Saturday, 31 March 2012

A Healthy Money-Spinner

As I go about my weekly shop, I'm constantly being told the health benefits of the items I buy. I don't ask for this information but it's seems to have become a mandatory part of the sales pitch.  I went to buy  kumquats and when I asked the price per kilo, the stall holder, reeled off the benefits of eating kumquats; apparently they will lower my blood pressure, improve my blood purity and rid me of  excess water.  "Yes, but how much are they?" I tried again.  "What are your symptoms?"  he asked. I explained that there was nothing wrong with me,  that I just like preserved kumquats and he shut up and sold me 15 TL's worth.  A couple of days later, while buying artichokes, I was told they would improve my liver and help decrease the damage alcohol has done to my system.  This was getting personal. Do they watch me approach and say to themselves, "Here comes an overweight, stressed-out dipsomaniac. We must sell her some nettles, carob and quince." Today, I was quite relieved to see signs up in the supermarket proclaiming the health giving wonders of coconut and cape gooseberry. Amateur herbalism has obviously become a national obsession since I was last living here.  It's a good ploy to up sales and it works.  I bought a box of the altın çilek, (Golden strawberries in Turkish) just in case they really do help me loose a kilo a week.  

     Altın çilek, thyme and carob pods

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Wistful Banking

I am becoming a bit nostalgic for the banks of the past. I have been trying to buy a sofa online and neither my Turkish debit nor my UK credit card is acceptable to that giant multinational Ikea, so I've had to apply for a Turkish credit card which has meant several trips to the bank. I first went to ask if my debit card would be sufficient for the order.  Yes was the answer, so I transferred money into the account.  When it didn't work, I went back. The manager, after apologizing for the misinformation, then filled in a credit card application form for me.  The next day, there was a call from the bank to say that the form had been filled in incorrectly, so back I went. This was all conducted very politely in shiny steel and glass surroundings that make me feel as if I have stepped into a spaceship.
In my first life in Bodrum the value of the Lira dropped from 189 TL to £1  to 2,000,000TL to £1, so I always kept money in sterling. Any time I needed TL, I would nip to the Ak Bank in the centre of town, be greeted by all the cashiers, write out an English cheque, pass it over the counter and get my wads of cash.  No waiting for the cheque to clear, no charge for writing a cheque and no fee for transferring funds from the UK. Happy days.
Back in the present, while I was on my 4th trip to the bank I was amused to see that the traditional village method of carrying money is just the same. An old boy in a flat cap at the desk next to me was asking for 25, the cashier said he could only have 20.  I felt sorry for him as 20 TL is less than £7.  Then the money was counted out  -20,000TL. No briefcase or bag for him, he carefully wrapped the notes up in a newspaper, tied it with a piece of string from his pocket and tucked it under his arm.  I'm glad some things don't change.

Small change 

Sunday, 25 March 2012

A Passion for Prickles

My first attempt at cooking thistles worked very well.  I'll be buying some more next week to try the Greek way of cooking them with lemon and egg sauce.  If you pick your own thistles you want to get rid of all the green leaf and prickles leaving only the stalk and root. 

500g Kenker (Thistle) chopped into 1 cm slices 
2 diced onions
2 tblsp olive oil
1 tblsp tomato paste
2 cloves garlic, chopped finely
1 cup cooked chick peas or white beans
1 cup vegetable stock
salt and pepper
(250g of diced lamb is added in the Bodrum recipe, I didn't use this)

Sauté the onions in the oil for 5 mins until soft but not brown, add the kenker and garlic and  carry on frying for a few minutes.  Add the rest of the ingredients and put over a low light to simmer.  Add a little more stock if it gets too dry, but the roots give up quite a lot of liquid.  They are ready when the roots are completely soft. Mine took 90 minutes but were worth waiting for.  I was told they would cook in 30 minutes and reading around the subject, it seems that the type of ground the thistles grow in makes a big difference to how tough they are. Mine must have come off the side of a mountain. 

Eating thistle is supposed to be very good for your liver. So if your planning a night on the booze start your evening off with a plate of kenker.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Prickly Eat.

