Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Road to Bodrum

With the onset of winter rain, we are enjoying the comforts of the improved road to our village house. When we started building in 1991, our access lane looked like this.  Bumpy in summer and very muddy in winter.  Experience was needed to negotiate the puddles and several friends' cars ended up bogged down half way along. 

Last year the road was widened and gravelled. This is a double-edged sword; boy racers have taken to whizzing past on their drunken way back from village weddings but our VW's chassis will last a few years longer and I don't have to keep my wellies in the car.  

Of all the changes in Turkey over the years, the most obvious is  the amount of road building.  Despite having lived in Bitez for 2 years, I now hesitate to visit friends there as I keep getting lost. 

When we moved to a Bitez mandarin garden in 1983, there was only one road (marked in red) and one river bed that was sometimes a road and other times a raging torrent that tumbled cars from the village down to the beach. 

To really appreciate the changes a born and bred Bodrumite of senior years has seen in the transport infrastructure, the grainy photograph below was taken by Freya Stark in 1950 of the road between Bodrum and Milas. 

This is the access road to Bodrum today. 

"If one were given a single window from which to look upon the changing Eastern world, it should face, I think, the road"  Freya Stark,  East is West. 

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Versatile Bloggers

It's exactly one year ago today that I received my last full-time salary cheque and joined the lotus eaters.  As a self-confessed workaholic I was apprehensive about joining the non-employed.  I knew my husband would be fine as he's always viewed work as a tiresome chore to be negotiated on the way to a tennis match, but could I ditch my annoying Protestant work ethic and embrace the freedom?  I promised myself that I wouldn't consider any permanent job offers for at least a year, ( I did - wavered a bit and then came to my senses and refused) and for the first time in 30 years,  just  do things for gratification rather than remuneration. Was it a success?  Absolutely.  Can I pull it off for a second year?  Hopefully.  One of the bonuses of my new lifestyle is my immersion in blogging.  I had no idea what a blog was 18 months ago and then, while googling  "importing household goods" to Turkey, I stumbled upon Jack Scott's Perking the Pansies, starting reading and was hooked.  That such comic erudition was served up on a daily basis was a joyous discovery and I still read every post.  When I decided to dip my toe in the blogosphere, Jack kindly came  to our building site of a house and helped me sort my links from my labels.  Jack's page directed me to other Turkish sites. Ayak's Turkish Delight caught my eye as we seemed to have plenty in common.  Ayak's unwavering tolerance of the illogical and absurd occurrences in her village made me know I'd like her before we met. It's thanks to Ayak's speedy Facebook posting that we have our lovely woofer,  Jake, who is chewing his bone beside me.  As a devourer of books, I was looking forward to giving myself up to my kindle. This hasn't happened as I spend most of my reading time keeping up with the weekly output of my favourite bloggers.   Alan of  Archers of Okcular is the person I'd like to accompany on a long walk as his encyclopaedic  knowledge of flora and fauna is mind blowing. Mike and Jolie of Senior dogs nudge my social conscience and keep me up to date with the political situation in Turkey.  Joy at My Turkish Joys, Özlem's Turkish Table and Claudia at A seasonal cook in Turkey spark the inspiration in the BtoB kitchen.  Julia and Barry's site Turkey's for life,  Hilary and Ashley's Pul Biber and Natalie's Turkish Travel save me a fortune in travel expenses by taking me around this amazing country without having to leave my computer, while Istanbul Stranger's off-the-wall impressions of Istanbul and Adventures in Ankara  remind me that I'm a country girl at heart.  If anyone reading this is contemplating visiting Turkey I suggest you give all the above sites a good look over. You will learn more from the acquired wisdom of these aficionados than a 100 guide books.

This navel-gazing was inspired by Helen of The Venomous Bead who kindly put me on her list of blogs under this august green box.  If you haven't dipped into her blog before, do so immediately as she is a natural raconteur with a flair for dialogue that puts most screen writers to shame.  I haven't  mentioned the non-Turkish blogs I follow but cast a glance at the side bar and I can promise you will enjoy them all.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

How to make Juniper Molasses

A big thank you goes to April of In the kitchen with April who has solved the mystery of how juniper molasses (andız pekmez)  is created.   She pointed me to this You Tube clip Making Pekmez in Anamur which shows exactly how it is done.  The cones are collected, then bashed with a hammer and put in a vast vat of water to soak.  The liquid is then strained off and boiled in successive caldrons, until a thousand litres is reduced to a hundred litres and a thick syrup results.   I'm always amazed at how these processes were ever discovered. It takes a great leap of imagination to look at a small juniper cone and create a process to turn it into a nutritious and delicious syrup.  All pekmez is a good source of calcium, potassium and magnesium and juniper molasses is said to be efficacious in the treatment of coughs, bronchitis and hepatitis.
I can't write the word "efficacious" without the Scaffold's "Lily the Pink" starting on a loop in my head.   Shows my age!

