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Turkey

Kantin, Istanbul.

August 27, 2012
I have a new favourite restaurant. It’s early on in our relationship and I’m in that dizzy stage of love at first bite. Don’t you just love discovering new places that speak to you on a scrumptious, spiritual level? The atmosphere, the culinary offerings…you feel like you’ve found a piece of your soul in a tasty little corner that caters to your every delicious whim.

But there is a bit of a problem. My new favourite restaurant is in Istanbul, Turkey. I live in Melbourne, Australia. There are some fundamental logistical issues here. I fear it will be a long time between bites *sigh*.

Kantin is a restaurant in the Nişantaşı district of Istanbul, which focuses on quality, seasonal produce. They prepare clean, wholesome flavours with care. It’s a dream. Kantin has been described in guide books as the ultimate destination for ladies who lunch, and I do so love a ladies lunch date. After hearing this description, I decided I wanted to show Ben what a ladies’ lunch entailed. Men do not tend to be privy to such lady business, and I thought I would introduce him to our world. Heck, I really just wanted an excuse to join these lunching ladies at Kantin.

And so on our third and final day in Istanbul (our first stop on our 5 week European honeymoon ) we visited Kantin. We sat at our little table for two surrounded by sleek coiffed gals and their LV bags. There was a darling flower pot on our table. The scene was set.

Ben was intrigued by this new world…

Our incredibly friendly, spruce waiter translated the daily blackboard menu for us and brought us bread. Let me state it simply, this was the best bread I devoured on our entire European honeymoon. Stunning sourdough…in Turkey. Who’d have thought it?

 

To start, tabbouleh, Kantin’s version. This was definitely a tabbouleh with a twist. My man is mad for tabbouleh, it’s a thing. Ben declared this beautiful, delicate serve to be his most favourite version ever. The pickled onions and candied almonds offered a happy zing with every bite, and it was all just ridiculously scrumptious. We were obsessed with this salad.
Boy, it can get hot in Istanbul in July, so naturally refreshments were in order. Any place that has homemade lemonade on offer gets major points in my book. We were given a choice of watermelon, ginger beer, lemon or melon – we chose the latter two. They were supremely refreshing, very very sweet and wholly satisfying.
For our lunch date, we shared two dishes. The first was a greedy plate of salmon patties. On top of the simple and plump patties sat a proud little dill mixture. Oh do I adore dill. This dish was divine. The roasted tomatoes were delicious and the mash incredibly buttery and rich. And the patties…perfection.
We also shared some meatballs with eggplant. Roasted eggplant is always a winner in my book, and these meatballs were really lovely. There was nothing dazzling about this dish, so our affectionate forks tended to gravitate towards the salmon patties. Nevertheless, this second dish was subtly satisfying.

We left out lunch date at Kantin on a lemonade cloud of dill deliciousness. Ben now knows what shall ensue when I state I am off to lunch with my ladies. And I dare say he shall be forever jealous.

…..

Doesn’t Kantin sound like a beautiful restaurant? It really is. Let’s meet there for lunch, shall we? How does tomorrow suit? (let a girl dream…)

Kantin’s excellence doesn’t stop there, either. Downstairs, in front of the kitchen, they have a take-away style shop. Here you can grab pre-made salads, falafels, dips and more, as well as loaves of their beautiful, house-made bread. Oh, and sweets too. Here’s the loot we picked up on our first visit.

Their brownie was dangerously rich, with a gorgeous, gooey yet still somehow fluffy texture.

Their chocolate chip cookie was possibly the best I have ever eaten. The perfect texture, bordering on a little too sweet, but just so darn delicious it didn’t even matter. I couldn’t handle it, really. It was too much. Too good. Sensory overload.

It was really hard to share this one.

This soft pillow was filled with a cherry mixture and was really lovely. Although after that cookie I felt a bit blaze towards this dear little pouch. Nothing personal.

