Latest Posts

spinach meatball

Spinach Kale Cheese Balls with Quick Harissa

What I love about my new neighborhood, which is one of the best areas as far as the livability goes, there is a huge park where you can jog or play tennis or all sorts of activities happen all the time. I watched a classical concert and Eurasia dance show all by chance. On top of that, you can eat a big open-buffet breakfast on a lazy Sunday morning. Every Monday a big, I mean a HUGE farmer’s market (you can check go on to Son Mastori and click on the link) and there is also an organic market every Wednesday. If not at those farmers’ markets, there is still a small indoor traditional market where I usually shop for my everyday needs.

“Let’s support small grocers!”

I never buy groceries at supermarkets. No matter how cheaper things are in supermarkets and no matter how many ‘Buy 1 Get 1 Free‘ deals there are to tempt me. I love the interactions with people. I don’t get ripped off in this neighborhood as I used to. Quite the opposite. People are super friendly, especially my local grocer, who I’ll take a photo of one day because he looks really funny. And there is a guy at the bakery, who gives me extra acibadem(bitter almond) cookies every time I go there. I made a joke to Mr.O that he might fancy me and got a fiery eye shot – yes, Turkish men are jealous creatures. There is even a bakery that makes good sourdough bread, Cadde Firin, which is way better than the chain bakery, Komsufirin, and there is a small shop owned by an old man that sells village eggs and cheese he’s proud of. Also, I can walk to the posh boulevard, Bagdat St, to shop for my wines and other things.

These days when I go to my local grocers, I notice bright and vibrant green spinach and kale, which I love. I once worked in a vegetarian cafe back in Sydney,  I was eating a spinach filo roll for lunch every day, sometimes spinach lasagna to alternate my menu. Give me spinach, I’ll cook it with rice and eggs, and serve it sprinkled with chili peppers. I put spinach in sushi, too!

When I buy spinach and kale, I blanch it immediately to minimise nutrient losses, and for a more practical reason that it takes up too much space in the fridge and if I see it later, I’ll feel overwhelmed. I wilt it in near boiling water quickly, rinse it in cold still water and squeeze out the liquid, which is not good for you, and keep it in a container and use it whenever I want it; throw it into various dishes including my typical spinach bean soup, which I cook with anchovies. What?? Yes, anchovies make everything taste good, umami, yeah! Spinach is also handy for making a quick omelet for a weekday lunch.

It’s good even for a weekday dinner. One evening I didn’t have anything to cook in the fridge except blanched spinach. I crave pasta all the time – who doesn’t?- but then, I look at my belly and go for a healthier alternative. So instead of making spinach pasta, I decided to put a bit more effort by turning it into a Turkish Italian dish. I first blended 1 cup of blanched spinach(or kale or a bit of both), 1 spring onion, 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese and 1 egg in a food processor and added a little buckwheat flour to be able to make it into balls – you can use bread crumb, of course. I pan-fried them, using my secret method, but you can bake them for 15 mins or so.

spinach-meatball-3

In the meantime, I decided on the sauce. Rich creamy Alfredo!  Then, I look at my belly again….. and I improvised the Manti (Turkish ravioli) sauce, which is made of yogurt. I don’t like yogurt in main dishes, but I thought I could make creamy sauce using yogurt instead of milk. I melted a little butter in a pan and stirred it into yogurt with a little water and salt. It was looking good. So I went ahead to make the highlight of the dish, spicy harissa! Without the harissa, this dish might have been bland, or maybe not.

spinach-meatball-1

In a small sauce pan, I simply fried minced garlic, smoked paprika, ground cumin, ground coriander and chili powder, but the aroma was just like harissa, even the taste. I sprinkled dried and fresh mint and we ate. Hmm….is it Turkish or Italian? Well, a bit of both, and we liked it. It might be far from being authentic but it gives you the idea that Alfredo sauce can be made with yogurt and also whip up the delicious and aromatic condiment, harissa, not quite the rich smokey pepper paste but still…. SO GOOD when you want to spice up your dish and your mind. With some grated Pamesan cheese, you will hardly notice that it was made with yogurt. Don’t give up Alfredo pasta when you don’t have milk or cream and utilise what you have.

spinach-meatball-2

There are many recipes for harissa, so I won’t write down the recipe. Am I overestimating my readers? I’m sure if you’re reading my blog, you must know what cooking means. But don’t put tomato paste into my harissa, please. Behind this excuse is the truth that I don’t like writing recipes; I’d rather talk and think up recipes.

There is a story that when the most famous Turkish dish, Hünkar Beğendi, was served to the wife of Napoleon III, she liked it so much that she sent her chef to Topkapi Palace to learn the recipe just to be told, “An imperial chef only needs his heart, his eyes and his nose.”

I’ll bring more exciting and inspiring posts soon. 🙂

Finding Best Jura Wines and Comté / Jura Gastronomy

Ok, let me take you on a journey of the Jura and its gastronomy including the wines and Comté. This region, shadowed by Bordeaux and Burgundy, is not very well-known. Even the cheese, Comté , is not as famous as its competitor, Gruyère. I threw this question, “Which cheese is the best among  and Beaufort ?” to French people. It’s a darn hard question if you’re a cheese lover. Ok, then, “Which cheese is stinkier Comté or Gruyère?” To my surprise, Gruyère. Hmm…my obsession with cheese led me to a Gruyère fruitière 2 years ago but it didn’t sweep me off feet as much as Comte did.

