Friday, 31 October 2014

Halloween inspiration.

If you are sitting in front of a pumpkin, knife in hand, wondering whether it's easier to cut round eyes or square eyes, here are a few examples of pumpkin sculpture from Bodrum that might encourage you to raise your game.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

First sip. Melon Seed Sherbet.

Harem Scene by Quintana Blas Olleras (1851-1919)

The word sherbet brings two images to my mind. The first, as a child of the Midlands in the 1960s, is of a yellow tube filled with fizzing powder that could be sucked up a liquorice straw. If you lived in the Midlands in the 60s you'll know that this was about as exciting as life got, especially when the dust went up the nose and made us sneeze and wheeze. 

The second image is of well-padded Ottoman ladies lounging on plump cushions sipping pastel liquids from engraved glasses. I have yet to find a recipe for Sherbet Fountains  so it is the latter I'm writing about today. 
After tasty lunch of green beans and kale in Gambilya restaurant on Monday, our Turkish coffee was accompanied by a small glass of an opaque, slightly pink liquid. In its gold etched glass, it looked just the accoutrement for a silk-draped lady of a bygone era.  I usually pride myself on recognising ingredients but I had no idea what I was drinking.  At the risk of sounding like the worst wine bore, its subtle taste had a whiff of vanilla and an essence of reclining under a honeysuckle vine on a sunny day. It was quite impossible to pinpoint the flavour.  We had to ask Lale what it was and the answer was a surprise - melon seed drink. 

I've mentioned Lale's drinks before in Mulberry and Purple basil cordial at Gambilya and she is very good at sourcing traditional recipes.  This one was brought to Turkey by Jews fleeing Spain and is still a popular drink in Spanish speaking countries.  It's simple to make and, with the growing popularity of seed and nut milks, I'm surprised that I haven't come across it before. 

Wash the seeds of a cantaloup or yellow melon.  
Dry the seeds in the sun for 24 hours 
Grind or liquidize the seeds with two glasses of unchlorinated water 
Leave for 24 hours until the liquid thickens and goes milky in colour 
Strain and squeeze through muslin, sweeten if desired and drink chilled. 

Some recipes suggest boiling the seeds in the water for 5 minutes, but I'm sure the drink is more nutritious unheated.  In some of the Spanish or Mexican recipes, melon juice or lime juice is added, but I think this would mask the delicate flavour.  I haven't made it myself yet but will definitely be coming back from Sunday's market with two large melons.  

Saturday, 25 October 2014


Twenty three years ago, we decided that a life without neighbours was for us. Not that we had particularly bad neighbours but one was partial to DIY at six in the morning, the other wasn't keen on our dog and after 10 years watching Bodrum town change from a small fishing village to an international  holiday resort, we wanted a bit of peace.  This is probably the most hypocritical sentiment I have ever written as we were more responsible than most for making Bodrum crowded. As travel agents we hosted journalists from The Telegraph, New York Times, Times, Daily Mail and Observer and even made a  programme with the fledgling TVAM thus ensuring everyone found out  how unspoilt and beautiful our part of the world was and thereby  encouraged the World and his wife to visit. Our escape plan was reliant of finding a quiet plot and building a house. But, despite being very busy looking after an ever increasing number of new visitors, we weren't particularly flush with cash, so most of the pieces of land we looked at on the Bodrum peninsula were out of our price range.  Which is rather a long winded explanation of how we ended up 36 kms from Bodrum, next to a forest on the outskirts of a  small village.  In retrospect, our lack of funds was a saving grace. All of the places we would have chosen, had we been affluent, are now built up and busy, where as our  couple of acres is unchanged. Well almost!  We've been neighbourless since we moved in in 1992 up to this year when the plot in front of us was put  up for sale and a small weekend retreat has gone up.  It's only just visible from the terrace and the building work hasn't disturbed us at all, so I don't think we'll be bothered if the new occupants decide to do DIY at 6 am. 