And their biscotti? Oh, no big deal, it was just the best biscotti I’ve ever eaten – completely jam-packed with nuts and fruit, with a brilliant prominent hit of cinnamon. Super thin, crunchy goodness. I hope to replicate the recipe myself, and if I even get slightly close to the deliciousness that is Kantin’s biscotti, I shall be ecstatic.

…..

Ben and I ended our 5 week honeymoon in Turkey, for one final night. On that night we visited Antiochia and drank a little too much pear-infused vodka. It was amazing. The morning after, we headed straight to Kantin to stock up on goodies for a picnic meal at the airport. I was determined that my last meal in Europe was to be fabulous. And it was.

Leaf salad with tahini yoghurt dressing, tabbouleh, roast beef slices, hummus, ead, köfte and falafel.

The best falafel I’ve ever had (well, a tie with a dreamy falafel wrap we ate in Notting Hill three years ago…) Heavy on the chickpea and not too fussy, just how I like it.

We boarded our plane very full, very happy and very much in love with Kantin.

…..

We’re home now, back in chilly Melbourne. And missing our European travels just a pinch. So for lunch over the weekend I decided to surprise Ben and re-create the salmon patties, tabbouleh and hummus. It took us straight back to Istanbul. We were very full and very happy.

All that was missing was Kantin’s beautiful bread and luscious lemonade. And that cute pot of flowers on our table. Perhaps come Summer I’ll make some Kantin-inspired lemonade? Yes, that would be lovely. For now? Try these recipes and put a little simple and wholesome Kantin-inspired beauty on our plate.

Salmon Patties

Makes 6 patties.

Ingredients

400g tinned Wild Alaskan Salmon
1 heaping tablespoon finely chopped Dill
1 Egg
2-3 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil (you might need only 2, depending on how non-stick your pan is)
Salt and Pepper

Method

1. Drain the salmon well, ensuring there is no free liquid.
2. Place the salmon in a mixing bowl with the dill. Season generously with salt and pepper and use a for to mash the mixture together.
3. Whisk the egg and add to the salmon mixture. Stir to combine.
4. Heat the oil in a non-stick pan over medium heat. When hot (check by flicking some water droplets on the pan – if it’s hot enough, they’ll dance on the pan) add the patties to the pan (form patties by moistening hands with water and forming into a pattie shape). Cook for 4-6 minutes until golden brown, then flip, press down slightly with a spatula and cook for a further 4-5 minutes until golden brown.
5. Place patties on paper towel and dab away excess oil. Serve.

 

Twisted Tabbouleh

Makes 2 large servings or 4 side salads.

Ingredients

1/2 cup Pearl Barley
1/2 cup Chicken Stock
1 cup Water
2 handfuls Spinach Leaves
2 handfuls chopped Parsley
1/3 cup chopped Cucumber
1 stick chopped Celery
1/2 a Quick Pickled Onion (recipe link – LOVE this)
2 handfuls Candied Nuts (recipe link – I cut the sugar down a little, Make extra nuts and give them as gifts in cute little jars)
A squeeze 1 juicy Lemon
Salt and Pepper

Method

1. Cook the pearl barley by adding the barley, stock and water to a pot. Bring to the boil then simmer down for 20-30 minutes until cooked. Add more water if necessary. You don’t want to overcook the barley, you still want it to have a bit of bite. Drain any remaining water and rinse under cold water. Set aside.
2. Meanwhile, cook the pickled onions and candied nuts as per their recipe instructions.
3. When the barley, onions and nuts are done, you can start assembling the salad. Place the spinach leaves, parsley, cucumber, celery and onion in a mixing bowl. Add the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. Toss to combine then scatter the nuts over the top. Serve.

 

Hummus

Makes ~1.5 cups hummus.
This recipe requires a hand blender. Alternatively you can be enthusiastic with your masher.

