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.

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Karaova Vine Harvest Festival - Evaluation

Yesterday I joined a press trip to the village of Karanlık to hear the organisers of this year's Vine Harvest Festival give an appraisal of the festival's impact. This was only the third time the event has happened in Mumcular: the first was a great success, the second a damp squib, but the third has been declared a winner. Visitor and exhibitor numbers were up by 30% and a greater variety of produce was on show. I was away in Greece but hear that I missed new businesses making tomato jam and bitter gourd remedies as well as a multitude of cheeses, carpets, kilims, olive oils and wine. I was sad not to see Travelling Joy's fig tart demonstration (click on the link for the recipe) and I also missed lectures on olive oil production and cheese making.  A procession through Bodrum on the Friday before the festival was credited for the increase in visitors, although I noticed posters and flyers up a couple of months before - unusual here where advertising is a very last minute affair.
Karaova-Der, the association responsible, under the leadership of Ali Öztürk, is keen to present their pastoral area as an antidote to the citification of the Bodrum peninsula. If agricultural and rural activities can be revived and made profitable, the next generation of villagers may not be bused out to work in mass tourism, but stay local and find employment in Eco tourism or countyside boutique hotels. 
This is of course music to my ears. When we built our house and moved to Karaova 25 years ago, most of our friends thought we were mad. It's nice to know that others are happy to sing Karaova's praises, even if it has taken a quarter of a century. 

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Up and Down

Jake and I should be very fit. The last five weeks have involved a lot of steps. The top photo is half way up our bread run in Hydra. The bakery is in the corner of the harbour. We tackled these steps between 6:45 and 7:30am each day for one month; I was the more enthusiastic participant - although my calves and knees complained at first.  Every morning Jake enthusiastically bounded out of our studio but tried every trick in the book to avoid walking back up. 

These are a few of our afternoon steps; a more gentle slope down to Kamini bay, if only there was a Bakery here.  There were evening steps too, but Jake stayed at home - he'd had enough climbing by then.

So we were in good condition to embark on an archaeological marathon the day after we got back to Turkey.  This is Jake climbing the steps to the Temple of Apollo at Didyma - I was all for it but I'm sure he is thinking, "You have got to be joking".

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Normal service resumed as soon as possible

Both Jake and I are sorry for the dearth of posts - we have been so busy travelling that the iPad has been ignored.  Normal life should resume next week and we'll get fingers and paws back to the key board.

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

The first time

This is the face of a dog that has just tasted pork souvlaki for the first time.  The excited anticipation of the next piece mixed with the accusation, "Why have you never given me this before?" and already the tinge of despair in the eyes, knowing that it is not going to happen again for a long time.

Monday, 25 September 2017

New Friends

It could have been a bit of a disaster bringing a dog to work - especially for a cook, but so far so good.  I realised that I no longer had to worry about Jake after the first dinner party. While I was working away in the kitchen, Jake was invited into the dining room and by the time the first course had been served, he was under the table having his chin tickled.  He was very upset to see the first guests go; he barked loudly at me and had a doggy tantrum worthy of a toddler - I have a feeling he could see himself on an English country estate or in a Chelsea town house and was hoping for a ride on a private jet.   Return to the bungalow in the Turkish countryside is going to be a big disappointment for him.
When not working, having a dog by my side has been great for me too. I've met so many more people this trip - all conversations ignited by Jake. He has also made friends. He was shocked to meet Zubee, a female Jake look-a-like, also an ex-street dog, rescued by Dimitrios Antonitsis, the founder and curator of "Hydra School Projects' - an international platform for visual arts. In its 17th year, this season's work is on show in the old Hydra High School under the title 'Gestalt'. So Jake has been to his first art exhibition.
He also met a brown version of himself called Bruno, another rescue dog, and has been invited to and  agreed to take me along to the biggest Easter party on the island - should we find ourselves here at that time next year.
I think he needs to read this past post about Easter on Hydra before he makes any firm plans - I'm not sure his nerves (or mine) can take the explosions and public hanging.

Jake and Zubee or is it Zubee and Jake. 

Monday, 18 September 2017

Roving Jay picking grapes

That title is slightly misleading - it should read 'Roving Jay eating and photographing grapes' but after my post despairing at all the fruit rotting on the vines because I couldn't reach them, the Roving Jay grape picking team were very welcome.  It's good to know the grapes were appreciated. I left a bottle of grape juice fermenting in my studio. I hope it will be well on its way to turning into wine when I get back.

Saved by Annie’s Grapes

After a delicious Turkish Breakfast at Etrim, where we were served a feast worthy of a Sultan, it was back to Annie’s house (she of Back to Bodrum blog fame) – a short 10 minute ride away – to help with the grape harvest.
We all had a role to play. Annie was chief ladder holder and grape director, Red was the scissor touting harvester, Tracey and Jake were on the moral support and quality control committee, and I was the capture-the-moment archivist.
Tracey and Jake on the moral support committee
Read the rest of Jay's post with lots more pictures here

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Island Dog

I've been here over 10 days now and I thought you'd like to see some of my holiday snaps. This is me at the harbour, with the flying dolphin coming in to port behind me. 

This is me in the Isolos bar/restaurant.  We come here a lot as there is always a bowl of water for me and the large glasses of wine are 5€ with a refill so I'm sure it's not just the comfy cushions that are drawing the boss back.  

The island is full of cats. I don't mind cats; Bodrum has a lot too but here there is a cat around every corner, in every plant pot and under every table.  I'm allergic to flee bites and have already had to meet the island vet and get treated for inflamed skin, despite my drops and collar from Turkey.  He says it happens to every newcomer but it was an itchy (and expensive) first few days.  The trip here wasn't much fun either. I wasn't allowed inside the catamaran, and had to spend the 90 minute journey in a metal cage on the aft deck. I wasn't as traumatised as my owner but I landed in Hydra with oily paws and undercarriage which is not the arrival I planned for such a chic resort. 

I suppose I should mention the donkeys, mules and horses too but to be honest I find them very up themselves. Being on every post card, guidebook and bag has given them very inflated egos - the donkeys are the worst - they stand right in front of me and make unflattering remarks as I go past. I can usually ignore them but sometimes the boss has to hold me back.  It's lucky we're on short leash in Hydra, not the extending one. 
In general though Hydra is a very dog friendly island - we haven't been turned way from any restaurant or cafe and most people and fellow canines want to say hello.  I feel quite at home. 
Wish you all were here 

Monday, 11 September 2017

Vine Harvest Festival Pictures

It sounds as if this year everything came together to produce a great festival. Chris Drum Berkaya and David Beavis kindly sent me some photos to show me what I missed and have allowed me to post them here.  I'm sure Joy will write a blog post as soon as she gets back. After years of trying to meet up with Joy, she was demonstrating her tart making just 6 kms from my house and I wasn't there - one day Joy.

Bodrum - Friday Evening ( Photo -Chris Drum Berkaya)

Bodrum Friday Evening (Photo CDB)

Joy and Asli, owner of Cooking Classes in Bodrum
Mumcular Saturday (photo David Beavis)

Mumcular Saturday (photo DB)

Mumcular Saturday (photo DB)