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Ozlem’s culinary and cultural trip photos to Turkey

An Emotional, Poignant Moment at Dardanelles, Gallipoli ; Anzac Day

Have you ever tried hummus warmed up? In Turkey, especially in the South, hummus is served warm with sautéed Turkish sucuk (sausage) – or pastirma (pastrami) or with sautéed pine nuts over the top. I strongly suggest you to try hummus this way, as I feel you may be pleasantly surprised and maybe converted to eat hummus warm as many of my friends have done.

Warm hummus with sauteed Pastrami (Pastirma, Turkish dried cured beef) - the flavors complement each other so beautifully.

Warm hummus with sauteed Pastrami (Pastirma, Turkish dried cured beef) – the flavors complement each other so beautifully.

Please adjust the recipe according to your taste, as some like it garlicky, some with more tahini and others may prefer it more lemony. In my recent Turkish cooking class, I added the sautéed pastrami, pastirma, over warm hummus, as it is served in traditional kebab houses in Turkey. Pastirma is a dried cured beef coated with spices and has a delicious, rich flavor. The  hummus and the spice coated pastrami has complemented each other so beautifully here. If you can’t get Turkish pastrami, you can use the Italian pastrami or your favorite cured meat or grilled meat.

Warm hummus with red pepper flakes infused olive oil - a delicious vegetarian dip.

Warm hummus with red pepper flakes infused olive oil – a delicious vegetarian dip.

This warm hummus would make a wonderful appetizer to share with friends and family and goes so well with grilled vegetables or meat by the side. For a vegetarian option, you can serve the warm hummus with red pepper flakes infused olive oil, this one is so delicious too. Both these options may also be wonderful addition for the Mother’s Day spread, if you are celebrating. Pita bread is the perfect accompaniment – hope you enjoy it.

Serves 4-6

Preparation time – 15 minutes (add 1 hour if used dried chickpeas and soaking overnight)

225gr/8oz dried chickpeas or garbanzo beans, soaked in water overnight or for at least 6 hours or equivalent amount of precooked chickpeas in can

5ml /1 teaspoon salt – please adjust according to your taste-
60ml/4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
30ml/2 tablespoons water
2 garlic cloves, crushed – optional-
Juice of 1 lemon
30ml/2 tablespoon tahini (sesame paste)
5ml/1 teaspoon ground cumin

To serve:
30ml/2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
110gr/4oz Turkish Pastirma, chopped in 1″ strips (or your choice of any Pastrami or sausage)

Slices of pita bread to serve

If using dried chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drain the chickpeas and transfer them to a pan with plenty of cold water. Bring to boil and boil for a few minutes. Then lower the heat and partially cover the pan, Simmer the chickpeas for 1 hour, until they are soft and easy to mash.

If precooked chickpeas are used, drain the juice and give them a little wash in a colander. Put the precooked (or cooked) chickpeas in a food processor and blitz them together with the extra virgin olive oil, water, lemon juice, garlic and tahini. If it appears thick and difficult to blend, add a little more olive oil or water. Season with salt and mix in the cumin and red pepper flakes (if desired). Process until you achieve a soft, smooth paste. Refrigerate until required.

Warm hummus with sauteed pastrami; makes a delicious appetizer and goes well with grilled vegetables and meat.

Warm hummus with sauteed pastrami; makes a delicious appetizer and goes well with grilled vegetables and meat.

Just before serving, add a splash of olive oil and heat the hummus in a pan for a couple of minutes. In a separate pan, sauté the strips of pastrami in olive oil. Place the warm hummus in a plate with the sautéed meat over the top, scattering some ground cumin and red pepper flakes over. Serve immediately with slices of pita or flat bread by the side.

We all enjoyed the warm hummus as part of our Turkish cookery class at Istanbul Culinary Institute.

We all enjoyed the warm hummus as part of our Turkish cookery class at the Istanbul Culinary Institute.

Afiyet Olsun,

Ozlem 

Strolling Through the Battlefields of Gallipoli – Dardanelles

Driving towards Canakkale, we saw bountiful fig trees, just beautiful.

Driving towards Canakkale, we saw bountiful fig trees, just beautiful.

Our culinary and cultural tour to Turkey  has almost come to an end; going to Gallipoli  and visiting the battlefields  near the Dardanelles has been a highlight to many folks and did provide a reflective, emotional moment.

Ferry trip from Canakkale to Gallipoli, Gelibolu.

Ferry trip from Canakkale to Gallipoli, Gelibolu.

GallipoliGelibolu is a peninsula in North-west Turkey, close to Istanbul. The Gallipoli Peninsula is the site of extensive First World War battlefields and memorials on the north bank of the Dardanelles Strait. You can take the ferry from Canakkale to go to Gallipoli like we did, it is easy and convenient.

A surprising and emotional moment, hearing the locals singing  Gallipoli folk songs at the ferry.

A surprising and emotional moment, hearing the locals singing Gallipoli folk songs at the ferry.

While on the ferry, all of a sudden we saw a group of locals gathered at the deck, singing Canakkale Turkusu, Gallipoli Folk Song whole heartedly. I remembered singing this folk song as a child, it was a surreal and an emotional moment, we all joined in.