Before this trip, I visited by chance a Comte fromagerie, caves de affinage, where cheeses are ripened, but I didn’t have a camera with me at that time and only hoped to have another chance for a visit, which didn’t happen. I still remember the shock, the strong, sharp ammonia odor stinging my nostrils and then my eyes – I couldn’t keep my eyes open – when I walked inside the ripening room. I couldn’t believe the smell was real; no smell of cheese! Wheels of cheese on different shelves were at different stages of ripeness and the older it ages the smaller the thickness is. We bought two big pieces, weighing approx. 850g each of young Comte, aged 8 months, and old Comte, aged 24 months. You would probably remember these appearing in a few previous posts as I gnawed at them little by little almost every day like a little mouse with a big tummy.

comte-2

Finally, we’re going to the town of Comte! On Day one, heading toward Poligny, I was so excited about tasting different Comte cheese. I relied on my local guide, Cyrille, for finding the best Comte fromagerie and he relied on his brother’s, which was very useful – “There are three stores in the square. Go to the one  in the middle.”

Standing at the small square with three fromageries in sight in a form of triangle. Which one is the middle? Well…sigh… but somehow my instinct pulled me towards this one, so we entered and did our first real tasting.

poligny-comte-1

Oh…this is it! I’ve found it finally! The Comte cheese there was not only delicious but also took my memory back to the very first Comte I had in Sydney that had cast a French cheese spell on me. It was nothing like other Comte cheeses I’d tasted up to that point. My endeavor paid off. How was the cheese different? The 18 month-old was super fruity and creamy, and 28 month-old super nutty and mushroomy. The 24 month-old, which we bought a small slice for gratitude without tasting in the shop, had a distinctive flavour of orange, pineapple and toasted nuts, and above all, had salt crystals as you might see in the photos. That salt crystals aren’t so common in Comte cheeses as in Parmesan, but that is what I tasted and liked in Sydney. – update: I found a website of the fromagerie, Vagne, and it is located in Chateau-Chalon! I see myself going there one day. It looks very pretty.

poligny

Even though I’d found THE cheese, I still wanted to try some more just in case I’d find a better one – typical human nature, maybe just mine. The next one might be THE middle one Cyrille’s brother meant. Oh la la~~all of the Comte were so so salty, especially the first 32 month-old Comte, and I had to sneekily put the slices of samples given in my jacket pocket.

poligny-comte

Well, we might as well try the last fromagerie. There we bought Mimolette instead of Comte. By then, I’d developed the sense to detect good Comte cheese by the look and smell and none of their Comte looked nice and the actual taste was very bland. So we returned to the first shop and bought 3 kg of Comte cheese, some for me, some for friends, and some for charity auction – sounds weird. huh? 🙂

The night fell. It was too late to visit wineries so we went to a supermarket to familiarise ourselves with labels and varieties, then I spotted Chateau-Chalon and couldn’t take my eyes off the bottle for some reason. Before the trip, I didn’t study about Jura wines and wineries, which is my way of trusting my instinct and removing prejudices and allowing unexpected adventures to happen.

I bought the bottle to celebrate the first day of our wine trip after dinner, but fast-forward time, we didn’t get to drink it that night and opened it after the trip back at Cyrille’s house. I will tell you the conclusion: it was THE Jura wine I was expecting. Cyrille instantly fell in love with Chateau-Chalon and every time he sipped it, a big happy smile cracked across his big face. I will tell you more about Chateau-Chalon in another post so please bear with me and let’s experience the Jura cuisine.

poligny-wine

Poligny is a bit of a dead town and there wasn’t much going on. After visiting Arbois, we wished we had gone straight and stayed there. The only place I felt like entering among two options available was Casa…something, sorry I forgot, with a long pizza menu. But I was glad that they had some other dishes worth a try. The entrée with smoked duck breast, magret de canard fumé and Girolles, local mushrooms, was very delicious.

poligny-food

For the main, Cyrille got a horse steak and I got local river fish gratin cooked in Vin Jaune with Morilles, the expensive mushrooms. Cooking with Vin Jaune, why not? Hmm…it sounded better than it tasted, though the Morilles (Morels) were worth tasting.  And my dessert, fondant au chocolate, was great, too.

IMG_8787 copy

The sights of vineyards with yellow and red vine leaves on the way to Arbois the next day were really beautiful. We stopped at a couple of vineyards but none was open because it was All Saints Day.

poligny-vineyard

Straight to the town centre then.

arbois town

And start tasting some Jura wines. At the first cooperative, we tasted various wines by Domaine Rolet Pere et Fils. Browsing through the shelves, I saw Trousseau, which I’d been keen to try since I arrive in the Jura. Trousseau is another red grapes alongside more popular Poulsard and Pinot Noir. Jura reds are also quite good, which isn’t hard to figure out when you know the geography of France – it’s one hour away from the red Burgundy.

