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Let’s Explore My Homeland; Fascinating Istanbul and Breathtaking Land of Turkey

It’s that time of the year, and we have holidays, travels, exploring the exotic and perhaps the unknown in our mind and hearts. I have the travel bug in me again, as I will be departing for Istanbul in August. But before that, I wanted to share an exciting itinerary with you; our 2013 Fascinating Istanbul and Grand Turkey Tour Brochure, from March 29th to April 8th 2013.

Grand entrance of the Dolmabahce Palace, Istanbul

I was born and bred in Turkey, lived and travelled in my homeland extensively over 30 years. No doubt, I love my homeland, and it is a joy to share all the treasures of Turkey through my blog. While I was teaching Turkish Cooking Classes at Central Market Cooking School in Austin, Texas, folks coming to my classes expressed an interest to see Turkey from a local’s perspective. Now, thanks to them (especially to dear Pam Wood, for the initiation) once a year, I team up with Four Seasons Tours, organize and host a culinary and cultural tour to Turkey.

We are having a hands-on experience on carpet making at Nakkas Rugs

So, what do we do in our tours? My foremost aim with the tour is to show my homeland, through a local’s perspective; the places we Turks go for a delicious bite to eat; the markets we shop for the best spices, baklavas; the sites and many more. With our highly knowledgeable guide Kaan Gulcur, we visit some of the finest and most fascinating sites in Turkey. Here is a taster of what happens in our tour:

Fascinating Hagia Sophia, as seen from the grounds of the Blue Mosque

 

The fascinating entrance of Hagia Sophia, Istanbul

I lived in Istanbul over 15 years; it is a city where old and new exists together, it is old but not tired, ancient, yet alive. Here is the breathtaking Hagia Sophia; a pioneer of architecture and once the largest church in the world prior to the St Peter’s in Rome. I must have visited Hagia Sophia over 15 times, it still amazes me.

Entrance of Hotel Armada, with their vintage car in front

I have been staying at the Armada Hotel at the heart of Old Istanbul over 15 years. The location is superb and their hospitality and Turkish breakfast overlooking the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia is unforgettable.

The very inviting Turkish Breakfast at the Armada Hotel

Istanbul is a big city with a population of over 12 million, and the Bosporus strait divides the city into two parts. One of the best ways to appreciate both the old and the new parts of Istanbul is to take a boat cruise, like we do at the tour. Try to take a small size boat, where you zig zag at the both sides of the Bosphorus to see the Yalis (wooden, residential summer houses for the Sultan and high official’s at the Ottoman Empire), Palaces, or just simply to witness how the day goes by at the side streets. Local ferries, Vapur, might also be a good and cheap way to explore Istanbul in both sides.

Traditional ferries, Vapur, provide an affordable way to cruise along the Bosphorus, and you can get to see a part of locals’ daily rutine

How can we not visit the Spice Market when in Istanbul?  Spices are an important part of Turkish cuisine, that’s the way we add flavor to our dishes. So a visit to the Spice Market is a must to stock up wonderful spices, Turkish tea, Turkish Delight, nuts and many more. I could spend hours at my favorite spice shop, Malatya Pazari at the Spice Market.

Entrance to the ancient Spice Market, Misir Carsisi

Spices, nuts, dried fruit, tea, Turkish Delight galore at Malatya Pazari, Spice Market

Now comes the Grand Bazaar; renown as the world’s oldest shopping mall, it is so worth seeing for its architecture, colorful shops selling a huge variety from gold to leather, to china and many more. I would be careful to shop there for big items like rugs, as you will most likely to get tourist prices there. But the atmosphere is magical and well worth it.

Ancient Grand Bazaar is well worth a visit even for its magnificent architecture

Baklava is a delicacy that is perfected at the Ottoman Palace kitchens and Gulluoglu Baklava is one of the best places to sample the real thing. We also like to take demo baklava classes there and witness how this delicious treat is made; it is one of the highlights of the tour!

We are having a go at making the delicious baklava wth Gulluoglu experts

Why not have a go and make baklava at home? It is easy to make baklava with fillo pastry sheets at your home, and you can adjust the syrup to your liking. Here is my recipe, you will be amazed with the results.

My home made baklava with walnuts; so easy to make at home, so delicious

Turks are a very hospitable nation and they regard the visitors as “God’s guest” and their door is open to them. Wherever you go , you will be offered tea, Turkish coffee, or like  in this case some pine nuts and local honey by this local village man near Pergamum.