A couple of weeks ago I ate a bowl of delicious Kenker, (thistle stalks) in the Körfez Restaurant and as I've never cooked it before, decided today was the day to give it a go. With info gleaned from Ali, the Körfez heir apparent, I went to buy Kenker, Kenger in the local dialect, also known as Deve Dikeni (Prickles that camels like). I didn't have a recipe so staked out the most likely informant. She was big of bosom, her headscarf decorated with those pretty dangly crochet adornments which show a true village lady and had an array of various greenery in front of her. I picked up a bunch of the most likely roots and on confirming their identity asked her how she cooked them.  "Don't know" she replied. "Never eat them."  Deflated, I moved on to the next stand, where the stall holder didn't get chance to tell me his recipe as the customer behind was very keen to relate how her mother cooked it. This is where I should have left the market with my 500g of thistle root.  Instead I went to one more stall, where the kenker looked a bit thicker and bought 500g here, cockily showing off by using the other term involving a camel. "That's not Deve Dikeni" he said. "This is" and thrust another bunch of greenery at me.


Deve Dikeni

I've spent a couple of hours on the internet, trying to pin down which thistle is which. I'm pretty sure Kenker is the common purple flowered type and it is now bubbling in a pan on the stove. It was meant to take 30 minutes and it's been going for over an hour  and is still pretty chewy.  If we enjoy eating it, I'll post the recipe tomorrow.


Kenker - Purple - -

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Kitchen Memoir 2

I'm happily using my new kitchen now and it's a pleasure to be in, so much so that I've decided to become a housewife.  We have accidentally designed something rather retro. I couldn't quite put my finger on what it reminds me of but PerkingthePansies, Jack  pinned it straight away. "It's very Doris Day" he said and he's right.  I'm now looking online for a frilly pinafore or I might even get out the sewing machine and some jaunty gingham and get stitching myself.
My first cooking job abroad was very different. I was cooking for an archaeological dig in Assiros,  Northern Greece. We lived in various village houses but all dined in an unfinished new-build.  The kitchen consisted of a trestle table and a two-burner stove. It proved to be the job that set me up for my life cooking in Turkey. With only aubergines, peppers, onions and tomatoes  in abundant supply,  I steadily worked my way through Claudia Roden's Book of Middle Eastern Food. Every day I would prepare supper in vast earthenware dishes and take them down to the village baker to be put in the ovens after the bread had been baked.  A practice that was still going on in Bodrum in the 80's.  We ate our body weight in grapes and water melon and discovered real yogurt for the first time. The delicious thick stuff with a yellow crust on top that comes in large metal trays rather than little plastic pots. I haven't seen yogurt sold like this for years. Does anyone know if it's still exists?

Much missed Laurence in front of our house in Assiros


Sunday, 18 March 2012

Turfanda - First of the Season - Broad beans

Turfanda - The enjoyment of eating something that is just in season.  An activity I'm keen to embrace this year. I made my last batch of marmalade today, so I'm ready to say goodbye to the winter season and hello to spring's greenery.  Fresh broad beans are just appearing on the bushes in this part of the Aegean and I cooked our first batch this week.  I missed these so much while we lived in England as hardly anyone eats the pods; waiting until the beans are big enough to harvest and throwing the pods away.  Such a waste, as the young pods taste much better than the beans.  One of the benefits of moving back to Turkey has been going back to using just a couple of vegetables as a base for an evening meal. When veg is this good,  meat is superfluous.

My recipe for bakla, broad beans isn't a completely traditional one, but I'll eat them this way all spring. 

500g  fresh broad bean pods, topped and tailed
2 onions - chopped
1 leek- chopped
1 tbls chopped celeriac
1 tblsp olive oil.
vegetable stock 
salt and pepper
chopped dill
yogurt to serve.

