Thursday, 16 April 2015

Wednesday wonders

The farmer's market on Wednesday is proving to be a good source of Instagram photos. Last week, organic vegetable shopping was enhanced by a couple dancing the tango between the stalls, this week two ladies were making karabaş macun,   French Lavender paste.   They picked all the flowers off the stalks (which are saved to make tea), then steeped the flowers in boiling water for a couple of minutes. 

The strained flowers were added to pekmez, molasses and boiled until jam consistency was reached and then ground and toasted sesame and walnuts were stirred in.  Allowed to cool and bottled, this blend is marketed as a cure for just about everything but especially migraines. Recent research suggests that fiercely boiled molasses is not as good for us as we thought so I'd be inclined to mix the strained flowers  into raw honey rather than this traditional recipe. 

Another bonus was a stall selling large bunches of wild tulips. It's been many years since I've seen this many in one place so the odd winter weather which wasn't very conducive to human happiness must have been just right for these gorgeous wild flowers.

Monday, 13 April 2015


Strange word 'Euphorbia' , sounds like something you should be either extremely happy about or frightened of. I toyed with the titles of 'Euphoric over Euphorbia' or 'Euphorbia phobias' but decided against.

Today, well into April,  I'm using a picture of this vivid green member of the Spurge family as a symbol of delight that we finally have a weather forecast that promises five days of sunshine in a row. Yipee! It's been a long winter and almost non existent Spring.  I'm still not sure if some of the frost-hit plants in the garden will make a full recovery, but the Euphorbia has been bursting forth for several weeks, proclaiming that winter is over, despite the rain, clouds and wind (and my reliance on an electric blanket).

Should you wish to bring any branches of this attractive plant indoors, be extremely cautious. The stems exude a milky sap which is extremely caustic. I can tell you from bitter experience that you don't want to get it anywhere near your eyes.  We were once invited to lunch by people we didn't know too well. I prepared a lovely bouquet of roses and euphoria, wrapped in very trendy raffia and tissue paper. I rinsed my hands in water and rubbed my eyes.  By the time we got to the lunch date, my eyes were half closed and tears were running down my swollen face.  We weren't invited back! 

Friday, 10 April 2015

Open Mind to Open Heart

Sitting in front of a computer for a lot of the day, trying to get words on to a page, my brain definitely rules my heart. I'm analytical by nature and can rightly be accused of over scrutinising and dissecting words, events and people.   I used to be sceptical about anything I couldn't explain but since I moved back to Bodrum I've been much more open to ideas on the edge of conventional thinking. Even so  I am probably the last person you'd expect to sign up for a day's workshop of 'Heart Math'.  Until a month ago I'd not even heard the phrase and when I did, in my pedantic way, immediately thought "where is the s?", why isn't it 'Heart Maths'.  But in a moment of improbable mental tolerance, I decided to throw my prejudices to the wind and go along and see what it was all about, and I'm so glad I did.  Under he expert guidance of Joyce McKay, we learnt a simple technique to use the power of one's heart to balance biological systems and stop stress and negative thoughts and actions in a few seconds.  I've been practicing since Saturday and the 3am anxiety-insomnia which has plagued me for years has all but gone.
You'll have to go along to one of these sessions yourself to find out what goes on as it's difficult to define the experience.  My fellow participants, all strong, sassy, funny, intelligent and thoughtful women, made the day even more rewarding. I can only really say I went into the Marina Go Hotel in the morning with an open mind and came out a few hours later with an open heart and a nice warm feeling of calm, control and purpose.   Thanks, Joyce!

Monday, 6 April 2015

Back of the Net for Bodrum Spor

This VW looks very happy at Bodrum Spor's success

There's been much celebration in Bodrum this week-end as the local football team won their amateur league championship and secured their rise into the 3rd division.  They actually clinched the lead 2 matches ago but also won the last two games of the season to finish on a high note.   I live next to the stadium so was in the right place at the right time to catch the players atop this tour bus for a lap of honour around the town.   Apart from car horns they were accompanied by ticker tape, helium balloons, camera drones, sirens and firecrackers so no one could have been left in any doubt as to the outcome.

Jake and I sometimes come across the players as they leave practice matches and we're happy to report that they are very dog friendly and give him a stroke so I shall have to get Jake a green and white check scarf ready for next season's matches, because they don't seem to have a doggy mascot yet.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Books in Bodrum

I've always been an avid reader; from the age of seven I preferred reading to sleeping. I still do and when I first came to live in Bodrum all those years ago, my bag had more books than clothes. Finding something to read in the 1980s in Bodrum was often a struggle as my Turkish wasn't good enough to enjoy locally published novels.  I was lucky to work in the travel industry and guests were very generous with their finished books.  I would also collect old newspapers and magazines and save them for months to make sure I'd devoured every word.  The local English speaking community wasn't very large but we shared what books we had, making sure the diving archaeologists were the last to read any paperback as they'd take them underwater with them and read as they slowly made their way to the surface.   In the 1990s we had a book-swap in our travel agency which turned into a good way of meeting newly arrived English speakers on the peninsula and kept me in reading material if I wasn't too fussy.   If someone had told me then that in less than two decades I'd own a machine which would let me read the book I wanted within 5 seconds of pressing a button, I would have thought them delusional.
Despite electronic readers and the internet, most of us still enjoy the feel of a real book and in Bodrum we have the chance every few months to peruse long tables of reading matter and pick up a good read for a few lira.

