Saturday, 16 June 2018

Peppers on paper. Peppers on the plate.

I'm still in Hydra, glad to be out of the crazy Bodrum Bayram traffic, with plenty of time on my hands.  Luckily I packed my travel watecolour set so I've been able to make use of my free time to add to my collection of cards. Peppers are abundant at this time of the year and every day has found a plump specimen posing in the late afternoon light.

 Proud pepper

 Falling peppers

Reclining peppers

I'm beginning to see human characteristics in each member of the Capsicum family that I paint so it probably about time I return home to human friends and family and abandoned this solitary 'One woman and her dog'  island life. 
Having made friends with my 'sitters' it seems cruel to eat them, but they are the basis for so many delicious Aegean dishes. 

(The yellow pepper at the top is my 'Shy Pepper')
Red Pepper and Walnut Meze 
4 large red peppers (Bell or long)
1 bulb of garlic
1 cup walnuts
1 red onion
1 tsp chili pepper flakes 
1 tblsp pepper paste (optional) 
1 glug of olive oil

Heat the oven to 190 degrees C
Cut the peppers in halve and remove seeds, peel and cut the onion in quarters. Remove as much papery skin as possible from whole garlic bulb and cut off the top so the tips of the cloves are showing. Lightly oil a baking tray and put all the veg on it in the oven for 30 minutes.  Check after 20 minutes to make sure everything is softening without burning. 
Remove tray from oven and cover with a tea towel and allow to cool completely. 
Dry fry the walnuts over a low heat until they start to release a little oil but don't let them burn. 
Remove the skin from the peppers - it will come off easily once cooled under cover. 
Put the walnuts, peppers, onion and a glug of oil into a blender and mix to a chunky paste.
Squeeze the body of the garlic to extrude the aromatic roast garlic paste and add to the mix. 
Add salt and pepper to taste, pepper paste if you have it (I couldn't find it on the island) and a few chili flakes. Mix again and taste.  I add a tsp of chili but you may prefer just a pinch. 
Serve as part of a meze drizzled with olive oil and lemon juice,  piled on top of a baked potato, as a pasta sauce or as a dip with drinks.

Thursday, 14 June 2018

Monumental Lentil

It is not unnatural to hope that our children will follow in our footsteps, enjoy the things we enjoy and learn from all those days out when we dragged them around art galleries and local monuments.  It's not unnatural to hope but it's highly unlikely to happen. My daughter had clocked up more archaeological sites by the age of 10 than most people see in two lifetimes - has she voluntarily visited any as an adult? Not to my knowledge.  However something must have rubbed off in the 19 years we spent living in the same house because she is turning into a very good cook, with a flare for presentation that is probably learnt from the pages of Instagram and Pinterest  rather than the home kitchen.
She is cooking up tasty, thrifty meals that taste as good as they look.

I've christened this one 'Esi's Monumental Lentil'  in the hope that she might be reminded of all the wonderful ancient sites around Bodrum when she cooks it next.

1 cup red lentils
3 cups water
1 ½ cup of fine bulgur
1 onion
1 tbsp Tomato paste
2 cloves of garlic
Olive oil
Red pepper flakes

Extras – lettuce and lemon to serve, parsley and fresh green onion.

Place the lentils and water into a pan and cook them till soft.
Turn off the heat and add the bulgur to the lentils and mix, put the lid of the pan back on and let it sit for half an hour.
While waiting on the bulgur lentil mixture, you can start on the second half by sauteing one onion and the garlic together in a tablespoon of olive oil.
Once onions and garlic have softened,  add the tbsp of tomato paste into the mixture and stir till the tomato paste has covered the onions and garlic then turn off the heat so as to not burn it.
Check on your bulgur and lentil mixture to see if the bulgur has absorbed the water and become soft, if not add a small amount of boiling water and wait a bit longer.
Once everything has cooled down add both mixtures together, then add in the red pepper flakes, cumin, salt and pepper together and mix with hands squeezing it through the fingers to create a smooth paste.
At this point you may want to add in some fresh parsley and green onions to the mixture for taste.
Once mixed to a paste you can then roll it in your hands and mold until you get a small sausage shape; pile up on a plate and serve with lettuce and lemons, some tzadzikki/cacik and steamed greens. 

Monday, 11 June 2018

Hydra - Noon

After the tranquil photos of Hydra's mornings and evenings - this is what the harbour looks like mid-day. If you are planning a visit, make sure it includes at least one overnight stop or else you will find yourself part of the day tripper crowds that mill around for a couple of hours asking the price of everything, buying very little and taking photos of themselves rather than the stunning scenery. 

