Sunday, 24 June 2012

The Ultimate Adana Kebab

I had these little beauties all over Turkey.  My favourite was prepared by the chef at Hotel Villa Monte, in Cirali, on the South Coast.

  1. 400g lamb neck/steak with a little fat
  2. 300g veal
  3. a bit of olive oil
  4. 2 Tbsp butter
  5. 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
  6. 1/2 Tbsp ground cumin
  7. 1/2 Tbsp dried chilli flakes
  8. 1/2 Tbsp ground coriander
  9. 1 large red onion, finely chopped
  10. 1 tsp lemon juice
  11. salt and pepper
  • cut both lamb and veal nice and fine to form a mince and add butter
  • add onion and all spices and mix well
  • cover and leave in the fridge overnight
  • take some skewers and mould the mince along, so that you have a thickness of around 5cm
  • grill them over a fire or on a griddle pan
  • serve with rice, yoghurt, some grilled tomato and green chillies

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Walking in Cappadoccia

One of Turkey's absolute must see attractions is the volcanic landscape of Cappadocia; a magnificent chunk of earth carved over time by wind and water into folds, chimneys, caves and clefts.  The most popular way to see this geological wonder is to pay for a fairly pricey spot on one of the many hot air balloons that fill the sky each morning.  This birds-eye view is certainly great, but to really embrace and understand the place one should don a pair of hiking boots and explore on foot. 

There are plenty of valleys and a great deal to discover if you're keen for an adventure and have the time.  My 2 favourites walks are centred around the town of Goreme, which in my opinion is also the place to base yourself when in the area.

The first walk begins at the Zelve Open Air Museum (ZOAM) and ends on the road above the Goreme Open Air Museum.  I takes anything from a few hours, if you rush, to a whole day, if you smell the roses.  Catch a dolmus (minibus) or taxi to ZOAM and then head back towards Goreme, along a dirt track on the left of the road.  This takes you to Pasabagi, or Monk's Valley, where you should explore a bit and then make your way up the hill where most of the tour groups stand and look down over the valley.  Once on top, do an about turn, so that Pasabagi is behind you, and find a path that leads down the hill.  Walk for around half an hour and you'll end up in the new part of Cavusin.  Follow your nose, or ask a local, and make your way up to the old and really interesting part of town that was literally cut into a rocky mountainside and inhabited until not so long ago.  Ask someone to point out the way to the red and rose valleys and head out of town.  If you need to refuel, stop at the little restaurant on the left and have a bite to eat.  Walk along the dirt trail away from Cavusin and take the second turning left, hopefully signposted 'Rose Valley'.  This path takes you up into the beautiful valley, which is second from the left if you stand facing the mountains ahead.  Continue for quite some time along this trail, through a few archways and finally the path will start taking a right turn up the side of the valley.  Continue up this fairly steep path and at the top enjoy a really spectacular view.  Head down into the Red Valley, stopping at the Hacli (White) Church on the way.  You end up on the valley floor where you can follow the path out.  At a main junction, with a larger dirt road cutting across in front and a few little stalls selling souvenirs and drinks, take a left turn.  You are now in the Meskender Valley, quite long, leading you back towards Goreme.  Follow the dry river bed, under arches and then up to a campsite and road.  Turn right on the road and walk down the hill to the Goreme Open Air Museum.   


The second walk takes in the famous Love (or Honey) Valley.  Walk out of Goreme into and through the Pigeon Valley, towards Uchisar.  In no time at all, you'll find yourself looking up at a few stalls and a viewpoint above.  Take any one of a number of tracks up to the road above.  Cross over this road, turn left and walk a few minutes towards Uchisar until you see a track down to the right.  Follow this into the little valley and then up the other side.  You'll now be up on a ridge and ahead of you will be a path that leads away from Uchisar and down into the Love Valley.  Here you will normally have someone point you in the right direction.  This sandy track is a bit steep, so take care, but soon you'll find yourself at the floor of the valley, and the dry river bed.  Make your way along this, through the wonderful scenery and huge fairy chimneys until you reach a little stall and a dirt road.  This road will take you to a tarred one which you should turn right onto and after 50m or so, you'll be at the main road connecting Avanos and Goreme (to your right).  Flag down a passing bus or walk along the road into Goreme.  



Monday, 11 June 2012

Istanbul's best restaurants

Istanbul is a massive, hyperacitve metropolis; sprawling out across the ends of both Europe and Asia.  It's a social and cultural melting pot that in places holds on tightly to it's traditions but seems at the same time to be modernising before your eyes.  A great way, in my opinion, to appreciate the tussle between old, new, east and west is to get stuck into the abundance of markets and variety of food available.

I found it to be a truly inspiring culinary destination but only if you're able to ignore the aggressive and pushy vendors that almost engage in a tug of war with opposing restaurants to get customers seated at their tables.  Below is a list of my favourite Istanbul establishments.

Namli Gurme, in Karakoy, was tops in my books.  It's a delicatessen that looks after locals and tourists alike and was a breath of fresh air when it comes to genuine service.  They have a counter where you order what you want, whether it be a bubbling stew, some freshly cooked meatballs or a mix of their excellent salad and veggie dishes.  This along with great coffee's and excellent desserts makes this place something very special.

Ciya Sofrasi, in Kadikoy, on the Asian side, does everything really well.  It's definitely a little touristy, because of numerous international reviews and a good Trip Advisor following, but it has original and pretty good food.  The butternut (or pumpkin) dessert is reason enough to make the trip. 

Kurufasilyeci Erzincanli Ali Baba, just outside the Suleymaniye Mosque, has been making the same mildly spicy tomato bean dish since 1924 and why change when you're onto something good.  They seemed to be seriously popular and their famous dish was wholesome and big on flavour. 

An absolute must, for any visitor is to sit at one of the multitude of restaurants on the lower level of the Galata Bridge.  They all seemed to do the same thing, and the food was decent enough, but the sight of fishermen dangling rods from the road above and the occasional fish being raised up, is really something worth seeing.