Friday, 27 March 2015

Raki supper club, Turkish flavours, in pictures

raki turkish supper club The Underground Restaurant msmarmitelover
pickled green almonds
supper club table
raki and radish yoghurt dip
meze, supper club table, ezme, dolmades, filo triangles, dried aubergines, dolmas in tomato saffron sauce
dried aubergines, msmarmitelover's supper club, turkish food
rolled lemon sole filets with fish mousse and raki
rolled lemon sole fillets stuffed with raki and chervil fish mousse
artichokes in the pot

Black Sea Bottarga, msmarmitelover's supper clubartichoke stewbergamot sorbet

roast quince, black apricot, walnut, mastic flavoured kaymak, pistachio, msmarmitelover's supper club dessert


Mauresque cocktail: raki and orgeat

Pickled green almonds from Istanbul

Black Sea bottarga toasts

A selection of cold and warm meze:
Dolmades, stuffed with Sicilian pine nuts, home made preserved lemon, Bulgarian sheep sheep, green sultanas  
Radish yoghurt 
Broad beans with mint 
Dried stuffed aubergines, Istanbul style with a tomato saffron sauce  
Cheese and mushroom filo parcels dipped in mixed seeds
Mini Imam Biyaldi 
Pickles: cauliflower, turnip, peppers
Lemon sole rolled with cream, chervil and raki sauce

Bergamot sorbet

Roast late season quince with black apricot, walnut and mastic flavoured kaymak cream 

Turkish coffee or apple tea with spoon sweets (home-made peach and vanilla preserve)

Note: as ever MsMarmitelover relies on the inspiration of the day and therefore dishes may change

Guests are encouraged to drink shots of Raki throughout the meal, it is the perfect drink to accompany meze

I will be posting some of the recipes over the weeks to come, the menu items with links go to the recipes.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Artichoke and cheese bread recipe

artichoke and cheese bread

artichoke and cheese bread

I love artichokes, those beautiful thistles. I never get tired of them. I like their bottoms, their hearts, fresh ones, tinned ones, the ones in oil, the ones in brine even, the young ones and the old ones. I've even grown them in my garden and for the last couple of years have been eating home grown (but I only get one or two per year). This recipe is a culinary ode to a menu item served by Duck and Waffle restaurant (which has fantastic views and great cocktails by the way) in London. This cheesy bread features artichoke hearts sprouting from doughy bowels. I've done two versions: a big loaf, Duck and Waffle style, and smaller, artichoke bread 'buttons'.
If you can get whole artichoke hearts, marinated in oil, sold in jars, that's best and tastiest. I had some gorgeous tiny whole ones in Sicily last year which cost about 5 euros a jar. At a recent visit to Borough market, a similar jar cost £17, about 20 euros. Yikes. I'm still searching for reasonably priced but fabulous artichoke hearts in London. You get what you pay for though. I've tried many brands and none of them were as good as the proper Italian ones.
Otherwise use the quarters of artichoke hearts that you often see in supermarkets, marinated in oil.

Artichoke and gruyere large loaf recipe

7g fast action yeast
500g strong white flour
10g sea salt
350ml luke-warm water
200g gruyere, emmental, strong cheddar, grated
5 or 6 whole artichoke hearts marinated in oil

White dough recipe adapted from Richard Bertinet's Dough book.
Mix the yeast, flour, salt, water together in a bowl or stand mixer. Then knead for ten minutes or using the dough hook, mix for ten minutes at a low speed.
Cover with a damp tea towel or clingfilm and leave until doubled in size.
Then add the grated cheese, reserving some to sprinkle on top.
Form a round 'boule' loaf and prod the entire artichoke hearts into the top of the loaf so that only the leaves of the heart are sticking up.
Preheat the oven to 250ºc Cover and leave to rise again for half an hour.
Place the bread on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Spray the inside of the oven with some water. Bake for ten minutes then sprinkle a little cheese on top. Lower the temperature to 220ºc and bake for another 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Artichoke buttons

Makes about 25-30

These are great for canapés and I'll be serving them for next week's Raki supper club.
The dough recipe is from Richard Bertinet's 'dough' book, the olive dough.

