Sunday, 22 November 2015

What is Lakerda? We set off to find Balıkçı Resul in Şile....

Last Sunday we drove out to Şile on the Black Sea coast to investigate what will hopefully be Turkey's third Earth Market.

It proved easy to find and we spent a couple of very enjoyable hours there. Then we drove the few minutes down to the liman or harbour in quest of Balıkçı Resul whom TT had read about with great interest in Hürriyet newspaper recently. As you can see, we found him! 

Meet Resul.. 
What was so special about this particular fisherman, you may wonder? Well, his lakerda or salted bonito is supposed to be second to none and a good lakerda is exquisite. You find it in good fish restaurants as a meze. I say 'good' because you must be very careful where you eat it as the quality can vary considerably. Keep away from the supermarket variety.

It's made from the fatty torik which swims down the Bosphorus during November and December ie now. Torik is the name given to the palamut/bonito as it grows in size. It can be made from other fish but apparently the lakerda made from torik caught in November in the Bosphorus is the one to go for.

You must have seen the displays of palamut, that beautiful shiny firm fish in the local fishmongers around the city?

It wasn't difficult to track Resul down. All we had to do was ask. Luckily he was there as otherwise of course he would be out on his boat. He was with a couple of cronies who were drinking tea and watching him deftly filleting his fish. 

these are small bonito or çingene palamut

Needless to say, they invited us to sit with them and have çay too. Resul was an extremely pleasant guy; it wasn't difficult to get into conversation with him and his friends. In fact, it was one of those perfect Istanbul encounters.

as fresh as can be!

Now, what Resul told us was very interesting: this year the torik aren't fatty enough so he isn't going to make any lakerda at all! 

the harbour in Şile

I have lived here long enough to know that the making of lakerda is one of those specialized jobs that only the highly competent attempt. Not a job for the novice, that's for sure. People here have been preparing torik for millennia so there is a certain mystique attached. 

The first challenge comes from knowing which torik to select...Nowadays palamut itself is often used as there aren't that many torik.

The actual preparation involves removing the head and tail of the fish, cleaning it and then cutting the body into 3 equal parts. Each part must be washed very well indeed as it's essential that all blood is removed. Plenty of iced water is used and it's changed at least 4 times a day until the water runs clear. No trace of blood must be visible. After that, copious amounts of coarse salt are spread at the bottom of either a jar or a bowl, and more is rubbed into the fish before it is placed upright in the container including the exposed flesh. It's then refrigerated for 10-15 days with the fish pieces being inverted daily.

Here's a little video of the process but not surprisingly it's in Turkish.. 

The traditional way of serving lakerda is sliced, skin removed, salt carefully washed away and each slice on a red onion ring. As I mentioned above, it is a meze in fish restaurants and you drink rakı, needless to say!

delcicious meze at Vira Vira in Arnavutköy, lakerda and red onion in the foreground.
This is our favourite fish restaurant!
 So either go to Şile to the charming little harbour and see if you can find Resul Reis, or else make sure you order lakerda when you're next in a fish restaurant! It's a delicacy not to be missed!

PS Lakerda can be preserved in fresh brine made with 1 handful of salt per litre of ice water. This is how it can be eaten throughout the year, not only now.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Şile Earth Market: Following the Slow Food Movement in Turkey

On Saturday evening TT and I decided that the next day we would drive out to Şile (pron: Shilay) which is located on the Black Sea about one hour's drive from where we live in Fenerbahçe on the Asian Side of Istanbul.

The reason was that I had read that Şile is in the process of becoming Turkey's third Earth Market, after Gökçeada and Foça. The philosophy derives from the Slow Food idea which is 'based on the foundations of good, clean, and fair food' (The Guide Istanbul Sept-Oct 2015). There are no middlemen: 'the products are produced using environmentally-friendly methods which sustain local food culture and stand up to agricultural biodiversity.' There are over 57 villages which are represented there and no, it's not a kadınlar/women's initiative. 

slow food

Here you see husbands and wives, friends and family participating side by side in the event. The produce is not necessarily organic but it is doğal or natural and I am very happy with that. The idea is to spread awareness of GMOs and artificial additives which is something that we should all support.

Since my personal disappointment this summer with Çanakkale tomatoes, I am all for it!