Ingredients

1 x 240g Chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons Unhulled Tahini
2 teaspoons Garlic-Infused Extra Virgin Olive Oil (substitute: Extra Virgin Olive Oil and 1/2 Garlic clove (add more or less garlic to your preference))
1 tablespoon Lemon Juice
A pinch of Salt

Method

1. Add all the ingredients to the blender and whizz to combine, stopping to stir as required to incorporate the mixture (this will be a chunky hummus so it might require some stirring).
2. Taste, then add more tahini/garlic/oil/lemon/salt as desired. Whizz again then serve.

 

 

Heidi xo

Istanbul Jam

August 23, 2012
For want of a more appropriate word to describe this post, I have chosen “jam”. An Istanbul jam. A post positively packed with highlights of our visit – let’s be honest, many of them are food related. Following on from the gorgeous gözleme, truly wonderful meal at Antiochia and Inebolu market rapture, I present you with my remaining highlights.
Istanbul really is a magical city. Although far more developed than I had anticipated, I found myself enamoured with the more cosmopolitan areas and sleek dining scene, which fits in so seamlessly alongside the heart of old Istanbul and it’s relatively untouched traditions.
I still have one more Istanbul post to come, where I’ll introduce you to my new favourite cafe. But for now, enjoy this jam, noting our few wondrous Summer days in Istanbul…

Turkish breakfast at Van Kahavaltı Evi. Somehow I do not believe the Nutella to be a true reflection of traditional Turkish cuisine…but the rest was just fabulous. I really loved this place. We arrived sweaty from a morning workout to a lovely refreshing plate of breakfast goodies, including tomato, cucumber, olives, boiled eggs and cheese and a serve of yummy menemen (scrambled eggs with onions and peppers). Plus tea and Turkish coffee, and an OJ for Ben. We also really loved the area this restaurant was located in, so I do suggest a visit.
Grab an ice-cream and wander down bust ling Istiklal Caddesi, a large avenue loaded with…well, people. Become slightly terrified by fluorescent, undoubtedly high dancing buskers. Save your pennies for the cute old man playing traditional Turkish tunes.

When visiting the Grand Bazaar or other sights in Sultanahmet, stop off for lunch at an Istanbul institution, Tarihi Sultanahmet Köftecisi. Here you get simple plates of fatty, un-fussy köfte with peppers, salad, spiced pepper paste and a big soft roll. Smush it all together and you can’t deny, it is rather delicious.

 

 

 

Fishing on the bridge… Everyone does it. All the time.

 

You’re after some sweets now, right? Well I must say that neither Ben and I are mad for Turkish Delight, much to the dismay of my father-in-law. We are, however, mad for baklava. And when in Istanbul, you go toKaraköy Güllüoğlu, the spot for baklava.

This place means business, serious baklava business. I attempted a few times to order and became so completely overwhelmed with the process that I sent Ben into battle. Ben then went about ordering portions of whichever ones took our fancy – a tough job, they have a mighty spread of pastry pleasures. Little did we know that “one portion” referred to six pieces of baklava. Enter an entire tray filled with baklava. Yep. How embarrassment. A take-home pack was necessary.

Honestly, I found this baklava all too buttery. I know, I know, you wouldn’t believe that could be possible, but it is. I much preferred the baklava we delighted in whilst galavanting throughout Greece, as well as the recipe I’ve made at home, which is heavier on infused sugar-syrup and nut flavours.

 

 

I did, however, enjoy the chocolate baklava. Who would have thought? Cocoa goodness.

 

 

The most surprisingly scrumptious street vendor meal ever? I think possibly, yes. Chicken and chickpeas on rice, loaded with black pepper. I turned a blind eye to sanitation and just enjoyed the simple brilliance of this snack.

Catch a ferry or two – one of the most pleasant activities you can do while in Istanbul. We caught many ferries on our trip, just hopping over from Europe to Asia, as you do…

 

 

After catching the ferry to Kadıköy, we wandered over to Ciya. Here we were greeted with fresh, flavourful salads and dips, sour cherry and meatball soup (amaze), yoghurt and artichoke soup, and the most deliciously succulent kebab meat you’ve ever eaten.
Happiness.

