Monday, 30 March 2015

Itchy Feet

I've got itchy feet and it's not the sort of irritation that can be cured by a trip to the pharmacy.  The affliction started about 10 days ago in the Chamber of Commerce lecture hall while listening to a talk by Altay Özcan, co-author of the Carian Trail guide.  I'd gone along hoping to pick up some tips on how not to get lost while following this new route, although I know that "forgetting to take the guide book with us" is the main reason we find ourselves up a hill in a thicket on most of our rambles.  It seems that we are not the only ones, as Altay willingly admitting that they too found themselves stuck in impenetrable brambles on many occasions in the production of the book. Accompanied by beautiful photographs, he lead us on a virtual walk along the whole 800+ kms of the Carian Trail.  By avoiding big towns and touristic areas, he took me back to the Turkey I remember from the 1980s. Stretches of blue sea bordered by craggy rocks, ancient temples and nobody apart from the odd goat herd. It is so heartening that these wild places are still there for those willing to make the effort. However,  this route is no walk in the park. It's a serious trail that needs proper equipment, preparation  and a good degree of stamina. Sadly I don't think I have the endurance to complete long hikes  but hope to to cherry pick some flattish sections with access to a dog friendly pension nearby.  Once this wet winter has dried out and before the summer sun gets too ferocious, I'm looking forward to heading North, South or East in search of the wild places.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Tilting at Windmills - Troubling Turbines

I seem to spend a lot of time going to protest meetings these days, which makes me appear a bit of a NIMBY - In the case of the 13 projected wind turbines between Yalıkavak and Geriş I think I'm the opposite; a WOENIMBY -  Why On Earth Not In MY Back Yard.  I'm not a great supporter of wind power but if these monsters have to be put somewhere, surely the empty high peaks between Mumcular and the Gulf of Gokova, a few hills back from our rural home would be a more sensible place than on the already crowded Bodrum peninsula. The proposed site near Yalikavak is on land that is, or was in the past, protected because of its archaeological and biological importance and encroaches on the villages of Geriş and Karakaya not to mention outlying pastures, houses and the five seismic fault lines that run around the 14,380,000 sq m plot.  (Yes I have checked the number of zeros).  Is wind power even the right way to go?  When do we need the most power? In the summer.  When do we get the most wind? In the winter.  Put solar power into the same equation and it seems a no brainer to me that we should be concentrating on sun energy.  Solar farms are not attractive either but at least they are quiet, don't kill so many birds and don't need obscene amounts of concrete to stop them falling over.  I came out of the meeting with a heavy heart.  Yet again a massive project has got underway without any consultation with the public, no environmental impact evaluation report and it feels to this woman in the street, a very tenuous adherence to the law of the land.

The meeting was well attended with, ladies from Çomakdağ village near Milas adding a dash of colour to the event.

This young lady seems to be echoing my feelings. 

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Curry Girls

As promised, this Saturday was curry day at Erenler Sofrası. Dina and Angie led 6 keen students step by step through the preparation of lamb vindaloo, butter chicken, samosas, raita, pumpkin and spinach dal and saffron and cardamom dessert.  We willingly peeled, chopped, diced and stirred in anticipation of the evening's feast.

Despite the cool weather, the benefits of an outdoor kitchen became obvious as the heady aromas wafted from the bubbling saucepans.

For most of us cooking is a solitary occupation so it was great fun to cook alongside others and we all enjoyed a good chat as we wielded our knives.

I would have liked to put a photo of the finished banquet here but hunger and greed took over and we had almost cleared the plates by the time I thought to grab my camera.

Dina's Vindaloo Paste
Dry roast a handful each of green and black cardamom, whole black pepper, coriander seeds , cumin seeds  and a cinnamon stick with pinch of fenugreek, cloves and bay leaves, then grind to a powder.   
In a food processor blitz 3 green chilli peppers, a peeled garlic bulb, 10cms fresh ginger, the spice mixture, a tbsp tumeric, a cup of white vinegar (a little water if needed) to a paste.   Add  jalapeno peppers to make hotter if required.
 This paste keeps well in the fridge and I recommend you keep a large jar on hand.  Just add to sautéed onions, any meat of your choice and tomatoes and cook until the meat is tender and the curry has given up a layer of oil on the surface. 

Thursday, 19 March 2015

A Bouquet of Bloggers

Instagram is the way to go I am told - well I've gone but I have no idea what to do with it. Any suggestions? 