500g strong bread flour
20g coarse semolina
14g fast action yeast
10g sea salt
50ml extra virgin olive oil
320ml luke warm water
2 jars of whole artichoke hearts marinated in oil

Mix the flour, semolina, yeast, salt, olive oil and water together in a bowl or stand mixer. Knead for ten minutes or mix with a dough hook for ten minutes on a low speed until the dough is coming off the sides of the bowl.
Oil a bowl with olive oil and leave the dough, covered with a damp tea towel or clingfilm, until doubled in size.
Prepare two baking trays with a silpat or parchment paper. Then, treating the dough carefully, cut it up into 25ml sections, weighing on a digital scale if you have one. Form a neat ball by tucking the dough underneath so that the 'seam' is underneath. Place the balls on the baking trays with a couple of centimetres gap (an inch) between each ball.
Then prod each artichoke into each ball of dough, pressing it down firmly.
Preheat the oven to 230ºc. Cover the balls and leave to proove for another half an hour.
Spray the oven with water. Bake the trays for 10 or 15 minutes until golden.
Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with rosemary salt.
Serve warm.

Thursday, 12 March 2015

American pie; recipe for latticed wholewheat plum pie

In 'Labour Day', the book's author Joyce Maynard taught Kate Winslet, star of the film, how to make the perfect peach pie for the sexy pie-making scenes with Josh Brolin. Pie has somehow become synonymous with America, a dish as American as 'mom's apple pie'. My English mum has never made a pie in her life. Pie is not that big a deal here in the UK, except perhaps for raised pork pies.
There are techniques to be learned, how to make the perfect flaky pastry, how to ensure that it doesn't have a soggy bottom, and whether to make it double crust (with a top), or single crust, and whether to make a lattice top.
I've been mucking about with pretty lattice tops of late, although my technique still needs work. Here is a tutorial from TheKitchn. I made a persimmon lattice pie for Christmas and last week made a bubblegum plum lattice pie. Bubblegum plums, known as Flavorking plums, from South Africa, have a very short season in February/beginning of March; they are a type of pluot or plumcot, an apricot plum hybrid which gives that distinctive flavour.
Recently I was sent a book 'Whole grain baking made easy' by American author Tabitha Alderman. As I mentioned before, I'm not crazy about wholemeal flour, except in certain recipes, finding it too heavy, but Tabitha has convinced me otherwise. "Imagine dipping in and eating (some white flour)...That's the flavour of white flour. It's almost not there or at least is very faint. Taste a pinch of fresh whole-wheat flour, and it'll be sweet and nutty." she writes in the first chapter 'Why bake with whole grains?'.
She's absolutely correct. I met E5 Bakehouse's Ben MacKinnon a couple of weeks ago and we agreed: good flour is the next big thing in baking. Sourcing local mills, fresh flour batches, grinding your own and experimenting with different grains other than wheat is the direction we should be heading in. This book contains recipes that bake with amaranth, barley, buckwheat, corn, millet, oat, quinoa, rice, rye, sorghum and teff flour, discussing the differing qualities of each.
I made a wholemeal double crust, lattice top, bubblegum plum pie, using Alderman's recipe. Her technique meant that the pastry was not heavy, rather was light and tender.

Wholemeal lattice top (bubblegum) plum pie recipe adapted from Whole Grain baking made easy.

You'll need a 22 cm/9 inch pie tin. Alderman is a fan of perforated pie pans.

Serves 8

Make 1 1/2 or double this amount for a double crusted pie:

Wholewheat pie pastry recipe

160g wholewheat flour
1/2 tsp sea salt
170g unsalted cold butter, cut into small squares
2 tbsp vodka (or apple cider vinegar) (this keeps the pastry tender and inhibits the formation of gluten)
40ml chilled buttermilk or sour cream (you can use ice cold water but again the extra fat makes the pastry very flaky).