Sauté the onions, leek and celeriac in the olive oil for a few minutes, then add the beans and sauté until the pods turn a bright green. Add enough  stock to almost cover the beans and put a tight lid on the pot and simmer for 20 minutes.  Turks like their beans very soft, I prefer them to retain a little bite. Add salt and pepper and allow to cool a little for the flavour to develop.  Sprinkled with dill and traditionally served with yogurt, I prefer mine with rice.  

Friday, 16 March 2012

Thanks Ayak

I was very happy to receive a blog award from Ayak today.  I've had a good look at her site, and despite her detailed instructions, I can't put my award on the side of the page. So it will have pride of place on a post of it's own. I also now have another good reason to invite Ayak to visit when she's in Bodrum.  

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Wild Asparagus - Tilkişen

I spent most of Monday staring at the ground looking for kuzugobeği,( morel mushrooms) and tilkişen, (wild asparagus).  I couldn't find either, I'm out of practice, it's been 12 years since I last went in search of them.  It's a bit early for the morel mushrooms, which is why they are selling for 200 TL a kilo, but the time is ripe for wild asparagus.  I was probably a bit too late  in the day, the village ladies had got there before me.  The forestry commission has made such a muddy mess of our village road that everyone is now using our garden as the thoroughfare and I'm sure the new shooting asparagus is too tempting to ignore.  I had to buy my tilkişen from the market today for 5TL a bunch. As it takes hours to find, I think this was £1.80 well spent. I used half tonight in a mushroom and asparagus tart and the rest will go into scrambled eggs for tomorrow's lunch. 


Shortcrust pastry
200g plain flour
100g butter
pinch salt
Cold water

500g mushrooms
25 stalks wild asparagus, break into 10cm lengths
2 tblsp green olive past (optional)
2 onions
splash of olive oil
2 cloves garlic
100g white cheese
Dill, parsley or whatever fresh herbs you have, chopped. 
salt and pepper

Set oven to 200 degrees C. Rub the butter into the flour and salt and add enough water to make a soft dough. Chill for one hour
Slice the onions and mushrooms and sauté in a splash of oil, when softened, add chopped garlic and asparagus and sauté for another 2 minutes, then season and set aside to cool. Roll out the pastry to a rough oblong and place on a flat baking tray.  This makes enough to cover one oven tray. Bake the pastry for 10 minutes until is is just starting to colour.  Remove from the oven and cover the  pastry with the olive paste, then the mushroom mix, leaving any residual liquid behind.  Crumble the white cheese on top and scatter the herbs, then back in the oven for another 10 minutes to melt the cheese.  I served it with a carrot, beetroot and rocket salad. 

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Green Dilemma

I'm in a recycling dilemma. Last week, as I carefully pushed my glass bottles through the correct hole in the Çevko recycling bin, a tramp, (can I still call a hairy, obviously homeless individual that) was pulling my bottles out the other side and adding to his stash in a shopping trolley.  Being very British I carried on putting in one side and he carried on taking out the other.  I could have just given them to him, but this way dignity was preserved on both sides.  I was a bit confused how he was pulling my glass bottles out of the hole for plastic until I looked in and saw that everything is mixed together in the bin.  Opportunist gentleman of the road aside,  I'm not even sure I should be putting my used glass, tin and plastic into these bins; it's a habit I got into living in England.  For as long as there has been rubbish to throw away on the Bodrum peninsula, there have been families living on the rubbish tips, sorting through all the detritus and selling it. Very efficient recycling. If you drive there you will see piles of wood, bones, plastic, rubber, paper, glass and so on. This is their livelihood, however smelly and unpleasant.  In the twenty-first century, they shouldn't be up there doing this Dickensian job but as long as they are, shouldn't I be sending my rubbish up to them via the daily collection not putting it into blue bins. I've looked at the  Çevko web site but I can't see where the proceeds of their recycling ends up. Ideally it would be used to re-home and re-educate the families from the rubbish tips, then I could put my bottles in the blue bins again without feeling guilty.
(Article in Turkish about the Bodrum rubbish tip)

Friday, 9 March 2012

What was my name again?

