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Tag Archives | Pergamum

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.


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,


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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!






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