Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Important Ingredients

The best and most important ingredients for anything are, in no particular order: love, passion and salt. This even applies for non-edible and non-potable items. Except, perhaps, the salt. As a child who was never given convenience food at home, I was fed equally abundant portions of love and salt, so when food lacks these two things, its bland pitifulness screams out to me like a banshee.

Note: This post was sponsored by Schneide Weisse Tap 6.

Get me to the 'greek

My first fenugreek in what feels like donkey's years:

(on the side, white rice and something resembling raitu/tsatsiki/cacik because I miss being in Turkey.)

Chop it up fine and add it to dry potato curry, to pea and/or aubergine curry, to curried fish, to an omelette. Chop it up and cook lightly with chopped tomatoes and cumin and cook lightly for a lovely warm chutney you can add to a grilled cheese sandwich. It's great in moothia too. I love fenugreek. It's the smell of curry which isn't garlic that comes out in your sweat. Mraoowww.

I bought the fenugreek from a shop, about 6 inches in length is the bunch. It's not as good as the stuff my dad grows because he harvests it when it's dead tender, only an inch and a half long before the third leaf grows. You can eat that stuff raw and when I was a child, we did, all of the time.

NOTE: This post was sponsored by Schneide Weisse Tap 6

Wednesday, 13 July 2011


Turkish ice cream is kind of chewy. Yeah, you read correctly. As if it has some kind of gum. Not so much that you could blow bubbles with it, but still. I couldn't get used to it.

Also! Max the Lion is alive and well and living in Turkey. Max the Lion was an ice cream lolly you could get here in the UK, possible late 1980's to 1990's. There he is known as Aslan Max. Yeah! I know!

Sunday, 10 July 2011

şarap a ya face.

Dan and I spent this last week in Turkey. We stayed near Ovacık and Hisarönü, very anglicised resorts on the Western Mediterranean, where a full English breakfast, egg and chips, liver and onions and Sunday roasts were the most advertised dishes on offer in restaurants. Curiously, an English breakfast was often cheaper than a Turkish one.

Rather than strive to experience The Real Turkey (for does it even exist? And if it did, would we even enjoy it?) through food, we just tried to eat well. Luckily this was in our control as we stayed in a self-catering apartment and I had brought with me a bulb of garlic, a lime, salt, pepper, chilli powder, garlic powder, ginger powder, ground cumin, smoked paprika and a self-blended mix of herbs. Next time I will take turmeric and some soy sauce.  On our first day there, we bought a Turkish breakfast from the small restaurant in our apartment complex: bread, butter, tomatoes, cheeses, jam, honey, some very salty black olives and some oily green olives which seemed to have no salt added to them at all. They tasted weird, metallic perhaps. I wondered how common it was to have unsalted olives.

A loaf of Turkish bread, regardless of where you bought it was 0,5 Turkish Lira (about 20p), as if by some government decree. Crusty outside, fluffy, white and soft inside, it was perfect for breakfast or lunch. We bought a bottle of olive oil for our bread as well as for cooking; lots of tomatoes because they were cheap and had nice dense flesh; yogurt; cheese and honey, cartons of cherry nectar and apricot nectar (sugary juice drinks you can pretend are pure juice if you suspend your disbelief). The pack of olives we bought remained mostly untouched because they were so salty and we had our fill of saline from swimming in the sea.

We didn't dine out much, but one time we did had what they called "balloon bread" to go with our meal, a huge puffed up flatbread. It was served with garlic butter which also had chopped dill in it. I was very fond of the pide (I think it means "pipe"), the Turkish pizza, which looks like a slipper or a lady part with stuff in it. My topping of choice was minced lamb which also had green capsicum, onion, tomato and parsley with it. Meals that weren't pide came with copious amounts of bread. My favourite meal out was at Paşa Kebab in Fethiye which was the nearest big town to us. Lots of oil. Lovely. I drank lots of ayran, the savoury yogurt drink, which is like a thin salty lassi, but with a froth on top. The most refreshing ayran I have ever had was made with fizzy water, not still. Sadly, I can't remember where I had it and when. It could have been Dalston in London, it could have been Berlin.

From left to right: imam bayildi, a salad of chopped walnuts, cucumber, onion and tomato in vinegar, oil and pomegranate molasses; barbunya (beans) and carrot in a tomato sauce; and vegetables cooked in garlic and tomato. 

In our apartment we made cacık, thick yogurt with garlic, mint and salt like the Greek tsatsiki, I suppose. I added cumin. We fried halloumi slices, adding chilli and mint to take on our beach picnic. Knowing neither wine nor Turkish, we a bought a horrible cheap white which Dan had to turn into cocktail by adding lemon slices and apricot nectar to make palatable. On the last day, I made lemonade to use up the lemons and honey then shoved a bunch of mint into the water bottle. And a teeny pinch of salt. I shook it all thoroughly to dissolve the honey and bruise the mint leaves, then shoved it in the freezer box until it was time to go out. Very refreshing. 

We went to Fethiye for the weekly market which happens on Tuesdays. There were many stalls selling just melons. Mainly watermelons. Rows and rows of them. We bought fresh figs, cherries, more tomatoes and nuts. The peanuts coated in honey and sesame seeds were perfect for snacking on. There didn't seem to be as huge a variety of vegetables as I thought there might be, even in the market of a big town, rather than a touristy resort. But maybe I expect too much, and who knows? Some stuff may just be seasonal. And at least it was all cheap and none of it seemed to be imported.There were many aubergines in the market; "regular" ones, white ones, purple mottled with white ones, small ones and long snake-like ones. The vegetarian dishes on offer relied too heavily on tomato, aubergine and capsicum - a chronic arthritis sufferer's nightmare, I should imagine. One stall had some dried branches and what looked like a solitary bright orange bitter melon (karela).

The most common flavours used seemed to be tomato, onion, parsley and mint but not a lot else.  However, I did pick up a strange condiment said to be made from fermented purple carrots which was vinegary and had chilli added to it. It dyed one's food a bit pink. I missed the taste of spices and herbs this week. Then again, maybe I'd get more choice in a throbbing heaving metropolis like Istanbul. If not, I'd say it was time to move on to experience another country's flavours.