The impressive Gallipoli Kabatepe Museum, well worth visiting

The impressive Gallipoli Kabatepe Museum, well worth visiting

The impressive  Gallipoli Kabatepe Museum (or Gallipoli War Museum) was recently opened and so well worth a visit. It has 11 gallery rooms, each equipped with advanced high-tech simulation equipment and the technology allows visitors to choose their presentation language and interact with the display. The centre houses an extensive collection of historic items relating to the renowned World War I campaign and we have been told that the simulations are so real.

Private belongings of the soldiers neatly preserved and displayed at Gallipoli Kabatepe (War) Museum

Private belongings of the soldiers neatly preserved and displayed at the Gallipoli Kabatepe (War) Museum

Gallipoli Kabatepe Museum hosts numerous relics from the campaign including weapons, uniforms, ammunition, letters written by soldiers to their families, photographs, and private belongings such as shaving tools, cocoa tins and cutlery. A very poignant and emotional moment to view and get so near to each piece.

Ariburnu Cemetery at Ariburnu Beach, Gallipoli

Ariburnu Cemetery at Ariburnu Beach, Gallipoli

We then drove up to the Ariburnu Cemetery, at the beautiful Ariburnu Beach. The Ariburnu Cemetery is situated on the north edge of ANZAC Cove by the shore where the Anzacs first landed on 25 April 1915. We were told that 253 Allied soldiers rest in the cemetery; it was very emotional visiting the graves. It is such a peaceful spot and may all those souls rest in peace.

The Ariburnu Memorial, Ataturk's wonderful epitaph is a stone monolith beside the Ariburnu Cemetery

The Ariburnu Memorial, Ataturk’s wonderful epitaph is a stone monolith beside the Ariburnu Cemetery

Mustafa Kemal Ataturk,  the extraordinary leader and founder of today’s Turkey, wrote a tribute to the ANZACs who  lost their lives at Gallipoli. This wonderful tribute inscribed in English on the monolith are the famous words Mustafa Kemal Ataturk delivered in 1934 to    the first Australians, New Zealanders and the British to visit the Gallipoli battlefields. I absolutely loved and embraced it:

Those heroes that shed their blood
And lost their lives…
You are now lying in the soil of a friendly Country.
Therefore rest in peace.
There is no difference between the Johnnies
And the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side
Here in this country of ours…
You, the mothers,
Who sent their sons front far away countries
Wipe away your tears,
Your sons are now lying in our bosom
And are in peace
After having lost their lives on this land
They have become our sons as well

Our dear driver with his favorite wild ivy hand picked in Gallipoli

Our dear driver with his favorite greens, Sarmasik, Wild Ivy hand picked in Gallipoli

Just as we have been reflecting on what we’ve seen on Ariburnu Cemetery, our dear driver, Mehmet Bey excited came forward to show the wild greens he just picked up by the side road’ “Ozlem Hanim” he said “ these are the best Sarmasik  (Wild Ivy) you can get. I will sauté with garlic and crack my eggs into it tonight, delicious!” Being from the Aegean region, I know how much Mehmet Bey loves the fresh, wild greens – food managed to bring similes to face again.

And off we set towards Istanbul, looking forward to the buzz of the city and that baklava class..

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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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Simply delicious Aegean flavors;Eggplants, tomatoes, onions, peppers cooked in olive oil & Fascinating Didyma

Kusadasi Bay, Turkey

Kusadasi Bay, Turkey

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.

Fig trees at the Ephesus

Fig trees at the Ephesus

Spring in the air at the Aegean region, Turkey

Spring in the air at the Aegean region, Turkey

 

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.

Hatice Hanim and family, at Bizimev Hanimeli

Hatice Hanim and family, at Bizimev Hanimeli

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.

Cooking together at Hanimeli, near Sirince, Turkey

Cooking together at Hanimeli, near Sirince, Turkey

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 cooked in olive oil with vegetables

Zeytinyagli Patlican; Eggplants cooked in olive oil with vegetables

Zeytinyagli Patlican; Eggplants, Onions, Garlic, Peppers and Tomatoes Cooked in Olive Oil

Serves 4

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.

Layer the sliced onions, garlic, pepper and eggplants one at a time.

Layer the sliced onions, garlic, pepper and eggplants one at a time.

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 layering with the remaining vegetables

Repeat the layering with the remaining vegetables

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.

Add the sliced tomatoes and a handful of parsley over the top.

Add the sliced tomatoes and a handful of parsley 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.

Delighted with the outcome :)!

Delighted with the outcome :)!

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.

 

Zeytinyagli Patlican; eggplants cooked in olive oil with vegetables

Zeytinyagli Patlican; eggplants cooked in olive oil with vegetables

 

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.

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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;

Ozlem

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fascinating Didyma and Its  Exquisite Columns

Temple of Apollo, Didyma (Didim), Turkey

Temple of Apollo, Didyma (Didim), Turkey

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, Didyma, Turkey

Head of Medusa, Didyma, Turkey

 

Head of Medusa at Didyma – we have been comparing it with the Medusa at the Basilica Cistern, Istanbul.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beautiful base column details at Didyma

Beautiful base column details at Didyma

 

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.

It's all in the details - beautiful carvings at the marbel columns of Didyma.

It’s all in the details – beautiful carvings at the marbel columns of Didyma.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Happy Travels,

Ozlem

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