Friday, 18 January 2013

Juniper Molasses

It's rare that I come across something new in Turkey so I was excited to discover an unfamiliar  ingredient at the cheese stall last market day. I had no idea what  "andız" were and at first glance thought the picture on the front of the jar was of beets. The cheese-seller wasn't sure what  an andız was either but he knew it grew on a tree, so that ruled out beetroot.  I bought the jar anyway and the nice chap behind the counter gave me a big slice of ricotta free of charge - he'd probably despaired of ever selling this unknown commodity.  When I got home, I tried a teaspoon but this didn't give me any clues so I fired up the Mac and found out that andız pekmez is juniper molasses, (even though the word for "juniper" is "ardıç").  I've never come across this before  and hope somebody reading this will have more information.

I decided to celebrate the new discovery with a biscuit recipe  so here are my Juniper Molasses Cookies.

110g plain flour
80g rolled oats
Half tsp bicarb of soda
50 g sultanas
100g juniper molasses
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
100g butter

  • Heat the oven to 180 C
  • Mix all dry ingredients in a bowl
  • Melt the butter, add the molasses and add to the dry ingredients 
  • Mix well and drop spoonfuls on to a lined and greased baking try
  • Bake on a upper shelf for 15 minutes
  • Don't bake until they are completely hard, as they harden up on cooling. 

I tried them out at book club on Wednesday and they got a thumbs-up. 

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Winter Warmth in Bodrum

Why do I like living in Bodrum? Because on the 15th January in what by any calendar is the middle of winter,  Spring is in the air.  For the past 3 days we have had glorious sunshine and temperatures around 16 degrees C.  Heavy coats have been abandoned for sleeveless jackets and every roof has flapping laundry.  The puddles left by the heavy rain on Friday night have almost dried up and the bedding plants that looked almost certainly  frozen then drowned along the harbour front, might just survive.  This is what I missed in my 12 winters in England - these little mini respites from the relentless winter weather.  We've just taken an late walk around the town and the south wind is blowing a pleasantly warm breeze landwards.  This southerly lodos is the harbinger of rain so we will probably say goodbye to the sun for a few days, but after the cold spell last week, it was lovely to have a mini summer for a few days.
Spring flowers are starting to appear. I brought a bunch of narcissus home from the market on Friday and they are still filling the room with their heady scent.  One sniff of these delicate flowers takes me back to Bitez 30 odd years ago.  In what is now an urban mass of hotels, houses, roads and shops, there were water logged fields that would fill with nergis, narcissus in the winter.  I wonder if any still appear in the gardens of the new houses and hotels. I'd like to think that a few bulbs survived the bulldozers.

Friday, 11 January 2013

Winter in Bodrum

When it's snowing in Istanbul and  the North wind blows, Bodrum temperatures drop to central European winter levels. The thermometer may say it is 2 or 3 degrees C but the cold wind ensures it feels about minus 5.  The last few days have been particularly cold and for the first time I've heard of water pipes freezing.  Very few of us live in well insulated houses so no matter how much we crank up the heating, we will still be suffering cold fingers and noses not covered by the four layers of woollies we are all wearing.  Contrary to expectation, the best solution on these few days a year is to get outside for a brisk walk.  When the Ayaz blows the sky is usually crystal clear and the sun blindingly bright.  A walk around town will identify the most sheltered spots and a few hours can be spent enjoying the warmth of the sun without the bone chilling wind.  The minute the sun starts to go down, the cafes and pavements empty and everyone rushes back to houses that are probably as cold inside as out.  Early evening yesterday, I tried typing in gloves but my fancy pantsy Mac track pad doesn't work with gloves on so I gave up and spent as much time as decently possible with my electric blanket in bed.

Jake's new best friend Carrot enjoying the sunshine.

A good pair of sunglasses is needed in winter

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Back in Bodrum one year on.

