Gastronomic Adventures
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Life in the Vineyard – Part 3: Nomad Chef’s Food Story

Sarkoy, though famous for wine, doesn’t have much to offer in terms of food and, having realised that earlier on, I brought survival packages of foods, spices and freshly ground coffee and my travel mate, a Vietnamese Phin filter.

As you know, where Namie goes, there is food, not just food but thought-provoking food. Since I don’t like repeating a meal and my tummy has a limit for white bean stew (kurufasulye) and meatballs (kofte), I opted to cook instead of eating the food delivered to the winery.

I try to cook no matter how tired I am, as long as I can lift a knife. The process of thinking what to cook is a therapeutic mental exercise and my body benefits from the simple clean food I make.

Green Beans with Hazelnuts / Pesto Pasta / Garlicky Menemen with Cheese

Without fancy tools and pots, let alone a proper stove and a decent knife, I’ve been cooking just as fine as I’m a well-seasoned cook.


Spicy Tuna Sushi with Avocado

The food produced from my tiny kitchen with an electric single hot plate and a kettle is getting more sophisticated day by day, so I’ve decided to share my thoughts on what real food means.

Natural and Foraging

Whether it’s a farm or vineyard, you have to make do with whatever is around. Sorry if you’re one of those who rely on chia seeds, quinoa, cashew nuts and soy milk.

It can’t be as natural as collecting purslane (semizotu in Turkish) between the vines – human herbicide! – and picking figs, nuts, and soon mushrooms. The winery is only 10-min drive from the Sarkoy centre but it feels more isolated without a car since minibus runs every 2-3 hours.

Grilled Salmon Purslane with Mustard Dressing

The vineyard has all sorts of herbs and I often think that the whole aromas of the vineyards are found in the glass.

The staff sometimes bring in meat and other foods for me and they say I’m tiny but eat so much! Well, it’s quite a physical job and I always feel hungry! Perhaps, because I’m not getting enough protein!

Food, when Shared, Tastes better

Though nature is a relish and beautiful gradient evening sky and stars your company, it can’t replace the chatter and laughter at the table.

chateau kalpak steak salad

Steak Pear Salad w/ Red Wine Cinnamon Butter Sauce

It’s been a great pleasure to introduce different cuisines and cultures to the people here. Although my effort is not appreciated by all, there’s at least one person to pour my foodie passion into.

Coming from Mersin, one of food capitals of Turkey, she shares the same enthusiasm for food and garlic. Everywhere I go in Turkey, I hear how they abhor garlic, and they eat raw onion with fish. A double standard, you’d say? I suppose Turks like Don Quixote over Three Musketeers.

The air in Provence is impregnated with the aroma of garlic, which makes it very healthful to breathe. (Alexandre Dumas)

fried rice

A fried rice … One day we had Tavuk Pilav delivered, which is shredded chicken breast on the bed of rice, is simply too white and plain to me. So I made Asian style fried rice with ginger, saffron and egg and guess what, she was stunned by the new concept of rice dish.

The first time I made fried rice, she was so excited until I cracked an egg in the centre. I watched the excitement suddenly fade from her face and turn into a horror. What’s the deal with the egg? She tasted it cautiously at first but ended up eating more than me!

In Turkey, the combo of rice and egg doesn’t exist, but in Asia, fried rice doesn’t exist without eggs. Likewise, can you imagine Pad Thai without an egg??

Chickpea Curry / Beef Green Beans Stirfry

The famous Sabirtasi icli kofte ( Kibbeh) I got from Istanbul was a treat I got from Istanbul as well as  the acibadem (bitter almond cookies) and coconut cookies from Hasanpasa Firin in Besiktas. People here have not even heard of the delicious acibadem!

We’ve been enjoying our coffee break with and fresh coffee my hubby sends, which gives an air of city life and a zest to the mundane village life. Interestingly, the weather is so great these days, much warmer than September.

Versatile and Classic

By this point, my lunch mates have grown in number and they’ve started asking, “What’s for lunch today?”

Limited kitchenware means ‘back to the basics’ and I’ve been rediscovering the all time classic favourites.

I made Tortillas with courgettes and leek, and cooked these dried green beans, which the Mersin girl liked more than her mum’s with eggs.

Not only do I introduce foreign dishes, but also Turkish dishes! One day I made Orange Celeriac (Portakali Kereviz), which they’d never even heard of, and they absolutely loved it. But instead of orange, I used a mandarin.

Well, I hadn’t cooked Bolognese for years! See how often classic comfort foods are ignored in the name of trends and classic dishes make a comeback in a natural setting.

It was simmered slowly with bay leaf, tomato puree, chilli and red wine for over an hour while I was in the shower. It would have been 10/10 with spaghetti. The next day I added some cheese to the sauce and it was heavenly.

No Waste!

Everything edible is appreciated on the farm. To nourish my body with some minerals and collagen, I saved some, which was otherwise bound to the Rolf, Arap and Boncuk, three fluffy residents living in the vineyard.

Minty Lentil Stew with Bone Marrow

Oh, roasted bone marrow… but since it’s only the marrow, I added it to the lentil stew. A bit of marrow made a huge difference to the whole flavour, deeper and tastier.

I really miss slow cooked, tender, juicy meat….

The Real Village Style

Since I’m surrounded by wine, I’ve been dreaming of making beef bourguignon, rabbit stew, coq au vin. braised wild boar in red wine. On the last day of harvest, in high spirits, I made a bold offer to cook duck, not realising what I was getting myself into.

“Namie, Namie, duck has arrived! Come and see!”

I rushed outside, excited about making Peking Duck or Confit, but to my horror, I found two live ducks sitting, legs tied up. My initial reaction was a big laughter. Is it some sort of a joke? Or they seriously expected me to slaughter them to cook?

Be quiet! We’re testing for malolactic fermentation here!

When someone asks for duck, you would assume that the person meant it for cooking, not for pets. Apparently not here. The initial joy and laughter were soon replaced by confusion and regret. Sometimes a whimsical joke can turn into a serious affair.

I’m an intrepid cook but I haven’t lived in the wild long enough to do the deed, and neither of the capable male workers. So, 4 days on, “What’s happened to the ducks?”  has become our morning greeting.

If you want to know about the fate of the ducks, please stay around, and of course, for the last story of the internship and making my own wine at Chateau Kalpak.


      • Yegana Mehdi says

        I would with great pleasure but tomorrow I will fly to Baku (my home city). I will be back after November 15 . I contact you after I come back.
        Hope to see you Namie soon.


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