Monday, 6 July 2015

Monthly Market Update: What's In and What's Not in the Turkish Pazars

July 2015: Assos

Yes, we are in Assos, the ancient village known nowadays as Behramkale which overlooks the beautiful Aegean and the Greek island of Lesbos.

Friday was market day. It is held every Friday, rain or shine, summer or winter, simultaneously in the nearby towns of Ayvacık and Küçükküyü which are equidistant from here. I find them both very attractive in their different ways: the former is much more traditional and there you will find colourful Yörük women often with their children bound to their backs in age-old fashion who enrich the scene considerably. The latter market in the small seaside town of Küçükküyü is a totally different scene. For a start the local population consists mostly of retirees from the big cities eg teachers so the market has a more upbeat feel to it. I wouldn't like to call it sophisticated but it definitely has a different vibe to the first market.

Guess which one I prefer to go to? Yes, you guessed it! I almost always shop at Ayvacık market as I love the buzz and colour of market day which the villagers who come in from miles around bring to it. It's as traditional as it gets.

What does this new, warmer season have to offer?

loads of wonderful fresh herbs: dill and parsley
green peppers of all kinds

The sheer abundance is a feast to the eye.
there was a lot of samphire at the market...

the sign says Local barbun - which is what these attractive red beans are called. They are  very
popular cooked the traditional way in olive oil.

I think this post is going to be mostly photos:

at last! all the summer vegetables! peppers, Çanakkale tomatoes, courgettes ....
Fruit-wise, there are still loads of cherries but now we are starting to see peaches and nectarines. The apricots are absolutely delicious - buy them now and make some tarts. That's what I am doing. You will see melons around as well but in my experience, you either have to have a well-trusted source or just be plain lucky. Most of them are pretty tasteless. And if you disagree with me, you don't know how fabulous melons used to taste.

The prices at both markets are fantastic, especially in Ayvacık. Everything costs more or less one lira per kilo, per bunch etc.

And re my fridge situation which I briefly touched on in a recent post: new Bosch is on its way... can't wait. Watch this space. 

Here in Assos we are eating fresh fish when we go out. As I am sure you are aware, there is an official fishing ban on at the moment (it will end in September) so most fish in restaurants in Istanbul will be either frozen or farmed. Here, it is caught in local waters by fishermen in their little fishing boats, which is fine. Tonight we had iskorpit, apparently called scorpion fish in English. Distinctive taste and very well cooked in a broth: buğlama. However, I do think my favourite way of cooking - and eating - fish is grilled/ızgara.

So at last, everything has changed and we are truly into summer vegetables and fruits. No more greenhouse tomatoes or eggplants from Antalya.  Summer is late this year but at long last, everything is responding to the season ...

We've waited long enough.

a yörük woman bargaining for tomatoes

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Potato & Bulgur Patties with Onion and Fresh Herbs/Patatesli Bulgurlu Köfte

We are in our Aegean village of Assos and after a wobbly start weatherwise, we are all finally settling into summer mode.

If you let it, food can be something of an issue here: more people in the house, less sophisticated shops and markets than in the big city, and generally everything less convenient. But the plus point, of course, is the splendid markets bursting with the freshest of fruit and vegetables, often from the stallholder's own garden, fields, or orchards and also much cheaper than Istanbul.

By now, I know many of the local market women in nearby Ayvacık so it's nice to go back and say Merhaba! How are you, Nasılsın, how have you been?

I saw this lady today: same stall, same location, same welcome ...

But a trip to the market entails bringing back kilos of fresh produce which puts a strain on space in the fridge and actually much of it has to be dealt with pretty promptly. I'm actually considering upgrading our fridge as we speak....

These days the pressure is off to a certain extent because trucks brimming with produce come round to the village a couple of evenings a week so it's easy to top up with potatoes or whatever else one is in danger of running out of.

one of the weekly trucks in our village of Behramkale/Assos

All this aside, pulses still play a role in daily menu-planning. Lentils and bulgur are key. I thought I would try out these patties or köfte when after a quick skim-through, I saw the ingredients included the familiar fine-grained bulgur combined with potato, a perennial favourite in this household! A big plus was that you can make them in advance and they can wait in the fridge. They are prepared beforehand and served cold as a side dish, you see.The flavours of many of these Turkish dishes always mingle better if left to sit a while.

potato & bulgur patties/patatesli bulgurlu köfte

This particular recipe is from Ozlem's Turkish Table, one of my favourite sources of inspiration. While it works perfectly OK as a recipe, the general comment here at home was that the flavouring needed to be more pronounced. This is what I tend to feel generally about pulses: they are great, healthy and economical but they can be bland if the seasonings are not well-adjusted. Maybe on a personal level, we just like our meze to have real oomph!

