Monday, 29 September 2014

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

September-October 2014: Istanbul

A few years ago I used to be on the BCC [the British Community Council] here in Istanbul. Our mission was varied but one of my particular tasks was to write the Culinary Corner for the monthly e-Newsletter.

Simultaneously, on my blog I had a little box in the sidebar where I would post what fruit,veg and fish to expect each month. Each season has its highs and its lows; Seasonal Cook that I am, I'm interested in the rhythm of the markets which reflect those, and I'm sure you are too.

the fishing ban has been lifted and now is the time for palamut/bonito - they
should be firm to the touch and shiny to look at

So here I'm combining the two ideas: at the end of every month I'll post what's in season in the local street markets of Istanbul or Assos, where we frequently go, along with some photos. 

it's hamsi time again! These are anchovies from the Black Sea

Today I went to my weekly local pazar in Selami Çeşme, wondering whether the summer produce would have disappeared. But in fact, what I saw reflects perfectly the end of summer/ beginning of autumn and everything is still available!

By 'everything', I mean the very summery vegetables like aubergine, green peppers, and courgettes, barbunya or borlotti beans, and loads of green beans. Sadly the beautiful Çanakkale tomatoes have finished and we are back to the more regimented kind that look greenhouse-grown. Personally I recommend the little baby ones as they have the most flavour. These are good for salads and kahvaltı/breakfast but not of course for cooking. This is the time when a little tomato paste starts to come in handy to boost the taste in tomato-based dishes. For cooking, there's nothing wrong with a tin of chopped tomatoes as they will have been canned at the height of the season.

this is one of my regular guys and his tomatoes are still looking OK - he thinks they are, at any rate!
these are the very last of the borlotti beans though: make sure you buy some, pod them and freeze in plastic bags

What is absolutely in right now is grapes/üzüm:  sweet yellow seedless ones and big juicy purple and green ones. Now is the time for plums/erik too, several varieties are available and perfect for eating as well as cooking! Think tarts and crumbles!

what is new here are the mandarines looking as green as anything

Take my advice and don't buy mandarines/mandalina just yet. A lady asked the guy if they were sweet and I thought, in your dreams! They are green because they are not yet fully ripe. If you like sour, fine, but otherwise just wait a bit!
It's also the season for walnuts/ceviz:

ince kabuk means thin-shelled! The sign says 'they have arrived!'
 ....and those peculiar things called hünnap - apparently we call them jujube! We saw them on sale in Paris also called hunnap so maybe it's just we Brits who don't know them! They have medicinal qualities ....

good for diabetes, heart, liver, cholesterol says the sign!

Now, two much more autumn/winter fruits were on sale today but it's far too early for them to be interesting. I would say again, wait a few weeks at least so they can ripen: pomegranates/nar and persimmons/hurma.

the colour isn't right: wait till they become more vibrantly orange
Karadeniz means Black Sea

By the way, keep away from figs: you will see them on the stalls but don't be tempted. The season is over and they are tasteless.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

A Hearty Autumnal Soup: Wheat with Yogurt Soup/Yoğurtlu Buğday Çorbası

The weather has drastically changed. The temperature has dropped, that beautiful blue sky is now overcast and downright grey. Time to wear socks and forget about France!

All summer long, nary a thought of soup entered my head. Not even a cold soup as I don't care for cold soups.

But all of a sudden, here we are and honestly the first thing that I feel like is a good hearty soup.

I have just acquired a new cookbook: it is called Bulgurum Halleri or  'my ways with bulgur', written by Nursen Doğan (in Turkish) along with Refika. As many of you may know by now, Refika (Birgül) has been most generous in letting me use her fabulous funky kitchen to give cooking classes. I didn't know about this book until the other week when I saw it there and bought it on the spot.

I am very fond of bulgur, I truly am. I prefer it to rice: it isn't so stodgy nor so demanding in terms of how to cook it. I know I am going to like this book, I have already made one of the pilafs. I skimmed through it looking for a soup and sure enough, here is one that made me think, ahaa!

