Istanbul – What to eat

Great salad, bread and olives start most meals. Efes the local beer is also very easy to drink.

Food in Istanbul is relatively cheap and fantastic. Because of its location there is plenty of good seafood available. I expected there to be alot of street food, but it seemed limited to roast corn on the cob, or roast chestnuts.

Barbecued Sea Bream

Similar to Greek cuisine, lamb is also popular, and different types of kebab abound. Istanbul is a city where you could still eat really well if you’re vegetarian. Cheese and yoghurt dishes are popular, but your choices might be limited if you’re vegan.

Lamb and pistachio kebabs with cracked wheat salad.

Most restaurants also offer a meze (mixed starter of different dips and salads).

Meze starter with different dips and salads

One of my favour things about the food, was the delicious bread served everywhere. Many places would make traditional flatbread in front you when you ordered. I’m not ashamed to say I’m a carb junkie.

Freshly made flatbreads were amazing.

I love coffee, but found the tar like Turkish coffee too strong for my taste.

Turkish ccoffee is like rocket fuel, but will get you going in the morning.

What I did discover is that I actually don’t hate tea after all. Most meals are finished with a little glass of tea, and is usually pretty sweet, and comes in different flavours.

Turns out apple tea is delicious.

Istanbul has some amazing markets not least the spice Bazaar.

Different herbs and spices sold loose in the spice bazaar

The spice bazaar sells all sorts of food stuffs, including cheese, fish and olives. Its a foodie heaven.

Nuts and seeds for sale.

No matter which district you go to in Istanbul you’ll find amazing bakeries and sweet shops.

Rolls of baklava

The Turkish people it seems have an incredibly sweet tooth.

Sweet stall in the spice bazaar

Baklava, nougat and Turkish delight come in endless varieties.

Sweets are massive thing in Turkey

If you’re nervous about buying sweets, spices etc. loose, every shop seemed to have professionally produced and packaged versions. These also make great gifts. I did have to talk myself out of buying Turkish tea glasses, spice grinders, copper coffee pots.

You’ll never be very far from some amazing bakeries.

Honestly, if you going to the bazaars and you like to cook, only bring a set amount of money with or else you’ll go nuts. I still came home with tea glasses, and more baklava and Turkish delight than my waistline needs.

Braised Beef with Cheese Scone Dumplings

I made this as the main course for the October Supper Club, and had clean plates all round. This is proper Winter is coming, comfort food. Beef, cooked long and slow in dark velvety beer to make a rich unctuous gravy.

Serve up with some buttered greens, I made dauphinoise potatoes but mashed potatoes works well too.

If this wasn’t delicious enough, light tasty cheese scones bake on top, giving a crunchy top. Plenty of winter vegetables add to the rich savouryness of it all. This also freezes really well.

The lovely folks at NORN IRON Brew Co. gave me some of their amazing beers, and I used their Temple Imperial Porter, but if this isn’t available other dark stouts will do.

Serves 6

Ingredients

500ml Porter, stout or other dark beer

100 Grams Smoked Bacon

750 Grams Chuck beef

2 Carrots

1 Leek

2 Stalks of celery

1 Tbsp Tomato Puree

250ml Beef stock

4 Stalks of Thyme (or 1 Tsp of dried thyme)

Salt and pepper

For the scones

200 Grams Self-raising flour

50 Grams Butter

100 Grams Mature Cheddar Cheese (grated)

50-75ml Milk

1/2 Tsp Garlic powder

Method

  1. Cut the bacon into small strips and fry in a large dry pan until crispy. Remove the bacon and set to one side
  2. Cut the beef into 2-3 cm chunks and brown in the same pan used to fry the bacon, remove from the pan
  3. Cut the vegetables into chunks and add to the pan, cook for 5 minutes, add the tomato puree and cook for a further 5 minutes
  4. Add the meat back to the pan, add the the stock and beer to the pan and stir to make sure all the tasty crispy bits get stirred into the sauce
  5. Cover with a lid and simmer for 90 minutes
  6. Remove the lid and check the seasoning, allow to simmer for another 30 minutes without the lid to allow the sauce to thicken, then allow to cook
  7. For the scones, cut the butter into small cubes, and rub into the flour
  8. Add the garlic powder, and grated cheese and stir until we’ll distributed
  9. Add the milk a little at a time, until the mix comes together and is moist but not too sticky
  10. Turn onto a floured surface, and cut into 6 equal sized pieces (don’t handle too much or the scones will be tough)
  11. Place the scones on top of the beef mixture. Bake in an oven pre-heated to 180 degrees for 30 minutes until crispy and golden

October Supper Club

Having dinner with a bunch of strangers can be a little intimidating. So on a mild October evening, a small group of brave souls took a chance on a night in with the Sunnyside Supper Club.

The fire lit and just waiting for people to arrive.

We had a fantatic mix of people. A couple, a pair or friends who wanted a night out that was a little different and some solo diners who were foodies and wanted to meet new people. In this group we had people who lived a couple of streets away, and two ladies that originally hailed from as far away as Trinidad and New York.

Fantastic beers from NORN IRON Brew Co. in Belfast.

We also had some local flavour with delicious beers that the lovely people at NORN IRON Brew Co. provided. I used their Temple Imperial Porter as the base of my beef dish, and almost had to stop people licking their plates.

A cheeky little amuse bouche of creamy pumpkin soup in espresso cups

I’ll admit I was nervous, would everyone turn up, would they like the food, and would everyone mix OK. I needn’t have worried. Everyone turned up, and they rolled home unable to eat another bite. Wine flowed, stories were shared and I actually laughed until I cried at one point.