'aday' means candidate, in this case, to be an Earth Market

So I was very curious to see what this market was all about.

It's held twice a week, on Fridays and Sundays, starting at 7.00. We arrived at 10.00 and that was just fine. I think that's a good time to arrive: no crowds as yet, but yet the beginnings of a hustle and bustle. 

it's the season for persimmons
more wonderful fresh persimonns 

fresh bread
roasting chestnuts on a sac/sudge
like the cup of çay!
this is all he was selling: his own lettuces
a selection of village produce
dried thyme with dried mint behind.

I found all the stallholders smiley and welcoming. Not one woman refused to have her photo taken which made a welcome change. Here are some of those friendly open faces which I'd like to share with you:

Şile Earth Market: some of the women stallholders

Many of the women were occupied in making gözleme or pide: 

here's me munching my spinach-stuffed gözleme: delicious!

This market was very appealing: clean, well-organised, friendly.

Next time the sun shines, take a trip out to Şile on either a Friday or a Sunday to visit it. You'll love it, just like we did. We had such a positive experience and I am sure you will too.
Actually, it doesn't have to be sunny as the market is covered.
So go and see! I'm sure this is going to become the new foodie destination!

One final photo: there was a minibus parked outside the market. It was piled to the roof with chestnuts and walnuts. Now, this lady didn't want to be photographed but I reassured her by saying I only wanted to photograph her wares. Whereupon, after asking me where I was from (!), she said that she'd like to offer me some of her nuts:
sevdim seni, she said.
'I liked you'.
What could be nicer than that?

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Lentil, Mint, and White Cheese/Feta Salad with Pomegranate Dressing /Nar Ekşili Mercimek, Nane,ve Beyaz Peynirli Salata

I would be amazed if Leanne Kitchen found a salad like this when she was travelling through Turkey. 

lentil, mint and white cheese salad with pomegranate dressing

I absolutely love her book 'Turkey Recipes and Tales from the Road': the recipes are interlaced with gorgeous photos not only of the dishes themselves but the country and the people showing the Turkey that we know and love. As an aspiring photographer myself, I think they are excellent.

But it wouldn't be fair to say that this recipe is typically Turkish. The ingredients are very Turkish which is why I went for it, but the salad itself isn't. When you are in a Turkish restaurant, the choice is usually a 'mevsim' /seasonal, or yeşil/ green salad. A salad is different from a meze, you see. Either is of course perfectly fine but it is always the dressing that lets both of them down. Invariably, you will be offered a choice of olive oil, lemon juice, or maybe pomegranate molasses that you add yourself. But the point is, you will never be able to make a real dressing if these ingredients are offered to you in this way. 

lentil, mint and white cheese salad with pomegranate dressing

Salad dressing ingredients always need to be mixed/stirred/shaken together beforehand. The dressing for this salad includes crushed cumin seeds - oh the aroma as they toasted! - and chopped garlic and what a difference that makes! I always make my dressings in a jam jar with a lid so I can give it a really good shake. 

We loved this salad: it would make an ideal meal for a vegetarian as it's certainly nourishing, not to mention very tasty indeed. Just one glance at the ingredients should be enough to persuade you to make this salad. It was for me, anyway! I had just been to the market so all the greenery was as fresh as could be. Combined with the crunch of the walnuts, the subtle taste of the green olives and the slightly charred red onions not to mention that syrupy sweet-tart taste of the pomegranate molasses, this salad is a winner!

The recipe makes a copious amount: serves 4-6. I would say more like 6! It also keeps very well in the fridge so long as you haven't added the dressing. I actually divided it into two lots as there was so much, and kept one in a bowl covered with clingfilm. The leaves don't wilt if they are not mixed into the lentils.

