Sunday, June 24, 2012

The food of Turkey

I just arrived back from the most amazing holiday in Turkey, my travel companions were all foodies, chefs, cake makers and wedding planners so we all tucked into the foods of the area everywhere we went.

On our holiday we visited the capital, Istanbul where we stayed in the vibey town of Taksim, possibly the busiest street I have ever seen, next was Cappodocia a magical place built into rocks where we went on an amazing hot air balloon ride, Kusadasi was next which is a great shopping town with beaches too, then off to Bodrum a really hot beautiful town where you can lie on deck chairs at restaurants with the sea licking your feet and sip on ice cold beer then shop till you drop at night when its cooler, after all these places a rest was in order so we went on a yacht for a few days where we jumped off the boat into warm blue waters while sailing over sunken cities, docking in natural harbors, going clubbing by speed boat and braaing on the deck as the sun goes down, a final day in Antalya before going back to Istanbul.... perfect holiday!

The turkish start off their day with a rather unusual buffet of sliced cucumber, tomato, olives, cheese, a Polony type of meat, yoghurt, fruits and egg which is normally boiled. When you lucky you also get a delicious Burek which is a pastry filled with just cheese or spinach and cheese.

Their lunch and dinner consists of the same options, which if you would like to sit down and enjoy a slow meal then you choose to have an assortment of Mezze, followed by a main course and dessert if you have space left. I never really did as I filled up on the Mezze already..... aubergine dips, aubergine in tomato sauce, tzatziki but made with purslane a type of lettuce/ herb, artichoke, white anchovies, one of my favorites was sea asparagus which is like a fine asparagus made with lots of garlic, beans in tomato sauce, dolmades and another winner was courgette flowers filled with rice where you could actually taste the floral note of the flower.

As I mentioned before I was always pretty full after the mezze but a few times we did have main courses and they mainly consisted of light stews, a very tasty fish stew with tomato, vegetables and a fresh minty flavour and my favorite here was the stew baked in clay pots in a clay oven, topped with a bread dough which arrived flaming at the tables, piping hot and juicy.

All the desserts are very syrupy and sweet but addictive too, I found myself squeezing just one more Baklava in after each dinner, ketaifi desserts very similiar to Baklava, a very unusual sweet made using young chicken breasts and milk but ends up being the most interesting gooey texture that I really wish I could have it here again. Tea is also the most popular drink of choice mainly being chai, their narmal tea or apple tea, a warm pure apple flavour served hot or cold throughout the day.

The main street food you will see everywhere are Doner Kebabs, huge chicken and lamb/beef towers of meat slowly spinning and roasting as the day goes by, each time you walk past its shrunken in size. I had this in a wrap with chips, salad, meat and a tomato spice sauce, really good with crispy bits. The one choice we kept going back to was the Gozzlemeler, thin breads rolled out with a wooden rolling pin, toasted on a flat grill then filled with potato, aubergine, cheese or spinach, this is also made sweet with banana and nutella.

A great snack we had to try with our beer was mussels deepfried in a batter on a stick with a garlic yoghurt sauce, just the right amount of salty flavour to go with our Efes the local beer, you can also find mussels on the street filled with rice which I never got to try and little cous cous balls filled with mince.

I had never heard of Turkish ice cream before but it is a serious contender to the Italians Gelato although Gelato still wins for me the stretchy, gooey texture of their ice cream is something really different and so fun to see the ice cream boys doing their show stretching the ice cream enticing you to try some as well as the cut version sold in restaurants.

Finally I have to mention their Pide which is their version of pizza, thin and crisp with few toppings to keep the main item the focal flavour, we had one with a very tasty spicy sauseage and cheese and one with mince both were amazing washed down with beer once again.

I have just touched on the Turkish foods, there is still so much more we could have tried but unfortunately time and stomach space ran out but keep following Olivia's Kitchen as there are a few things I am going to try make at home with the spices I brought back namely their lentil soup, bread and lamb koftas will be making an appearance soon.

Big Thanks to Wade van der Merwe and Arda Dinc of Wades Cakes  and Karla Oetler of The Absolute Collection for allowing me to join on their wonderful holiday they planned. Arda you did a great job organizing everything for us we are all well rested with a million great memories to keep with us forever.

This article and these pictures are copyright by Tamsyn Wells of Olivia's Kitchen

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