When tasting wines in Jura, you have to break the rule of white-first-then-red, because Jura whites are more powerful than reds. My previous tasting of Poulsard wines didn’t satisfy and one of the reason was the lack of tannins and complexity; Pinot Noir-like but without the Noir, I suppose. I tasted Trousseau 2007 for the first time along with Poulsard just to compare, and Trousseau still won. It was quite different, more aromatic and earthier, though it looks the same, with its pale ruby colour. Even the red seemed to have a slightly oxidated taste, if I remember correctly. We moved on to the whites, Savagnin 2006, Vin Jaune 2005, and Vin de Paille. I thought they were all interesting but I couldn’t have any opinions on them as it was the first tasting.

But, though it was the first stop, we felt like we’d visited 5 places at least. Jura wines are pretty strong and tend to tire your palate more quickly even if I spat most out so you need to take it easy.

Next, we went to Domain de la Pinte, whose owner and producer was very helpful and patiently attended us.

arbois

Pinot Noir 2006, Les Grandes Gardes, aged 18 months in a barrel  was very firm and spicy with a good balance.The whites, Savagnin and Melon a queue Rouge, which I thought was a red wine, but it’s a local Chardonnay variety with a red stem; how interesting! It was very different to Burgundian Chardonnay, less buttery and nutty, but fruitier with higher acidity, which I liked about the wine.

arbois pinte

OMG, their Vin Jaune was just amazing, I mean really complex and elegant, not overly sweet and woody like some of the vin jaunes I’d drunk. It had a particular lingering taste that reminded me of exotic tropical fruits such as guava, the fragrant taste of both sweet and tart. As I was murmuring guava, the owner said, “coing?”, which means quince in French. Ah, yeah, that! Merci!

IMG_8852 copy

Their Paradoxe is actually what would have been called Vin de Paille, had the abv was higher than 14%, but at 11.5%, this sweet wine made both Cyrille and me go, “WOW!”. It was unique; it was aromatic; it was delicious; it was memorable. It had all the characteristics of vin de paille but seemed to be more…how should I put it? More refined? I didn’t know the wines were biodynamic and whether or not the biodynamic thing has anything to do with the taste of the wines, we had a good time there.

IMG_8865 copy

Quite a lovely ancient village, I thought. If I have another chance, I’d like to spend more time in the town and definitely stay in Arbois, not Poligny; it’s bigger and there are more things to do, and it’s pretty.

Jura wines are definitely not for everyone, but this journey had completed my adventure in search of wine and food in France. I’ve been to more places in France than Cyrille, for example, which makes me proud as a lover of French gastronomy and music. Driving while listening to Charles Trenet, imagine that! Sherry and Port wines… the aged, oxidated, woody and nutty wines, they are good when they are good.

IMG_8860 copy

We explored a little more of the centre and, from there we made a spontaneous trip to Burgundy. I just wanted to revisit the area while the vineyards looked beautiful in all colours and to revise my previous Burgundy wine tours. We drove through Salin-les-Bains, Auxonne and all the way to Gevry Chambertin. Salin-les-Bains was a strange town, which was recommended by Cyrille’s brother, again, and we found nothing there except closed shops and a big fancy casino restaurant.

arbois-salines

Saying bye-bye to Arbois, we headed for Burgundy. I thought it’d be a good experience for Cyrille, who had never been to Burgundy and who likes Pinot Noir. Thank you for reading and you can look forward to my Burgundy, revisited! IMG_8881 copy

Humble Delights: Garlic and Onion Scapes

When I got back home after 2 weeks’ absence, I was delighted to see my plants still healthy. This wine bottle watering system really worked! The bottle was still half full and the soil was wet. Now I don’t need to worry about plants when going on a holiday, yeah!

wine bottle

I’ve created a few dishes this week and some turned out really amazing. I can’t wait to share them with you. But for today, I’ll share some tricks you can do with humble garlic and onion scapes you probably see a lot these days.

When I see the scapes at the market, my knew-jerk reaction is ‘PICKLE’~!

Image result for korean garlic scapes

Picked garlic scapes by Korean Bapsang

This salty, tangy and sweet pickle is a delight at a meal.  But instead of garlic scapes, I’ve been seeing a lot of onion scapes. Did I miss them while I was away??

I bought the scapes anyway and pickled some of them since I couldn’t eat them all. I threw in some fresh green garlic cloves as well. When pickled, they develop a different flavour. I’ll start eating them after 2 weeks when the scapes are off the market.

With the rest, I cooked them simply stir-fried. My mum usually makes it with dried shrimps but you can add any meat or even nothing. I happened to have spicy fish cakes, which I made the day before.

Related image

So I added them, cut up, to the stir-fry, to make it a substantial meal without rice. Because of the delicate sweet flavour of the scapes, it’s best to season it simply with soy sauce and sesame oil.

You still got more scapes??? Then, you can make an omelette, pizza, pasta, almost anything that you’ll use onion or leek in. I was actually going to make an omelette in a skillet since I was only the one eating but then I changed my mind.

egg roll scapes

I was glad that I made this. It looks so pretty, doesn’t it? This particular rolled omelette has a bit of umami and is very delicious.