Monday, 4 June 2018

A New Life for a British Bike in Bodrum

Teo's bike in it's new home at The Su Hotel Bodrum

In 1981, my late husband Teo was living at the end of the King's Road in London, frequenting the World's End Pub and commuting to the City on his newly purchased Holdsworth Bike. We hadn't yet met, but I too visited that pub quite a lot on my trips to London.  When he decided to move back to Turkey the next year, he was allowed a tax-free  consignment of household goods.  Not having any such things in his newly divorced state - he headed off to Peter Jones at the other end of the road and bought a container load of white goods to make sure that his prized bike made it's duty-free way to Bodrum.  I think I noticed the bike before I noticed the tall, good looking man atop it. It was a one-off in the tiny town that was 1982 Bodrum. 
He carried on riding this bike for the next 34 years. After he died, I put it in the shed where it stayed for a year - not unloved but unrideable for anyone under 6ft 3.  
A Facebook university friend George was keen to take on its restoration but transporting the bike back to the UK was problematical. Then Zafer Küstü, patron of The Su Hotel in Bodrum took on the challenge and the bike was about to get a makeover. 
Holdsworth Bikes were painted according to their year of manufacture and 1981 was Ice Blue Metallic.  Zafer persuaded a paint shop to match the colour exactly and found an internet source for the original Holdsworth transfers which had long ago faded and were about to be painted over.  All the gearing on the bike was made in Italy and by a strange quirk of fate, there is a collector of Italian vintage bike parts living 15kms from Bodrum in Turgutreis.  Another lucky coincidence finds two UK vintage bike specialists who holiday in Torba, 10 kms the other side of Bodrum. They gave the newly renovated bike a once over and corrected any mistakes.  And finally, just to prove that the bicycle is where it is meant to be, Zafer and his wife Christine have a tall, good looking son Barış, who makes this bike look worthy of its name, its first owner and its kind restorer.

Photos coutesy of Zafer Küstü. 

Thursday, 31 May 2018

End of May

There are 3 hours left of May and I am feeling very guilty for abandoning my blog.  It has been a busy month, which has grazed 4 countries; spending too little time in each.  It has however been a very productive month - My small Bodrum town house feels much bigger - and so it should - it now has an extra bathroom and an impressive sun room, neither of which were even an idea on the 1st of May.

These are the builder's photos, I didn't have chance to take any. Furnishings will have to wait until September but with the backdrop of light blue plumbago, fragrant melissa, orange bougainvillea  and multi coloured lantana, it's going to be a joy to relax in whatever I choose.

Jake had 6 days to enjoy the new room and for him it was a revelation. He can monitor the activities of the local cats without having to risk their sharp claws. 

My 10 days in Sweden were also quite fruitful.  Apart from the job I was paid to do, I managed to try out a new water colour style and paint a few cards. I was very grateful for the full length blinds in my room - they were ideal for hanging my work.

And now we are back in Greece.  Ferries are not Jake's favourite mode of transport and we had to take 3, but he was so good  that complete strangers came up to us to compliment him on his behaviour. 

On board - on the way to Kos.

Although as I write this he is barking fit to bust at the three mules braying outside our studio. Time to go and quiet the affray before we make ourselves unpopular.

Friday, 18 May 2018

A question for semanticists

I've been speaking the Turkish language in one form or another for over 35 years but there are times when I'm stumped.   This sign went up outside the football pitch. I understand what it means and would translate it as 'Even if monkeys fall from trees, Bodrumspor won't go down' or 'Whatever happens, Bodrumspor will not be relegated', but I have no idea how the last three words make sense of this meaning. It literally says 'Monkey falls from tree,  Bodrumspor falls to father.'  It shows that the meaning of speech is not just derived from the meaning of individual words all put together but I'd love someone to explain the derivation of this saying.

(It celebrates Bodrumspor, the town football team, saving itself in the last game of the season from being relegated back to the third division, after its disappointing first season in the second. The women's handball and basketball teams did much better - both coming top of their divisions.)

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Yum or Yuk

It shouldn't work but it does.  Smoked fish flavour salty licorice.  Don't worry friends. If I've promised to bring you back licorice, I'll stick to the traditional slightly sweet versions but I'm putting a few bags of these in my suitcase.  