Here's the recipe for 
Potato & Bulgur Patties/Patatesli Bulgurlu Köfte


Serves 8-10

175g/6oz/1 cup fine-grained bulgur/köftelik bulgur
4 medium potatoes, peeled and quartered
45-60ml/3-4 tbsp olive oil
3 spring onions, finely chopped
handful flat leaf parsley, finely chopped ( I also added some chopped dill)
½ tbsp red pepper paste/biber salcası (optional)
1-2 tsp red pepper flakes/pul biber
2 tsp/10ml ground cumin/toz kimyon
8fl oz/1 cup hot water
salt and ground black pepper to taste
extra chopped parsley/dill to garnish

Bowl of cold water to wet your hands


  • In a large bowl, combine the bulgur, red pepper paste, red pepper flakes and spring onion. Mix well with your hands. This will help the paste and spice to really blend in with the bulgur and onion. Add the hot water to the mixture and give a good stir. Leave aside for about 15 minutes and stir once in a while so that the water will be well absorbed.
  • Boil the potatoes in salted water until cooked, and drain. In a separate bowl, mash them with the cumin. Add the olive oil, salt and ground pepper and knead with your hands until smooth. Stir the potato mixture into the bulgur, add the chopped parsley and mix well with your hands. Check the seasoning and add more salt if necessary. Have the bowl of water ready by your side. Wet your hands with the water and take a walnut-sized amount of the mixture and mould into a patty shape. Place the patties side by side on a serving dish.
  • Cover with cling-film and place in the fridge until required. NB remember to bring to room temperature before eating.
Further NB: the potato and bulgur patties can be served on a bed of lettuce leaves or with a dipping sauce of pomegranate molasses and olive oil.

Afiyet olsun!

Monday, 22 June 2015

How to Make Your Own Kefir & 3 Recipe Ideas

Nowadays many of us have friends who are vegetarians or vegans, or who have special dietary requirements, or specific food allergies etc... as a result, we have become more tolerant of those amongst us who have different food preferences for whatever reason. I have recently joined the ranks of the latter.

these shops are called aktar and they are fabulous: you can find all sorts of lotions and oils here as well as
spices, teas, and other wonderful ingredients -
'doğal ürünler'

Baharatlar = Spices

I've never been hugely overweight but I've never been able to lose weight easily either. A few years ago I was diagnosed with a slow metabolism. I really don't overeat or go crazy with food. I think I am the most disciplined person I know where food is concerned! But I don't lose weight. I have come to a point in my life where I can see that losing a few kilos can be nothing less than good for reasons other than aesthetic.

So this is why I made an appointment to see Ulli Allmendinger, highly qualified lovely German ayurvedic consultant living here in Istanbul. I felt I needed some sort of detox and an appraisal of the way I was living my life. I am tired of eating so carefully and never losing a kilo. What she told me was fascinating.

Ulli explained me to me that in the ayurvedic way of thinking, body, mind and consciousness work together to maintain balance. I love that idea. To me, it makes total sense.  Ayurveda is 'considered by many scholars to be the oldest healing science'. And to understand further, one has to understand the three basic types of energy that everyone and everything has: vata, pitta, and kapha. 

Ulli is very professional. After going through a detailed form that I had downloaded and filled in beforehand,  she examined my tongue, the lines on my face, the bags under my eyes. She took my pulse on not one but both wrists. She pronounced an imbalance in my kapha.

We obviously went through my current diet and I said that I ate a lot of yogurt. It was a staple in my diet, in my fridge. And she said that as far as metabolism was concerned, there might be a connection. All I can say is that I dropped dairy as she suggested, as well as making some other dietary changes connected to boosting my metabolism, and within 2 weeks, I had lost 2 kilos. All painlessly. But the point is that this isn't a diet but a different way of eating.  Diets don't work: we need to change our eating patterns to suit our constitutions. I get it. 

Upon my second visit, Ulli suggested that I try making my own kefir which is basically a fermented milk. Apparently only the homemade variety has a positive effect on metabolism, not the shop-bought. She gave me some 'living' kefir grains and explained how to use them along with some further ideas as to how to benefit from the resulting kefir.