1 beaten egg to brush over the pastry

For the filling:

110g granulated sugar
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp tapioca flour (can be ground from tapioca pearls)
800g of bubblegum plums, stoned. I didn't skin them.
Zest and juice of 1 lemon or lime
2 tbsp water
Coarse brown sugar to dust
A little sea salt to dust (I used red wine salt)

I used a food processor to make the pastry, if you do it by hand, you'll need to 'cut in' the butter with two knives.
Sift together salt and flour, then pulse in the butter until you have a sandy mixture. The fat should be covering the globules of flour.
Sprinkle the vodka and 40ml of chilled buttermilk or sour cream over the mixture. Pulse again. Form a ball with the mixture. You don't want it too wet.
Shape the dough into two flat patties, cover with clingfilm and chill for several hours in the fridge. The author says it's important for the whole grains to absorb moisture.

Make the filling by putting the sugar, salt, tapioca flour, plums, zest, juice, water, into a deep heavy bottomed saucepan and cook on a low heat until the ingredients have formed a loose but jammy consistency. Leave to cool.

To roll out the pie, grease the pie tin, then scatter, as if you were skimming pebbles across the water, flour on a clean surface. Preheat the oven to 230ºc (450f).
Unwrap the dough, leave for a few minutes to warm up slightly, then roll out the dough into a large circle which will cover the bottom and sides of your pie pan.
Carefully lift up the pastry with your rolling pin and drape it in the pie tin. Press it gently into the sides, then trim the overlap on top. Dock the bottom with a fork, making holes.
Bake the bottom blind by covering it with parchment paper and baking beans, for 15 minutes.
When you remove it from the oven,  and remove the paper and beans, dock the bottom again.
For the second pastry patty, roll it out, then I used a pastry rolling wheel with a crimped edge to make scalloped strips.
Fill the pie to the top with the cooled plum mixture.
Lay the crimped strips on top, weaving them in and out to make a latticed top. Brush the top with beaten egg, scatter with coarse brown sugar and a little sea salt.
Alderman suggest freezing the pie and baking it from frozen, I didn't, I just baked it straight away for about 10 to 15 minutes.

Serve warm or cold, lovely with creme fraiche or icecream.

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Where to eat and shop in Istanbul

msmarmitelover on the bosphorus, Istanbul

You've got to feel for Turkey. They are stuck in the middle of one of the most unstable regions in the world: Ukraine, Crimea and Russia to the north, separated only by the Black Sea; the unholy mess that is Syria/Iraq to the east, the destination of romantic schoolgirls from London's East End, taking a bus across Anatolia to the border; and finally a border with Iran, never without worry. 

Oh and the injustice of Greece, the economic basket case of Europe, part of Europe nonetheless, with euros, Schengen passports, funding, grants and all the advantages that go along with being a member of the EU. You can hear Turkey fume: we've been good, we are taking in refugees from all the wars, we aren't about to sink the entirety of the Eurozone with our reckless economics, rather we have one of the fastest growing economies. Turkey is Europe's buffer zone, our 'airbag' against the zealous hordes, at least for now.

Arrival in Istanbul

Travellers tend to fall into two camps: those who meticulously plan their trips, like Hollow Legs, who even did an Excel spreadsheet prior to her trip, or people like me, who prefer to travel slowly, to wander about, in the hope of happening upon hidden treasures. I'm a free-form traveller. I do just enough research to get me to my first nights' hotel. I prefer to present myself as a blank canvas, upon which impressions, smells, sounds, tastes can be imprinted. 
The first thing I do when arriving in a new place is go walking with my camera. That first fresh sweep is essential, lest my senses become jaded. Today's marvel is tomorrow's 'been there, done that'.

