Tuesday, 21 November 2017

THE Cookery Book to have on your shelf

As most of you know I make my living working as a professional cook. I no longer work full time but I still manage to get paid occasionally to provide good food.  There is a misconception that 'good' cooks don't need cookery books and I admit to only using two or three recipes in any cookery book I buy. But one book that is just about to be published will be in both my kitchens and on my bedside table (yes I've ordered 3 to start with) and will be well thumbed, slightly oily and no doubt splashed with tomato and pomegranate juice in no time; the sign of the best recipe collections.  I discovered Özlem Warren through her blog, Özlem's Turkish Table and have been lucky enough to meet her and her family on her trips to Bodrum. I have used her recipes extensively and they have got me out of several professional holes when I just couldn't come up with a menu idea.  If you are going to buy one cookery book in the next 12 months, please buy this one. If you think you can't cook - definitely buy it - you can prove yourself wrong.  Healthy, tasty, honest food with zingy flavours is all any of us want to cook and if it looks spectacular too, we can all take a bow.

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Yoga in Bodrum

I know I go on and on about how great it is to live in Bodrum and it is surprising how few folk take me to task over it, but it really is pretty amazing.  There are not many places in the Northern hemisphere where you can do yoga outside in the first two weeks of November at 8:30 in the morning. I wish this was a photo of me on my yoga mat and I really should be quite good at it by now after the 30 years or so of downward dogs and warrior poses that I've creaked my ever increasingly unbending body into, but I'm not.  I put it down to being a typical English pear shape that means my bottom-heavy physique resists any pose that suggests my lower half should be higher than my shoulders.  But I still love yoga and always feel more energised and supple when I attend regular sessions. 

The pictures are of Menekşe Karaman whose class I am attending on Monday and Thursday mornings.  The cool drizzle forced us inside to the Karia Prenses hotel last week but the minute the sun shines again, we will be spreading our yoga mats amongst the almost tropical vegetation in the hotel garden.

If you would like to join us please contact me backtobodrum@gmail.com or on the BacktoBodrum Facebook page
Menekşe also teaches in Gümüşluk  and I'm happy to forward her contact details by email.

I'll leave you with a photo of my yoga mat and blocks. 

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Freewriting for Travel writers

Before she left for Cambodia, Jay Artale, the eponymous author of Roving JayThe Bodrum Peninsula Travel Guide and The Gümüşlük Travel Guide, popped in for coffee and cake and presented this to the budding travel writer in our house.  Now it is difficult enough to get a dog to write a travel blog, despite his recent trans-continental adventures, so trying to get him to concentrate on the written word is only possible with the aid of a doggie treat hidden in the spine, and thus a very short-lived endeavour.  I was quick to rescue the book from slobber and have read it myself cover to cover.  It's a useful tool for those of us who get sluggish with our posts and articles and need a nudge to help us back on to the regular writing track. I would certainly recommend it to anyone who is keen to try travel writing but nervous about actually starting. The prompts will get your pencil racing across the page.   If you would like a wider audience for your efforts , I am happy to publish any posts relating to Turkey, Greece, Cookery or Canines on BacktoBodrum. Jake insisted the last category be inserted.

Available in paperback and digital from Amazon. 

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Ladies'Lunch 2017

Fantastic weather, a beautiful setting, delicious food and a vineyard - What could go wrong? Absolutely nothing. This year's Ladies' Lunch was a triumph for first time organisers Jemma Reynolds and Sarah J Carter.  After a break in this long running end-of-season institution, The Ladies' Lunch was resurrected in the beautiful setting of The Karnas Winery at Selia Farm in Çömlekçi.

Aslı Mutlu of Cooking Classes Bodrum produced the food and Selva İşmen the wine: a partnership that is going from strength to strength providing something a bit out of the ordinary in the Bodrum area.  This would be a wonderful setting for a wedding or big anniversary party and anyone who has qualms about access shouldn't worry. We travelled by minibus which took just 30 minutes from central Bodrum.

I didn't count but about 35 of us reconnected with old friends or made new ones and some of us were lucky in the traditional ticket raffle.

I was very lucky as the first number out of the bag. 

These occasions are great for bringing people together. This is me with Sari who started reading this blog in her native Finland. 

Past Ladies' Lunches: 201220132014

Tuesday, 7 November 2017


A downpour last week coupled with warm temperatures this week has sent my Bodrum garden into overdrive. I'm sure I can actually see it growing. A banana leaf that I hadn't even noticed at the week-end, blocked my entrance this morning and unless I've grown 2 inches in the night, the pomegranate tree is heading south, complete with 2 brace of head-banging-into fruit . 