First of all, the kefir recipe as given by Ulli


500ml organic fresh cow or goat milk
1 tbsp kefir grains/kefir mayası*

* obtainable in Kadıköy at Safran, Bahariye Serasker Cad. No 100/A
Tel:  Mehmet Yılmaz: 0532 421 0244


  • Place milk kefir grains at the bottom of a clean glass jar.
  • Cover with fresh milk and very loosely, place the lid on the jar.
  • Culture for 24-48 hours at room temperature, then strain using a non-metal strainer (NB kefir grains should never come into contact with metal). Wash the grains under running water and, using your hands or a wooden spoon, place in a new clean jar and start over.
  • The strained kefir is best enjoyed fresh but can be kept in the fridge for a few days.
I can't tell you how exciting it was the first time to see the milk changing consistency and becoming kefir! These grains are alive! I am now on my third lot. 

We arrived in our village of Assos yesterday and I made the kefir with milk from our own herd! I am expecting this to taste quite superlative! Ulli had mentioned that it would not be necessary to boil the milk but I think I still will.

Here are three recipe ideas:

  • Kefir Breakfast Bowl: Mix one cup of kefir with 1 tbsp of honey or pekmez, ½ grated carrot, and 2-3 tbsp freshly ground flaxseeds and oat flakes.
  • Kefir 'Ayran': depending on the consistency of your kefir, you may add a little water, blend, and enjoy as a tangy yogurt drink with meals. Ulli says she loves adding 1/4 tsp Hingvasthak Churna to it for digestion-aid and taste.
  • Kefir Salad Dressing: Using a blender, blend ½ cup fresh kefir with 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar, 1/4 cup fresh herbs (parsley, dill, etc), 1/4 cup olive oil and salt & pepper to taste. Enjoy over greens or as a dip for veggie sticks.

Ulli gave me my starter kefir grains but a friend of mine told me they are available in Kadıköy. I went on a quest and sure enough, found the street, Serasker Caddesi with the 3 aktars next to each other on the left going down towards the sea. I think it was the second one that I particularly liked but they all sell the same kefir grains which look like this:

Kafkas Kefir Mayası/Caucasian Kefir Grains: 10 TL

The grains are in liquid. Apparently they must always be so and Ulli says that when she goes away, she freezes them in a little water and milk. Otherwise they can be stored in the fridge for up to 10 days in milk.

Here are some further guidelines from Ulli to help boost a slow metabolism:

  • Avoid coffee ,tea; instead drink herbal teas or rooiboos tea, which I found at the aktar,
  • Don't drink diet coke!
  • 'Good' vegs include artichokes, beetroots, carrots, greens, radishes, cooked garlic/onion/leek; lemon
  • Start the day with 1 large glass water
  • Avoid sugar, processed foods, white flour, and alcohol
Check out Ulli's website for more information: Better still, go and visit her! A visit is always so motivating. Her office is in Moda.

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Wheat Grain Salad with Orange and Fresh Thyme/ Kekikli Portakallı Buğday Salatası

This is just the season to be investigating new salads and this is how I found this one.

I always like trying something new. I can't resist a new recipe especially if it uses familiar ingredients with a twist. A new recipe injects a new enthusiasm into one's everyday cooking which is something we all need from time to time and that's certainly how I feel!

wheat salad with orange and fresh thyme

I don't know about you but I am really into grains and pulses, probably as a result of living in Turkey all this time. This salad uses buğday or wheat. The other ingredients are easy: onion, orange, and fresh thyme. How does that sound? Healthy above all, I would say; then, cheap, and with a taste that is so different from the usual tomato/cucumber combination.

does this appeal?

Wheat Grain Salad with Orange & Fresh Thyme/Kekikli Portakallı Buğday Salatası:
 adapted from Nursen Doğan's 'Bulgurun Halleri'


1 cup wheat/buğday
1 cup fresh thyme/taze kekik, stripped from its stalks
2 spring onions, chopped
juice of 1 orange
 grated peel of the same orange, plus chopped inner flesh
juice of 1 lemon
3 cups hot water
1 tsp salt
2 tsb olive oil
orange slices to garnish, optional

  • Soak the wheat grains in water overnight. Save the water and the next day, boil the grains in the same water until softened. Add extra hot water if necessary. Strain.
  • While the wheat is cooling, add the lemon juice, orange juice, grated peel and flesh, olive oil and salt. Mix well and leave to cool.
  • Add the chopped spring onion and thyme. Mix well and then leave for 15 minutes for the tastes to blend.
  • If desired, add orange slices to garnish.

here is the wheat salad with orange and fresh thyme

NB I would say, add as much chopped spring onion as desired. As with all these savoury dishes, the ultimate taste is up to you - you can adjust all tastes to your palate!

wheat grain salad with orange and fresh thyme

Afiyet olsun!