When making this kind of egg rolls, the square pressure pan, which Korean use for cooking fish, comes in handy. However, you can do it in a normal round pan but you won’t achieve even thickness on the ends.

Just roll it away while adding little by little the egg mixture, which has a bit of the soy based pickling broth. If you don’t have it, you can add a bit of soy sauce and mirin.

egg roll

It’s a lovely way to present humble egg rolls, isn’t it? You can use garlic scapes or even asparagus. I hope you’ll try this while they are still around!

My FIL sometimes makes an omelette this way after he learned it in Korea and shouts out, ‘Korean egg, Korean egg!’ at a family breakfast. Oh, my sweet FIL…

Foodie Trip to Belgrade, Serbia: Discovering the Wines of Balkans

The last two weeks were a little hectic so I couldn’t blog, sorry! First, I’ll fill you in on my foodie trip to Belgrade. The surprise trip helped to refresh my head and relieve my cravings for food and wine.

Let’s be honest, no one would consider Serbia as a foodie destination so my expectation was low, but we had a great time, eating and drinking for 5 days. The city was relaxing yet exciting, and the people welcoming. Everyone we stopped to ask for directions spoke English.

Image result for serbian spicy sausage

Serbian food was all about meat, yes, but good meat, the juicy smokey meatballs! It itself served the purpose of going there since we’re quite deprived of meat in Turkey, especially pork. It was so ubiquitous that our pork-shy friend was left choiceless sometimes.

We spoiled ourselves with all kinds of meat including venison, believing that not eating vegetables and salads for 5 days wouldn’t do any harm to humans, and it was a holiday after all. In case anything happened, there was Rakija to fix all health related issues so we had nothing to worry.

A glass of Rakija everyday keeps doctors away!

Rakija actually surprised me big time. I thought it’d be similar to Turkish Raki but it was more like Cognac and I, as a person not big on spirits, actually liked it!

It’s served in a special small bottle(čokanji), which looks cool but hard to drink from. The guys always drank a glass before a meal as it was said to be the Serbian way. I also tried a bit of different kinds but plum Rakija seemed to be the best. You should definitely buy a bottle when in Serbia!

Oh, food… the amount of food and wine we drank… this is the first time I gained a bit of tummy on holiday. Do you want to have as much fun as we did? I’ll share the secrets with you!

Here is a list of recommendations and tips from me, who has a global taste and passion for wine.

3 Best & 1 Worst Places for Food and Wine in Belgrade

Mala Fabrika Ukusa 

If you have limited time and have to choose one place to eat, go to Mala Fabrika. It serves Serbian cuisine with a modern twist and we had one of the best meals here.

belgrade

For starters, we had fried cheese balls, duck carpaccio and homemade sausages, which were so divine that we ordered another plate! The sausages were absolutely the best we’d eaten during our stay.

The mains were duck breast and steak with prune sauce, which was succulent and charred to perfection on the outside. Danilo was very professional and knowledgeable about wine. So I had a little chit-chat with him about Serbian wines and he recommended Trijumf Noir, Aleksandrovic 2012.

belgrade

This was my second Serbian Pinot Noir and so far I was very impressed by both. Especially this one displayed a complex aromas of ripe cherry, plum, spice, and a whiff of truffle and balsamic. I learned from drinking various wines on the trip that Serbian wines have unique flavours, which stand out from other countries I know of. I’ll tell you more about it later.

Ambar

We dined here twice! One by choice, one by accident. Located by the river, it happened to be so accessible. At first, we were a bit worried that it might be a tourist trap but luckily it wasn’t. It’s posh and popular, but I decided to include it, taking its prime location and ambience into account, since the menus are pretty good, especially the wine and Rakija.

rakija

We started with bacon-wrapped prunes with goat cheese and goose liver pate, yum!, and had BBQ spare ribs and beef shank with kaymak (clotted cream).

On the bite menu, I saw Kimchi yogurt dip so I took a shot. Kimchi’s fame has reached even the Balkans!

serbian wine

This place has a great wine list so try Botunjac Pinot Noir or Kremen Matalj (Cab S) for a bottle or Tri Morave (Prokupac+M) by glass. The smiley cheerful staff, seeing how picky I was, gave ma a bit of each to try first, which I appreciated. She was really adorable!

The second time we ended up there was when the next door Latin gastrobar, Toro had no table available. Then we realised Toro and Ambar shared the same kitchen, and to be fair, we weren’t there for Latin or Asian fusion anyway.

ambar belgrade

We caught up with hubby’s parents, who were stopping overnight on a Balkan tour. What a coincidence! I ordered several dishes for my pork-shy inlaws. The cheese pie and veal roulade were delicious and so were all other bits and pieces.

ambar belgrade

We shared Deuric Pinot Noir, which was light and fruity, to compliment the dishes. We had krempita, cherrry pie, salty chocolate cake, but the desserts were average.