Lentil, Mint, and White Cheese/Feta Salad with Pomegranate Dressing

Serves 4-6


325g/11½oz/1¾ cups brown or green lentils/yeşil mercimek
TIP soak them overnight or a few hours first to make them more digestible
2 red onions, peeled with root ends left intact
2½ tbsps olive oil
50g/1¾ oz/½ cup walnut halves, coarsely chopped
80g/2¾oz /½ cup pitted green olives, rinsed
1 handful flat-leaf parsley, leaves chopped (optional) but I recommend it
1 cup mint leaves
100g/3½oz/2 cups baby spinach leaves
200g/7oz white cheese/feta/beyaz peynir

for the pomegranate dressing

1 tsp cumin seeds
2 garlic cloves, very finely chopped
1 tbsp pomegranate molasses/nar ekşisi
½ tsp caster(superfine) sugar
1 large pinch dried chilli flakes/pul biber
125ml/4 fl oz/½ cup extra virgin olive oil/sızma zeytinyağı
2 tsps freshly squeezed lemon juice


for the dressing:

  • dry fry the cumin seeds in a heavy-based frying pan over low heat, shaking the pan for 2 minutes or until fragrant. Use a mortar and pestle to coarsely grind the cumin seeds, then combine in a bowl with the garlic, pomegranate molasses, sugar and chilli, whisking well to combine. Whisking constantly, add the olive oil in a slow, steady stream, then whisk in the lemon juice. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and set aside.
  • Put the lentils in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to low, partially cover the pan and cook for 25-30 mins or half that time if they were soaked overnight, or until just tender. Take care not to overcook or they will be mushy. Drain well and cool to room temperature.
  • Meanwhile, heat a chargrill pan to medium. Cut the onions in half lengthways then cut each half into 5mm/¼ inch thick wedges. Gently combine the onion with the oil, tossing well to coat. Cook the onions, in batches, 3-4 minutes on each side, or until tender and lightly charred. Remove from the heat and cool.
  • Combine the cooled lentils, onion,walnuts, olives, parsley and mint in a large bowl and add the spinach leaves. TIP roughly chop both the mint and spinach leaves. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Toss gently to combine. 
  • Divide among serving bowls, top with the white cheese/feta/beyaz peynir and drizzle the dressing over the top just before serving.

lentil, mint, and white cheese salad with pomegranate dressing

Afiyet olsun!

A meal in itself: why not try this healthy salad  for lunch today?
It's got a lot going for it!

Monday, 2 November 2015

Little Apple & Plum Pots with Honey and Cream

Like hemlines, desserts come and go, don't they? Remember sherry trifle and those delicious savarins?  Brandy snaps? Soufflés?  Tiramisu hasn't earned its place as a classic but even that has slipped off the dessert list here in Istanbul. 

Up until now desserts for me always meant a tart, a pie, or maybe a festive cake or Swiss roll. Cheesecake, maybe.

But what do you do when one of your guests can't tolerate flour, and what's more, her partner is trying to keep her company? You suddenly have to rethink your dessert repertoire.

apple & plum pots with honey and cream

This is what happened this weekend and I suddenly remembered a childhood dessert called apple snow. I thought something light, seasonal and no flour at all would fit the bill.  Something just a little bit sweet to round off the meal not laden with calories. And I have some little dishes from Japan that always make a dessert look pretty.

The apples are delicious right now and so are the plums so I thought a combination would work perfectly. And it did! With a little bit of honey to sweeten plus a tad of sugar, topped with whipped cream and flaked almonds! You could also use a mixture of cream and plain yogurt if you prefer.

here's the fruit I used: 2 apples and 4 plums
peeled and chopped, with the honey

What could be simpler?

apple & plum pots with honey and cream

Apple & Plum Pots with Honey and Cream

Serves 4


250g/4 plums/erik
2 tart dessert apples/ekşi elma
4 tbsp clear honey/bal
3 tbsp sugar, castor if you have it, otherwise granulated/toz şeker
142ml double cream, whipped
150g plain yogurt
50g toasted almonds/badem, to decorate


  • Stone and roughly chop the plums. Peel, core and roughly chop the apples. Place the fruit in a small saucepan with the honey and 4 tbsp of cold water.
  • Cook the fruit for 5-8 mins or until it has softened slightly. Cook more if you are going to pureé it completely. Stir in the sugar and then, using a stick blender, purée to a smooth consistency. 
  • Pour into 4 bowls or glasses and allow to cool.
  • Beat the cream in a separate bowl until it holds its shape.  Add the yogurt if using, or increase the cream slightly.
  • Using a metal spoon, spoon a little of the cream mixture over each portion and chill for at least one hour before serving.
  • Decorate with the toasted almonds.

little apple & plum pots with honey and cream

Afiyet olsun!