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Monthly Market Update: What's In and What's Not in the Turkish Pazars

June 2015: Istanbul

I am basing my pazar observations on a different market this month. This is because a) I missed my usual Monday one as we were travelling, and b) some visiting friends from the UK wanted to go to the Friday version of the famous Salı or Tuesday Pazarı which is here on my doorstep in Kadıköy. 

I went once before and couldn't find a parking place so never went again. It was that simple. Ideally you do need your own transport to carry your booty home with you if the market isn't within walking distance. So, no parking, no Salı Pazarı for me!

But the friends had done their research and were set on going last Friday. Easy, we took a taxi!

The market is renowned for textiles and sure enough, there are enough stalls selling tee shirts, trackies, socks and underwear not to mention metres of curtains, fabric, remnants, ribbons, lacy trims and the like to put a smile on anyone's face.

There are also some fruit and veg stalls with very attractive prices.

It was immediately obvious that the cherry season is upon us once more as they were everywhere, piles and piles of them. My friend bought a kilo of Napolyon cherries for 7½ TL a kilo. Later we went to Kadıkoy Çarşı and saw that there they were being sold for between 16 and 20 TL per kilo. Apparently in the Balık Pazarı on the other side near the British Consulate, they are selling at an extortionate 40 TL!

Napolyon cherries are the best

Apricots are back too but the ones I tried were a bit tasteless I thought. So I didn't buy any. Apricots/kayısı are amongst my favourite fruits so they have to be good!

apricots side by side with the cherries

The other popular fruit was dut or mulberries: those funny off-white berries that can either taste fantastic or else totally bland. We have a dut tree in our garden in Assos and I know from experience that some years the fruit is fabulous and others, not worth the trouble. Interesting to see that they sell at 3 TL a punnet. Our tree produces kilos and kilos of them!

the sign says 'Sweet Village Mulberries'!

There were also dark red karadut or black mulberries. I don't buy them because they are full of little bits that get stuck in your teeth!

Generally speaking, the markets are now a joy to visit: the colours and the sheer abundance of the produce alone are enough to make you glad you made the effort to go.

I was happy to see that the fresh enginar/artichokes are still around along with the broad beans to cook with them. I bought 6 which were plump and perfect, also very reasonable at 2 TL each, but was disappointed to find that they were not as well peeled as the ones at my regular Selami Çeşme market. Of course I only realized this when we were eating them a day later! So be careful.

But what made me feel that summer really is just around the corner was my first sighting of Çanakkale tomatoes! These are those big fat juicy ones that we get all summer long in Assos. These are the tomatoes that we wait for all year long and the ones that lure you into various bottling projects!

summer is coming: big fat tomatoes and green peppers by the armful

I see that green beans or yeşil fasulye are now back in season too: what to do with them? Cook them in olive oil/zeytinyağlı and have them cold, or with mince meat as a hot family dish. It'll be a nice change after similar meals with leeks!

quite a sight!
Two different types of bean here: çalı and şeker Ayşe, differing in length and shape slightly but both suitable for zeytinyağlı.

I enjoyed this new market - it wasn't crowded when we went which was late morning. Shopping was easy. The addition of the textiles made it different and also the bric-a-brac stalls! None of that in Selami Çeşme!

I certainly don't need any more junk but it's always fun to look!

Saturday, 30 May 2015

Succulent Lamb with Spring Greens/Kuzu Kapama

This is just the right time of year to make this dish and it's one that immediately comes to my mind when I see the leaves outside turning that vivid shade of green.

an easy dish to assemble: lamb with spring greens. I think it looks very appetising!

My feet have barely touched the ground over the last few weeks and I actually made this before we went to London. But even there, it was still in my mind as springtime was at exactly the same stage as here.

This is a dish that has many variations but essentially the meat is important: it should be tender young spring lamb, and then there are the greens. A cousin here only uses lettuces, as many as three medium-sized ones, while others yet use a combination of lettuce and Swiss chard or just chard. Plus you add spring onions as well as one regular one, sliced. I remember my mother-in-law using a lot of fresh parsley and dill too, so I did this time, plus a little fresh thyme. So you see, it's so seasonal, you can use whatever takes your fancy (but not spinach as that's a winter vegetable).

