli is very expensive and difficult to come by now, pul biber or plain acı biber flakes.

celeriac-mixing-bechamelFirst you make a bechamel with flour, butter and milk.  For two people about 2/3 of one of those little cartons of milk is sufficient.  The quantity is not critical but it should be around the consistency of cream.  Grate some cheese (we use ordinary kaşar – you could use gruyere or cheddar).  Then peel and slice the celeriac thinly (the celeriac-layer-1original recipe says to the thickness of a 10p piece).  Mix the celeriac slices in a large bowl with enough oil to coat them and seasonings – also a finely chopped up chilli if you have one and/or some chilli flakes.  This is a hands-on job and quite messy.  Then mix in about half the bechamel.

celeriac-oven-readySpread about half the slices in a gratin dish (or anything shallow that will go in the oven), then put just over half the cheese on top.  Put in the rest of the celeriac and arrange it a bit, then pour on the rest of the bechamel and scatter with the rest of the cheese.  This goes in a hot oven for about 45 minutes and comes out done.  You  might want to put the cheese on top after it’s been in the oven a while – this depends how crispy you like your cheese.

Served with a julienned salad on a bed of rocket topped with chopped beetroot.

Seasonal Sauces

Last week we were invited to a Christmas dinner, nothing unusual, these things happen this time of year.  It was really nice, thanks Mike.  We contributed by making cranberry sauce which was appreciated and we were asked for the recipe.

Cranberries are known locally as yaban mersini, not to be confused with kizilcik which are something completely different or kuş burnu which are rosehips.  Fresh cranberries are generally not available but dried are so we bought a good Cranberry-saucequantity of dried cranberries on the market.  Unlike packet ones these do not contain added sugar.  Then Ashley poked around on the internet but did not find a good recipe for making cranberry sauce with dried cranberries.  Nothing looked really good, but it did serve to inspire some ideas.  The objective was to get the dried cranberries to swell up and then burst, achieving what is much easier when starting with fresh cranberries.

Method.  None of the quantities here are critical.

Take two good handfuls of dried cranberries and put into a bowl.  Add orange zest and sufficient orange juice to cover.  Put to one side for a few hours or overnight.  Then add a tablespoon of pomegranate sauce (Nar Eksili) – we used a village made sauce rather than the mass produced supermarket varieties.  If you like to spice cranberry sauce this would be a good time to add spices.  We added some finely chopped fresh ginger.  This really is a matter of personal taste, cinnamon or allspice would also in our view be good.  Transfer everything to a lidded saucepan and simmer as gently as possible.  To get the cranberries to really swell and burst may take a couple of hours, if the lid does not fit tightly you may need to add some water, check this from time to time.  Once they have burst gently reduce the sauce to desired thickness.

We have no idea how long it will keep for.  Essentially it is preserved fruit so should be OK in a bottle in a fridge for some time.  We don’t intend to try to find out, it is delicious and will be eaten within a day or two.

On the subject of condiments, especially those popular this time of season, we triffidhave fresh horseradish growing in a big pot – kept out of our limited garden space because it is really invasive.  At some stage we are going to try making chrane (horseradish and beetroot) with it, when we are brave enough to face the task of grating fresh horseradish.  Any tips on grating horseradish would be appreciated.

Shopping for Wine

Walk-from-Sirince-Nov-13We took a dolmuş up to Şirince, a local village with wineries and all too often too many tourists.  Not being a weekend and in late November the village was pretty quiet but still open for business.  Much of the wine is made from fruit other than grapes but there is a reasonable selection of wines made from grape.  One of the fun bits is that it is possible to wander around the village visiting the many wine houses and sampling the beverages on offer.  You only get a tiny glass but three or four at each of the many establishments….  It is well possible to get quite tipsy.

Many of the wines we tasted, all white and made from grapes, were a little sweet for us.  To be expected really, our tipple of choice is a bone dry Sauvignon Blanc.  What is on offer was mostly local grape and made in a German style, a bit like a dry Riesling – drinkable but not quite to our taste.

We ended up buying six bottles of a wine we had bought before, light, fruity, young, sufficiently dry, and interestingly the cheapest of those on offer, so certainly not a wine to get snobby over.  It is not dissimilar to what might come in a jug at a taverna in Greece – perfectly acceptable and something we have drunk enough of in the past.

To help us recover from the strenuous activity of tasting so many wines we decided it would be good for us to walk back home.  It was a sunny day, the walk is mostly downhill and takes a couple of hours.  And you don’t get a view like this walking home from Oddbins.

Sweet and Sour Aubergines from Claudia Roden


We’ve been wracking our brains for a blog post for a few days now, so Hilary thought, ‘why not do a recipe?’.  She was actually surprised to find we hadn’t posted this one before.  We make it constantly (and used to make it frequently in the UK where aubergines were higher in price and lower in quality).