Friendly local nearby Pergamum, offered us his pine nuts and local honey

You will be offered Turkish tea or Turkish coffee wherever you go in Turkey

At the Aegean, a visit Ephesus, provincial capital of Asia Minor for the Roman Empire and one of the seven churches of the Revelations is always a highlight. As one of the best preserved Roman cities, its monumental theater was where St. Paul preached to the Ephesians. Ephesus also boasts one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Temple of Artemis, and the resting place of St. John the Evangelist is in the Church of St. John.

Ephesus and the library, breathtaking site, still intact

Entrance of the Virgin Mary’s House, Ephesus

While we are at the Aegean, we take a hands-on Aegean style Turkish cooking class, where we knock up wonderful casseroles, mousakka,  gozleme  (Anatolian flat breads with various fillings), and delicious salads dressed with the local olive oil. This experience stay with us a long time, and it is always lovely to hear participants making all these wonderful dishes they learned to their family and friends back at home.

Local ladies showing us how to make Gozleme, cheese and vegetables filled traditional pastries

Hatice Hanim and I making the Mousakka, Aegean style

 

Enjoying the delicious spread we made at the end of our class

Kusadasi is a wonderful port we stay while at the Aegean. Dining out overlooking the turquoise Mediterranean is a real treat.

Gorgeous colors of Kusadasi

View from Kismet Hotel overlooking Kusadasi Bay, so inviting

On the way back to Istanbul, drive towards the Dardanelles to see the battlefields of Gallipoli, view Mount Ida,  the site of the beauty pageant that led to the Trojan War.

It is always a pleasure to share the wonderful treasures of my homeland and this is a tiny little snapshot of what Turkey offers. Participation for our tour is limited to 15 people. If you would like to join us to explore the fascinating land of Turkey, do please contact me, and also view photos from my previous tours. If you can’t, I do hope this post may inspire you to visit Turkey sometime, and give some ideas.  For some additional and fantastic travel posts from Turkey, please also visit Turkish Travel Blog; Natalie’s travels, stories and photos across Turkey are simply mesmerizing.

The entrance to the Dolmabahce Palace through the Bosphorus

Have you ever travelled to Turkey? I would love to hear your experience, please share with us.

Happy Travels to All!

Ozlem

 

 

 

 

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Home Made Turkish Delight – Lokum

Lokum ph2,Turkish Delight with OTT

Home made, fragrant Turkish Delights; easier than you think!

Have you ever tried Turkish Delight? These delicately flavored, scrumptious sweets are one ofTurkey’s hallmarks. They can be plain, sade, delicately flavored with fragrant rose water or dried fruits, nuts and desiccated coconut can be incorporated into the luscious mouthfuls of fragrant jelly.

Scrumptious Turkish Delights with nuts in Turkey; they are a real treat

My children love Turkish Delight, and living abroad, I can’t always get those wonderful delights from home. Making Turkish Delight, having them properly set can be a bit of a challenge, but this new recipe we tried at my Turkish cooking class last weekend came out so well, we were all so pleased! And yes, you can now make Turkish Delight in your home! I would allow for the fragrant jelly to set at least overnight (and more if you can). They also make wonderful gifts; to pack as presents, sprinkle a little corn flour mixture into a bag to stop sweets sticking.

Turkish Delight with rose water, and the back, with chocolate – you get all sorts of flavours these days!

Now, a bit of history on Turkish Delight. Prior to the arrival of refined sugar in the late 18th century, the Ottomans made a crude version of Turkish Delight using honey or pekmez, a concentrated grape syrup and wheat flour. Haci Bekir, a confectioner of the time, became famous due to his ingenious use of white sugar and corn starch and was summoned to Topkapi Palace to pioneer the development of what is today one of Turkey’s hallmarks. Special recipes for variations of Turkish Delight can be found in all regions ofTurkey. Sakiz (mastic gum) another ingredient revered by the Sultans, can be used to create a chewier version and is a must if you are preparing rolled up versions of lokum. This recipe is for plain (sade) lokum, however, you may wish to add shelled and chopped nuts of your choice – hazelnuts, pistachio nuts or walnuts work extremely well.