Linda Bennett, smiling as usual. 

About 10 years ago, a group concerned at the sad state of the peninsula's stray cats and dogs decided to form a charity to help them. Their efforts were thwarted by bureaucracy, but they did start raising money by holding jumble sales.  It was soon noticed that the book stall run by Linda Bennett raised more than the rest of the stalls put together and thus the regular book sale was born.  

John Lloyd behind the counter.
Each year, over 5,000TL is raised and goes towards treating sick and wounded animals and neutering those living on the street.
The next sale is this Sunday, 5th April at Defne Restaurant in Bitez  from 11:00 to 13:00.  If you are in the Bodrum area, give your Kindles a rest and come along and reacquaint yourselves with the smell and feel of a real page turner.

Monday, 30 March 2015

Itchy Feet

I've got itchy feet and it's not the sort of irritation that can be cured by a trip to the pharmacy.  The affliction started about 10 days ago in the Chamber of Commerce lecture hall while listening to a talk by Altay Özcan, co-author of the Carian Trail guide.  I'd gone along hoping to pick up some tips on how not to get lost while following this new route, although I know that "forgetting to take the guide book with us" is the main reason we find ourselves up a hill in a thicket on most of our rambles.  It seems that we are not the only ones, as Altay willingly admitting that they too found themselves stuck in impenetrable brambles on many occasions in the production of the book. Accompanied by beautiful photographs, he lead us on a virtual walk along the whole 800+ kms of the Carian Trail.  By avoiding big towns and touristic areas, he took me back to the Turkey I remember from the 1980s. Stretches of blue sea bordered by craggy rocks, ancient temples and nobody apart from the odd goat herd. It is so heartening that these wild places are still there for those willing to make the effort. However,  this route is no walk in the park. It's a serious trail that needs proper equipment, preparation  and a good degree of stamina. Sadly I don't think I have the endurance to complete long hikes  but hope to to cherry pick some flattish sections with access to a dog friendly pension nearby.  Once this wet winter has dried out and before the summer sun gets too ferocious, I'm looking forward to heading North, South or East in search of the wild places.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Tilting at Windmills - Troubling Turbines

I seem to spend a lot of time going to protest meetings these days, which makes me appear a bit of a NIMBY - In the case of the 13 projected wind turbines between Yalıkavak and Geriş I think I'm the opposite; a WOENIMBY -  Why On Earth Not In MY Back Yard.  I'm not a great supporter of wind power but if these monsters have to be put somewhere, surely the empty high peaks between Mumcular and the Gulf of Gokova, a few hills back from our rural home would be a more sensible place than on the already crowded Bodrum peninsula. The proposed site near Yalikavak is on land that is, or was in the past, protected because of its archaeological and biological importance and encroaches on the villages of Geriş and Karakaya not to mention outlying pastures, houses and the five seismic fault lines that run around the 14,380,000 sq m plot.  (Yes I have checked the number of zeros).  Is wind power even the right way to go?  When do we need the most power? In the summer.  When do we get the most wind? In the winter.  Put solar power into the same equation and it seems a no brainer to me that we should be concentrating on sun energy.  Solar farms are not attractive either but at least they are quiet, don't kill so many birds and don't need obscene amounts of concrete to stop them falling over.  I came out of the meeting with a heavy heart.  Yet again a massive project has got underway without any consultation with the public, no environmental impact evaluation report and it feels to this woman in the street, a very tenuous adherence to the law of the land.

The meeting was well attended with, ladies from Çomakdağ village near Milas adding a dash of colour to the event.

This young lady seems to be echoing my feelings. 

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Curry Girls

As promised, this Saturday was curry day at Erenler Sofrası. Dina and Angie led 6 keen students step by step through the preparation of lamb vindaloo, butter chicken, samosas, raita, pumpkin and spinach dal and saffron and cardamom dessert.  We willingly peeled, chopped, diced and stirred in anticipation of the evening's feast.

Despite the cool weather, the benefits of an outdoor kitchen became obvious as the heady aromas wafted from the bubbling saucepans.

For most of us cooking is a solitary occupation so it was great fun to cook alongside others and we all enjoyed a good chat as we wielded our knives.

I would have liked to put a photo of the finished banquet here but hunger and greed took over and we had almost cleared the plates by the time I thought to grab my camera.

