Thursday, 10 April 2014

Sustainable Food : Farmer's Markets

Abby at the Bellingham Farmer's Market
In my efforts to Paleo, one of the major contributions to keep me Paleo is the sustainability component. For me I can not be passionate about my food (and trust me, I'm passionate about my food, being an elite athlete in a weight restricted sport, that can only eat a few calories so they better be top quality) without thinking about the food politics. In the very search for 'where does my food come from', when you are looking to buy organic, local, grass-fed, free-range, animal-anti-cruelty you are bound to find a stop at some unpleasant cage.

In going to a few farmers markets, at the University district in Seattle, or in Spain on a local Wednesday plain, or even at a boeremark here in South Africa, I find them truly fun and inspiring. To meet and great the owners and sellers behind their stand and have the opportunity to share community with them really brings out an Ubuntu spirit, that human connectedness, made famous as a motto in South Africa - "I exist because of you".

But with these markets, I have come to a few conclusions that I had to accept.
1. I'm not 'saving money' or getting a bargain deal. The prices are usually fair, but not cheap. This isn't Costo, Makro, or some supermarket with great value deals for more and more. Just one really good strawberry from the market, is worth more than a box of GMO big, fat, tasteless ones from Mexico.
2. What I am getting is an experience, like going to a show or seeing a concert (and I would pay for those things). So I make the day of going to these markets, and I'm not rushing in and out.
3. By paying more, I see it as paying into the earth or donating to a good cause. When I read about the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, or the Jamie Oliver foundation or anything Oprah does, I wish I had the millions to follow in these philanthropic endevours. However if I pay more to these markets, I know in my way, I'm doing what I can.
4. I'm ok if these guys are not certified organic. I believe the certified organic is sometimes another marketing ploy. I know I heard it mentioned in the movie Food Inc, something about Bush administration and just more admin money paid to be certified. I would rather the farmers keep that admin money and use it to be more sustainable.

Wednesday Market in the square in Banyoles, Spain

Wednesday, 09 January 2013

3 different Kale Salads

3 different Kale Salads emerged yesterday: Kale is kind of hardy so it is necessary to rub the oils and vinegars into the leaves to break down the chewiness. Leave it for a few minutes before eating. This makes the leaf taste less like the earth (aka dirt) so rather to emerge to a complex flavour with substance. This is no lettuce.

Cranberry Kale

  • Kale leaves (de-stalked and washed)
  • Cranberry Sauce (cranberries boiled in a little water, then add with mustard and honey, and mix till its saucy-like)
  • Flaxseed oil
  • Apple Cider vinegar
  • Little black pepper

Sundried, Pine and Kale

  • Kale leaves (de-stalked and washed)
  • Pumpkin seed oil
  • Apple Cider vinegar
  • Little black pepper
  • Kosher Salt
  • Sundried Tomatoes (cut into little pieces)
  • Pine Nuts

Avo Kale

  • Kale leaves (de-stalked and washed)
  • Avocado (rub the avo into the leaves)
  • Olive Oil
  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • Little black pepper
  • Kosher Salt
The Oils and Vinegars are really important to make a simple leaf turn into a culinary delight!
These are some of my favourites:
Living Tree Community Foods
Omega Nutrition
Local farmer's market bought vinegars

Kale into the Blender

Yesterday, kale made it into the juicer and combined with apple, celery and carrot became green juice envy! I really like the recipes from Matthew Kenney, when making juices as his raw food tastes are sophisticated and fresh.

Tuesday, 01 January 2013


Tonight I made the kale chips for friends at dinner and that reminded me of this post I have been gathering for some time. KALE KALE KALE. And eat more of it! But it wasn't until 2008 that I would first learn about this curly leaf. Kale is rare in South Africa. Known for its very earthy and hardy taste, most people will say, I know its good for me, but I just can't eat it. But with a little bit of love, kale can have you asking for seconds. Even Kyra, 'my' teenager asked for more : )