Today, I was on my way to collect a pair of old boots from the cobbler when I was hailed from the other side of the road. This happens on a daily basis and I'm getting really embarrassed at my bad memory for names.  I see a face that I know, but struggle to put it in a time/place context.  I get a bit of a clue from what is shouted out.  If there is a bellow of "Annie Hoca" (hoca = teacher) , there's a good chance that it's one of my old students. If the call is "Annie Yenge" (relative's wife) it's probably one of my husband's Bodrum friends but definitely not a city friend.  If it's "Annie Hanım" -(Mrs.) then it's somebody I knew more formally, maybe from work.   While my brain is fighting to remember a name, or at least a job title, it seems to forget every word of Turkish I have ever learned, leaving me a stuttering imbecile.  Today I didn't have any difficultly recognizing Ata, one of the two grocer brothers who featured in my blog last month  but I've been stumped on a number of occasions. I've been practicing the Turkish for "Of course I know you, your name is on the tip of tongue." Sometimes a name doesn't help either. I had a long conversation with a chap who seemed to know my life history, who turned out to be a waiter in a restaurant I had frequented in 1992. On Sunday I went to Gumușluk where I used to rent out houses to tourists.  I'd only been there a few minutes and   three people had asked if I was back in business and did I want their apartments. How could they remember? I haven't rented a house there for 13 years. I put this phenomenal recall down to the Turkish education system which depends on learning by rote. By the age of seven, my daughter was expected to have memorized reams of Turkish poetry and the complete terms of the 1923 Lausanne Treaty. She couldn't hack it and neither could I so I whisked her off for a spell in a British primary school. I hope I haven't condemned the poor girl to a life of forgetfulness like her mother.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Does Random Kindness Still Exist?

In the 80's I used to travel a lot by shared taxi, dolmuş; not the minibuses you see today but Willys jeeps, mostly ex-US army from the 50s and 60s.  It was a bumpy and drafty ride and a bit of a struggle to get in and out of the back.  I frequently used to ride in a jeep that didn't have a working hand-brake so the clutch control of the driver was crucial if you wanted to get out alive on a hill.  Yes, you guessed it, I lived on a slope, so I always got out way before my house.  One day I arrived home to find that I'd left my bag in the jeep, along with about £250 cash and travelers cheques (remember them). None of the money was mine, it was all excursion money from my holiday clients.  I was getting into full swing panic mode when there was a knock at the door and I tearfully opened it to the beaming dolmuş driver holding out my bag, all money intact. As I'd always got out early, he must have driven around asking until he found the right house.
Now I'm back in Bodrum, I doubted whether this generosity of spirit still existed, having read so many horror stories on the ex-pat forums. But only a few days after we arrived, I was on a dolmuş to Milas to collect our new car when the driver stopped to pick up a woman in her late 50s.  She told him she was on her way to collect her pension so had no money. Would he still take her to Milas? Of course he would.  A small event but it gave me hope that human kindness still ruled here.  I've had this post on the back burner for a couple of months as I felt that this one action didn't prove much, then yesterday I read my fellow blogger Ayak's post about her recent experience of a kind dolmus driver and decided this is the day to press the publish button.
Thanks to Ayak for the link.

Monday, 5 March 2012

The Balloon Bicycle

You can't fault this guy's entrepreneurial spirit. The minute the sun comes out, he's off to the children's playground with his helium filled balloons.  I hope he sold some.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

The Marble Effect.

I detect a bit of  architectural competition going on in Bodrum today and it involves a lot of marble.  A while ago, about 2,360 years to be accurate, a large brick building was covered in marble. It gained quite a reputation, got itself on the "Seven Wonders of the World" list in fact. Even generated a word - "mausoleum"; we're still using it today. If you walk near the marina you cannot miss the stacks and stacks of marble along the seafront.  This time the marble is not going up a 40 meters high building, it's going along the pavement.  I wonder if this effort will generate a new word or enter the modern "Wonders of the World" list.  It is certainly an endeavour of epic proportions and gives our modern Bodrum more than a hint of its Halikarnassus past.

The museum at the site of the Mausoleum is on Turgut Reis Caddesi in Bodrum and it has its own room in the British Museum.