A favourite afternoon was spent reading in Gülhane Park, with some people watching thrown in for good measure. Cokes and novels, summer fun.

Drinks at Amenon Hotel for a gorgeous view of the city. A slightly expensive gin & tonic, but it came with a fun straw, so it all evens out.

Dinner at Ece Aksoy. We were poised with a street view and delighted in stunning olives, a gorgeous seafood platter, yummy meatballs and the most delicious pork fillet with apple sauce and picked ginger cabbage. Oh man, that pork.

 

 

 

 

Istanbul Summer nights…
Wasn’t that a pretty jam? Man, I’m jonesing for that sour cherry and meatball soup…

 

Heidi xo

Istanbul Notes

Length of stay

: 3 days, then 1 more night at the end of our – a good amount of time.

Accommodation

: we stayed at Med Cezir in Sultanahmet, and the staff were really wonderful. I wouldn’t stay in Sultanahmet again, however, as there wasn’t much that interested us in that area. Our last night we scored a deal at the Hilton, and this location was fabulously close to Kantin. Next time I’d look for accommodation somewhere near the Galata Tower.

Where we ate

– see previous posts: Kantin, Van Kahavaltı Evi, Tarihi Sultanahmet Köftecisi, Karaköy Güllüoğlu, Ciya, Antiochia, Tasca da Esquina, Pasteis de Belem, Bakirkoy and Inebolu markets.

Highlights

: Inebolu market, dinner at Antiochia, catching countless ferries, everything about Kantin, devouring authentic gozleme, pear-infused vodka atBeyoğlu bars and lazing in Gulhane park.

Inebolu Market, Istanbul

August 18, 2012

I guess it will come as no surprise that I do a lot of research when travelling. Food specific research – where to eat, what to eat, all that jazz. I like to try and uncover places where locals go as, naturally, that’s where the good stuff is. That’s where you get the unaltered, unapologetic, untarnished flavours.

That’s what we want.

Ben and I had been incredibly successful in our Gözlemehunt, so the following morning we decided to search for more market goodness. I’d heard many good things about Inebolu market, a Sunday market in Beyoğlu’s Kasimpaşa district where locals stock up on goodies from the Inebolu Black Sea region of Turkey (East of Istanbul). And so Sunday morning, we caught a cab to this unassuming street, our eyes (and bellies) eager for the plethora of produce awaiting us.

 

Look at those beauties!

 

 

 

The rows of bread were incredibly appealing to our ravenous, rumbling bellies. Apparently this recipe uses cornmeal, which gives the loaves a lovely yellow tinge. Naturally my market investigations into how the bread was produced fell short due to the language barrier. Nevertheless the stall owners were incredibly generous in offering samples and encouraging us to eat! We obliged.

 

 

Containers filled with cheese – white, crumbly and undoubtedly brilliant.

Milk and süzme (strained) yoghurt, in bulk. Ben reasoned with me that we did not need 1kg of yoghurt…I suppose he was right.
Buckets and buckets of dark sticky substances…I believed them to be tar. Ben believed this assumption to be ridiculous. We’re still not certain what it was, possibly a thick jam of sorts?
Ben also reasoned that I did not need a basket of eggs. I maintain that this basket was super cute.

 

 

Beautiful fruits, dried and fresh…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ok, time to shop…

 

 

We bought breads, tomato, beans, nuts and fruit, and had ourselves a little breakfast picnic with our gorgeous Turkish produce.

 

This bread stuffed with spring onions was lovely. It would be better warmed, but this taste was really yummy.

 

The supposed corn bread was filled with light air-pockets but had a density to it that made it quite tough to eat. I imagine it would be divine toasted and drizzled with honey.

 

This tomato was crazy good. So fresh and so clean.