The kale chips were simple, a little olive oil, garlic salt and in a large open cast-iron skillet, or baked on a cookie sheet in the oven at 350/180 for about 10-15min and you have a snack that compares to popcorn. Or I even dehydrated it, with a little cashew butter on.
In the dehydrator with cashew butter.
However, the leaf is not quite ready to eat right away when you buy it, and when I first bought kale, I remember emailing Nell Stephenson who introduced me to Paleo, saying okay, I bought it, now what do I do with it? (and I believe there is a Google term with those exact words as I wasn't the first to go through this experience). You have to strip the leaves away from the stem and then you discard the stems and eat the greens, or black or purple. Its the same process no matter what variety you get. The leaves are hard, almost leathery, that requires soaking with a little vinegar to break down the fibrous flesh and with onion and tomatoes, it's quite yummy. Or the kale chips for another flavour and crispier version.

This winter, wondering around Pike Place market, I saw kale is a new environment. Instead of on my plate, it was in a bunch of flowers. I have started to see kale planted as decoration outside in the apartment gardens but now its beautiful curls and purple variety were used in a bouquet as a colourful assortment. By the way, I was tempted to pick the kale that I saw in the planters outside, when Jill told me that there is a garden variety that is not for eating. That doesn't sit well with my Paleo-brain, ie: anything edible (no pesticides/gmo's...) growing outside I should be able to eat.

When we travel to the Netherlands, I am happy to report that kale called borenkool is everywhere to be found. The traditional use for kale by the dutch is mixed and mashed with potatoes. I have not yet tried that, but kale was often bought and served.

Kale grows outside the apartment.
Kale as decoration.
Kale has also been used for decoration around other plates. I saw this at the market too, as beautiful, edible kale was placed around the fish. What a waste?! Could be eating that! I remember I once went to a pizza place with some friends, and being paleo, I chose an antipasto plate, with the thin prosciutto, mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, almonds and artichoke, ex the crakers. A friend who ordered some pizza had kale served on the plate as decoration. I immediately asked the waiter to bring me a bowl of that, and enjoyed a little kale with balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Wish they mentioned kale on the menu!
Kale is the new Flower.
Any Shade you like it - Just Eat More Kale.

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Athlete Diet: Vegetarian Or Paleo?

Blue Ridge Outdoors asked me to do a piece on the paleo vs vegetarian.

Full Post here:


I first encountered the Paleo lifestyle in 2008, when I wanted to transition into lightweight rowing.  This means that two hours before I race, I step on a scale and must weight under 130 pounds. My race lasts seven minutes plus, and my heart rate averages 180 beats per minute. I race a heat, a semi and a final and sometimes even a fourth heat if I don’t advance by placing in top positions.
Just to keep up, I need recovery and consistency.  I need acute focus and agility to maneuver long skinny oars and balance the boat, all while attempting repeated perfect  strokes, even in extreme temperatures, wind, and rain. The Paleolithic diet was my answer to the intense demands of my transition to lightweight rowing.
Paleo principles are about getting sunshine and eating real food (lean animal protein, vegetables, fruits, and healthy fats from coconut, avocado, olive oil, and moderate amounts of nuts and seeds). Along with dairy and processed fats and sugars, I stay away from beans and legumes, which contain saponins that act as toxins in the body. In addition, grains contain lectins and anti-nutrients that result in gut irritations in much of the population.
Within the first three months of Paleo-eating I noticed how alive I felt. That may sound overly Zen, but as an athlete, you are mostly walking around depleted—tired from the training load. With Paleo, I recover faster, need less sleep, and have more energy and excitement for workouts. My nerves are sharper and I absorb technical changes more quickly. I started rowing late in the game, as a  twenty-six-year-old rower competing against eighteen-year-olds. I need all the extra energy I can get.
I also find that I can really taste my food. And with every dollar I spend at farmers’ markets and on grass-fed meat, I am sending a message that corporate feedlots and GMOs are not okay. I go straight for the dark, leafy greens  for calcium and antioxidants. Root vegetables and tubers give me the energy to train, and the protein from wild-caught, naturally-fed meat contains the amino acids my muscles need to recover. Best of all, I don’t feel like I’m going hungry.
Calorie for calorie, I’m getting the biggest bang per mouthful, and you can too. Beans and rice might keep you alive, but you won’t thrive. I’m moving towards thriving, and that is why I train, race, and eat Paleo.

