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Pomegranate juice, the frothiest of Ayran (Turkish yoghurt drink), Meatballs with potatoes and peppers and More – Fascinating Pergamum and Its Culinary Delights

Always have time to stop; ispanakli borek- spinach pastry and simit with cheese, of course with cay

” Always have time to stop; ispanakli borek- spinach pastry and simit with cheese, of course with cay at a motorway cafe neat Pergamum, Turkey

“Time to stop for cay – Turkish tea- and refreshments!”, announced our tour guide on our way to the ancient Pergamum or Pergamon, near by the city of  Bergama in Turkey. As much as I looked forward to going back to Pergamum, this  announcement was music to our ears, as every stop we had in Turkey produced delicious treats. We stopped at a modest local cafe by the side of the motorway and indulged in these freshly baked simits, pastries filled with spinach and cheese; we divided the pastries between us happily and washed down with a glass of cay. Each stop has been full of delicious gastronomic experiences during our tour and the journey to Pergamum  was no exception, providing a lot of culinary delights.

Freshly squeezed nar suyu, pomegranate juice - delicious and packed with goodness.

Freshly squeezed nar suyu, pomegranate juice – delicious and packed with goodness.

Have you ever had freshly squeezed pomegranate juice? Right by the entrance of Pergamum, lined delicious food and drink stalls, and we shared a glass – so refreshing and punchy, packed with goodness and flavour.

Bulgur wheat salad with pomegranate molasses, olive oil and vegetables - Kisir

Bulgur wheat salad with pomegranate molasses, olive oil and vegetables – Kisir

Pomegranates feature often in Turkish cuisine. We use the thick & delicious pomegranate molasses sauce in Bulgur wheat salad, Kisir, a specialty in the southeast of Turkey, from where the country’s spicier dishes hail. Kisir is offered as a welcome to the guests in the homes of Antakya, where my roots are from, and in Gaziantep.  It can be rolled into balls and served nestling in crunchy lettuce leaves. This dish is perfect for buffets or as part of a barbecue spread. It really is a “bowl of health and goodness” with fresh vegetables, bulgur – packed with fiber – and pomegranate sauce, full of antioxidants. This delicious vegetarian salad tastes even better the next day!

Turkish ice cream - kaymakli dondurma, a specialty from Maras region in Southeast

Turkish ice cream – kaymakli dondurma, a specialty from Maras region in Southeast

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some of the folks couldn’t resist the wonderfully thick Turkish ice cream, “Maras Dondurmasi”. As the name says, it is a specialty from the Maras region in Southeast Turkey; very tasty and thick that you can actually slice with a knife and eat with your fork.

Delicious spread at Altin Kepce, Bergama

Delicious spread at Altin Kepce, Bergama

 

 

But above all, it was our lunch stop at the local eatery, Altin Kepce (translated as “Golden Ladle” in English) in Bergama that stole our hearts. A small, family owned restaurant tucked in at the side road, where locals, traders, villagers congregate for lunch; it is buzzing and their freshly prepared, generous food ever delicious. Some enjoyed the Kuru Fasulye- Turkish dried beans casserole with vegetables, and some tried the Zeytinyagli Patlican - Eggplants cooked in olive oil with vegetables or their famous koftes, meatballs.

Meatballs with peppers and potatoes, eggplants cooked in olive oil and the ayran (Turkish yoghurt drink) - a delicous feast.

Meatballs with peppers and potatoes, eggplants cooked in olive oil and the ayran (Turkish yoghurt drink) – a delicous feast.

I opted for a mixed plate of eggplants cooked in olive oil and the Turkish meatballs with potatoes and peppers, it was a delicious feast with the frothiest of Ayran, Turkish yoghurt drink.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is my recipe for the popular meatball and vegetable casserole (not only with the children but with the adults too!) that can either be cooked on the stove top or baked in the oven. It makes a complete and hearty main course served with plain white rice or a slice of crusty bread. This is Izmir Kofte my way, as I like to add some more vegetables. You can add as much red pepper flakes as you would like for a spicier flavor.

 

Casserole of meatballs, potatoes, peppers in tomato sauce - Izmir Kofte, my way

Casserole of meatballs, potatoes, peppers in tomato sauce – Izmir Kofte, my way

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Ayran – A refreshing tradional yoghurt drink

The frothiest, refreshing Ayran, Turkish yoghurt drink at Altin Kepce, Bergama.

The frothiest, refreshing Ayran, Turkish yoghurt drink at Altin Kepce, Bergama.

Have you ever tried our traditional drink Ayran? Ayran is a mixture of plain natural yoghurt (preferably whole milk), water and a pinch of salt blended together, similar to buttermilk. To make ayran, blend 2 cups of plain yoghurt with 1 cup water with a pinch of salt, for about 20 seconds. You will see a nice thick foam and bubbles formed at the top. Serve in water glasses with a few ice cubes in them. You may also add a few fresh mint leaves for a refreshing taste. Ayran is a popular drink at home, especially with kebabs and casseroles, and it would go well with this casserole too.