I went to my favourite butcher here in Feneryolu, Met Et, and simply asked for lamb suitable for this dish and here's what he gave me:

beautiful pieces of lamb for kuzu kapama

You can also get leg of lamb cut into 5 cm/2 in chunks, or lamb shins/incik in Turkish.

Kuzu kapama literally means 'covered lamb' so some recipes advocate placing the meat at the bottom of the pan and all the greenery on top. Others do it the other way round, with the meat on top. I placed the chard on the bottom, then the meat, and then the other ingredients on top of that. Remember that all the greenery will wilt as the dish cooks so what seems like a huge amount at the beginning, will actually be much less. 

lamb with spring greens

As I was preparing to make this dish, I suddenly remembered my MIL rubbing tomato paste into each of her pieces of lamb and then seasoning with salt and pepper, so I religiously did the same. The cousin also rang me specially to tell me not to forget to add a little sugar to the pot as she remembered HER mother doing that! I checked other recipes online and sure enough, some of them do indeed also include sugar.

rubbed with tomato paste and seasoning

After washing, tearing or coarsely chopping all your leaves, you start layering! The dish takes about an hour to cook on top of the stove and produces the most mouthwatering aroma as it cooks! Mmm. Your kitchen will be filled with it.

Let's proceed!

Succulent Lamb with Spring Greens/Kuzu Kapama

Serves 4

4 pieces of spring lamb OR 4 lamb shanks/incik OR 3 lbs/1350 g leg of lamb cut into chunks
1-2 lettuces, washed and roughly torn
1 bunch Swiss chard/pazı, tough stalks removed, coarsely chopped
1 onion, sliced into rings
10 spring onions, thickly sliced
2 tsp fresh thyme/kekik (optional)
fresh parsley and dill, as desired, torn or cut into sprigs, a little extra dill to garnish 
6 garlic cloves, sliced (optional)
approx. 4 tsp tomato paste, domates salça
3 tbsp butter
1 tbsp sugar
salt and pepper to taste
½ cup/125 ml water

  • Place the lettuce leaves and Swiss chard at the bottom of a large heavy pan.
  • Place the meat which you have spread with the tomato paste and seasoned with the salt and pepper, on top. NB if using chunks of lamb, mix the tomato paste with the *water and pour over.
  • Sprinkle with the sugar, add the sliced onion, spring onions, more salt and pepper, parsley and dill, thyme if using, and dot with the butter.
  • Add the *water and cover.
  • Cook over a very low heat until the meat is tender, about 1 hour. The meat should be falling away from the bones. 
  • Sprinkle with a little more freshly chopped dill and serve hot with pilaf.

Afiyet olsun!

I highly recommend this dish! Very tasty indeed: family and friends alike will love it!

Sunday, 24 May 2015

A Vibrant London Market:Come to Broadway on a Saturday

I love my son's area.

He lives in the East End of London which used to be associated with dodgy. It is fast coming up in the world but still maintains its diversity and colourful origins.

TT and I have been here this past week. Not much cooking for me I must say but today we went out to experience the sheer delight of Broadway Market which is on his doorstep. So very different from a Turkish pazar but equally enticing.  This one offers a lot of ethnic food stalls which we don't get at all in Turkey. The aromatic smells alone are enough to make your mouth water and make you want to sample everything that you see ....

Here are a few photos of a culturally diverse English market today reflecting the London scene in the best possible way: 

 a little musical interlude at the beginning of the market
all kinds of scotch eggs and believe me, they looked fantastic!
wrap, anyone?
just to show you the diversity  ...
here was this French guy making crepes and galettes...
had to laugh when we saw these two: Turkish of course, making gözleme! But in Turkey you never
see a guy making these! They looked absolutely delicious ...
now this is very un-turkish: all this game. Not sure whether I like it any more ...
this is more my style: olives!
beautifully presented: different olive oils and ideas on how to use them. A good idea for Turkish producers?
classic East End : hot jellied eels
mouth-watering handmade chocolates: loved the name of these!
and finally the breads ... I'm amazed we didn't go mad here ....

What did we buy? We restrained ourselves: we bought some delicious black tortelloni filled with crab and mascarpone, black because they were filled with fresh squid ink, and some fresh asparagus. Believe me, we could have gone totally wild and bought all sorts of wicked delicacies  .... but we didn't :((.

Next time you're in London and it's a sunny Saturday, take yourself down to Broadway Market and give yourself a real treat!


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