It's NOT working

The worst advise to give someone trying to lose serious weight is:

"Eat less, Exercise more"

It doesn't work. If you are someone trying to do this very thing, just stop. It's a recipe for failure. Don't beat yourself up for one moment that you can't do it. And don't look for expert advise. The USDA is backed by lobbyists. Big corporations are going to keep telling you this advise, so they can keep in business. But the statistics are the bottom line, the proof in the pudding, and they are screaming that this advise is not working. What are the statistics: Today the entire
U.S. obesity percentage is 33.9%. In 1994 it was only 22.9%. Yet we are today more focussed on exercise and made aware of nutrition with saturated tv-shows, tv-mercials, food labels, magazines, store signs, and people talking are saying ‘healthy’ and ‘good for you’ that we should be dropping these numbers. It's not working! You have to go outside of the box. Way outside of the Jack in the Box thinking!

‘Doesn’t get fat because it overeats, it overeats because it gets fat’ - Gary Taubes (Why We Get Fat and what to do about it : 2011)

To deny a basic instinct to eat when hungry. And the reward for working up an appetite by changing lifestyles habits to more active ones is to eat less still and feel more guilty that you are more hungry. But the body soon will start to compensate. If it doesn’t get the energy from food it will start to slow your metabolic rate down, and burn less energy. Within months, if not as soon as days, when given the chance to eat we will and the body will put the weight back. The increased hunger did not produce sustainable weight-loss, but instead stressed that this restriction couldn’t come sooner. It was simply another diet-attempt, that had a deadline.

I see eating a diet free of grains, legumes and dairy being a solution for obesity. No-one becomes overweight by pigging out on too wild meat, or veggies, omelets or salmon, kale, pepper slices or cucumber dip. But plenty of people get very fat from organic muffins, whole-grain bagels, high-fiber breakfast cereals, low-salt pretzels, all natural crackers, cakes, croissants, donuts or pies. No matter how you spin it, wheat, gluten, bread its all a high carbohydrate that remains highly processed. There is no demographic, once ingesting bread that has escaped the weight gain crisis. Asian cultures fed on rice are an excellent example of when a western-wheat diet filled their plates, so did their bodies, fill out.

But what would our mind’s paint when I say picnics without hotdog buns, eggs without toast, lunch without sandwiches, beer without pretzels, cheese without crackers, pie without crust. I know past cowboy pictures would not have thought life without cigarettes would be possible. But it has become so. The progressive and aggressive mindsets of our American people have made this transformation revolution. Once the myths were debunked of the so called healthy and social habits cigarettes were pouted for, changing our diet away from all wheat (gluten) products, including soy and going on a paleo rich way of eating is on the same track. I believe this lifestyle change proves sustainable, similar to the lines of Jesus’s parables where by teaching a man to fish he will have food for life instead of giving a fish for one day, which is the restriction diet-only focus. Your weight should be determined by nature, not by the food-industry so build up a renewed awareness. By eating REAL FOOD (meat, fish, veggies, fruits, seeds and nuts), I believe will solve the essence of overeating: feeling full and what to do about it.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Paleo Athlete Uncovered: Ursula Grobler

World Rowing Bios

Paleo Athletes Uncovered: Olympic Hopeful Ursula Grobler interview conducted by Amy Kubal who is my sport's dietician and has helped me through all my weigh-in's and racing performance.

Thursday, 06 September 2012

Broccoli Beef Fare

Broccoli Beef Fare, with Beet Salad and Pumpkin Pudding
I had 3 heads of broccoli they were needing to be eaten. They were in my food box that I got from my friend in the Netherlands who started an organic delivery, like Klesick Family Farms whom I used when I lived in Lake Stevens. She has called her business Biologisch Winkelplein which translated means Organic Storefront. So starting with lots of broccoli I came up with this recipe. After all was done, I realised I had made quite a lot of food. So I thought who could I share this with. I called Frans Göbel and Ineke who live close by and shared a wonderful evening with them. Two challenges, 1. broccoli needing to be eaten 2. too much food, turned into a great solution of a shared meal that would not have come about if this was not the case.

