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Multicolors of Istanbul; Spice Market, Grand Bazaar, Street Food & Time Out at the Princes' Islands

Overlooking Eminonu. Golden Horn, Spice Market, Istanbul

Overlooking Eminonu. Golden Horn, Spice Market and Yeni Cami, Istanbul

Istanbul’dan Merhabalar – Greetings from Istanbul!– I am embracing the many, vibrant colors of Istanbul; the Golden Horn, Spice Market, Grand Bazaar and the always vibrant Eminonu. This is the hub of life for many locals along with visitors in Istanbul.

The Eminonu district is the heart of Old Istanbul housing the Spice Market, Grand Bazaar, lot of local small businesses. Yeni Cami – New Mosque is at the center of Eminonu, and the place is always vibrant, buzzing with locals as well as tourists doing their shopping, hopping on and off to the ferry, Vapur, to travel to the Asian side of the city, as well as to the Princes’ Islands. I can just sit and watch the world go by here anytime of the day..

Gaziantep's Keme Kebab with Keme truffles and meat

Gaziantep’s Keme Kebab with Keme truffles and meat

Have you ever had Gaziantep’s Keme Kebab? Keme is a type of a special truffle that’s grown in Gaziantep region between March to June; it is meaty and very delicious. Keme kebab features Gaziantep’s famous truffles with chunks of lamb. Look out for Keme if you are visiting at  this period, you can enjoy this delicious kebab in Istanbul too.  Gaziantep Cuisine is a culinary delight; here is some more information on the fabulous Gaziantep Cuisine and history.

Evie perfected the art of holding Turkish tea glass, cay

Evie perfected the art of holding Turkish tea glass, cay

After a good meal – or to be honest, any time! – a glass of cay – Turkish tea, is in order. Dear Evie from our Culinary tour, soon perfected the art of holding the Turkish tea glass : )

Pul biber - red pepper flakes-, cumin, dried mint, sumac and many more - Spice Market is a foodie's heaven

Pul biber – red pepper flakes-, cumin, dried mint, sumac and many more – Spice Market is a foodie’s heaven

 If you like spices, then you are in heaven in the Spice Market, Istanbul. In this ancient food market, you can find a great variety of spices used in Turkish cuisine. Spices feature an important role in Turkish cuisine, as we add  a lot of flavor to our dishes through the artful use of spices. I use the pul biber, the Turkish red pepper flakes with almost every savory dish ( and even sometimes in desserts like this Choc0late cake with a touch of red pepper flakes). Cumin is another commonly used fragrant spice, and it is cumin, what makes hummus, taste like hummus. How about the tangy sumac? This fragrant spice adds a delicious, zesty flavor to salads like to  this piyaz salad with onions, tomatoes and parsley with sumac.

Dried fruit like dried apricots, dried figs, dried peppers and nuts are also great buys at the Spice Market.

Dried fruit like dried apricots, dried figs, dried peppers and nuts are also great buys at the Spice Market.

Spice Market is also the right address to get delicious dried fruit like apricots, figs and many more. Shops even sell dried water melon, lemon and oranges, such wonderful colours and packed with flavor. Turkish dried apricots are one of the world’s best; they are very healthy and makes great snacks. This simple but delicious dessert, baked apricots with walnuts, is very easy to make and tastes wonderful. How about the dried peppers, okra, eggplant and corn? We dry vegetables when they are in season, then use them in stews, as well as stuffing them with aromatic rice in dolmas. They have a rich, delicious taste.

Grand Bazaar - Kapali Carsi, Istanbul
Grand Bazaar – Kapali Carsi, Istanbul
Ancient Grand Bazaar - the building itself and colours are mesmerising

Ancient Grand Bazaar – the building itself and colours are mesmerising

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Over 500 years old Grand Bazaar, Kapali Carsi in Istanbul is most probably the ancient shopping mall in the world. It is a popular place to shop for the locals as well as visitors, though you would expect high prices. I like to go to the Grand Bazaar just to admire this magnificent building, the colors, ornate columns, a living history. It is also a good place to get small souvenirs.