The star of the show? These beans. These stunning, simple beans – just open, eat, and enjoy immensely. They tasted as fresh and inspiring as their brilliant colour.

This was the best dried fig I have ever eaten. So incredibly packed with sweet goodness, I found it a little overwhelming. When I fall, I fall hard. This was pure bliss to me.

A little tart plum never hurt anyone, now did it? This was mighty delicious.

And these mulberries? Well they tasted like candy. Straight-up candy.

What a treat, to be introduced to such divine produce and welcomed with friendly greetings and haphazard translation attempts. All natural, all fresh, all seasonal and incredibly healthy. Honestly, what more could you want? If only I had such a market right near my house.

Heidi xo

Out for Dinner in Istanbul: Antiochia

August 15, 2012

 

One luxury of traveling is the ability to go out for dinner far more frequently than you would at home. I adore eating out, especially in new countries. Bonus points if there is no English on the menu and you have to play the “point and hope for the best” game. I recall one very interesting meal in Moscow three years ago where Ben and I played that very game. We won some and lost some. Pickled fish was involved. Good times.
Turkey was the first stop on our honeymoon. Ben and I had a few meals out in Istanbul – one was average, one was lovely but not traditional. And then we went to Antiochia.
Antiochia is a popular restaurant nestled in the Beyoğlu area of the city, attracting a young and hip crowd (did I just write “young and hip”? I think I did). Anyway, this funky spot (is “funky” worse?) only seats a modest number of patrons and so you may have grab a drink at one of the many bars nearby while you wait for a table. When we visited Antiochia Ben and I did just that, snagging cheap (compared to Melbourne standards) cocktails pre-dinner one night. They make strong cocktails in Istanbul…just saying. I will forever foster simultaneous feelings of affection and repulsion towards pear-infused vodka.

 

Antiochia serves a great grill – traditional dishes done with a clean, modern edge. Something tells me it’s not the type of food a traditional Turkish mamma would make, but it’s everything you could ever want as an introduction to Turkish cuisine in a sleek environment.
Raki to start, the Turkish spirit which I found to be very similar in taste to Ouzo. I hope I am not grossly offending cultures by drawing a comparison, they may possibly be light-years apart but to me they taste very similar. And they both leave everything a little bit fuzzy after a few sips. Same same but different.
Their Shepherd’s Salad was pure, simple deliciousness. Fresh lettuce and tomato, generously dressed in pomegranate molasses and loaded with chopped walnuts. Perfection.
The toasted pita was warm and addictive. The tzatziki was thick and full and wonderful and the muhammara (a Turkish hot pepper dip) was really lovely – much drier and chunkier than others we tried. Appetiser deliciousness.
The grilled steak was fantastic – darling plump pieces of fillet cooked perfectly. The grilled pepper and tomato were wonderful additions to the dish (you often receive these as accompaniments to your dish in Turkey).
A second visit? Yes indeed. We had dinner at Antiochia on the last night of our honeymoon. Ben and I had heard great things about their durum wrap, although foolishly didn’t order it on our first visit (where we made a rookie mistake and filled up on pita and muhammara). Our last night out started with some celebratory drinks at a nearby bar *enter pear-infused vodka* and ended with a gorgeous spread of Turkish food at Antiochia *enter enthusiastic menu ordering*.
Look at that spread…
It was all really really delicious. On this night we had the durum wrap, which was divinity. Thinly pounded, perfectly seasoned, spiced grilled mince, wrapped with their lovely pita and a little salad decoration. We were in love. We also tried the kofta that night, which were really delicious – a good amount of spice. And again the steak, salad, pita and dips.I’ve long been a fan of pomegranate molasses (check out middle eastern deli’s for a bottle of this sticky golden goodness), but I’m yet to really get into nuts as a salad garnish. Nuts are more of an afterthought for me and I tend to stick to toasted pinenuts or almonds. Now I’m keen to get into walnuts – lots of them!