Dina's Vindaloo Paste
Dry roast a handful each of green and black cardamom, whole black pepper, coriander seeds , cumin seeds  and a cinnamon stick with pinch of fenugreek, cloves and bay leaves, then grind to a powder.   
In a food processor blitz 3 green chilli peppers, a peeled garlic bulb, 10cms fresh ginger, the spice mixture, a tbsp tumeric, a cup of white vinegar (a little water if needed) to a paste.   Add  jalapeno peppers to make hotter if required.
 This paste keeps well in the fridge and I recommend you keep a large jar on hand.  Just add to sautéed onions, any meat of your choice and tomatoes and cook until the meat is tender and the curry has given up a layer of oil on the surface. 

Thursday, 19 March 2015

A Bouquet of Bloggers

Instagram is the way to go I am told - well I've gone but I have no idea what to do with it. Any suggestions? 

Is there a collective name for bloggers, specifically bloggers interested in healthy food?  An "abundance" sounds good, a "bucketload" doesn't.  A"bunch" seems a bit crude and a "bundle" even more so. I'd almost plumped for "bevy" when "bouquet" came to me. This seems appropriate for the fragrant ladies that met up on Saturday at Erenler Sofrası.  Aslıhan, the proprietor had invited some of Istanbul's choice culinary writers to spend  the week-end with her as she showcased the Spring attractions of this part of South West Turkey and I was lucky enough to be invited along for the day.   So many city dwellers now think of Bodrum purely in terms of Summer/nightclubs/posh restaurants/beaches/ expensive yachts that Aslı decided to highlight the charm of rural life around Bodrum with trips to out-of-the-way villages, quiet seafronts, rural vineyards and a cookery demonstration of  local 'ot' recipes in her Ortakent restaurant. "Ot" translates as grass but means any greenery picked wild at this this of the year. It could be white mustard, nettles, wild fennel, broad bean tops, wild asparagus, chard, radish tops and so on.  Many of them will remain a mystery to me and often to those that sell them.  I often spy something in the market that I'm not familiar with and having asked the name I am fobbed off with "yellow grass" or "bitter grass".  Both the vendor and I know that they used that name for something else the week before.

Oya Emerk and Aslıhan Mutlu

Oya's Cuisine is in both English and Turkish and is full of just about everything you could ever want to know about Turkish food and dining. She also has a write up of her long week-end in Bodrum so I recommend you click on the link and take a look.

Funda Aydeniz testing white mustard greens with apricots.

Funda's blog arenandfamily is full of recipes, restaurants and is extremely useful for any of you with young families who live or pass through Istanbul.

Selma Mollaoğlu obviously more experienced than me and taking shots with the light behind her.

Selma's blog is a  cornucopia of recipes and has a translate button that will translate to every language.

Sibel Yalçın handy behind the camera as well as in front of it. 

Sibel's blog is also a beautifully laid-out selection of recipes. She is the TV cook on Derya's World on Kanaltürk on Tuesdays. 

Selin Rozanes, founder of Turkish Flavours, the pioneer of culinary tours in Turkey was also one of our party, but managed to avoid my lens, but if you click on the above links, both she and I are lurking in the back of the others' photos.

I'm going back to Erenler Sofrası this Saturday for an Indian Food extravaganza, click on the link if you'd like to join in.

Monday, 16 March 2015

Posh Porridge- Bodrum Style.

I've been reading about a temporary cafe that has popped-up in London, dedicated to serving posh porridge. For once, I feel that I am ahead of a trend as the oatmeal I prepare every morning would pass muster on any la-di-da breakfast menu.  The following recipe will make my Scottish - oats, salt and water, nothing else - porridge eating friends shout at the screen.

I prefer the rolled oats I buy in Turkey to the UK ones as they are less processed and don't turn stodgy when boiled.  My porridge starts with oats and water and then I add:
A handful of sunflower seeds -  an excellent source of fatty acids, minerals, amino acids and vitamins, especially Vitamin E and B and folic acid
A sprinkle of dried cranberries - these bright red berries seem to prevent bacteria attachment in the urinary tract and may hinder the helicobacter pylori bacteria attaching itself to the stomach lining and so help prevent stomach ulcers. 
Half a teaspoon of cinnamon - curbs insulin spikes, improves brain function and tastes great.
A date or two - if I fancy a sweet breakfast. 
3 or 4 walnuts - a powerful antioxidant and supporter of healthy cholesterol levels

Once it is all boiled up together and in a bowl, on top goes:
A tablespoon of ground linseeds, a teaspoon of bee pollen and a cup of kefir,  just in case my bowel needs regulating (linseed), my immune or  respiratory systems are a bit challenged (bee pollen),  or my gut needs some pro-biotic help (kefir).  I should make my own kefir (fermented milk) at home to get the best mix of pro-biotics, but I'm lazy so I just buy a ready made one. 

This might sound like a decent into hypochondria, but it tastes great if it keeps my Turkish Lira out of the hands of the pharmaceutical giants who'd prefer me to pop pills, I'm happy to keep eating my posh porridge.