The Aegean cost of Turkey has a special place in my heart. Perhaps it is the many happy childhood holidays we spent in local resorts in Ayvalik, Gumuldur and Cesme, where many Turkish families have summer houses. As soon as the schools close, we all would dream about the coast, swimming at the turquoise Aegean, playing for hours at the golden sandy beaches and the next ice cream – a piece of heaven.
I don’t have the chance to go back to the Aegean as often as I like and every opportunity is very welcome. Once a year, I host and organise a Culinary & Cultural tour to Turkey, aiming to show my homeland from a local’s perspective – I greatly look forward to these trips and enjoy every minute of sharing this special land with folks. It has been delightful to be back to the breathtaking Aegean region again this April. Spring has been in full bloom; artichoke fields everywhere; the silver, beautiful olive trees welcomes you along the way; fig trees surprise you at the Ephesus – such a beautiful, bountiful region. During our tour, we always enjoy the local cuisine and learn how to cook delicious Turkish food together. This time, we again stopped by the lovely Bizimev Hanimeli to cook and enjoy delicious Aegean flavors with Hatice Hanim.
I have met Hatice Hanim a few years ago; always with a smile at her face, she has been sharing her love of Turkish cuisine and feeding a remarkable crowd everyday at their Bizimev Hanimeli Restaurant, as well as teaching the local cuisine to enthusiasts like us. It is a real family affair; her husband, son, daughter, daughter-in-law all involved running this wonderful business. I love the fact that they grow all their fresh produce, herbs, vegetables and fruits in their beautiful garden and make their own olive oil. It is very remarkable that they grew their business all by themselves with a lot of hard work and maintained the same friendly service and the offer of high quality, consistent, delicious food. When I asked Hatice Hanim what kept her going in tough times, she smiled and said; “If you respect your land, the nature, treat your helpers, family well and keep your spirits up, you find a way at the end. Hard work with a kind heart opens the doors for you; always believe in yourself.” How true; her words sealed in my mind.
We prepared a delicous 4 course meal with Hatice Hanim, in just over 1 hour – look forward to sharing all these recipes in the coming weeks- .Using their fresh produce from the garden and the olive oil, we made this wonderful Zeytinyagli Patlican; Eggplants, onions, garlic and tomatoes cooked in olive oil; simple, seasonal ingredients produced such a delicious, memorable taste. We like to eat Zeytinyaglis, Vegetables Cooked in Olive Oil in room temperature. It is also delicious when served cold. I hope you enjoy it and can have a go sometime.
Zeytinyagli Patlican; Eggplants, Onions, Garlic, Peppers and Tomatoes Cooked in Olive Oil
3-4 small Holland (dark purple) eggplants/aubergines
2 medium onions, halved and chopped in thin slices
1 green pointy pepper, coarsely chopped
1 red pointy pepper, coarsely chopped
3-4 medium tomatoes, halved and sliced
5-6 garlic cloves, quartered
3 medium tomatoes, skinned and chopped finely or 14oz/400 gr Italian chopped tomatoes
45ml/3 tablespoon olive oil
Handful of flat leaf parsley
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
Drizzle of extra virgin olive oil to serve – optional
Using a vegetable peeler, peel the eggplants in zebra stripes. Cut each eggplant in half length wise and then about 1/2 inch thick slices. Lay them on a wide flat tray and generously season with salt. This will help the moisture to come out of the eggplants. Leave for about 15 minutes. Drain the water that came out of the eggplants and squeeze them with a paper towel to extract the excess water.
Pour the olive oil in a heavy pan and spread the half of the sliced onions and garlic. Then spread half of the sliced peppers and a layer of sliced eggplants over them.
Repeat the same layering procedure for the 2nd half of onions, garlic, peppers and eggplants, and pour over the diced tomatoes. If you have any remaining eggplant slices left, layer them over the top.
Spread the sliced tomatoes over the very top and place a handful of flat leaf parsley. Season with salt and ground pepper and cover the pan. Start cooking at a medium heat for the first 5-8 minutes, then turn to heat to low and cook for a further 3o minutes, until all the vegetables are cooked.
The vegetables here has been cooked in their own juices over low heat, and each of them just melt in your mouth! The cooked eggplants, garlic onions so scrumptious, packed with flavor. Seasonal produce cooked this way are not only healthy, but also very easy and delicious too.
I hope you enjoy this delicious eggplant dish, as you see, delicious food can also be healthy and easy. A few good seasonal produce, some olive oil and fresh herbs can produce wonders. You can drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil over the dish before serving and decorate with sliced peppers if you like. Traditionally, we like to eat Zeytinyaglis, Vegetables Cooked in Olive Oil, in room temperature or cold.
It is very rewarding to cook together and share a delicious bite with others. We have a fabulous healthy eating event with my Turkish cookery demonstration on May18th; if you are in the area and would like to join us, please contact me, I would be delighted to have your company.
Afiyet Olsun, - May you be happy and healthy with the food you eat;
Fascinating Didyma and Its Exquisite Columns
We made it to the fascinating Didyma, at the Aegean region, Turkey, at a rainy, windy April day and the temple looked even more stunning and dramatic. The huge white-marble temple is simply amazing and so worth seeing. The gigantic Temple of Apollo at Didyma (Didim in Turkish) was among the most famous oracles in the ancient world, equal in importance to the oracular temple at Delphi in Greece. There has been a temple here since very early times, but the older structure was destroyed by Cyrus of Persia in 494 BC. Construction began on the present stupendous structure soon after.
Head of Medusa at Didyma – we have been comparing it with the Medusa at the Basilica Cistern, Istanbul.
But most of all it was the delicate, exquisite columns of Didyma, that fascinated me.
Originally, 122 enormous Ionic columns surrounded the temple; today only three remain intact. Dating from the 2nd century BC, the columns are 60 feet tall (the height of a six-story building) and have a diameter of 6 feet at the base. Even the stumps of columns that fell are impressive in size and display beautiful carvings at their base, like designs of Daphne leaves.
Make sure to have enough time to walk all the way around the temple to get the full effect. Didyma is well worth visiting, hope you can make it here sometime.