Jane's Delicious Garden Blog

Turkish Delights

Posted in Travels by Jane Griffiths on the August 27th, 2010

IMG_0539I only realised after I had booked our tickets that we would be in Istanbul for Ramadan – or Ramazan, as it is called here. Since I was planning to feast on fantastic Turkish food, I was bit concerned the fast would hamper my foodie intentions. Not! There is food everywhere, all the time.

IMG_6950The day starts with a breakfast spread of olives, cheeses, fresh fruit, just picked tomatoes and crunchy cucumbers, fruit preserves and sesame bread rings (Simit -sold from peddlers’ carts from dawn to well after midnight) dipped in spice and herb flavoured olive oil, topped off with strong black Turkish coffee.

You would think this would last until dinner, but no, this is an intense city.
IMG_0324Bridging Asia and Europe and spanning millenia of history, including conquering heroes, exotic harems, inspired architects and religious fervour, Istanbul has a huge amount to see, draw, visit and explore.
After fairytale castles and covered bazaars, myriad mosques and exotic palaces, I am hungry again within a few hours. Time for a balik ekmek – crisply fried, whole fish on a piece of crusty bread with lettuce, tomatoes and onions.
IMG_1013This fish was swimming in the Bosphorus this morning. Another quick afternoon snack is a corn cob, sold from little carts and roasted over hot coals.
Sprinkled with salt wrapped in a piece of paper it is sweet and scrumptious.
Or you could try a “tost,” a toasted sandwich on light crunchy bread with stretchy melted cheese and a spicy tomato paste. And to wash it down, a freshly squeezed orange juice or a slice of the sweetest, crunchiest summer watermelon.

Fortified, we dive back into the maelstrom, underground into ancient water systems, up steep stone stairs to stare across to Asia, into quiet parks with windswept pines. Until I am hungry again.
IMG_0928Dinner choices are endless.
IMG_0129From quick doners wrapped in bread with vegetables to grilled patlican kebabs, (one large eggplant sliced into thick chunks and skewered with alternating balls of spiced lamb, slow grilled over hot coals).
IMG_0921Or the adana kebab, skewers of spicy lamb accompanied by rice and pine nut pilaf.
One of my favorites is the Iskender kebab; chunks of pide bread covered with hot slices of spiced doner lamb, covered with fresh tomato sauce and thick yoghurt.

The vegetable and salad combinations are endless; seaweed and tomato with lashings of lemon and garlic and beans in olive oil and lemon.
Even the simplest lettuce, cucumber and tomato salad is given a twist when tossed with pomegranate syrup and sprinkled with sumac, a tart local spice. Everything is freshly cooked, ripe and in season.

And then I need something sweet – a tiny taste of lokum (Turkish Delight) or baklava, from shops that have been specialising in making them for hundreds of years. Above shiny, blue and white tiled walls, sepia photographs hang, proud men with splendid moustaches staring out from the last century. Right next door is the patisserie, with thick rice puddings and nutty maceroons.
IMG_0446Piles of crystallised figs, mulberries and walnuts glisten in the window. I am tempted by what looks like a chocolate mousse but under its molten surface is a surprise – it is a deconstructed chocolate eclair, with puffy balls of choux pastry under layers of whipped cream and rich chocolate.

I am in foodie heaven.

Winelands ahoy!

Posted in Garden Diary by Jane Griffiths on the August 11th, 2010

Earlier this year when I was in Cape Town I met Sandy from Energize Events. We chatted about doing a workshop in Somerset West and when I mentioned the Grahamstown workshop and the impressive spread the Eastern Cape Gardeners had prepared, Sandy said “Cupcakes! Forget cupcakes, we’ll serve wine!” And so the Winelands Workshop was born . . .
Here is a link to Sandy’s blog http://www.energizeevents.co.za/blog/ where she will be posting details as soon as they are finalised.

Winelands – here we come!