Hearty wheat with yogurt soup/yoğurtlu buğday çorbası sprinkled with dried mint and a little flaked red pepper

If you ask me, it's a cross between our good old faithful yayla çorbası or soup of the mountain pastures, and regular chicken soup! But what's wrong with that? You will find similar recipes with slight regional differences all over the country.

This one specifies aşurelik buğday, a type of wheat grain traditionally used in aşure, the dessert with special significance as it supposedly uses the 40 ingredients that remained to Noah on the Ark. I would say that if you can't obtain it, you can simply use rice and in fact turn the soup into yayla. Or any other grain you have in your store cupboard would probably be just fine.

aşurelik büğday

But for those of us who live here and for whom this grain is easily available, I recommend using it. I like the fact that it keeps its shape and texture throughout the cooking and doesn't become mushy like rice so easily does. I also appreciate the fact that the consistency of the soup changes if the soup waits a while before being eaten: it thickens but doesn't become glutinous. I like that.

So here is the recipe for this healthy yogurt-based soup which I hope you'll enjoy as much as I did. Nursen says in her experience this is a firm favourite with  foreigners and Turks alike!

Wheat with Yogurt Soup/Yoğurtlu Buğday Çorbası

Serves 4-5


½ of one chicken breast/tavuk gögüs eti
½ cup aşurelik buğday/aşure wheat or other bulgur grain
2 cups plain yogurt
7-8 cups water (I used 7 and it was perfect)
1 egg yolk
2 tbsp cornstarch/nişasta
1 tbsp dried mint/kuru nane
1 tbsp butter


  • Wash the aşure wheat and place it with the chicken breast in a saucepan with the cold water. Add salt and cook until the wheat grains have cooked (about 30 minutes). If necessary, add more water. Remove the chicken and shred before replacing in the saucepan.
  • Put the yogurt in a bowl and add the egg yolk and cornstarch. Mix well.
  • Then little by little, add the  hot liquid, stirring all the time otherwise the yogurt will curdle.
  • Continue until the liquid with the grains and shredded chicken has been well incorporated into the yogurt mixture. If the soup is too thick, add a little more water.
  • Spinach or another green may be added at this point. 
  • Cook gently for a further 2-3 minutes.
        To serve:

  • Melt the butter in a small pan and add the dried mint. Drizzle over each serving. (I didn't use the butter! But I did add a few red pepper flakes).

adding the egg yolk and the cornstarch to the yogurt
adding the hot liquid to the yogurt mixture, stirring all the time

hearty wheat with yogurt soup/yoğurtlu buğday çorbası

Afiyet olsun!

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

A Sunday Market in Provence

funny squashed-looking peaches/nectarines on sale just down from Montmartre in Paris - personally
I prefer the taste of our Bursa ones

If you have been following my blog at all, you will all know that I love a good market.

After all, I live, cook and eat according to the seasons and where better to observe them than in the markets? France is full of them!

Just a few pics from the Sunday marché in St Cyr-sur-mer, where we were staying with old friends, Jenny and Michel:

these tomatoes are called coeur de boef/heart of beef

We truly thought these tomatoes were worthy competitors of our own home-grown Çanakkale domates. I feel quite heretical saying that. I loved their pleated appearance and thin skin. They were juicy without many seeds and also minus that inner white core that our tomatoes here always seem to have. But it was the taste that totally won us over. Exceptional.

So that was a revelation.

Then there was this mixed selection of tomatoes:

a glorious selection of tomatoes of all shapes and hues
beautiful garlic with enormous cloves, huge compared to what we get here in Turkey
oh those cheeses ...
and the saucisson ..
then there's the bread ...
not to mention those provençale baskets ...
and the pottery ...

There were all sorts of other enticing stalls selling everything from dresses to peştemals to leather bags....

the usually quite sleepy little town of St Cyr comes alive on Sundays!
oh so French ...

And what did this cook bring back from France? Two beautiful Sabatier knives and a 'tresse' or plait of those huge garlics!

Monday, 15 September 2014

From Assos .... to PARIS!!!

In less than a week, we have moved from the rural delights of our Aegean village to the sophistication of Paris.

But we've survived it and who wouldn't? Both places are so wonderful, each in its own way.

And inbetween, I had a cooking class in Kuzguncuk:  lots of fun with lovely ladies....