Delicious Kemalpasa dessert at Altin Kepce with thick clotted cream, kaymak at top

Delicious Kemalpasa dessert at Altin Kepce with thick clotted cream, kaymak at top

Our feast at Altin Kepce – Bergama ended with the delicious, met-in-the-mouth Kemalpasa dessert.  The dessert takes its name  from the name from the town of Kemalpasa, part of the city of Bursa. And the town takes its name from the founder of Republic of Turkey, the great leader Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. This dessert contains a special cheese produced in this town, though you can substitute with a mild, unsalted white cheese like mozarella. You can buy the precooked cookies of the Kemalpasa dessert sold in packages all around Turkey and all you need to do is to prepare the sherbet to soak them in. Apparently this dessert has such a significant role in the life of the town that there is even a Kemalpasa dessert festival on September 14th.  Zerrin from Give Recipe has a fabulous Kemalpasa recipe, if you would like to have a go.

 Pergamum in spring, covered by daisies

We finally made it to Pergamum in a beautiful spring day. Built on a conical hill rising 1,000 feet above the surrounding valley, Pergamum (also spelled Pergamon, from the Greek for “citadel”) was an important capital city in ancient times. Its modern successor is the Turkish city of Bergama and this magnificent site over looks to Bergama. Bergama has an important archaeological significance, as the city not only hosts Pergamum’s acropolis but also Asklepion, both of which are both listed among the top 100 historical sites on the Mediterranean.

Pergamum, dating back to  159 BC, over looking to today's Bergama

Pergamum, dating back to 159 BC, over looking to today’s Bergama

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Surrounded by beautiful daisies in Pergamum

Surrounded by beautiful daisies in Pergamum

 Most of the buildings and monuments in Pergamum date to the time of Eumenes II (197-159 BC), including the famed library, the terrace of the spectacularly sited hillside theater, the main palace, the Altar of Zeus, and the propylaeum of the Temple of Athena. In the early Christian era, Pergamum’s church was a major center of Christianity and was one of the Seven Churches of Revelation.

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Once again, it’s all in the details – beautiful carvings at the columns of Pergamum, next to bed of daisies

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While you are in Bergama area, it is also worth visiting The Asklepion; a famed ancient medical center built in honor of Asklepios, the god of healing. It was also the world’s first psychiatric hospital. The treatments included psychotherapy, massage, herbal remedies, mud and bathing treatments, the interpretation of dreams, and the drinking of water.

The Asklepion and the Pergamum at the top of the hill, stunning view.

The Asklepion and the Pergamum at the top of the hill, stunning view.

I was told the next bloom in Pergamum will be poppies; no doubt they will look stunning next to these fascinating sites – maybe you can catch that one?

I hope the food, recipes or sites here inspires and you enjoyed the read.

Afiyet Olsun & Iyi Yolculuklar,

Ozlem

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26 Responses to Pomegranate juice, the frothiest of Ayran (Turkish yoghurt drink), Meatballs with potatoes and peppers and More – Fascinating Pergamum and Its Culinary Delights

  1. Joanne T Ferguson May 1, 2013 at 8:48 am #

    G’day! Merhaba! Doesn’t this all look delicious and lovely, TRUE!
    Wish we lived closer as could experience together too!…one day :)
    Cheers!
    Joanne
    What’s On The List?
    http://www.whatsonthelist.net

    • Ozlem Warren May 1, 2013 at 12:19 pm #

      Merhaba and G’day to you too Joanne : ) glad you enjoyed it, and yes, it would be do it all together, hope in near future!

  2. BacktoBodrum May 1, 2013 at 9:08 am #

    [Marked as spam by Antispam Bee | Spam reason: Server IP]
    What’s your view on Ayran’s now exalted status as “National Drink” ?

    • Ozlem Warren May 1, 2013 at 12:18 pm #

      Hi, I just read about it; as much as I like ayran, I wished it wasn’t used on political grounds.. I do love a good cool beer when I fancy, as well as ayran : )
      As for national drink status, I think that has to go for the cay – Turkish tea – what do you think?

  3. Jane C May 1, 2013 at 3:35 pm #

    In May 2011, I was lucky enough to visit Pergamum when the poppies were blooming! It was fantastic! I’m enjoying making many of your recipes, Ozlem and wish I lived in the UK to take one of your cooking classes.

    • Ozlem Warren May 1, 2013 at 4:02 pm #

      Merhaba Jane; so kind of you to stop by – I am glad you could get to catch the poppies! and I am so happy to hear you are enjoying the recipes, here is the hope that one day we may get to cook together too :)

  4. jaz May 1, 2013 at 6:50 pm #

    now i want to run out and eat all the turkish food i can find. however, there is no turkish food in this city unless i am making it!

    • Ozlem Warren May 1, 2013 at 8:20 pm #

      And you make the finest, most delicious Turkish food Jaz : )

  5. Linda May 2, 2013 at 4:23 pm #

    Your photos are just amazing!!! What a great post. Thank you so much for sharing.