I have spent the afternoon pruning and have disposed of all the surplus except the rosemary leftovers.  I can't bare to throw away such a useful herb. It will take me some time but I am determined to use it all up.

 Starting with my cup of Earl Grey 

and as a stirrer in my G & T. 

 A few facts about this wonderful herb. 

Rosemary – Biberiye in Turkish 

1. Rosmarinic acid is a natural polyphenolic antioxidant and has been found to have anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, and anti-oxidant functions. Apart from the Rosemary, other popular herbs like Sage, Mint, Oregano and Thyme also contain appreciable levels of rosmarinic acid. (If uses when barbecuing meat - these herb counteract the carcinogenic affects of cooking meat over a grill)

2. Rosemary oil distilled from the flowers is known to be astringent and a stimulant.

3. Its oil is used externally as an anti irritant to soothe painful ailments like gout and rheumatism.

4. Rosemary herb extractions, when applied to the  scalp,  can help prevent dandruff.

5. Rosemary tea is a natural remedy for nervous headache, colds, and depression.

6. At Northumbria University,  students were tested before and after sniffing rosemary.  Results show that those using rosemary improved both their speed and accuracy .

Saturday, 4 November 2017

Quince Cheese - Membrillo

It's a rare dull and rainy day in Bodrum - a stay at home and mess about in the kitchen sort of day. Before lunch I tipped 3 lamb shanks, onions and root veg into the slow cooker so there is a homely smell of stew wafting around - I thought the rain was preventing Jake crossing the threshold, but it may be the scent of braised lamb bones. After our morning walks I have been picking up windfalls from my neighbour's quince tree - it seems a shame that they are usually left to rot. Today was the day to do something with them. I usually peel, halve and de-core quinces and roast them with honey and lemon juice but these sad specimens were small and half rotten in parts and only salvageable in bits. So I decided to make Membrillo - the delicious set quince paste that is solid enough to cut into shapes and is best served with salty sheep's cheese. 

Lemon juice

I put my cored, peeled and chopped quince pieces in an saucepan and poured in just enough water to almost cover the fruit.  This is then put on a gentle boil until almost all the water is boiled away and the fruit is soft. You should have about 4 tablespoons or a centimetre of water left in the bottom of the pan. Most recipes tell you to boil the fruit in plenty of water then drain this away,  but all the pectin leeches from the fruit into the water and this last concentrated bit will make sure your paste sets firm. Tip the contents of the saucepan into a bowl and puree it with a stick blender (or push it through a sieve) - Wash the saucepan and using a cup, measure the quince puree back into the saucepan. Wash and dry the cup and then use it to put the same amount of sugar into the puree and add the juice of half a lemon for each two cups.  Stir this mixture to dissolve the sugar and keep on a low heat as it gently bubbles and thickens. Mine took 45 minutes to get to a thick, dark orange.  The mixture will need stirring every few minutes so don't leave it for long or it will stick to the bottom of the pot. I think you could safely put it in a slow cooker for a few hours but mine was full of stew. 

When your wooden spoon leaves a clean path behind it on the bottom of the saucepan, turn off the heat and turn your oven on to its lowest setting - mine is about 60 degrees C. Line a tin with lightly buttered baking parchment and pour in the paste.  Pop it into the oven until it sets firm. Mine took 1 hour. The aim is to dry it not cook it.

Delicious served with Izmir Tulum cheese. 

Cut into squares and wrapped in greaseproof paper, membrillo will last for months in the fridge. Next time (there are plenty more quinces to fall) I will pour it into a cupcake tray lined with paper cases and make individual small cheeses.  But that can wait until the next rainy day.

Thursday, 2 November 2017

October lamentations

These Ecco boots will have to last

A first world problem I know, but upsetting. My mother, friend Jane and I headed to Oasis, Bodrum's first shopping mall. I only go there to buy shoes and I buy in just one shop - Ecco. Jane comes all the way from Marmaris to shop there. You probably can't imagine our disappointment when we found it closed - fully grown women shouldn't be brought nearly to tears because a shop has shut down but as the only supplier of hardwearing, affordable, comfortable footwear for 100s of miles - this was a blow. 
Not the first this month - I rang the lady who looks after all my banking and insurance to check a payment. She answered as usual and efficiently fixed the problem and then dropped the bombshell - she has been transferred. She has looked after our finances since we moved back to Bodrum and helped me sort everything out when Teo died, I have relied on her heavily to keep the ship afloat. Change hurts. 
And finally the biggest lament; on October 1st, Bodrum Castle closed its doors to visitors, with no indication when they will open again. The plan is to put all the museum exhibits into one purpose-built hall in the centre of the castle. Apart from the worry of how all the heat and moisture-sensitive displays will be stored whilst work continues, Bodrum's already teetering tourism industry will take another hit when it least needs one.  