Is there a collective name for bloggers, specifically bloggers interested in healthy food?  An "abundance" sounds good, a "bucketload" doesn't.  A"bunch" seems a bit crude and a "bundle" even more so. I'd almost plumped for "bevy" when "bouquet" came to me. This seems appropriate for the fragrant ladies that met up on Saturday at Erenler Sofrası.  Aslıhan, the proprietor had invited some of Istanbul's choice culinary writers to spend  the week-end with her as she showcased the Spring attractions of this part of South West Turkey and I was lucky enough to be invited along for the day.   So many city dwellers now think of Bodrum purely in terms of Summer/nightclubs/posh restaurants/beaches/ expensive yachts that Aslı decided to highlight the charm of rural life around Bodrum with trips to out-of-the-way villages, quiet seafronts, rural vineyards and a cookery demonstration of  local 'ot' recipes in her Ortakent restaurant. "Ot" translates as grass but means any greenery picked wild at this this of the year. It could be white mustard, nettles, wild fennel, broad bean tops, wild asparagus, chard, radish tops and so on.  Many of them will remain a mystery to me and often to those that sell them.  I often spy something in the market that I'm not familiar with and having asked the name I am fobbed off with "yellow grass" or "bitter grass".  Both the vendor and I know that they used that name for something else the week before.

Oya Emerk and Aslıhan Mutlu

Oya's Cuisine is in both English and Turkish and is full of just about everything you could ever want to know about Turkish food and dining. She also has a write up of her long week-end in Bodrum so I recommend you click on the link and take a look.

Funda Aydeniz testing white mustard greens with apricots.

Funda's blog arenandfamily is full of recipes, restaurants and is extremely useful for any of you with young families who live or pass through Istanbul.

Selma Mollaoğlu obviously more experienced than me and taking shots with the light behind her.

Selma's blog is a  cornucopia of recipes and has a translate button that will translate to every language.

Sibel Yalçın handy behind the camera as well as in front of it. 

Sibel's blog is also a beautifully laid-out selection of recipes. She is the TV cook on Derya's World on Kanaltürk on Tuesdays. 

Selin Rozanes, founder of Turkish Flavours, the pioneer of culinary tours in Turkey was also one of our party, but managed to avoid my lens, but if you click on the above links, both she and I are lurking in the back of the others' photos.

I'm going back to Erenler Sofrası this Saturday for an Indian Food extravaganza, click on the link if you'd like to join in.

Monday, 16 March 2015

Posh Porridge- Bodrum Style.

I've been reading about a temporary cafe that has popped-up in London, dedicated to serving posh porridge. For once, I feel that I am ahead of a trend as the oatmeal I prepare every morning would pass muster on any la-di-da breakfast menu.  The following recipe will make my Scottish - oats, salt and water, nothing else - porridge eating friends shout at the screen.

I prefer the rolled oats I buy in Turkey to the UK ones as they are less processed and don't turn stodgy when boiled.  My porridge starts with oats and water and then I add:
A handful of sunflower seeds -  an excellent source of fatty acids, minerals, amino acids and vitamins, especially Vitamin E and B and folic acid
A sprinkle of dried cranberries - these bright red berries seem to prevent bacteria attachment in the urinary tract and may hinder the helicobacter pylori bacteria attaching itself to the stomach lining and so help prevent stomach ulcers. 
Half a teaspoon of cinnamon - curbs insulin spikes, improves brain function and tastes great.
A date or two - if I fancy a sweet breakfast. 
3 or 4 walnuts - a powerful antioxidant and supporter of healthy cholesterol levels

Once it is all boiled up together and in a bowl, on top goes:
A tablespoon of ground linseeds, a teaspoon of bee pollen and a cup of kefir,  just in case my bowel needs regulating (linseed), my immune or  respiratory systems are a bit challenged (bee pollen),  or my gut needs some pro-biotic help (kefir).  I should make my own kefir (fermented milk) at home to get the best mix of pro-biotics, but I'm lazy so I just buy a ready made one. 

This might sound like a decent into hypochondria, but it tastes great if it keeps my Turkish Lira out of the hands of the pharmaceutical giants who'd prefer me to pop pills, I'm happy to keep eating my posh porridge. 

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Cheesy Bodrum

While I was struggling to get back from a Greek Island, Bodrum was having a cheesy time.  I missed most of the events, but caught the cheese tasting in Oasis Shopping Mall.  I was particularly taken with a Gravyer made in Kars, which not surprisingly tasted just like Gruyere.  I now have an excuse to dust off the fondue set that is on a back shelf somewhere in my village storeroom and get stirring.  I always think of fondue as being a Swiss/French/Italian dish only earned after a day on the ski slopes, but according to Mr. Google there is a recipe for melted goats' cheese, Pramnos wine and flour in Homer's Iliad, so we are geographically ideally placed to stage a Fondue Renaissance. 

While on the subject of cheese, I'm going to plug my local cheese supplier: İnci Peynir is a family business based in Mumcular that has been supplying dairy products for over 50 years. I used to top up my fridge every Sunday at the local market but now Mehmet İnci has opened a shop in the centre of Bodrum. I recommend a visit because apart from an array of different cheeses, he has buffalo butter, great yogurt and a shifting display of village made savouries and desserts.

For anyone of my age,  a cheese shop will always be an excuse to "come over all peckish " and "negotiate the vending of some cheesy comestibles" so I will leave you with a reminder of the cheese shop that shaped a generation's expectation of fermented curd emporiums.