    • Ozlem Warren May 2, 2013 at 6:46 pm #

      Dear Linda, very kind of you to stop by and write, you made my day! Delighted that you enjoyed the post, always a pleasure to share!

  6. Peri May 2, 2013 at 5:10 pm #

    Dear Ozlem, each picture made me pause and look at the details within! Oh the sights and the food, I can almost taste the freshness of it. We have a frothy milk-based drink similar to Ayran in the Parsi villages in Gujarat, India…thanks for sharing all this food! xx Peri.

    • Ozlem Warren May 2, 2013 at 6:45 pm #

      My dear Peri, many thanks, so glad you enjoyed it – the place, the food and its people are still vivid in my memory, I hope you make it there one day. And I love hearing similarities with Indian cuisine – would love to taste that milk based frothy drink in Gujarat! : ) Ozlem xx

  7. Turkey's For Life May 3, 2013 at 9:03 am #

    [Marked as spam by Antispam Bee | Spam reason: Server IP]
    That’s the great thing about Turkey isn’t it?! Wherever you plonk yourself down to get rid of your thirst and hunger, you always know it’s going to be a meal worth waiting for. All looks fab…and can’t wait to go to Pergamom…at some point. :)
    Julia

    • Ozlem Warren May 3, 2013 at 12:22 pm #

      Thanks Julia, so true, every meal back home has been memorable – do make it to Pergamum area, it is fascinating : )

  8. Alida May 3, 2013 at 7:07 pm #

    The look of those pomegranates is gorgeous. They look very juicy and perfectly ripe. I am salivating as I am looking at the photo! Also I like that Turkish yogurt drink and the meatballs look amazing too!

    • Ozlem Warren May 3, 2013 at 8:48 pm #

      Thanks Alida, the freshly squeezed pomegranate juice was heavenly!

  9. zerrin May 5, 2013 at 8:35 am #

    What a great post about Bergama! I must go there one day! It looks like you had a feast there, all foods look scrumptious! And love the cups of ayran, more traditional and I’m sure it’s more tasty inside those cups! Thanks for linking my kemalpasa dessert!

    • Ozlem Warren May 6, 2013 at 2:46 pm #

      Merhaba Zerrin, Bergama is really worth seeing, for many reasons! Your kemalpasa dessert looks so good, it is a pleasure to share your recipe : )
      Selamlar, Ozlem

  10. April Ozbilgin May 22, 2013 at 4:23 pm #

    [Marked as spam by Antispam Bee | Spam reason: Server IP]
    Don’t know how I missed this post but glad I have found it now. Looks so good! You made my mouth water. I love the restaurants where you can pick and choose what is there. Of course then there is the problem of choosing! :-)

    • Ozlem Warren May 22, 2013 at 6:42 pm #

      Merhaba April, me too – so much delicious goodness to choose : ) thank you for stopping by!

  11. SaritaAgerman June 16, 2013 at 10:22 pm #

    Merhaba! I’m currently planning a blog series for ramadan. I’m writing a post about Turkish Yogurt and so I’d love it if you’d allow me to use your gorgeously frothy photo of Ayran. I’d link back to your site. I think it would interest many of my readers who are interested in Turkish culture and are looking for recipes for Ramadan. Hope you’re having a lovely weekend. Sarita

    • Ozlem Warren June 17, 2013 at 8:56 am #

      Dear Sarita,
      Sure, I would be delighted; please by all means use my Ayran photo; I appreciate if you give a link back to my website as the source of the photo. Could you let me know when you do this series, I would love to follow up! Many thanks for your interest,
      Best wishes, Ozlem

  12. amy June 4, 2014 at 4:21 pm #

    Hi there, your recipes are so wonderful and today I am going to try Gozleme. Few of recipes are very similar with Indian recipes. Gozleme, is just like stuffed PARANTH ,people make it in breakfast or they can have it any time.But some time they don’t use yeast. Ayran which you have described here is looks so yummy ,it is called in India as LASSI, and make as you made here and have this with Gozleme (like stuff paranth) in breakfast or any time specially in summer .If is consistency of this Lassi is thick then they add sugar and if they want to drink it like buttermik then they add rock salt or sea salt or any kind of salt and black pepper.Thanks for sharing your mouthwatering recipes.

    • Ozlem Warren June 4, 2014 at 9:15 pm #

      Dear Amy, many thanks for your very kind note, delighted to hear you’re enjoying the recipes. I do greatly enjoy the similarities and variations with other cuisines, especially with Indian cuisine, a lot of similarities. Many thanks again, hope you enjoy Gozleme!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Gozleme; Anatolian Flat breads stuffed with Spinach and Feta | Ozlem's Turkish Table - June 4, 2014

    […] cheese, and ground meat and onions. And they go down very well with a glass of cay, Turkish tea or ayran, traditional Turkish yoghurt […]

  2. How to Make Homemade Pomegranate Molasses - Nar Eksisi | Ozlem's Turkish Table - October 21, 2014

    […] squeezed pomegranates, nar suyu, during my travels in Turkey, like this glass we had while visiting Pergamum, during our culinary and cultural […]

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