First walkabout: the nearest landmark to my hotel was the vast, concrete, quasi-Sovietic, Taksim square, where my virgin gaze took in the dozens of torch-lit mussel sellers with their tiny 'stalls', the size of a meze tray perched atop a high stool. I saw one customer, an après-work commuter, hunched over, with the kind of focussed concentration that good food and hunger permits, using a half-shell to excavate the mussel from its dark shellac mooring, which in addition comes stuffed with rice. (The Turks love stuffing things, nothing with a cavity is left unfilled, from whence comes the word 'dolma', to stuff.) He stacked up the empty shells on top of the others, ten or fifteen of them, jenga-style. I have to admit, I balked at eating street shellfish. I didn't fancy spending a night on the tiles, the bathroom tiles that is.
I spent 8 days in Istanbul, which is obviously not enough to be an expert. I can only offer you an account of what I did, albeit I was guided in the latter part of my trip by Aylin Oney Tan, a Turkish food expert.


European side:
artichoke bottoms, istanbul
Modern Ottoman cuisine: I loved my lunch at NAR Restaurant on the peaceful roof terraces of Armaggan, a Turkish cultural and design centre. We had the choice of an à la carte menu or a buffet of meze and desserts. 
Favourite dish: artichoke bottoms with broadbeans, prettily presented. 
Medium priced, near the Grand Bazaar. 

Trendy hipster dinner: DubleMeze is on the top floor of Palazzo Donizetti hotel, currently being refurbished. Being escorted through the grand old style hotel reception to the lift and straight up to the skies, this place has a secretive pop up feel. The lift doors open to a buzzing atmosphere with glam Turk hipsters gossiping at volume. It has bird's-eye views over European Istanbul and a selection of modern meze. I didn't like being seated to eat at bar stools, disempowering for a short woman, swollen tourist feet dangling, trying to have a conversation over the noise. Good for young people though and probably nice for lunch.
The purslane salad, popular in Turkey, was memorable.
Near Tunel area, medium priced.

Best Black Sea food: Hayvore, you can point to what you want in the hot counter. They are famous for their anchovy pilaf. My favourite was the poached quince, black apricot, walnut and kaymak thick clotted cream on top. Very cheap, lovely owner. Beyoglu area.
Best lahmacun: Datli Maya is a folksy little bakery that makes 'Turkish pizza' (a thin bread) with unusual toppings. Friendly owners and a place to eat in upstairs.
Best manti: Mynda manti 
Manti are ravioli from Central Anatolia. Traditionally they are fried until crispy on the outside and covered with yoghurt, lemony sumac or biber (sweet or hot red pepper flakes). I didn't really like them, I prefer the soft boiled ravioli/manti. This restaurant serves both kinds, with different fillings. The owners/service is very nice and your bill will be very small. 
Best traditional Turkish: 
Pandeli is a cerulean-tiled restaurant located on top of the Spice Market. I didn't eat there, just visited while they were boiling platters of almonds in preparation for the lunch. But I've been told that it's the place for a traditional family meal, both economical and with a great location.

Asian Side:

Modern meze:
Award winning restaurant Tapasuma is part of a boutique hotel Sumahan on the site of a 19th century Ottoman distillery. The chef Gökay Çakıroğlu has been part of the restaurant since he was a child, since his dad was chef. I ate beautifully designed meze plates that looked equally good as they tasted: highlights include chard-wrapped bulgar wheat, aubergine salad, fish dishes. You can sit and look at the Bosphorus while you eat. Moderately priced.

Traditional meze with lots of vegetarian options:
I love the food at Ciya where we had za'atar tea and tore up football-sized puffed up breads sprinkled with Nigella seeds, freshly emerged from the wood oven. You can order candied vegetables and green walnuts for dessert. Plus they have a complex dish called Perdeli Pilav traditionally served at weddings (pictured above).
Mackerel sandwich with pickles, several places under Galata bridge: 
A must-eat. You order them, shoving your way through the crowds, from a shouty bloke standing in front of a large golden gondola-style boat. Behind him you can see an enormous swaying hotplate where the fish is grilled on the boat. Mackerel and some salad is pushed into a baguette, then you elbow your way to a tiny stool next to a table. Men with gold braid waistcoats offer jars of pickle juice to go with your sandwich. You pick out the pickles with a fork and drink the juice. A kind of mackerel pickleback. Divine. My kinda food.
Eminonu area, near to the spice market.