Little Bay

While in Belgrade, I looked for live Gypsy Jazz, which I love, but couldn’t find any even in the famous Bohemian quarter, Skadarlija. We were told that it might be due to the weather, plus, the new law had come in to stop live music by 1 am.

belgrade

So I chose Little Bay as an alternative and we really enjoyed the evening there with excellent wines, food and live jazz in a fancy and comfortable setting. The duck confit – would I ever have enough of you! – and the beef cheek were wonderful, though the T-bone steak was a bit dry.

Serbian wine

The staff are also extremely professional, pleasant and helpful. The first bottle we had was Vinarijia Despotika, Pinot Noir  2013. I had been really intrigued by Serbian Pinot Noir and wanted to try as many as possible to compare It was very aromatic with red forest fruits, cedar, dried herbs and a subtle orange peel note. It had a long finish with minerality.

The second bottle, Mali Prostor Petit Verdot 2013 was a ‘wow’ wine not only because I didn’t expect to find Petit Verdot in Serbia but also it was delicious, intense with dark fruit, tobacco, smoke, nutmeg, floral, marzipan aromas, etc. I couldn’t find any information about the wine whatsoever on the internet except this.

Lovac

This was the worst restaurant we’d dined in, which was odd considering the amount of positive reviews. It’s famous as a hunter’s restaurant that serves game meat especially venison. Its food and service can’t justify the price in the name of rusticity and tradition, I’m sorry. We left most of the food untouched except the venison and the salad, which was too salty.

The worst food

If you really want to eat venison and wild boar, well, I can’t stop you though. But at least you know you’ve been warned. Even the wine list seemed it hadn’t been updated for two decades!

We also ate at Manufakura, which had a nice atmosphere and decent food.

You can try some cured meat and picked pepper stuffed with cheese with some wine and Rakija. We had Toplicki Vinogradi, Pinot Noir, which was good.

belgrade

At least, we had to see The Church of Saint Sava, which is the largest Orthodox church in the Balkans. It is visible from everywhere in the city and even from the end of the main boulevard. At first glance, it reminded me of Hagia Sophia on the exterior but it was taller and more stunning. But the inside was still under construction even after 100 years and had nothing to see except the underground crypt with frescoes.

belgrade

Also, you can try the delicious red pepper borek at Pita Break while walking through Kralja Milana Street and explore some wine bars near Church of Saint Mark.

Other things to do in and around Belgrade

Visit a winery

There are a few wineries nearby so if you’re a wine lover, it’s fun to discover Serbian wines. You have two options: north west or south east. Though I would have loved to drive all the way to Negotin near the Romanian border, I had to compromise because the others weren’t into wine.

The winery we visited was Kovačević winery because it was on the way to Novi Sad where Petrovaradin Fortress is located.

novi sad

View of the old military barrack from Petrovaradin Fortress

This unexpected fortress holds such significance as a great defence against the Ottomans trying to conquer the eastern Europe and the mysterious underground labyrinth was fascinating.

A little Turkish history found in Serbia

When we were in Novi Sad, there was an international food festival, Food Planet, but what Novi Sad is really famous for is Exit music festival held at the fortress every July.

The food we had at the winery was amazing, the best on our trip. Hadn’t I been there, I wouldn’t have discovered the delicious Serbian goat cheese! I bought lots of it at Maxi (gourmet store for cheese and chacuterie lovers) in town, where I spent an hour buying cheese.

kovavevic

Yes, the floating island isn’t Serbian, and the Krempita (right) was really delicious! Aurelius 2010, a Bordeaux blend, is so well-known that it doesn’t need my comment. It was one of the best wines I’d had in a long time. The whites including Rhine Riesling and Chardonnay were also good.

Alternatively, you can head south to Vinarija Despotika via Vinarija Jeremic and Janko in Smederevo, which I could have done. Well, next time.

Play like a local at a Kafana

Image result for kafana ona moja

Why not go to a kafana and have fun like a local? We were tipped off by an insider that Kafana Ona Moja was great so we went out one night and played as if we were 28, inhaling a lifetime worth of cigarette smoke, which you can’t avoid anywhere in Belgrade. I hope it will change in the near future.

Sitting at the airport, we talked about how much fun we had and why we should make another trip some time. There was, in fact, a lot more than just smoked meat and cevapi, and as a wine lover, I discovered some interesting Balkan wines to add to my knowledge.

I hope to visit Belgrade again and hope that the warm, kind people and their hospitality will stay as it is now.

I’m so happy to be back home with lots of cheese and wine to celebrate Mother’s Day and my birthday.

stuffed artichoke

Stuffed Artichokes with Shrimps and Peas

Artichokes! It’s that time of the year again. Since last year, I’ve been buying whole artichokes, not only the bottoms, and enjoying stuffing them with various ingredients.

artichoke

This time, I decided to stuff them with peas and shrimps. The peas, which tend to appear all around the year in the west, are a seasonal delicacy. So it becomes a family sport to shell kilos of them for freezing. I often see a woman or husband and wife or a mum and a kid or bearded manly men sitting around the table and shelling the peas outside small restaurants.