Sunday, 13 May 2018


I like a deadline. I get very little done without one. The closer the better - luckily I found a building team with a similar outlook.  Last week I decided to turn a small downstairs loo and corridor into a bathroom. Uğur (first on the left in the picture) came to measure up. I only had ten days in Bodrum so the work would have to be finished by Saturday 12th May, that gave him 9 days to knock down walls, rebuild, plaster, lower the floor, change the electrics and plumbing, tile walls and floor and put in a door and window and plumb in the new fittings including a radiator.   He didn't bat an eyelid - no problem. So we started and it looked like we were going to be finished with a day spare when the plumber said he'd seen a car he wanted to buy and he was just going to get it - no problem again we thought - but the car was in Hatay. Route planner tells me that this is a mere 1,121 kms from Bodrum, so he was gone for a while - until about 7pm on Saturday which was why my planned early night on Saturday (I had to catch the airport bus at 3:45am on Sunday morning) didn't happen but my bathroom was finished by the Saturday deadline.  This is the team photo at 10:50pm when the job was declared done. On time (just),  on budget and high quality. ( They also filled in the cracks in the living room and kitchen caused by the earthquake and replastered and repainted  a couple of damp patches, and  pruned two of my trees for me as a favour) . They managed this while building the sun room on the front terrace and knocking out my front door and making a bigger one.
This is a telephone number I'm keeping and will happily and confidently pass on to anyone with refurbishment plans in or near Bodrum.

Friday, 11 May 2018

A discombobulated dog

Pastel drawing by T Onursan

The dog is confused. For as long as he can remember, he has started and finished his daily walks through the back door. His lead hangs on the coat rack next to this door. It is one of the certainties of his life. Now his owner has opened the house to builders and apart from all the activity on the front terrace, she has had the downstairs loo wall knocked down and the backdoor bricked up.  Being Turkey, having builders in the house is an excuse for every neighbour to turn up to inspect the work and throw their opinions into the general mess and confuse the dog even more - Why are there so many unknown people in the house?   Jake's back door is now part of a shower room but this is hard for a canine brain to compute so he is still looking for the exit. 

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

BacktoBodrum Building

Bye bye beautiful Bouganvillea

The Turkish Lira is in decline, who knows how much value it will lose this year. Despite being offered a mind-boggling 38% a year interest by my bank (as long as I kept the TL invested for 3 years), I will put my faith in bricks and mortar and invest in my Bodrum house.  Last year I glassed in a balcony and spent many happy winter days sitting in 25 degree C heat while my living room was under 15 degrees, so a sun room on the front of the house seems a good idea.  I've been considering it for a while but one thing held me back - I didn't want to cut down the magnificent bougainvillea that has been growing for 27 years and had become a self supporting tree.  But I got over it and 4 days ago, work on the extension started. Builders Uğur and Onur wielded the saw and braved the spikes to take down the prickly monster and found that there was one branch very close to the soil which could be left and would allow my bougainvillea to grow again.  They were very keen to make sure it doesn't get too tall though as it will block the new-to-Turkey internal roof drainage system of which they are so proud.
Uğur and Onur are under there somewhere

Day 1

Day 2 Ahmet finishes the roof despite getting sunstroke on day 1

Friday, 4 May 2018

Greek sunshine on a grey London day

Paddy Leigh Fermor on a boat with a goat

While I was in London for Özlem's Book Launch I scheduled my visit to the 'Charmed Lives in Greece at the British Museum to coincide with a talk by Sir Michael Llewellyn Smith - British Ambassador to Greece 1996 to1999 - on Patrick Leigh Fermor; one of those characters who seemed to fit in enough deeds of derring-do to fill 4 lifetimes as well as leaving behind a literary legacy that will keep future generations entertained for centuries. 

Hotel by the Sea  John Craxton 

It was a cold, wet day outside but once through the doors of Exhibition Room 5, the Greek sun shone out brightly through the canvasses of John Craxton and Nikos Hadjikyriakos Ghika and warmed us up a treat.  I'm lucky to live on a sun-blessed peninsula, but if I were ever to move back to the UK, I would need a few of these pictures on my walls to keep up my spirits.

I love 'Reclining figure with Asphodels' but it did remind me that I no longer have any of these stately flowers in my garden since my neighbour dug up all the bulbs.  

I couldn't resist the book that accompanies the exhibition and carried it back on easyJet in my hand luggage, alongside 3 volumes of Özlem's cookery book. The chap sitting next to me kindly offered to lift my smallish case down from the overhead locker. It was only when I noticed his pained expression that I remembered its weighty contents.  I hope I didn't ruin his holiday. 

Sunday, 29 April 2018

A Cookery Dream

Özlem Warren's Blog  has been my go-to destination for recipe checking and inspiration for several years now.  I joined the chorus of her many friends urging her to put all her recipes in one place and write a book.  She has gone further than this and produced a cookery memoir that paints an aromatic picture of what it is like to grow up in a Turkish household that appreciates its Eastern Mediterranean culinary heritage. Özlem has written a book that is so lovely to look at that my copy will be kept on the coffee table, not on the kitchen shelf. 