Elastic Icecream:
Many vendors of 'dondurma' on Istiklal St, which is the equivalent of Oxford Street in London. They do a whole show, with clinking bells and magic tricks. The icecream contains sahlep, dried orchid roots and mastic, giving the icecream a chewy texture. You buy it by the slice, which is piled onto a cornet.

Not exactly street food, more shop window food, as you usually see it being made by a woman sitting cross-legged in a window, rolling out thin dough over a domed drum. She then bakes it on a low fire next to her and fills it with whatever you choose (I ask for spinach and cheese). 
Wet Burgers:
I didn't partake but this is a kind of steamed hamburger. You know how we eat kebabs to soak up the drink after a night out? Turkey, home of the kebab, uses wet burgers, 'islak burgers', instead. It's a burger bun kept in a mini-hammam. I don't eat meat, but everyone raves about this Turkish phenomenon.
Best drinks:
You'll get good Turkish coffee almost everywhere. Do try sahlep in the winter, a milky drink made from ground wild orchid powder. Another favourite of mine was apple tea, chunks of dehydrated apple in hot water, which sounds strange but is a refreshing drink. And of course, raki, the aniseed drink, is the perfect accompaniment with meze. 

Fes cafe in the Grand Bazaar was particularly good for drinks and good people watching.

Best bar: 
There are quite a few bars around the bottom of Istiklal Street, Beyoglu, Karakoy and Tunel. I went to Public House near Sishane metro, which is quite trendy.
Weird desserts:
I had a strange concoction, 'Kunefe', in a side street next to the spice market: shredded wheat with stretchy salty cheese inside covered with syrup. Kind of liked it but my brain had problems processing this dessert. 


Food shopping is a joy in Istanbul. Here are my tips. The Asian side is less touristy than the European side with the Grand Bazaar and the Spice Bazaar, you'll get fairer prices.

Asian side:

Kadıköy market. 
God I loved this place, not only were the shops fascinating but they also had many open air restaurants lining the street.
At the Kovan Firin Bakery, you can try Tahinli Çörek: a bun with tahini inside, a lovely fudgy flavour.  

I bought boiled sweets, rose petal jam and Turkish delight at Cafer Erol. The boiled sweets, called Akide sugar candy, come from a long tradition of candy making, and were stored in large glass jars like an old fashioned sweetie shop, but in unusual flavours such as mastic, liquorice, cinnamon, bergamot, rose, plus an amber honey sweet studded with sesame seeds. Mastic has an interesting pine flavour and is sourced from a particular type of pistachio tree on Chios island in Greece.
Anybody who reads my blog regularly will know that this girl loves a pickle. Oh but the Turks do lovely pickles! Pickle heaven can be found at Özcan Turşu. I bought pickled green almonds, whole pickled ivory garlic bulbs, pickled pink turnips... all the colours of the rainbow. According to this shop, their house made pickles can help with indigestion, cancer, Alzheimers and diabetes.

European side:

The Spice Bazaar, and the small streets surrounding it, is a must-visit in Istanbul.  
Shops to visit there include Doğu Pazarı where I bought two types of Bottarga-Balık yumurtası-kept in the fridge: a dark one and a light one. I now can't remember the difference between them but the dark one was more highly valued than the other and was from the Baltic seas. They were made from grey mullet.
I enjoyed the cheese shop Cankurtaran Gıda, where I tasted the four most common Turkish cheeses: 1. Dil Peyniri. 2. Beyaz Peynir/White Cheese 3. Kaşar Peyniri. 4. Tulum Peyniri
The best spice shop in the Spice Bazaar is Ucuzcular Spices, a family business where I bought various powders and concoctions including saffron, rose petals, something mysterious called 'Ottoman spice' and another similarly red ground spice thingy called 'salad spice'. 

I thought the Turkish women with their colourful headscarves looked very stylish, something they wear when they get married. The women in black hijab are Arabic, I was told. 