 

Time Out at the Princes’ Islands, Istanbul

On the ferry to the Princes' Islands - over looking the Topkapi Palace, Istanbul

On the ferry to the Princes’ Islands – over looking the Topkapi Palace, Istanbul

As much as I love the city of Istanbul, it is always refreshing to take a little time off and visit the charming, quiter Princes’ Islands. You can take the ferry from many ports in Istanbul (Kadikoy, Besiktas, Karakoy) and within an hour time, you are in the charming Princes’ Islands.

Locals in the ferry reading their papers

Locals in the ferry reading their papers

Many locals use the tradional ferry to travel between both sides of Istanbul and going to the islands. I love watching the locals doing their rituals; reading the paper, chatting with friends, doing the puzzle.

A glass of cay at the ferry, is a part of the ferry ritual

A glass of cay at the ferry, is a part of the ferry ritual

You can have a glass or cay, Turkish coffee or other drinks and snacks at the ferry. Sipping a glass of cay is a precious memory and a ritual for many, including me.

Anyone for simit? You can have it at the ferry too.

Anyone for simit? You can have it at the ferry too.

Reflections and taking it all in at the ferry

Reflections and taking it all in at the ferry

You can also sit outside, at the terrace or at the side benches at the ferry; the view is amazing and the reflection is inevitable.

Horse Carriages, Fayton, at the Heybeli Island

Horse Carriages, Fayton, at the Heybeli Island

What makes the islands so special is the serenity, relaxation it provides. No cars are allowed at the islands; you can ride on the horse carriages to explore around the islands, you can also rent a bicycle. It is lusciously green, and you appreciate the slower pace of life after the exciting but (can be) tiring Istanbul.

 

The grounds of the Halki Seminary is beautifully kept and offers wonderful views.
The grounds of the Halki Seminary is beautifully kept and offers wonderful views.

Heybeli Island is one my favorite islands and The Halki Seminary is located at top offers magnificent views. You can take the horse carriage to reach here.

Traveling in good company at Heybeli Island

Traveling in good company at the Heybeli Island

It has been a real pleasure to explore the islands during our culinary & cultural tour with our enthusiastic travelers like Evie, Mary and Natalie. Natalie and Mary are over 80 years old; we all admired their enthusiasm, thirst for Istanbul and zest for life.

 

Mussels stuffed with aromatic rice; delicious street food.
Mussels stuffed with aromatic rice, Midye Dolma; delicious street food.

 I like to eat sea food, especially the street food while in the islands. You can enjoy midye dolma – mussels stuffed with aromatic rice, the fried calamari or freshly fried mussles in most of the cafes. They are fresh, delicious and good value.

Mussels fried in a light batter; fresh and delicious

Mussels fried in a light batter; fresh and delicious

 

Fried calamari; crispy and delicious

Fried calamari; crispy and delicious

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A delicacy; kokorec - have you ever tried some?

A delicacy; kokorec – have you ever tried some?

Have you ever tried kokoreç ? It is a dish of the Balkans and Anatolia, consisting mainly of  lamb and goat intestines, as well as including  sweetbread, hearts, lungs or kidneys. Kokorec is usually roasted on a horizontal skewer over a charcoal, gas, or electrical burner and it is seasoned with red pepper flakes, salt and oregano. It is certainly an acquired taste but once done properly, it is delicious.  Kokorec is enjoyed widely in Turkey, you can have kokorec in the Princes’ Islands too.

Kokorec, flavored with oregano and red pepper flakes; delicious when it is properly made

Kokorec, flavored with oregano and red pepper flakes; delicious when it is properly made

On the ferry again; time to go back to Istanbul

On the ferry again; time to go back to Istanbul

After a wonderful relaxing day at the Princes’ Islands, we got on the ferry again and departed for Istanbul. Seagulls racing with the ferry, the wind behind and the afternoon sun on us, we recharged our batteries  for more adventures in Turkey.

The Maiden Tower, Kiz Kulesi by the Bosphorus, Istanbul

The Maiden Tower, Kiz Kulesi by the Bosphorus, Istanbul

Our ferry came nearby to the Maiden Tower, Kiz Kulesi, what a sight I thought, what a beautiful country.. One of those moments that you seal in your memory and have felt very grateful to be here, for this very moment.