Scaffolding up around the castle

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Don't you get bored in the winter?

One of the most frequently asked questions. Most people assume that places with an economy founded on tourism close down in the winter and become ghost towns. Maybe some do but Bodrum could never be accused of being boring.  I love October because all the winter activities start again and the cooler weather and acid bright skies generate an enthusiasm for new projects. School may be well over for the majority of us but there is still a familiar 'new term' feeling in the air. The Bodrum council has a long list of classes in languages, art, craft and professional qualifications; by the time I got back from Greece all the ones I wanted to join were full but I'll try to join in January when enrolment opens again.  But I'm not short of activities to pursue. 

October 7th marked our reading group's return to monthly meetings. We usually chat over tea, coffee and cake but our first meeting was a pot luck lunch.  Fantastic food as always with lots of intelligent comment, which makes me so grateful for living where I do. 

A few Wednesdays later it is time to decide what the photography group is going to do over the next few months. It can be quite difficult to concentrate when the view is so spectacular, but decisions are made.

And Martha Patrick is still dreaming up stimulating  prompts to galvanise our brains and get the writing muscles going. Hopefully the results of this practice will spill over to this blog.

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Garova Vineyard

Two years ago I wrote about a visit to Mehmet Vuran's Garova vineyard and sang the praises of his wonderful wine.  As a hobby winemaker he was unable to sell his produce so we could only go away with one bottle as a gift. Last week I returned to Karanlık to visit his newly built winery. He now has a licence and will be producing 10,000 bottles this year and hopefully 15,000 next. The new building has a spacious balcony overlooking the vineyard, a production and storage area in the basement and ample room to host visitors.  This is an exciting development for the Karaova region as it will tempt tourists and coastal dwellers to travel inland and sample a few rural delights.  It is especially good news for me, as I now have the best wine in the region on sale within walking distance of my house. 
Photo credit Chris Drum Berkaya

November 2015 
Bonum vinum laetificat cor hominis
"Good wine gladdens a person's heart." -- Latin proverb

"Iyı şarap kalbini neşelendirir" --  Latince atasözü 

This blog is nearly 4 years old and this is the first time I've mentioned the vineyard 45 minutes walk from our house. There's a good reason. Despite walking past many times and chatting to the owner at various social events, we hadn't ever ventured inside. Considering the number of 75cl empty bottles I bag up and take out every week, this seems a serious and unexplainable oversight.  It took a visit from  a friend from my university days who, unlike me, recognises a good vintage when she tastes one, to inspire us to visit. 

Mehmet Vuran is the brains behind the establishment. He has planted several different grape varieties on his family farm and runs a hobby winery, i.e. all the produce is for home use or entertaining friends, he doesn't sell his wine. He opened a bottle of zinfandel for us and knocked us out - I get to try some serious wines when I'm at work and I can swear that Mehmet's wine was as good as any of the $75 plus wines I've tasted this year, in fact better.  I would have loaded up with enough cases for the rest of the year if I could have, but this wasn't an option.  

Helen, wine tasting in Pınarlı Belen. 
Mehmet kindly gave us a bottle to take away and we've kept it in the cupboard as it needed an appreciative audience to share it with us.  The opportunity came on Sunday and our label-less bottle got decanted into a vessel suited to its quality.  Second tasting was just as good as the first. 

Beautiful decanter thanks to Claire and Chris

So the good news is that fantastic wine is being made locally in the Bodrum area. The bad news is that you can't buy it. But the better news is that Mehmet's wine has received such good feed-back from vintners all over the world that he is considering turning his vineyard into a commercial enterprise. If he does, I'm thinking offering my services if he opens a cafe - as long as he pays me in wine. 

Mehmet writes a brilliant blog Garova Günlüğü, if you speak Turkish, it is a mine of information on agriculture, viticulture and local lore, if you don't, it's worth looking at just for the photographs. 

Friday, 27 October 2017

Blogs in Turkey

Many thanks to Leyla Yvonne Ergil for including BacktoBodrum in this list. I suggest you follow Leyla to read all the great articles she writes in English for DAILY SABAH newspaper.