Try this soon with seasonal fruits: simple, quick and just the thing to round off a meal!

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Acem Çorbası/Persian Soup: Another Hearty Soup for You!

I really don't know why it's called Persian Soup but to me the name conjures up images of turbanned merchants travelling a long,hard road with perhaps this soup being prepared by their long-suffering women to give them warming sustenance along the way.

acem çorbası/Persian soup with a swirl of yogurt and a sprinkle of dried mint

The weather all over the country right now is wet and wild: days just right for this type of soup. I am loving my new soup book Çorbanın Kitabı  by Ebru Omurcalı as most of the Turkish soups are all variations on a very familiar theme so no running out for unusual ingredients! Thank you, Nancy H, for such a thoughtful gift!

What makes this soup different? Well, first of all, there is no onion, and secondly it contains yogurt and also the more unusual spice, that wonderful Mediterranean purple sumac.

delicious!  nutritious! warmng! here we have Persian soup!

However, there is one thing that I will say because it has now happened. Invariably there is a fatal flaw in these Turkish recipes: either the number of servings is missing, or what temperature or how long a dish should be cooked. Sooner or later you come up against this. Or else the instructions are just not clear with a lot of things being assumed. This is what happened here plus the photo is downright misleading. It looks like a thick tomato soup garnished with a grilled green pepper. All it takes is a quick skim through the ingredients and you will see there is no tomato and not even tomato paste listed there! I think this photo got in there by mistake. You would never expect a bright green pepper garnish in a soup based on pulses, would you? 

On the other hand, this particular book has a decent index which is surprising: in my experience, you have to go through a huge culinary detour to find whatever recipe you are looking for as the idea of logical categories combined with dishes listed in alphabetical order just doesn't seem to happen!

Here's the recipe for: 

Acem Çorbası [pron: ajem chorba] (that - sı is a special kind of genitive that we can forget about for the moment); or Persian Soup

Serves 6


1 cup/200g red lentils/kırmızı mercimek
1 cup/200g fine grained bulgur/ince bulgur
1 tbsp pepper paste/biber salçası (I actually used 3 tbsps) ( you could use tomato paste if you can't get hold of pepper paste)
1½ tbsp butter
8 cups water
5 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
1 cup yogurt
1 tbsp black pepper
1 tbsp red pepper flakes (less if you don't like spicy)/ pul biber
1 tbsp sumac/sumak
dried mint/kuru nane, to garnish

  • Wash and drain the lentils and the bulgur. Place in a saucepan with the 8 cups water. Boil until soft. TIP I suggest bringing the water to the boil and then adding the lentils and bulgur.
  • Melt the butter in a separate frying pan and add the peeled and sliced garlic. Cook until soft. Add the pepper paste and spices and cook for a little more. Add this mixture to the cooked lentil and bulgur mixture.
  • Whisk the yogurt and gently add 1 spoonful of the hot soup mixture. Stir well and then add the whole to the soup pan.
  • Bring to the boil and remove from the heat.
  • Serve with a swirl of yogurt and a sprinkling of dried mint and extra red pepper flakes if desired.

a Turkish soup for you: acem çorbası/Persian soup

Afiyet olsun!

If the wind is howling and the rain is pouring down, then this is the soup for you!

PS It is one of those soups that benefits from waiting a bit for the tastes to develop ...

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Çatal Aşı Çorbası: a hearty soup from the depths of Anatolia

The weather has turned, one day warm and humid, the next wet and cool. Difficult to know what to wear, difficult to know what to cook.

The soup I posted last week with red peppers and tomatoes suddenly seems light and frivolous. It's a real change of season.

Turkish soups are based on grains and pulses. They are hearty affairs not suitable for dinner parties. In the countryside, soup is often served for breakfast which may sound like a leap of faith if you are used to muesli or toast, but makes complete sense if you think of shepherds going out into the elements needing all the warmth and sustenance they can get.

çatal aşı çorbası/ 'fork food' soup from çorum

The Turkish national soup must be mercimek or lentil. It is served in most little esnaf lokantas or local restaurants, on a daily basis. I have a new soup book called Çorbanın Kitabı - the book of soups - written by Ebru Omurcalı. It's a collection of mostly Turkish soups with a smattering of soups from other countries. It's the Turkish ones that interest me most. Basically, they include more or less the same ingredients: lentils, chickpeas, bulgur, erişte (homemade noodles) or wheat. Store cupboard ingredients to you and me. The amounts and types vary slightly according to region. Plus there is often yogurt.