Book Launch in Vout-O-Reenee's

Congratulations to Özlem for creating a work of art - on the page this time rather than on a plate, and to have sold over 700 hardback copies before the book has hit the bookshops, shows how many fans she has around the world.  

Three blogger-cooks finally get together. Joy , Özlem , and BacktoBodrum

Özlem is on her way to Turkey this week end for book signing events in Istanbul, Izmir and Fethiye. Details here.  We are looking forward to seeing her in Bodrum in September. 

Saturday, 21 April 2018

Spring into action


Spring may be all red poppies, bouncy lambs, budding trees and ever lightening mornings for the majority of folk and I enjoy the luscious green of the awakening countryside as much as the next person, but for me Spring is hard work.  A large terrace and courtyard covered in pebbles is a great place to entertain and lounge around, it can even host a wedding for 60 guests, but those invited rarely give a thought to the thousands of weeds and baby trees that spring up amongst the stones every March and have to be pulled out one by one: a back-breaking task that takes a work force of one, with much encouragement from a doggy spectator, nearly a week to accomplish.  
An arrival in Summer will bask in the warm waters of the pool, maybe sit on the steps with a well iced G&T, having no idea that a couple of months before their seat was the playground for baby frogs, toads and snakes - who have to be evicted before the chlorinated water takes over. 
A clear blue pool is the past and the future but the present is green and murky. 
Inside is no better. Spring heralds the falling off of any plaster that has allowed damp to creep beneath it and in one of my bathrooms - that means most of it is on the floor.  If you visit me in early May you will be met by a be-masked figure, covered in white dust, in a mood to kill and that is before I try to remember which paint I used the year before and if the small roller worked better than the large one. 
My labour is often accompanied by a scorpion or two.  Thinking the house abandoned, because it only takes a couple of months of absence to appear so, wildlife returns and colonises what was once theirs.  Spring is for birds and bees, blossom and bulbs.  I wish it also came with blokes with bulging biceps or a bottomless bank account to hire one or two.   Every year the prospect of getting the summer house back into shape looks daunting but once started progress is satisfyingly noticeable and sitting under the acid green grape vine, cold beer in hand, Spring is forgiven for another year. 


Monday, 16 April 2018


Visit any Aegean market this week and you will see piles of globe artichokes.

You will also see the stall holders peeling all the green outer leaves/petals and popping the creamy hearts into a plastic bag of lemony water. While making the eating of the vegetable much easier it is such a shame to waste these cast-offs.  My favourite way to eat an artichoke is to cut off the stalk at the base and boil the  globe in salted water until a petal will come out if gently pulled.  Drain and allow to cool until you can handle easily.   Prise open the centre with your fingers until you come to the translucent  petals, then pull these out as one and you will see the inedible choke - using the edge of a teaspoon, gently scrape this away from the heart underneath - it sounds complicated but after a few attempts you will be an expert.  

Make your favourite salad dressing - mine is a good olive oil with balsamic vinegar and a dollop of grainy mustard and quite a bit of sea salt - then pour into the centre of the artichoke.  The best bit is pulling the base of each leaf through your teeth to get the soft flesh at the base.  When all the leaves are finished, take a fork and a slice of crusty bread to the heart.  In Spring this is my supper at least once a week. 

Full of antioxidants, fibre and vitamin C, you'll be doing your health a favour, and as artichokes contain silymarin and cynarin which are liver cleansers, I don't feel guilty about the glass of red which accompanies this frugal meal. 

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Snaps from the Past

I love looking through our old family photo albums - there are only about 6 of them and I know all the pictures by heart. There is no one even a tiny bit famous.
Imagine finding old chests, suitcases and drawers stuffed with pictures of your great aunt with Sophia Loren, Alan Ladd, Melina Mercouri, Anthony Perkins, Aristotle Onassis, Niko Ghikas ( the artist I mentioned at the end of March ) and more. 

Ekaterini with Sophia Loren 

Ekaterini Paouri (1900 -1986) played a leading roll in Hydra's high society and entertained billionaires, movie stars, Greek tycoons, artists, hippies and members of royal families in her house on the quay, on her caique and in her country house in Episkopi. 

Sophia Loren keeping warm between takes

Her house on the harbour has been renovated by her great nephew and the ground floor turned into a gallery where some of these wonderful photographs were displayed last week.  I caught the last day of the exhibition on my last evening on the island

Niko Ghikas second from the right 

Ekaterini behind Alan Ladd

Ekaterini standing next to Anthony Perkins