Now full of new excitement again to hit the road; Ephesus, Didyma, Dardanelles, Gallipoli, all await to be explored, and shared. I hope you enjoyed what you have seen & read, and I hope you can make it to this wonderful land sometime.

Istanbul’dan Selamlar – Greetings from Istanbul,

Ozlem

 

 

 

 

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Chocolate & Almond Easter Cake & Fascinating Turkey Trip, Just Around the Corner – Some Useful Tips to Share

Easter is around the corner and although the weather in England at the moment is more of winter-like than spring, the hopes are high and we are busy making an Easter hat for my 6 year old daughter and getting the Easter chocolates ready : )

Almond and chocolate Easter Cake, easy, delicious and so moist

Almond and chocolate Easter Cake, easy, delicious and so moist

I have been making this lovely chocolate & almond Easter cake over and over again; it has never failed to disappoint us and I wanted the share with you all again. The ground almonds make this cake really moist and the cake stays fresh for 4-5 days. It is a rich cake and I like to cut it in small squares to enjoy the it as a “treat”. The children absolutely love decorating with little Easter eggs and licking out the bowl of remaining melted chocolate in the end – so do I : )!

Here is the recipe for the Chocolate & Almond Easter Cake, I hope you enjoy it.

Afiyet Olsun,

Ozlem

 Fascinating Turkey Trip, Just Around the Corner – Some Useful Tips To Share

The Fountain of Sultanahmet III prior the entrance of the Topkapi Palace and Hagia Sophia at the background

The Fountain of Sultanahmet III prior the entrance of the Topkapi Palace and the Hagia Sophia at the background

 I will shortly be packing my bag to depart for home, Turkey for my culinary & cultural tour. I am thrilled to be traveling with a group of enthusiastic travelers and food lovers around Istanbul, Dardanelles, Gallipoli, Priene, Miletus, Didyma, ride along the Aegean coast, visiting this fascinating land and enjoying the Turkish Cusine. It will be special to be in Istanbul during the Easter Period, as we plan on visiting the St Antony’s Catholic Church as well as the Greek Patriarchal Seminary in Heybeli Island. I hope you join and enjoy our adventures in Turkey through my blog in the next coming weeks.

Turkey is a very welcoming country, hospitality is always high on the agenda. I count myself very lucky to be a part of this wonderful country with a rich heritage and a generous culture. Here I wanted to share a few tips on visiting Turkey, I hope they help to make your trip more memorable :

Turks are a friendly bunch; a few Turkish words and a smile goes a long way

Turks are a friendly bunch; a few Turkish words and a smile goes a long way

Converse/Interact with the locals:. Learning a couple of frequently used Turkish words will be very helpful to you (like “Tesekkurler” for “Thank You”, Merhaba for “Hello” etc.) and the locals would really appreciate it. Most of them have high tolerance for different cultures and would be very happy to help to you. A little effort and a smile always go a long way.

Borekci with mouthwatering savory and sweet pastries, and 'sinirsiz" - unlimited cay - very welcome!

Borekci with mouthwatering savory and sweet pastries, and ‘sinirsiz” – unlimited cay – very welcome!

Balik&ekmek; the grilled fish sandwich prepared at the boats is a popular Turkish street food

Balik&ekmek; the grilled fish sandwich prepared at the boats is a popular Turkish street food

Make the Most of the Delicious Turkish Street Food: Turkish cuisine is healthy, delicious and the Turkish street food is of great value. Try and enjoy them whenever you can; boreks – the stuffed savory pastry shops , Simit – sesame encrusted bread rings- stalls  pilaf with chickpeas & chicken stalls are around almost every corner. How about Balik & ekmek – the grilled fish sandwich by the Bosphorus or by any harbor? So delicious and a great opportunity to be a part of the local life.

Simit, sesame encrusted bread rings must be the most popular street food in Turkey.

Simit, sesame encrusted bread rings must be the most popular street food in Turkey.