Here's a soup that is thick and tasty hailing from Çorum in the heart of Anatolia: it would certainly sustain a shepherd or two in the direst of weathers.

Çatal Aşı: a hearty soup with green lentils and erişte (homemade noodles)

Serves 6


½ cup green lentils/yeşil mercimek, soaked at least a few hours beforehand, then drained and rinsed
1 onion, chopped
3/4 cup erişte/homemade Turkish noodles OR wheat/büğday (if you haven't got either, regular pasta would do)
1 cup plain yogurt
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp dried mint
salt, pepper, red pepper flakes
5 cups water
sprigs of fresh mint to garnish


  • Boil the lentils in 2 cups of water until softened (NB if using, soak the wheat overnight before boiling). Drain.
  • Melt the butter in a small frying pan and add the chopped onion. Cook gently until it changes colour and softens. 
  • Separately,in another pan, beat the yogurt until smooth. Add the seasonings, mint and red pepper flakes and then gradually add 3 cups water. Add the onion and lentils and mix gently. (NB add the cooked wheat if using at this point).
  • Bring to the boil and then add the erişte or homemade noodles.
  • Stir and cook until the erişte are done which is very quick - 5 minutes or so.
  • Garnish with sprigs of fresh mint if desired.
NB if the soup is too thick, add more water and stir well.

It's delicious! Quick, easy, economical - what more do we want?

çatal aşı çorbası from çorum

Afiyet olsun!

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Roasted Red Pepper & Tomato Soup/ Közlenmiş Kırmızı Biberli ve Domatesli Çorba

 It's not really soup weather yet but these ingredients are so seasonal, so easily available to us here in Turkey right now, I think you simply must try this truly delectable soup. 

roasted red pepper & tomato soup/közlenmiş kırmızı  biberli ve domatesli çorba

Not only the vibrant red but the wonderful aroma of those red peppers and tomatoes roasting away in the oven lend a spring to your step - and a corresponding spring in the appetites of your nearest and dearest! I wish you were in my kitchen right now!

We love soups and I truly believe that everybody should have at least a couple up their sleeves. They are so easy to make not to mention economical in the extreme plus when you buy the ingredients from the pazar, it's surely a win-win situation.

The combination of tomatoes and red peppers is nothing new. The addition of bulgur makes it a trifle different but it certainly isn't a must. You can use either tomato paste or red pepper paste which we find here in Turkey. Right now, I  have a fabulous sweet red pepper one in my fridge which I bought at the Selami Çeşme Market last week. It is so good, I could eat it with a spoon! Not only could but do! The recipe is inspired by one by Nursen Doğan but I have made it my own.

Roasted Red Pepper & Tomato Soup/Közlenmiş Kırmızı Biberli ve Domatesli Çorba

Serves 4


4 big ripe tomatoes, halved through the middle
2 red peppers, cut in half lengthways, stalk and seeds removed
1 tbsp good quality tomato or red pepper paste /domates veya biber salça
2 tbsp fine grain bulgur/köftelik bulgur
4 cups stock or water
1 heaped tbsp cornstarch/nişaşta
1 tbsp sugar OR 2 sugar lumps
salt and pepper to taste
cream or yogurt to garnish


  • Pre-heat the grill of your oven.
  • Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper and place the halved tomatoes cut side up and the red peppers. Don't place the tray too near the grill. Grill until the peppers start to blacken and the skin of the tomatoes starts to split. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.
  • When cool, peel both the tomatoes and the red peppers and roughly chop. Place in a saucepan along with the tomato or red pepper paste, the cornstarch, sugar, salt and pepper.
  • Using a hand blender, mix to a purée consistency. Add the stock or water and gently bring to a boil. Add the bulgur at that point and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring all along.
  • As with most soups, the taste develops and the soup thickens if it sits for a while. 
  • To serve, a swirl of cream or plain yogurt makes an attractive garnish. 

the four basic steps in how to make roasted red pepper & tomato soup

Afiyet olsun!

PS you could serve this with garlic bread and I bet it would be a hit!


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