We haven't been in Paris for a couple of years and the beauty of this city is enchanting when you view it anew. No ugly cranes or building sites on every corner, no satellite dishes or solar panelling ...nothing to mar the seamless symmetry of the breathtaking architecture visible everywhere. Everything looks beautiful, people wait for red lights, barely any loud hooting of cars. People are polite and smiling.

Having said that, the night before last we could barely sleep for the drunken singing and general carry-on outside the apartment building where we are staying with my aunt. She airily shrugged it off as being 'samedi soir'!!! We don't have this in Istanbul, that's for certain! And this is a 'good' area ....

So I'm afraid cooking is on the back burner this week ... on Saturday night we went out to a classic restaurant on Place de Clichy called Wepler. TT has been dreaming of it, well more to the point, he has been dreaming of le plateau de fruits de mer! The seafood platter!

This was for two:

le plateau de fruits de mer!

TT's dream come true! A variety of shellfish served on a bed of ice and garnished with lemon halves.

My favourite were these:

a cockle, apparently! you have a special tool with which to extract it


Sunday, 7 September 2014

Life in a Turkish Village

Just wanted to say Sleepless in Seattle but no .... in Assos is what I mean. 


I'm usually quite an equable sleeper but this takes the cake. Non-stop drumming all night - in the end, I had to take the radical -for me - step of closing all the windows and putting on the AC! I hate AC, I really really hate it!

I totally understand that the season is now over, schools have not yet started, money is in, so it is time for sünnet/circumcision or wedding düğün/parties. You have no idea about these Turkish villages ....!!! Just like all of us, they love a good get-together with family and neighbours, read the entire village.. We have invitations for the next three weekends ...

What I did love was that apparently this sünnet was quite extraordinary in that crates of rakı were brought in and all the village men got totally plastered was a three day event: unheard of!! The son of Ali the dondurmaci or ice-cream maker was getting circumcised! I don't know what made him so special.

So yesterday, Saturday, I was quite wiped out but we had a wedding in the evening! In fact, we delayed our final return to Istanbul after the summer just so we could attend this wedding as it was a pretty unique affair.

It was the wedding of the daughter of the lovely people who run Zeytin Çiçek down on the beach whom I sometimes mention. Seval is pretty special in her own right: she studied Japanese at 18 Mart University in Çanakkale and is now studying for a PhD in Japan!!! And just to add to the adventure, she fell in love with Gabriel from Paraguay!!! What I love about this story is that the family here who are after all relatively simple local people from a village up in the hills, have totally accepted this union and last night we were privileged to be a part of the celebrations. 

These weddings are always held in a suitably large open area so that everyone can comfortably attend. In this village of Sazlı it was in a purpose designed open space with proper kitchens and the like. We went at about 7.30, in time for dinner. 

I have to say, my husband came up trumps by preparing something in Spanish AND Japanese for the young couple-here
they are looking suitably overcome as he reads
The family greeted us warmly and showed us to a table all set and brought us a huge tepsi or tray with our dinner set out in little dishes. Separate plates were brought for us along with forks!! The norm is to all eat off the plates together with spoons which is something I for one, just cannot do.

the typical wedding feast

Needless to say, there is not a drop of booze. The whole evening is done on water!

But it was certainly joyous and Gabriel entered into the spirit of it as only a Latin American could ...

Gabriel and Seval: the opening dance

What was fantastic was that a group of their young friends from Japan came   specially to attend the wedding! I'm sure you can imagine the buzz amongst the local headscarved brigade when they made their appearance in their traditional exotic kimonos!

This occasion should be an example to the world as to how to get on with different peoples from different countries, backgrounds and religions. It was perfectly harmonious and I for one really enjoyed the sight of the young Japanese girls trying to belly dance in their kimonos! It was all such fun!

We would like to wish Seval and Gabriel all the luck in the world!
Much love from Claudia and Turhan

Monday, 1 September 2014

Tomatoes, Tomatoes, Tomatoes ...

August is THE month for the best, the tastiest, the reddest, the juiciest of tomatoes!