Try local eateries, and Esnaf Lokantasi, for traditional, delicious, affordable home cooked style Turkish meals

Have you ever tried the humble Esnaf lokantasi, traditional style Turkish restaurants, where mouthwatering trays of precooked – and gently heated – stews, rice, vegetables cooked in olive oil, stuffed vegetables and many more – are displayed in a buffet style.

Delicious casseroles, vegetables cooked in olive oil, stuffed peppers and many more await you at the Esnaf Lokantasi, traditional eateries.

Delicious casseroles, vegetables cooked in olive oil, stuffed peppers and many more await you at the Esnaf Lokantasi, traditional eateries.

 This is slowly cooked “fast food”; all you need to do is to pick up your tray and point to the Chef, Asci, which dishes you would like to try – they are ever so inviting, healthy, delicious, great value  and a wonderful way to sample some home style Turkish meals. Check out IstanbulEats  for local eateries in Istanbul.

Trays of delicious, great value feast; all you need is to grab your tray and point out what you'd like.

Trays of delicious, great value feast; all you need is to grab your tray and point out what you’d like.

Use public transport whenever you can :The underground/subway at the European side of Istanbul, as well as the tram is very efficient and beats the traffic big time, use it as much as you can.

Traveling by the ferry in Istanbul is a very relaxing and hassle free experience.

Traveling by the ferry in Istanbul is a very relaxing and hassle free experience.

When traveling between Asian and the European sides of Istanbul, have a go at the traditional ferries, Vapur. They are delightful to travel and you escape the heavy traffic on the road, with a bonus of a glass of cay & simit to enjoy at the ferry!

Learn how to cook Turkish cuisine: Most folks traveling to Turkey have told me they were amazed to see how delicious, healthy Turkish cuisine is – so true! And good news is, you can learn to make these wonderful mezzeskebabs and more while in Turkey. Istanbul Culinary Institute offers wonderful hands-on classes if you would like to have a go, you won’t be disappointed.

Fragrant, flavorful spices; a must buy at the Spice Market

Fragrant, flavorful spices; a must buy at the Spice Market

Stock up on your spices: Spices have an important part in Turkish cuisine; we add flavor to our dishes through the artful use of spices like the fragrant cumin, fiery Aleppo pepper, refreshing dried mint and tangy sumac. Make sure to get your bach of spices when you visit the Spice Market in Istanbul. I also like to stock up on nuts like the Antep Pistachios (probably the most delicious pistachios you’ve ever tasted), almonds, walnuts and dried fruit like  power food dried apricots and dried figs.

If you’re planning a road trip to Turkey, there are some fantastic blogs like Turkish Travel Blog  and Turkey’s For Life offering great tips, routes and insights for traveling in Turkey, so well worth checking out.

The magnificient Bosphorus, istanbul - make sure to have a boat trip along the Bosphorus Strait

The magnificient Bosphorus, istanbul – make sure to have a boat trip along the Bosphorus Strait

Well, I’d better sign off and finish my packing – I greatly look forward to hitting the road towards home and sharing what we will see, taste and learn; I hope you join us at exploring the fascinating land of Turkey!

My best wishes for Happy Travels – Iyi Yolculuklar!

Ozlem

 

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Medley of Mushrooms with Garlic and Roasted Peppers, in Olive Oil – Healthy Food can also be Wonderfully Delicious

"Wonderful time spent with great company. I have learnt lots, loved all the food & already planned to introduce some of these dishes over Christmas to my nearest & dearest. Thank you for a great Saturday."

Warm greetings to you all; or Merhaba, as we say in Turkish. We had a wonderful, fun packed Healthy Eating and Living Event last Saturday, with inspirational talks on healthy living -many thanks to Leonie from EatWright for her wonderful presentation and Turkish cookery demonstrations –many thanks to Eser too for her delicious gluten-free treats. Please check out my Turkish Cooking Classes Page  for more information and photos on this fun packed, delicious event.

 

Leonie’s wonderful fresh produce went down so well with the warm hummus with red pepper flakes infused olive oil.