Non-food info:

Istiklal street has all the same shops we do, plus a few others. Istanbul is great for shopping and prices are lower at shops like H and M where I replaced my handbag, got a black leather fringed jobbie for 22 euros. I won't spend more than £50 on a handbag but you can get good quality imitations of the designer bags (you pay £200 rather than £8k) in a shop in the Spice Bazaar, if that's your bag. 

Tights (I was there in winter) are a good buy in Istanbul from branches of Penti. The January sales were still on and you can get cashmere tights for instance at a bargain price.

Snail cream:
This is the latest thing for a youthful complexion, a face cream that contains snail slime. Cheaper in Istanbul pharmacies. Rather you than me.

Bulbs and seeds:
You can buy cheap bulbs and seeds at the flower market behind the Spice Bazaar.
As Food Stories mentioned, Istanbul is perfect for her as it's full of cats. I've never seen so many different types of cat food for sale either (above). Adjacent to the flower market.

Buy a local SIM from a branch of Turkcell on arrival, at the airport even. You must take your passport with you to buy.  It took me a few days to put this plan into action, but it cost £30 for the SIM/plenty of data allowance and was the best decision I made. It works out cheaper than roaming because remember, Turkey isn't Europe (£40 for 4 instagrams! Thank you o2); it means you can pretend, if solo, that you have company in the form of your virtual mates on Twitter and, essential for maze-like Istanbul, you can use Google maps.

Buy a travel card: Istanbulkart. You'll find you walk a lot in Istanbul. Buy a fitbit and achieve your daily steps goal easily. After 3 or 4 days I felt a lot fitter.

Hammam towels: I bought a load of these 'pestemal' in the first few days then discovered the best shop for them, at a shop called Abdulla in the Grand Bazaar, not particularly cheap but gorgeous designs and quality. So I had to buy a bunch more.

Best hammams

I talked about my hammam experience in this post. Most hammams are near a mosque. Some have different hours for men and women. You have to go at least once when you are in Turkey. You spring out feeling so clean and relaxed. 
I tried Cemberlitas hammam near the blue mosque and Grand Bazaar. It cost about £45 for a scrub and 30 minute massage. 
I checked out Galatasaray hammam although I didn't go in: it had similar prices to Cemberlitas but looked a little shabbier.
Kilic Ali Pasa Hamami was cleaner, posher, recently refurbished but women can go until 4pm, after that it's men only. It's around £100 for a scrub and massage. 
If you stay at posher hotels, they usually have a hammam, scrub and massage menu but they are much more expensive. I had one at the elegant and historic Pera Palace hotel, formerly the end stop for the Orient Express train trip. This hotel is worth a visit in itself, it has one of the oldest lifts/elevators in the world and you can stay in Agatha Christie's old room. Glass cabinets in the higher floors display original crockery and silverware from the Orient Express train. I have to admit that the 'scrub' at Pera Palace hotel was so painful that I had scabs all over my body afterwards. Is that supposed to happen?

Things to see:

Go on a Bosphorus tour. I was lucky enough to be invited onto a private boat accompanied by the writer of this detailed and illustrated book 'Bosphorus, the ultimate guide'. You get to see beautiful riverside mansions, houses of the rich, while spending a few nice hours on the water. Here is some great advice on which tour to take.

Visit at least one mosque, you must cover your head, so take a scarf, if not they provide one. Also remove shoes. I find the call to prayer, especially when it's not just a recording, but a genuine imam doing his thang, a rousing spiritual vibrational experience, even though I am not religious. 

As people go at dusk to pray, you will see the men wash their feet, legs, arms, even in the freezing weather, with cold water, at taps built on the outside walls of the mosque. I visited two mosques: the Blue Mosque, which was beautiful, six minarets, but not blue. It has some scary looking giant low chandeliers that are precariously hanging on thin wires from the ceiling. Suleyman mosque is perhaps plainer, but seems larger, and is a bit of a climb up a hill. I drank a steaming sahlep from a vendor selling outside. Two beggar children, probably refugees from Syria, stood there looking at the hot drinks with large longing eyes. A man going to prayer bought them some. 

I didn't have time to visit the Topkapi museum and palace, to visit the harem. So much to do... must return.