Here in the Assos region, those from  the tarla or fields around Çanakkale are the ones most available and well-deservedly considered the best. In the pazars, they cost an unbelievable 1 lira per kilo, almost given away.

this type is said to be best for salça or tomato paste. these are at the market in Küçükkuyu

So what have I been doing? 

Bottling them, as I do every year! But this year I realised that half of my jars are still in Istanbul so I have only done about 23 from 15 kilos. But I'll buy some more tomatoes when we return and finish the job once home.

Here's the link to my post about how to do this: I refer to it every time! 

We set off to Ayvacık last week to buy our kilos of tomatoes with this project in mind - I always buy them in lots of 10 kilos, 1 or 2 plastic bags full, but just out of the house, I spied a truck filled to capacity with crates and crates of the things! So it seemed like a good idea to buy them there and then and to leave them at home before proceeding to the market.

here he is, parked in the main square as you enter Behramkale .. I bought
15 kilos for 1½ liras a kilo

Tomatoes in this region are so plentiful, I think there should be a tomato festival to celebrate this glorious abundance! Imagine! prizes for the tastiest salça, the biggest tomato, the best producer etc! Limitless!

a crate of tomatoes at Gülpınar pazarı
a kamyon stashed with crates of beautiful tomatoes, also at Gülpınar pazarı
just look at that..
this is probably my favourite tomato picture taken in Selçuk Saturday market

So don't delay: buy your tomatoes NOW and do whatever you want to do with them: bottle them like I do, make tomato paste or sauce. It really is worth the effort!  In winter whenever I open a jar to make a typical yemek, that smell takes me right back to the open blue skies and sunshine of our summer in Assos.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

The perfect summer teatime treat: Lemon Rosemary Yogurt Cake

lemon rosemary yogurt cake

How do you like Pinterest? (have you noticed my little P pinterest button on the right?)

I for one really enjoy playing around with it if I have any spare time! One of my favourite boards is Recipes I Have to Try which is full of photos of appetising dishes that have caught my eye.It's such a clever site: all you do is click on the photo and you find your way to the original site of the recipe. It's not only recipes, I hasten to add: your boards can be of anything at all, and you share to your heart's content!

can you see how light and moist it is?

Right now I am back in Assos with more old friends visiting from the UK. Having lived in Istanbul, they are Old Turkey Hands and feel very much at home here. They've also been here with us in the village before so know how there are some items we cannot easily find: everything we eat here we make fresh and from scratch.

Soooo .....

I thought I would make a couple of cakes to say Hoş Geldiniz/Welcome (they came yesterday)! I had 'pinned' this Lemon Rosemary Yogurt Cake very recently from a blog called Baked Bree and thought it would be ideal. We always have lemons, rosemary grows in abundance in the garden and we have homemade yogurt made from the milk of our very own cows! I loved the picture of it!

It turned out to be a winner with a hint of a lemony tang, a faint whisper of rosemary and light and moist thanks to the yogurt. As far as summery cakes go, this one is hard to beat and I will definitely be making it again.

Lemon Rosemary Yogurt Cake

3/4 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tbsp lemon juice
zest of 1 lemon
2 tsp vanilla
½ cup vanilla yogurt (I used plain)
3 eggs
1½ cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 tbsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped


1 cup powdered/icing sugar

3-4 tbsp fresh lemon juice

rosemary sprigs for decoration (optional)

adding the lemon juice to the powdered sugar for the glaze


  • Preheat oven to 180C/350F.
  • Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add lemon juice, zest, and vanilla. Add yogurt, and add eggs one at a time. Add flour, baking powder, salt, and rosemary. Mix for an additional minute, scraping the bowl, until everything is smooth and combined. Pour batter into a loaf tin that has been lined with damp greaseproof paper (or sprayed with cooking spray but we don't get that here).
  • Bake in the preheated oven for 45-50 minutes. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Remove cake from the pan and let cool on a baking rack.
  • Make glaze by whisking powdered sugar and lemon juice. Add more sugar and lemon juice as needed. Drizzle over cake and add small sprigs of rosemary to decorate. Let glaze stand until completely set.
Afiyet olsun!


Ideal for family or friends: why don't you try it this weekend?


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