Over the past couple of decades I haven't paid much attention to the property market in the area but I was chuffed to be included in a list of 10 useful blogs by and clicked on the link to have a look at the houses for sale.  There are some amazing  residences with 7 figure prices to match, but also flats with sea views for 5 figure sums.  I am returning the compliment by putting their link here for those of you who like to dream of a palace (or place) by the sea. 

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Yellow Summer

This time of the year is called Sarı Yaz - Yellow Summer, but I think a better English translation would be "Mellow Summer". The heat and harshness July and August is over,  the air feels soft and everything seems to calm down, even the sea has a milky laziness to it.  It is a perfect time to plan long walks. The ground is still dry underfoot so heavy boots are unnecessary and it's both warm enough and cool enough for a single T-shirt and one bottle of water.  It's a golden time as a the countryside takes on all shades from flaxen to copper and even the most mundane scene has a little romance about it.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Life Goes On

As the chickens come home to roost just across the South Eastern borders of Turkey, life in the South West goes on as normal.  You'd have to look very hard here to find clues that a "war" is raging at the other end of the country.  A small protest in central Bodrum demanding Turkish intervention in Kobane wasn't even reported in the local papers.
Here it is olive picking time again; at least it's time to collect the green ones, there are still a couple of months left to collect the black ones.   We were a bit late with ours and many of the green olives were turning colour, which meant that my thumbs were an even darker shade of brown after an afternoon cutting each olive three times.

These will be soaked for a couple of weeks in water, refreshed on a daily basis and bottled in salt water.    Who knows what the Iraqi/Syrian/Kurdish/Turkish situation will be when we get to taste the new harvest in a month or two.

For those of you interested in the political situation, please take a few minutes to read The Senior Dogs'  latest post from Istanbul which really brings it home to me how lucky I am to be living in this particular corner of Turkey.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Bodrum Talks Teas.

Photo credit - Robert Patrick
Friday's talk gave us a few reasons to sweat;  tricky translations, non-compatable memory sticks, non-existent air-con and the inevitable mobile phones piping up every so often, but over all it went very well and more people than expected turned up. 
I've been asked to transcribe the whole talk for the H3A website, so I'll  put the link on here when it's available. But, in the meantime, here is a snippet: 

Linden Flower Tea  - Ihlamur

Linden is an herb that comes from various species of Tilia or Lime Tree. The flowers were historically used to soothe nerves and treat health problems associated with anxiety. These flowers were steeped as a tea to relieve indigestion, irregular heartbeat, and vomiting. Today, linden is used in many cough and cold remedies. Active ingredients in linden help promote sweating, which may help treat people with fevers. Tilia has been studied in only a few test tube and animal trials. It appears to have antispasmodic (reducing muscle contractions), astringent (drying), diuretic, and sedative properties.
Frequent use of linden has been linked with heart damage. Do not use without medical supervision if you have heart disease.

Kara baş otu
French lavender – Kara baş otu

French lavender tea is used in Turkey mainly to remedy forgetfulness, and is thought to be useful against Altzheimers. It is also used for good blood flow and against coughs. The tea is sold in Turkey as a cure all for heart and circulation problems, stress, insomnia, prostate problems, high cholesterol, shifting mucus, bronchitis, muscle pains, head aches, and hand tremors. Use the flowers to make tea, and either drink or use the liquid to bathe an aching area, or mix the flowers with honey and eat. 

Olive leaves

Olive leaf - Zeytin yapragı

In the early 20th century, a bitter compound called oleuropein was discovered in olive leaves and in the past 20 years this substance has undergone considerable research.
Initial results show positive results in boosting the immune system against both viral and bacterial attack, promoting increased energy levels, strengthening the cardiovascular system and helping ease aching muscles.