In my house, peeling garlic and shelling peas or nuts is hubby’s job. I would then freeze some to use for the next few months. It might sound tedious but it’s quite relaxing and even romantic when you do it together!

artichoke

While hubby was working at the peas, I prepared the artichokes. I usually trim them before boiling but this time I boiled them first before scraping out the hairy choke with a spoon. I think it was easier this way so I’ll stick to this method. Don’t throw away the stems. You can trim out the tough outer part and add the core to the stuffing.

While the artichokes are cooking (about 20 mins), make the stuffing, which is a mixture of peas, green garlic, and shrimps. I lightly seasoned it with oregano and fresh parsley as artichokes are so delicate.

When the artichokes are cooked, place them on a strainer upside down and reserve the liquid in which they are cooked. You’ll add it to the stuffing later.

I stuffed the leaves with a semolina mixture since I didn’t have breadcrumbs. I mixed semolina with Parmesan cheese, olive oil, Dijon mustard and lemon. It will stick to the leaves when cooked, so when you eat them, it acts like a dip.

It is a trick to tempt people to eat them. Without it, hubby won’t bother trying to get the little meat out of the leaves.

artichoke stuffed

Then, fill the centre of the artichokes with the stuffing and sprinkle some grated Parmesan cheese. I had some prawns in the freezer so I placed them on top just for presentation.

Now place them in a baking dish and pour some of the reserved liquid over the artichokes and bake at 200’C for 10 mins.

Tada!! 

Now it’s time to slowly work towards the artichoke heart. It’s worth the anticipation, right? In Turkey, people usually stuff artichokes with rice or meat as mentioned in the previous post. But I thought it would be a nice alternative and very Mediterranean.

We didn’t plan to drink that evening but in the middle of eating, I felt like a glass of nice crisp white wine, which we didn’t have at home. I gave hubby a wink asking him to get a bottle from just around the corner but he kept saying, ‘Really?’ while holding an artichoke leaf, one after another, between his teeth.

In the end, we ate without wine. How sad…. It would have been nice with a glass of cold crispy Pinot Gris or Sancerre or Turkish Emir…. As the weather is getting warmer, I’ll need to stock up some white wines.

Happy weekend to all!

edirne

Weekend Break in Edirne: Food, Horses and Arda Winery

Hubby and I visited Edirne over the Easter weekend and came home with enough wine and cheese. It was a breeze to drive there from Canakkale and I’ve found some foodie secrets.

But before food, let’s get over and done with the much-talked-about sight, Selimiye Mosque.

There are three mosques surrounding the main square including Üç Şerefeli(three balconies) Mosque with three minarets in a unique Seljuk style.

Selimiye mosque edirne

Selimiye Mosque… commissioned by Selim the Drunkard, is the magnificent masterpiece of Mimar Sinan. Yes, it was grand and different in style, the most distinctive feature being the 8 pillars, instead of the usual 4, supporting the gigantic dome, which surpassed that of Hagia Sophia in the diameter. Sadly, my food lens failed to take it all in.

One of many myths about the mosque is the reversed tulip carved on one of the marble stands, and if you’re curious, look for it while admiring the intricate paintings and motifs.

Another myth is that when you first arrive in the city from the Istanbul direction, you can only see two minarets(towers) and all four become visible as you get closer to the centre. It was really true!

You might like to spare some time for the Health Museum, which is a historical hospital built in 1488 and gives a lot of information about medicine and medical services of the Ottoman era.

Particularly interesting was how patients with mental disorders were treated (read the description in the photo below). I also learned how smallpox inoculation was introduced to England in the 18th century and even theriac (pronounced as teriyaki in Greek!) sauce! Well, it was hubby’s joke and I found it funny.

For me, it was interesting to compare it with my knowledge of Oriental medicine, which many Koreans still practice in everyday life.

Ok, now we’re done with history so let’s eat!

We started with the famous local food, Ciger Tava(fried liver) at Aydin Tava Ciger. I had my doubts saying how different fried liver can be from the ones I ate in Istanbul but I was totally wrong.

It was very different indeed. Fresher, lighter, and yummier, especially with this special crispy fried chillies, which you eat very little by little. We bought a big batch of this dried chillies to take home.

edirne

Next, we tried almond paste(marzipan), which wasn’t as good as the one in Istanbul so I bought an almond cookie (acibadem), which was original and good! It was worth 10TL, which is a double price.

While walking around, we ran into a Arda wine shop so we went inside to check it out and tried an interesting local drink called ‘Hardaliye‘. It’s made of grapes, sour cherry leaves and black mustard seeds. You should definitely try it when in Edirne. It would have been nicer with alcohol but well…

The main reason for our visit was actually to meet someone who is passionate about horses. The avenue leading to the farm was very charming, lined with trees, flowers and stones.

This street often goes under water in floods, sometimes 1 meter deep! Can you believe it?

edirne tulip

There are two stone bridges and from here, you can watch the beautiful sunset over the river, called Maritsa(Meriç).