The brave souls who decided to try the Sunnyside Supper Club.

A big thank you to all the gorgeous people who helped make it such a brilliant night.

Pear, walnut and blue cheese salad.

We started off with a welcome drink, and I experimented with Negroni’s, some people liked them for others it was a too alcoholic, so they went with prosecco or one of the range of beers that NORN IRON Brew Co. provided. After a little shot of soup served as an amuse bouche to get everyone’s appetite started, we had a light salad with pear, blue cheese and walnuts. The main event was braised beef, cooked long and slow in Porter and topped with cheese scone dumplings. I’ll be posting the recipe soon. I also had a vegetarian version made with mushrooms and walnuts in a red wine sauce. Some meat eaters also tried some this as a second helping and we’re impressed that it was proper veggie comfort food.

Braised Beef with cheese scone topping, creamy potatoes dauphinoise, and buttered kale.

I had planned to make an apple and blackberry galette, but it turns out I missed the local blackberry season by a week or two, so added cinnamon instead. I had both ice cream and custard on offer and most people had both. I’d never had both with a dessert before, but it definitely works.

Apple and cinnamon galette

Debbie and D Rum Pot

I’ve found another local food hero!

On a wet Friday night, I was transported to the Caribbean by Debbie and her amazing food. Partly in the name of research for my own supper club, and because I knew very little about Caribbean food, I went to Debbie’s supper club, D Rum Pot.

Debbie, after she had fed us to the point of bursting.

Debbie warmed up the evening with a rum and mango cocktail (dangerously easy to drink), and the company was great, including a couple of very glamorous ladies in their nineties!

What can I say about the food, fresh, delicious and full of flavour. I had jerk beef which was fantastic, but she also served vegan vegetable curry which was also great.

Jerk beef, flatbread, rice and corn.

The side dishes were amazing as well. Flakey flat bread, roast tomato chutney, coleslaw with a kick, and I don’t know she did to the corn but it tasted out of this world.

Coleslaw and roast tomato chutney.

Debbie and her friend Angela were fun and relaxed hosts, and we all probably ate and drank more than we meant to. Having listened to Debbie describe her home of Trinidad I definitely want to visit.

Homemade ice cream, fresh mango and sneaky shot of rum hiding in the bottom of the bowl, yum!

On a wet night, when I was tired after week at work, D Rum Pot definitely put some pep back in my step. Debbie runs the supper club but also provides outside catering. Check out D Rum Pot on Facebook.

Homemade Granola

Shop bought granola can be expensive and sometimes a bit blah. This version is a feast of different tastes and textures. It’s also quick and easy to make, and tastes better than anything you can buy.

I like to team it up with some Greek yoghurt and fresh fruit for a quick and wholesome breakfast that will definitely keep you full until lunch. It also tastes really good sprinkled over ice cream for some crunch. This will keep well in airtight container for 10-14 days.

Rich aand crunchy, straight from the oven.

Ingredients

250 Grams Porridge oats

100 Grams Dessicated coconut

25 Grams Sunflower seeds

25 Grams Pumpkin seeds

50 Grams Pitted dates

50 Grams almonds

100 Grams Peanut butter

3 Tbsp Maple syrup

100 Ml Vegetable oil

Team your granola up with some Greek yoghurt and fresh fruit for a quick and satisfying breakfast

Method

  1. Add all the ingredients to a bowl
  2. Get your hands in and makes sure the peanut butter is rubbed thoroughly in the mixture
  3. Transfer to a baking tray, and put in an oven preheated to 180 degrees
  4. Bake for 30 minutes, half way through take the mix out and stir the mixture to make sure it cooks evenly

Asian Slaw

I could eat this everyday, it’s a glorious mixture of crunchy fresh vegetables, chilli heat, and creamy peanut butter.

Perfect for vegetarians and vegans, it’s goes well with fried tempeh, or in wraps or sandwiches. For meat eaters it’s delicious as a side dish with chicken or steak or to add crunch to a burger.

Asian Slaw

Ingredients

Handful of finely sliced white cabbage

1/2 Red pepper

1 Small carrot (grated)

50 Grams Endame beans (I use frozen ones that I defrost first)

5 Radishes (finely sliced)

Small handful of finely sliced sugar snap peas

1 Tbsp Sesame seeds

1 Finely sliced red chilli pepper

2 Tbsps peanut butter

1 Tbsp White wine vinegar

Method

  1. In a dry pan, toast the sesame seeds until they start to brown, and set to one side
  2. Combine the sliced vegetables in a large bowl.
  3. In a separate bowl combine the peanut butter and vinegar, mix well
  4. Mix the peanut butter dressing in with the vegetables and sprinkle with the sesame seeds and mix well

Gnocchi with bacon and broccoli

My little sister made this for me, and now I have to stop myself making it more than once a week.

A quick and easy starter or midweek dinner. This recipe makes enough for four people as a starter or two hungry people for dinner.

Serves 2

500 gram Pack of gnocchi

4 Slices of bacon

1 Small head of broccoli

2 Tbsp Olive oil

150 grams Crème fraiche

2 Cloves of garlic

Method

  1. Chop the broccoli into bite sized pieces, blanch in boiling for two minutes, and then drain
  2. Chop the the bacon into pieces (about 2cm, but bigger if you prefer)
  3. Cook the bacon in large frying pan (without oil) until crispy, and set to on side
  4. In the same pan and the olive oil and heat before adding the gnocchi, and allow the to cook until they start go golden brown
  5. Add minced garlic to the gnocchi and cook for a further minute
  6. Add the bacon and broccoli and stir in the crème fraiche. Stir until all the all the ingredients are coated and then serve