As the winter cold and flu season approaches, I produce my own olive leaf extract. The easiest method is to collect a handful of leaves from trees that haven't been sprayed, chop and infuse in almost boiled water for 5 minutes, strain and drink. The leaves can also be dried and made into tea. I admit it's not a very pleasant taste, but it improved with a teaspoon of honey.
The second way is to steep the leaves in alcohol, olive oil or glycerine  to make a tincture. I pop a few handfuls of leaves into a blender then pushed them into a clean glass bottle and fill it up with vodka. I turn it every day and after 6 weeks I have my tincture. Half a teaspoon morning and night seems to be the recommended dose, although tests at over 100 times this amount showed no harmful effects. I don’t take it all the time, just when I feel a cold or sore throat coming on.

This formula can now be bought over the counter in pharmacies and herbalists in the UK and Turkey. 

Friday, 10 October 2014

A basket full of Bodrum teas.

I got back from Greece just in time to miss all at the Bayram festival sacrifices, which suits me. The rest of the week has been taken up with preparing for a talk I'm giving today on local remedies. This is the basket I prepared to take to the lecture. It is one of my favourite baskets, a Sussex trug brought all the way from England but filled with local Bodrum teas: St John's wort, Sage, French lavender, everlasting flowers, Linden flower, olive leaf and "cough grass". Once the lecture is done and dusted I will have time to devote myself to blogging again .... Watch this space.

Monday, 6 October 2014

Flying Dolphin floundering

If the passenger-carrying metal tube in which you are sitting is going to break down, then it's preferable to be in one with foils rather than wings. My trip on Tuesday was going really well: after my long sit down in Istanbul, Pegasus Airlines got me to Athens airport 10 minutes early and I hopped on the 5 o'clock bus to Pireaus, getting to the harbour in plenty of time to board the Flying Dolphin No 29 to Hydra. For the first time I was in Seat No. 1, with lots of leg room. My 25 companions in the front cabin were jolly French tourists on a trip to Ermioni for dinner.  The vessels on this route have all seen better days. They creak, shriek and wobble and throw out alarming amounts of black exhaust. On a rough trip they also leak and if you put your handbag on the floor, you'll find a wavy salt-encrusted line half way up it the next day. 
We left the harbour on the dot of 7:20 PM and I could almost taste the pork loin washed down with a glass of Santorini White that I was planning on demolishing before I headed up the many steps to the house. In anticipation of this tasty supper, I'd forsworn the free wine at Istanbul and only had a light beer, soup and sandwich.  We'd progressed about 20 meters when the eardrum piercing screeching started. I'm not an engineer, but metal scraping on metal is a good indicator that an engine is not fit for a two hour journey.   We slowed down, the noise abated. We speeded up, the noise started again accompanied by a shudder. We slowed down again.  This carried on for 2 hours.  There were vague announcements that there may be plastic around a foil. Oh yeh! After 2 hours, just when I should have been finding a table in the harbour, there was announcement that we were returning to Piraeus.  I'd been following our progress on my iPhone and knew that we'd been circling outside Piraeus for the past 120 minutes.  We hobbled back into port and got on Dolphin No. 17 which was sitting in exactly the place it had been when we left 2 and a half hours before.  I finally got to Hydra at 11:30pm, climbed the endless steps and made do with a cup of tea and a cream cracker, wondering if the French tour party were still in such a good mood as they carried on to Ermioni to see if their dinner was still on offer at midnight. 

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

A comfy chair

Airports aren't much fun.  They give travelling a bad name.  I had a 5 hour stopover in Istanbul yesterday, not long enough to get out into the city but a very long time stuck on uncomfortable seats. So I found myself a comfy armchair.  I had to pay 15 Euros (39TL) for the privilege of sitting on it but it came with 2 hours free internet, unlimited tea, coffee, beer, wine, rolls, soup, cake, salad and newspapers so well worth the outlay.  I don't have any posh credit cards, so I just paid up at the door.   If you find yourself at Sabiha Gökçen Airport and are travelling with Pegasus or Turkish Airlines, I suggest you head upstairs for the lounges too.  The escalator is a bit of a tease - it only starts to move as you approach, so make sure you head for the one on the right hand side!  The lounge in the domestic side is 29TL but alcohol free.