It’s not Turkish but it does use ingredients readily available here year round.  Quantities are difficult as I tend to make it with the aubergines I have on hand and am not saving for something else…

Today I used two long, fairly thin aubergines (just under half a kilo), a medium to large sized onion, two cloves of garlic, a huge tomato, three dessertspoonsful of vinegar and one dessertspoonful of sugar (less in summer when the tomatoes are very sweet).  A good handfull of chopped parsley and a largish quantity of dried mint.  Salt and pepper.

First I cut the aubergines into chunks.  I quarter it lengthwise then chop the four pieces into wedges.  Then I put it in a colander with salt for twenty minutes to half an hour.  I don’t always do this with aubergines, but I do for this dish as it helps stop the aubergines from absorbing too much oil.  Whilst that is happening I chop the onions into half moon rings (piyazlık), chop the garlic up fairly small and put those to one side.  Then, in another bowl, I put the chopped up tomatoes (yes, in the UK I often used a can of plum tomatoes – usually a small can), along with the chopped parsley, dried mint, some pepper, the vinegar and the sugar.

onions-fryingHeat quite a lot of oil in a wide, shallow pan (I have an Ikea sautée pan which is absolutely ideal for this) and fry the onions till they are soft but not coloured.  Then add the garlic.

While this is happening I rinse the aubergine wedges, squeeze each handful and salted,-rinsed,-squeezed-andry on a towel.  As soon as the garlic has been stirred in, I throw in the aubergine wedges and stir, frying for about five minutes (or till they take on a bit of colour).  I then tip in the rest of the ingredients stir till it all combines, put on the lid and turn the heat down.

frying-nicelyThe time it takes from here on in depends a lot on the aubergines.  It should end up pretty mushy and combined and this usually takes 20 to 30 minutes.  It doesn’t need much attention, just the occasional stir to ensure it doesn’t burn.

I guess it could be eaten hot, but it’s much nicer if you allow it to cool down.  It keeps in the fridge for three to four days (much like any zeytinyağlı mezze).

Baking in autumn

StormsAfter a stormy autumn day and night we have had a few cooler days.  This has resulted in eating indoors and the doors and windows being closed.  It was chilly at night.  The new duvet has come out, Hilary made soup, we have started buying winter vegetables – the celeriac looked really good and the leaves go really well in lentil soup.

The temperatures are back on the rise, by mid-week the days should be really pleasant and the evenings cool rather than cold, but it is another reminder that the seasons are changing.  As they change so does what we eat.  There will be more soups for breakfast, less fresh fruit.  Soup is commonly lentil, usually with whatever else is around, beet leaves, celeriac leaves, cauliflower or broccoli stems, anything that might otherwise go to waste.

Swedish-Apple-CakeWe have also been experimenting with baking.  Today we have Swedish apple cake in the oven, made with local eating apples rather than Bramleys.  It was meant to be topped with a butter, sugar and cinnamon syrup which would soak into the cake, instead we ended up with toffee.  So we have toffee apple cake.

Recently we have discovered that caramelised onions, classically French, go really well with kaşar and yufka.  So a French / Turkish fusion, caramelised onion and cheese tarte tatin  borek.  Delicious.  One recipe for caramelising onions we have used in the past was was originally from Ainsley Herriot Meals in Minutes, has a cheat and fast method for caramelizing the onions.  This one does not cheat, being retired we have time not to cheat and to do a bit of experimenting to find the best shape for the actual borek….

The Recipe

For four borek you need one yufka, about 200 gm of butter, enough grated kaşar or similar yellow cheese to go round the perimeter of the yufka and as many onions as will sensibly fit in your frying pan when sliced.  I use 5-6 depending on size but it would be less if they were really big.  Slice the onions really thinly into half-moons (piyazlık) and put them in a frying pan on low heat with a slosh of oil (I use Riviera olive oil, not the virgin oil for this) and a bit of butter – maybe 15 gm.  Leave them there for a long time, stirring them occasionally.  Leave them until they are caramalised (it takes about an hour, sometimes more, and they need stirring more towards the end).  I put in a small slosh of balsamic vinegar (again, I would not use the good stuff for this, even if I had it) and stir it round till the onions are evenly brown.  Then take them off the heat and let them cool down a bit.

The yufka gets spread out on the counter and brushed all over with melted butter.  That’s what most of the butter is for.  Keep a little back for the top.  Cut the yufka into four segments (I use a pizza cutter which is perfect  for the job).  Now arrange the grated cheese and caramalised onion around the perimeter of your yufka.

Start rolling.  Take each segment separately and roll up from the perimeter to the centre, enclosing the filling.  Once you’ve done that, wind the sausage shapes into spirals, tucking the ends underneath and put them on a baking tray lined with baking paper.  When they are all done, brush them generously with butter and put in a preheated 200 degree oven where they should get nicely done in about forty minutes.