Prep time: 15 minutes (plus setting overnight) Cooking time: about 25 minutes

Makes about 64 small squares

25gr/1oz icing sugar

100gr/3 1/2 oz corn flour

700gr/1 1/2lb caster sugar

Juice of 1 lemon

3 tbsp powdered gelatine (* see for a vegetarian gel option)

Red or pink coloring – optional

2 tbsp rose water

Gold edible glitter – optional

* If you prefer to use vegetarian gelatine, Dr Oetker has a vegetarian gel too, here is the link;
Vege-Gel is a vegetarian alternative to gelatine and not a substitute. Therefore, it has to be used in a slightly different way to gelatine and it may be necessary to adapt your recipe.

Sprinkle a little cornflour and icing sugar mixture over the base and sides of the bowl

Line a 20.5 (8in) square baking tin with a cling film. Sift icing sugar and 25g (1oz) of the corn flour into a small bowl. Sprinkle a little over the base and sides of the tin. Set bowl aside.

Put caster sugar, lemon juice and water into large pan, heat gently until dissolved

Put caster sugar, lemon juice and 400ml (14fl oz) water into large pan. Heat gently until dissolved – do not boil. In a small bowl, mix the remaining corn flour with 100ml (3 1/2 fl oz) cold water, and then stir into sugar syrup. Sprinkle gelatine over liquid and stir with balloon whisk to break up lumps. Bring to boil, then simmer over medium heat for 20 minutes, whisking often. The mixture should thicken and turn pale yellow.

 

Gelatine helps set the Turkish Delight and rose water adds a delicately perfumed flavor

Remove from heat and whisk in a little food coloring to turn mixture into light pink (optional). Set aside for 5 min. Stir in rose water and pour into tin. Leave to set in a cool place overnight.

Leave to set Turkish Delight in a cool place overnight

Dust a board with some reserved corn flour mixture, and then invert Turkish Delight on to it. Remove tin; peel off clingfilm. Cut into cubes, and then roll each gently in corn flour mixture to coat.

Dusting a board with the corn flour and icing sugar mixture really helps for the jelly not to stick

Sprinkle over a little glitter, if using. Store in an airtight container with remaining corn flour mixture at cool room temperature for up to 1 month. To pack as gifts, sprinkle a little corn flour mixture into a bag to stop sweets sticking.

Home made Turkish Delights; you will be pleased with the outcome

Turkish Delight goes so well with Turkish Coffee, and here is the recipe, of you would like to try.

Turkish Cofffee – Turk Kahvesi- goes so well with Turkish Delight

I love all these copper pots and saucers to make and serve sweets and Turkish Coffee; this stall has been at the Ortakoy Market in Istanbul

And here are few photos from our Turkish cooking class; you can also see more photos, recipes and what we have been up to at Ozlem’s Turkish Table Facebook page.

It was a joy to share Turkish cuisine and traditions at the cooking class

 

Turkish Delights have been a big hit at our cooking class

Wishing you all a delicious week ahead, Afiyet Olsun!

Ozlem

 

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Fresh, Delicious and Fun Cooking; Turkish Food Made Easy

I guess the teaching bug instilled in me, while watching my mum teaching and then while I was doing my degree on English Language and Literature at the University of Marmara, Istanbul (anyone from Marmara University? 🙂 I used to teach English language privately to secondary school pupils. It is a wonderful feeling to be able to make a little difference to their learning and infuse love of languages to the children.

Turkish cooking classes are a wonderful opportunity to learn about Turkish cuisine, culture and delicious recipes

I have been living abroad now almost 10 years (gosh, that is a revelation, haven’t realized that up to this very moment!!). For the last 6 years or so, I have been doing another, a very delicious kind of teaching, Turkish cooking. One of the best parts of living abroad for me has been realization and appreciation of the richness of my homeland, and a desperate need to share all wonderful things Turkey offers. (A very special thanks here to the Central Market Cooking School in Austin,Texas, for believing in me and giving me the chance to teach Turkish cooking, a real turning point).
Tahta Saray Ocakbasi Kebab House in Istanbul; it is a joy to indulge in those amazing kebabs, though we love our vegetables and salads too

Now living in England, it is a joy to carry on the classes. Many folks still think Turkish cuisine is based on mostly kebabs, and they are pleasantly surprised to see the many wonderful vegetable courses, like vegetables cooked in olive oil, refreshing salads and mezes we have too.