A mill pond stillness descends on Bodrum Harbour on Sunday

Süt Liman
"milk harbour"  

I have inadvertently ignored the one year anniversary of arriving back in Bodrum and starting this blog so I should refer to the milestone as it whizzes into the distance.  We are continuing to enjoy being back in Turkey and that is probably the best reason to celebrate.  It still seems like a homecoming and I enjoy catching sight of faces from my past life.  Just today walking around Bodrum I said hello to a grocer who used to work in the marina in 1982,  a friend my husband knocked around with in Ankara in the 1960s,  a basketball coach who's team was supreme in Bodrum in 1990,  the best mayor we ever had (1994 -1999) and the the last sponge diver in Bodrum who was varnishing his boat.  This continuity is very comforting in a country that is changing so fast. Bodrum has grown like Topsy; Anatolia is encroaching on its Aegean heart and the Bodrum peninsula is fast disappearing under concrete and stone. This is nothing new - those living here have been making the same complaint since I arrived 31 years ago and I'm sure my daughter will be voicing the same concerns when she's my age.  We shall continue to "go with the flow" as befits two pisceans (almost) living the life of Riley.

Looking back over my 129 posts I'm embarrassed to find that there are not many pictures of Bodrum Town.  My first new year's resolution was to take better pictures, my second is to take them of Bodrum.   Here's a few to start as I mean to go on.

Saturday, 5 January 2013

January's Beetroot Challenge.

After Christmas and New Year, I always feel extra parsimonious so I'm  challenging myself to make the most of everything I buy in January.  The humble beetroot is a good example of waste; how many of you chuck away the leaves and stalks? I used the bunch in the above photo to make 4 different dishes. 

First I separated the beets, stalks and leaves and put the beets into a steamer and cooked them for 40 minutes.  Once they were soft enough to be pierced with a knife, I fished them out to cool down and put in a layer of chopped stalks and then the leaves on top and left them to steam until soft - about 20 minutes. 

The first recipe is a chocolate cupcake inspired by Claudia's Blog. I made a mistake while following her recipe for a chocolate soufflé cake and then played around with the recipe to include the beets. 

120g dark chocolate
70g butter
3 eggs
70g sugar
80g sieved self-raising flour
20g cocoa
125g cooked peeled beetroot
5 pitted soft prunes

1 greased muffin tin lined with circles of greaseproof paper.  (makes 10 small cakes) 
Oven temp. 180 degrees C
  • Melt the butter and chocolate in a large bowl over a saucepan of hot water
  • Separate the eggs and beat the sugar into the yolks 
  • Chop the beetroot finely or puree with a blender and add to the egg yolk mixture. I put it all into a deep bowl and blended it with a hand-blender.  Make sure the bowl is  very deep though or you will have bright red beetroot up the walls. 
  • Chop the prunes finely and add to the egg mixture.
  • Add the egg yolk mixture to the cooled butter and chocolate and mix well

  • Whisk the egg white until it forms soft peaks.
  • Fold the egg white into the chocolate mixture.
  • Gently fold the flour and cocoa into the chocolate mixture.
  • Carefully spoon into the cake tin and put in the middle of a 180C oven for 12 to 15 minutes. 
  • Test by gently pressing the top of the cakes or inserting a skewer. 

These cupcakes are extremely rich and moist and keep well for several days.  ( I hid one to test this out). No one who has tried them so far has been able to identify either the beetroot or the prune ingredient. 

Peel and slice the remaining beets and dress with a tablespoon of olive oil, half a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar, a tablespoon of chopped dill, salt and pepper. 
For the stalks, make a dressing with half a lemon's juice, a tablespoon of olive oil, a grated garlic clove, salt and pepper.
The leaves are tasty on their own with just salt and pepper and a dash of pomegranate molasses. 

And how much was this versatile vegetable?  

Just 1 Turkish Lira. 

Warning - You may end up with a pink kitchen. 

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Goodbye to 2012.

New Year's Eve dawned sunny and bright in Bodrum and it was warm enough to wander along the harbour without a coat. By midday, restaurants on the front were filling up and dog walking involved dodging drivers with phones clasped to ears, cruising the back streets looking for parking spaces. By mid-afternoon a chaotic air had taken over the town and traffic lights were being totally ignored so a trip to the supermarket necessitated a bit of shifty foot work. The municipality had a good line-up organised for its annual free pop concert and most locals and visitors were aiming to be in the town centre, even I was contemplating heading down there for a look. Then the rain started, which put me off the trip but didn't dampen the spirits of the committed revellers. At a few minutes to midnight we nipped up to our roof for a stereo firework display as the rockets zoomed up from the harbour in front and the Marmara Hotel behind. As the fireworks finished, in unison hands went to car horns and we closed our roof door on the cacophony of toots, peeps and blasts and gave thanks for our double glazing.