It flows from Bulgaria and the longest river in the Balkans, forming borders between Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey. One of the streams is called ‘Arda‘, hence the name of the winery we’ll visit later.

edirne

You can see the magnificent Selimiye Mosque through the arch.

edirne horse

Sella Turcica, is a horse-riding centre where people can ride a horse or enjoy the day and evening in the nature with animals, food and music. Uğur is a good friend of hubby’s and it was great to see him doing well with his passion.

Now I’m working on my new career, a jockey! There are 9 beautiful horses with different personalities and the English horse, the biggest and the strongest is about to eat hubby’s hand off.

I love horses, maybe because my zodiac is Horse, and they love me, too because I’m light!

Oh, who’s here? What a coincidence! We met the owner of Arda Winery by chance, who came down to check out some horses, so we confirmed our visit to the winery later on the spot.

horse

This place is only 1 km from the border to Greece so I took the opportunity and walked over to the other side with a small backpack the next day for some fun, The whole journey took two hours, which makes the shortest country hopping ever! You should try it when you’re in Edirne next time.

Finally, we visited Arda Winery on the way back home. The location was great and it was the most pleasant drive to a winery we’d done in Turkey.

It’s a small family run winery built in the gravity flow system using stone and firebrick. The daughter is the winemaker and the son, Yavuz gives a winery tour. The cellar is located 7m underground so it’s very cool and we shivered a little. We sampled a range of wines from barrels and tanks.

It’s the Narince he’s pouring. It had a lovely floral nose with a fuller mouth feel and bright acidity. The Rose, made from Shiraz, seemed promising, too. They have some secret experiments underway so we’ll see what will come out.

Considering the location of the vineyards, their wines seem to exhibit relatively cool characteristics and that’s why their Shiraz was less jammy than many Turkish Shiraz. French and American barrels are used for different blends and they’ve won medals from Mundus Vini, and most importantly, for wine lovers, their Bird wines are great value.

We finally got out of the cold cellar and to the sun! Yavuz, who had suddenly disappeared, reappeared with a cheese platter, which was a lovely surprise. The real Trakya Kasar cheese!

I compared the tasting note I made a while ago for C. Sauvignon 2012 to this 2014 vintage and it was different and better. I’ll open others including Shiraz Reserve in the coming weeks and let you know.

Arda Winery

What a fantastic surrounding to spend a weekend afternoon in! Don’t miss visiting Arda Winery and stocking up your cellar if you are around Edirne since it’s so easy to get to.

We’re not done yet. We still had our final mission to accomplish, the Uzunkopru Kofte. Different regions boost different styles of meatballs and we were told to try them and apparently the best place is near the world longest stone bridge, Uzunkopru.

kofte

Since we had meatballs at GaziBaba Meyhane the previous evening, we ordered one kofte and one lamb roast. The meatballs weren’t up to our expectations and the meatballs at GaziBaba were much better. Why Edirne meatballs are famous? They are bouncy like a cushion and meat is supposedly minced with a special knife, not a mincer.

If you haven’t visited Edirne, you should! Would I visit it again? YES!

tambuli indian nettle

Tambuli with Stinging Nettle and Green Garlic – Spring Healthy Treat

Nettle pesto, Nettle soup, Nettle frittata, Nettle ravioli.… running out of ideas?

I’ve been enjoying this easy recipe ever since my Indian guest taught me his grandmother’s recipe. I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t met this dish until then even though I’d been an avid eater of Indian food. Often, some dishes we eat everyday don’t get a spotlight because they are so common and humble. Don’t you think?

Whenever there’s something green. I tend to whizz it all up with fragrant cumin seeds, peppercorns, curry leaves, yogurt and coconut.

How can such a simple dish be so delicious, satisfying and comforting all at the same time? If you haven’t made this, I hope you’ll start making it because it’s so good and addictive.

wild greens

Whenever I go to the market, I come home with wild greens. I just can’t help myself. How am I going to eat all this?! I’ll make our family recipe, nettle borek, when hubby comes home, but for the time being, I thought I’d make a quick tambuli for lunch.

I’ll explain how to make it with photos. I’ve become kind all of a sudden, haven’t I?

It’s very flexible and versatile, so you can adjust ingredients to your taste. But this recipe is shared in the honour of his grandmother.

What you need:
a handful of nettle
one bulb of green garlic
1 spring onion
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
a few black peppercorns
1 green or red chilli(optional)
1-2 curry leaves
2-3 Tbsp coconut flakes
1/2 cup yogurt
a pinch of asafoetida(optional), sea salt

for the tempering, 1 tsp mustard seeds, 2 tsp ghee or coconut oil

stinging nettle

Don’t panic! It’s not going to bite you! After washing it, using tongs, put some into a pot and pour boiling water and wait for a minute. Squeeze out the liquid and pick the leaves and put them into a food processor.

Trim the garlic by peeling the membrane and separate the cloves. Don’t throw away the membrane! Fry it with spring onion later. The yellow bottle is asafoetida (aka. hing), which is an unusual spice. I call it Indian MSG because a little touch makes everything delicious, haha!

Now, fry chopped spring onion with cumin seeds, black peppercorns, chili, and curry leaves with ghee or coconut oil. If you use other greens like spinach, you can add it fresh.