A vibrant fruit stall at the Sali Pazari (Tuesday Market), in Levent, Istanbul

A special aspect of the cooking classes is a chance to talk about the freshness of ingredients and importance of seasonality in Turkish cuisine. In Turkey food is bought fresh daily, and each meal of the day would be taken into account, with as much attention paid to breakfast, lunch and dinner. As well as having a balance of nutrients, the food should also be appealing to the eye, and of course tasty. Turkish cuisine is healthy and nutritious and the Turks are purist in their culinary taste; their dishes bring out the flavor of the main ingredient rather than hiding it behind sauces.

Another aspect of the class worth noting is a chance for the folks to “taste” Turkish hospitality and culture. Today in Turkey food and mealtimes is still the hub of everyday life. Always time is taken to share meals with family members or friends, to relax and enjoy conversation. Everyone wishes each other “afiyet olsun”, literally meaning “may you be healthy.” This is followed by a tribute to the creator of the meal, “elinize saglik”, meaning “health to your hands”. Guests are always received with the highest cordial hospitality and it is believed that no one should ever leave a Turkish table without feeling satisfied and happy! And I must say, the classes are such a special time for me to connect with home, and I am grateful for these  moments, I so look forward to them!:)

A genuine Turkish hospitality by Sultan Sofrasi, Antakya; they showered us with wonderful regional delicacies

Well, my next Turkish cooking class on Saturday, June 16th is almost sold out -many thanks to all the folks signed up!- There are only few spots left; if you are in the area and would like to join in, do please let me know. You will be showered with Turkish hospitality, delicious food blended with history and stories from my homeland.

If you can’t, here are some of the courses and recipe links from the class menu, for you to have a go at home. They are so easy to make, healthy, delicious and fun to share:

Spinach and Cheese fillo pastry – Ispanakli, peynirli borek (a wonderful appetizer, great for healthy lunches too; freezes very well)

Spinach and cheese fillo pastry; so easy to make and very delicious

Baked Turkish meatballs with summer vegetables (a real crowd pleaser one pot dish, freezes well too) – Firinda Sebzeli Izmir Kofte

Baked Turkish meatballs with peppers, tomatoes and potatoes

Yoghurt and cucumber dip with dried mint A wonderful accompaniment to any grilled meat, roasted vegetables and casseroles. It is also a great party food, for dipping veg like carrots.

Turkish Coffee – Our ultimate, fragrant coffee, a great experience. A little sip of Turkish coffee is enough to transport you to that quaint café in Turkey!

The wonderful Turkish Coffee

I do hope you enjoy the recipes and have a chance to go at them sometime. I would love to hear your experience with Turkish food (or your travels inTurkey), so please drop a line if you can.

Afiyet Olsun!

And Here Comes the Awards; One Lovely Blog and Versatile Blogger

Peri’s Spice Ladle has again been very kind to nominate Ozlem’s Turkish Table with Versatile Blogger and One Lovely Blog Awards. Thank you very much Peri! Peri’s Spice Ladle is a wonderful gateway to the fascinating India and Indian cuisine, I look forward to her posts every week. Please check out this great blog.

 

The Rules of Acceptance:

  • Thank the person who gave you this award
  • Include a link to their blog
  • Next, select 15 blogs/bloggers that you’ve recently discovered or follow regularly.
  • Nominate those bloggers for the Awards
  • Finally, tell the person who nominated you 7 things about yourself.
  • In the same post, include this set of rules.
  • Inform each nominated blogger of their nomination by posting a comment on each of their blogs.

I’d like to nominate the following blogs (some of which I am delighted to discover recently) for the Versatile Blogger Award and One Lovely Blog Award, I very much enjoy reading their posts, travels, recipes, photos…Please check them out :

Turkish Travel Blog

 As Strong As Soup

Nadia Swindell Photography

 Back to Bodrum

A Seasonal Cook in Turkey

Create Amazing Meals

Cuisine de Provence

Inside A British Mum’s Kitchen

Anissas

Istanbul Eats

My Italian Kitchen

My Turkish Joys

Turkey’s For Life

Turquoise Diaries

 Adventures in Ankara

Tuesday Recipe

I wouldn’t like to bore you about 7 interesting things about me again, though here is the link if you’d like to refresh your memory 🙂 One more thing I forgot to add on about myself in that list is that, my love for music. I was a (proud!) radio DJ in the late 1990s in Istanbul (can you believe??) The private radio stations just started by then, and I was thrilled to have a chance to host two radio programs for Kent FM with my dear friend, uber music guru Eralp (great memories, Eralp!!:) We did Friday Night Fever Show on Friday nights and Golden Oldies on Sunday morning, happy days!!

 

 

 

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