İnci Peynir Evi is to be found behind the greengrocers' stalls on the main road into Bodrum from the bus garage.

Sunday, 8 March 2015

In the lap of the Greek gods, part 2

My flight home is booked to leave Athens at 5pm, so I have plenty of time to visit both the museum in Piraeus and then carry on to central Athens to see the new exhibits at the Acropolis.  I check the weather forecast and apart from possible thunder and lightening, the wind speed is showing only 16 knots for Friday morning - a stiff breeze but nothing too vomit inducing. The hydrofoil should be able to skim the waves.  So when I am awoken at 1am by the fir tree in the garden banging against the wall, I first assume it is something inside the house.  It proves how dependant I am on my iPad these days that I first click on the weather icon to reassure myself that it is not windy before I get up and look outside to confirm that the weather app is lying about being updated on an hourly basis.  I hardly get any more sleep as the anticipation of a bouncing around inside the hateful metal tube for 2 hours keeps me awake. By 6:50 I am on a suspiciously empty quay waiting for the 7:05 departure, trying to decide whether a koulourakia for breakfast will settle or unsettle my stomach.  A French lady and her young son turn up and it is obvious that the ferry has been cancelled but news has gone out in a mysterious Greek way that has missed out us two foreigners.  Cecille has a flight at 3pm so we are at least going in the same direction. When public transport fails, the only way to get off the island is by sea-taxi to the mainland - Metohi is only 15 minutes away and we will have to get a road taxi from there.  That is the theory but the "practical" coast guard has banned the trip to Metoxi because it is too rough and insists that boats can only travel to Ermione further south (i.e. away from Athens) as long as they hug the coast and cross in the lee of islands;  a 30 minute trip that puts the cost up from the usual 30 to 120 Euros. As a parsimonious sea sickness-sufferer,  you can imagine how happy this news makes me.  I make a pathetic attempt to bargain the price down, but with a flight to catch and only one sea taxi in the harbour, we all knew that we will be parting with 120 Euros now or considerably more at the airport to buy new flights.  The trip across is just about bearable in a teeth gritting way. At one point Cecille and little Nicolas are sitting opposite me and seconds later they are rolling at my feet. They have been bounced off their seat. My white knuckles are evidence that I have a better grip.  But we get there and find a taxi  (another 200 Euros, this time I do bargain 20 E discount, just to make myself feel a bit better at parting with so much cash) and set off on the 3 hour trip to Athens.  Three-year-old Nicholas keeps us entertained by playing a kind of French eye-spy but demands we answer in Greek,  which makes me feel at home because my Greek lessons in Turkey are in Greek and French, but after an hour, as the road gets more winding, he goes suspiciously quiet and I am just thinking I should retrieve the plastic bags from my pocket but it's too late. After  both boy and car  are cleaned up we are on our way again through a torrential downpour.  We arrive at the airport, considerably poorer with green-tinged, white faces and I decide that travelling is a much overrated  activity and I should spend more time at home.

A calm day in  Hydra

Saturday, 7 March 2015

In the lap of the Greek gods. Part 1.

When I flew into Athens airport last week, I had a few hours to kill before my hydrofoil left for Hydra, so map in hand and luggage chugging embarrassingly noisily behind me, I made my way to the museum in Piraeus.  It has some good reviews on Trip Adviser and I can't resist a museum, recommended or not.  After a hiccup in directions (I couldn't see any street names and the one sign to the museum is not in an obviously useful place) I turned up at 2:45 to see...

Opening hours 08:00 to 15:00

I'd researched opening times and somehow manage to miss that it shut at 3pm.  Nothing for it but to trundle back to the quay in a light drizzle. As I got close I could see that quite a crowd was waiting in the shelters, which I find quite reassuring when I'm travelling on my own, but as I got closer I realised that no one was waiting for a boat. Each well-insulated individual was surrounded by black bags and bottles - the waiting rooms had been commandeered by Pireaus' ever increasing vagrant population.  I'm sympathetic to their plight but didn't fancy settling down in their midst, so I decamped to a cafe and spent 2 hours drinking coffee.   But not to worry, I would be able to catch the museum on my way back.  But those bumptious divine beings on Mount Olympus had other ideas.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Greek Week

I am back in Greece this week, enjoying the sudden change in weather from wet and wind to Spring sunshine.  I've been taking photos on my daily walks and I'm quite chuffed that those I've put on Facebook have been appreciated by friends.  I can't take any credit for these ipad-snatched snaps as Hydra is a truly beautiful island.  Strict building regulations insist that no concrete mars the winding stone streets and existing buildings can not be enlarged or added to.  Private cars and bikes are banned and everything has to be carried on two or four legs. Only the copious amount of donkey dung underfoot saves Hydra from a Disneyesque caricature of a Greek island. It is easy to forget here that Greece is well sunk in an economic dung heap from which it has 4 months to extricate itself.