When the veggies are soft and the spices are fragrant, add it to the food processor with yogurt and coconut. Whizz it all up till it becomes smooth paste. Add a little water if it’s thick, and season with salt. I added some mint for a change this time.

Now it’s the fun messy part, tempering. You’ll fry the mustard seeds with ghee or coconut oil but be warned they will pop and go all over the stove. It will be very messy! So make sure you cover it when frying.

At this point, you can throw in the garlic, if using, and wait for the popping sound to subdue.

Voila, nicely browned and fragrant garlic!

tambuli nettle

Doesn’t it look pretty? Healthy food doesn’t have to be boring, right? It’s soooo yummy!

tambuli nettle

In India, it’s eaten cold with rice or dip papadum, but you can dip anything in it, or even eat it with a spoon like soup.

As I mentioned, you can make this with spinach, mint, kale, coriander, anything green. But I’ve made it with broccoli once as well. It’s supposed to be green but I’m sure you can use different vegetables as on this blog. Hmm, the okra tambuli sounds interesting.

I hope you enjoyed this short, simple and helpful recipe post. Happy cooking with healthy spring greens!

Spring Tradition: Goat Kid Caul Fat with Liver and Fennel (Ciğer Sarması)/ Firriato Wine

Spring is all round and farmers’ markets are once again vibrant with the colours and smells of spring. Despite my ongoing laments for Turkey’s lack of gastronomy, one thing I did miss while I was in London was this fresh seasonal local produce.

farmers market

All the wild plants started to come out, wild asparagus, fennel, ebegumeci, stinging nettles and what not. I’ve written an article about Turkish wild plants for Koreans since they are very keen eaters of wild plants. I might replicate it in English this spring.

wild asparagus

Anyway, I put together a classic tasting platter using the goodies I’d brought; Jambon Iberico with Asparagus and Brie, Smoked Salmon with Fennel and Avocado. Yummy as always…

asparagus

In my in-laws’ house, on the other hand, a different culinary tradition was happening.

The Thracian region has a tradition of eating lamb liver but Canakkale has a very special delicacy, which is eaten once a year in spring months. Goat Kid

That tradition is the consequence of goat dairy production and, as the article says, it’s better to use it rather than waste it. I tasted kid meat for the first time 2 years ago and now I look forward to eating it when spring is inching in.

goat kid oglak

Goat kid is lean, tender and flavoursome so it’s roasted and eaten simply. However, the insides, specifically, the liver and the caul fat, have a special culinary status here as well.

Ciğar Sarması (aka. liver dolma) is an old Ottoman dish, which is mostly forgotten and hardly eaten by locals. I think it’s a shame that we’re making less use of the versatile delicacy, leaving it all to aspired chefs. The caul fat is called ‘gömlek‘, which means ‘shirt’. So let’s dress up whatever you’re cooking!

I find it fascinating that the weird intricate web of fat turns into a thin crispy layer. It’s an ancient method of cooking by wrapping it around meat to keep it moist in the cooking. However, in Turkey, it’s wrapped in seasoned rice with liver and baked.

caul fat

This is what my father-in-law made last year and enjoyed with Turkish wine, Chateau Kalpak. I think my FIL makes the best liver dolma in Turkey.

It was eaten with other seasonal delights such as artichokes and fresh broad beams(fava beans).

This year, however, FIL made some changes to his recipe because now he has a tough audience, me. Usually, dolma dishes are made with an almost identical rice filling, regardless of what’s stuffed, whether they’re vine leaves, bell peppers, eggplants, mussels, etc.

So FIL replaced the usual dill and parsley for fennel, and tomato paste for turmeric. It was a nice change of flavours and we liked it all. It still included pine nuts and dried currants.

caul fat

It’s important to choose the right caul fat and FIL insists on kid’s caul fat because it’s lacier and thinner. There are some restaurants that serve this liver dolma dish but they aren’t nice and hubby never eats it outside. So he’s the one who gets very excited about eating this in spring.

Perhaps I should buy some more caul fat and store it in the freezer to use in cooking some times. I can see how I can make dry meatballs and game meat juicy and moist. Hmm….

The wine I chose for the meal was Santagostino Baglio Soria, Firriato  2012.  It’s one of the bottles I’d brought from Sicily, recommended by a chef as ‘a must’. Now I know why. It’s a pleasant and delicious wine that reflects Sicilian warmth combined with modern elegance. No wonder it won 3 glasses(top rating) by Gambero Rosso, the top Italian food and wine magazine.

firriato wine

It’s a blend of Nero D’avola and Syrah, and was loaded with ripe plum, juicy black berries, herbs and spices with earthiness and mineral nuances. It had a distinctive oak influence, which had developed into a lovely complex nose of chocolate, clove and licorice, and had a firm elegant finish. It’s supposedly an organic wine, too.

Well, if you come across this wine, don’t hesitate to try it. I think I’ll definitely drink it again if I have a chance.

If you’re interested in using caul fat and offal, here are some articles you might like. I hope this will inspire you to make something nice.

http://boroughmarket.org.uk/articles/the-offal-project-the-liver
http://foragerchef.com/steak-and-morels-en-crepinette-with-nettles-and-grains/