…..

Istanbul is becoming an increasingly popular tourist destination, and so I thought that this post may be useful for some hungry travellers out there. You gotta eat, right? And you want to eat well, this I know. Antiochia is a pretty great option when going out for dinner in Istanbul. Raki and pear-infused vodka is not necessary but encouraged.

Heidi xo

OMG (Oh My Gözleme)

August 11, 2012

So here we go, the first of my reflective honeymoon posts. We began our 5 week adventure in Turkey, so that is where these posts shall commence.

While I appreciate and love my present, I always long to be lost in some exotic corner of the world, breathing foreign air, drinking in new cultures and discovering new dishes. If you’re like me in this sense, I dearly hope for these posts to be a nice little escape for you, for your hungry traveler soul. And I hope you’re inspired to plan future travels, as well as spontaneous cooking adventures. That would be nice.

 

Let’s begin in Istanbul, Turkey.

The Saturday we arrived, Ben and I checked into our hotel, Med Cezir, just before 8am. The staff here were lovely, as was the room, however personally I’d favour staying around Beyoğlu, rather than Sultanahmet (which is where Med Cezir is located). Tip: while being in Sultanahmet is prime location for visiting many tourists sites, we preferred the somewhat less touristy area of Beyoğlu (plus it was close to all the good eats and bars). When we returned for the final night of our trip, we stayed in Beyoğlu.
Craving inspiration the morning we arrived in Istanbul, this gözleme satisfied. After a little time *cough* hours *cough* spent researching foodie destinations in Istanbul, I decided Ben and I simply had to catch a train to a local Saturday market to try gözleme (a thin, stuffed Turkish pancake). Luckily I have an equally minded husband who encourages such adventures for food.
And so, after checking in, we caught a train in search of Bakirköy market, where this article promised authentic gözleme. After wandering around searching for said market for a short while, we realised we were in fact in the wrong suburb (similar name).
A short cab ride fixed things and we found ourselves right in the middle of a clothing market – t-shirts, underwear, dresses, socks…many socks. Surely this wasn’t right? However tucked away behind rows of fluorescent tank tops and cheap strapless onesies we saw it, a little corner of joy…the sweet sight of hard-working Turkish ladies rolling out gözleme dough, and the heavenly sight of that blessed convex griddle cooking the beauties.
After a short and undoubtedly perplexed assessment, the chirpy stall owners jumped up off their stools and offered us a seat (at 9:30am it seemed we were the early first customers) and some tea.
Always tea in Turkey…always.
We chatted with the gözleme crew, who were delightfully fascinated with us. This gentleman communicated that he wished to travel back to Australia with Ben and I in our suitcase. Whenever we mentioned we were from Australia we received strong welcoming smiles and applause.
While our gözleme cooked we communicated with our new Turkish friends as best we could, discussing this culinary treat and watching as much of the process as we could. The ladies were more than happy for us to take pictures, playing up to the camera and telling us what to capture. They were genuinely warm and welcoming.

 

Waiting to go…
These ladies rolled their dough with effortless precision. Ben and I bypassed the potato option and ordered one spinach and one lamb gözleme. An eager portion of cheese was added, before stunningly fresh spinach was added to the first and then pre-prepared spiced mince to the other. The gözleme were then folded over and oiled – well oiled, my friends – before finishing up on the griddle.
And there you have it.
Deliriously thin dough with superbly fresh ingredients that were clearly and simply fabulous in their own right (that spinach!), all heated and oiled together (oiled, and then oiled some more)…It’s a beautiful thing.
Gözleme perfection, right there.
I’m yet to re-create this dish as, well, we’ve only been home for one week and surviving said week at work took all my mental and physical effort. But I will, oh I willmake my own gözleme (possibly starting with this recipe). Although I can’t help but think if only we did bring the friendly gözleme gent home in our suitcase, we might be eating gözleme right now…
Heidi xo