When I was growing up in conservative South Africa in the 60’s and 70’s, Istanbul seemed the epitome of exotic and part of a world I would only glimpse from afar. How small the world has grown now! In 2006 we spent 10 weeks in Europe and a couple of days in Istanbul and one in Ephesus on our Mediterranean cruise. I have friends who moved to Istanbul a few years ago. Hi Steve and Karen! And we have wonderful Turkish food here in Sydney (on Mother’s Day I chose to eat here).
The day we spent in Ephesus was especially memorable. We had had an organised tour to Ephesus booked, but the wonderful librarian on board ship assured me we didn’t need one, so I cancelled it. C found our “tour guide” for the day when Rashid, a taxi driver, kindly rushed to point out to C that he had left his ATM card in the machine in Kusadasi just after we had disembarked. (Of course I could be cynical and say that his kindness was prompted by the incentive of business from us, but I don’t think it was). Rashid was a great guide – and amused us by producing a fair dinkum Aussie accent that he had perfected by watching “The Castle” which his cousin in Melbourne had sent him on DVD. We had bought one of those 5 Euro (or was it 8 Euro? I know they don’t use Euro in Turkey and all the currency conversions got complicated) guide books in Kusadasi and got Rashid to drive us to the top entrance to the ruins and meet us at the bottom gate a couple of hours later. We could have spent all day there! How special to be in the amphitheatre where the apostle Paul had probably preached and walk the street where the silversmiths who caused the riot (Acts 19) had had their stores.
We were picked up at 1pm by our Rashid and we asked him to take us somewhere for lunch. His family has a hotel in Selcuk (closest town to the ruins) so, of course, we went there where we had lunch on the rooftop balcony. It has views of the St. John Basilica where the apostle John is buried (according to legend). One of the ancient wonders of the world (or the one column of it which remains) – the temple of Artemis was down the hill – and we had the place to ourselves! John supposedly wrote “his” gospel on the hill you see below (which is where the St John Basilica is on the right behind the column).
Ephesus was special – no wonder the apostle Paul spent 5 or 6 years there and John spent the last years of his life (apart from his exile on Patmos) there. Turkey is such a juxtaposition – the ancient ruins of the temple of Artemis dating back a couple of centuries BC, sixth century church ruins, Isa Bey mosque erected in 1375, fortress from the middle ages but begun in the fifth century – all on the one hill!
Of course, there is a carpet shop downstairs and we bought a rug which now graces our entrance hall. So pleased we resisted the hard sell in Istanbul! They also treated N and me to bags made from old woven table tapestries.
Our lunch was memorable – a selection of vegetable dishes from their kitchen, among them a sublime eggplant and tomato dish, tabbouleh, cacik (Turkish tzatziki), and a wonderful yoghurt and samphire (type of seaweed) dish. C and N had lamb and chicken kebabs too – N still talks about her chicken kebab (which was only very recently surpassed by one at Sofra on Mother’s day)
We love Turkish food. I make the following zucchini fritters a couple of times a month, and serve them with a yoghurt sauce, and some extra salad (last night’s was radicchio and rocket). Both these recipes are from Turquoise by Greg and Lucy Malouf, a stunning Turkish travel/cookbook I received for my 50th birthday recently. Enjoy!
Zucchini fritters with dill
1 small onion, grated
1 small clove garlic, finely chopped
100g feta, crumbled
1/4 cup finely chopped dill
2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves
2 eggs, well beaten
1/3 cup plain flour
2 tablespoons rice flour
freshly ground black pepper
Grate the zucchini coarsely and put into a colander. Sprinkle lightly with salt and toss, then leave for 20 minutes to drain. Rinse the zucchini briefly, then squeeze it to extract as much liquid as possible and pat dry with kitchen paper.
Mix the Zucchini with the onion, garlic, feta, herbs and eggs in a large bowl. Sift on the flours, the season with pepper and stir to combine.
Heat a little oil in a non-stick frying pan over medium until sizzling. Drop small tablespoons of batter into the hot oil and flatten gently. (I cook mine oil free in a Scanpan – I make mine very flat – like pikelets). Cook for 2 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Drain on kitchen paper and serve piping hot. (Makes 16). Serve with Cacik.
1 clove garlic
500g thick natural yoghurt
2 Lebanese cucumbers, seeded and grated (skin on)
1/3 cup finely chopped dill
1 teaspoon dried mint
squeeze of lemon juice
Crush the garlic with 1 teaspoon salt, then beat with the yoghurt, cucumber, and herbs in a large bowl. Season with salt and lemon jice to taste. Chill, covered, until ready to eat.