We talked about making the right choices for healthy eating and living. Healthy food can also be wonderfully delicious; there is no need to sacrifice the taste. Seasonal fresh produce, grains, beans, fish, olive oil are not only very good for us but they are also packed with flavor.

 

Fragrant spices; a natural, delicious way to add flavor to any dish.

 How about spices? You can add such wonderful flavors in a natural, healthy way, through spices and herbs. For instance, it is the fragrant cumin that makes hummus, taste like hummus. Here is a short video of my hummus demonstration at our healthy event – first try; look forward to adding more videos in the future- my special thanks to Zeynep! –Hummus demonstration, by Ozlem’s Turkish Table

The simple yet utterly delicious Shepherd's Salad, Coban Salata complements any grilled meat and vegetables so well.

A sprinkle of dried mint would totally transform the taste of Cacik – cucumber& yoghurt dip or a handful of fresh parsley gives a lovely, refreshing flavor to this Shepherds Salad, Coban Salata. Talking about spices, please check out the inspirational Spice Trip program on Channel More4 in the UK; a great watch to understand the mysterious and wonderful world of spices.

Medley of sauteed mushrooms and roasted peppers in olive oil; healthy, delicious and easy.

This medley of mushrooms with roasted peppers has been a big hit at our class last Saturday. You can use a variety of mushrooms; portobello, chestnut, oyster or shitake mushrooms, all work very well. Garlic and mushrooms are made for each other and the meaty texture of mushrooms work so well with the juicy, roasted peppers. A squeeze of lemon over them with sprinkles of parsley; your healthy, delicious vegetarian treat is ready to be enjoyed- Afiyet Olsun!

Turkish hot pepper paste, biber salcasi. One of the main staples in Southern Turkish Kitchen, including mine!:)

l flavored the roasted peppers with red pepper paste, biber salcasi; a spoonful this paste adds such a wonderful, rich flavor to any dish. You can get red pepper paste in Middle Eastern stores and Tulumba.com. How about having a go to make your own red pepper paste?  You can also use red pepper flakes instead for flavoring.

I hope all these ideas may inspire you to make good choices for healthy eating; after all, we are what we eat. How do you add flavor to your dishes? Please share with us; your ideas and comments are always very welcome.

Medley of Mushrooms with Garlic and Roasted Peppers, in Olive Oil

This delicious vegetarian course complements any grilled meat, fish or baked potatoes well as a main course. You can also serve it as a starter with some crusty bread by the side.

 Serves 4-6

Preparation time: 15-20 minutes                                    Cooking time: 45-50 minutes

350gr/12oz Portobello or chestnut mushrooms, gently cleaned with a damp cloth and sliced

350gr/12oz oyster or shitake mushrooms, gently cleaned with a damp cloth (please tear into pieces)

Green, red and yellow bell (or pointy) peppers – one each-, deseeded, cut in half and sliced lengthwise

4-6 garlic cloves, crushed and chopped

60ml/4 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 juice of lemon (or a little more if you like the tangy taste)

Handful of flat leaf parsley, finely chopped

½ tbsp. red pepper paste or 1 ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F

Coat the peppers with the olive oil and the seasoning and bake in the preheated oven until they start getting charred.

Place the sliced peppers in a baking tray and pour 2 tbsp olive oil over them. Season with salt and ground black pepper and coat the peppers with the olive oil and the seasoning. Bake in the preheated oven for about 35-40 minutes, or until they are getting charred.

Juicy, meaty mushrooms and garlic go so well together.

While the peppers are baking in the oven, cook the mushrooms. Heat the remaining olive oil in a shallow pan and add the mushrooms and garlic. Season with salt and pepper and sauté for 4-5 minutes. Add the lemon juice and cook a further 3-4 minutes. Stir in the chopped parsley, give a good mix and turn the heat off.

A little Turkish hot pepper paste, biber salcasi, add a lot of flavor to the vegetables.

Once the peppers are baked, add the red pepper paste to them (or the red pepper flakes) and combine well.  Stir in the cooked mushrooms to the peppers and gently mix them well. Serve hot, with sprigs of parsley over the vegetables.

 Afiyet Olsun,

Ozlem

 

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