Broccoli Beef Fare

  • 2 heads of broccoli cut into florets. I cut the stem up to and used it.
  • Ground/Mince lean beef (about 500g / 1 lbs)
  • 1 small red onion diced
  • 1 cup cut mushrooms
  • ½ cup coconut milk
  • 1 small apple diced
  • 2 crushed garlic cloves
  • 1 cup (250g) ricotta cheese
  • 1 T paprika
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 T black pepper
  • 2 T apple cider vinegar
Get your oven ready for 175° C / 350° F.
First cut up all your ingredients. So much easier to have them ready to go as you start cooking.
In a medium saucepan brown your beef. Add the onion. If you used lean beef there shouldn't be too much grease. You need just a little for the mushrooms, but if there is a lot drain it. Put the beef and onion mix in the casserole dish lined on the bottom.
Next spread the crushed garlic and apple on top of the meat mix. (To get the most nutrients from garlic don't cook it. Garlic exposed for a bit, to where it turns browns and then consumed is at its best for you!)
Now steam the broccoli. I used a metal drainer that I put on top of a pot starting to boil with water. Just as the green colour intensifies, I took it out and spread over the meat and apples mix.
Pour the apple cider in the casserole dish to add a flavourful cooking juice.
In the same saucepan you used with the beef, so a little of the oil is still in the pan, on low to medium heat sauté the mushrooms. Add the coconut milk, ricotta cheese, black pepper, paprika, salt and rosemary. Spread this on top of all the other ingredients as your final layer.
Bake in the oven for 20 min.

To serve with this, I made a beet, onion salad mixed with lime and ginger. I also added celery and apple. It complimented the creamy, rich broccoli beef fare with this light, crispy and tart salad.

Savour and Enjoy.

Wednesday, 05 September 2012

Soft Pumpkin Pudding with honey glaze

Soft Pumpkin pudding with Honey Glaze

  • 1 cup Almond flour
  • 1 cup Coconut flour
  • 1 cup sugar (Date/Palm are good paleo-natural substitutes)
  • 1 cup Coconut shreds
  • 1 tsp Baking powder
  • 1 tsp Baking soda
  • 1 tsp Cinnamon
  • 1 tsp Nutmeg
  • ½ tsp Salt
  • 1 cup Pumpkin Puree
  • ½ cup butter (Coconut butter, creme or oil)
  • 1 egg
Get your oven ready for 175° C / 350° F. Mix all the ingredients in a mixing bowl. Start first with all the dry and then add in the wet. Its good to beat the egg first in a little bowl, then add to the mixture to make sure its properly combined with yolk and whites. Pour the batter into a large square baking dish. Bake in oven for 20 minutes. Baked cake will still be a little soft when you take it out, but not gooey. If that is the case, bake it just a little longer, but watch it like a hawk so no browning starts to occur. Take out the oven and let it cool while you make the glaze.

  • 1 cup Honey
  • 1 T butter
  • 3 T Coconut milk
  • 1 T Lemon juice
On the stovetop, put all ingredients in a small pot and slowly bring to a slight simmer on low heat. Keep stirring letting glaze slowly start to bubble. Don't let this burn. Be very careful when trying to taste test! This is super hot! Once the sugar has completely dissolved into a liquid state, wait just two minutes for it to cool. Then pour the glaze on top of your pumpkin squares. It makes a nice top layer, but might also be absorbed into the batter at certain parts. I think this is fine and going to make that bite yummy where more batter and glaze fusion happened!

Savour and Enjoy.

Tuesday, 04 September 2012

2 Spice-Lime Pumpkin Cheesecake

Yesterday I cooked a whole big cinderella-pumpkin and now I have at least 15 cups of pumpkin puree ready to go! Pumpkin Cheesecake came to mind. So I will start with a recipe, like Cheesecake Factory's Pumpkin Cheesecake, and then adapt it to a more paleo-protein version.

2 Spice-Lime Pumpkin Cheesecake

  • Crushed nuts like cashews, pecans, almonds or walnuts
  • Melted coconut butter/oil
  • Coconut shreds
Mix this combo and flatten into a pie dish as to form a crust for the bottom layer. The crust can be as thick or thin as you like, so adjust the quantities as you see best for your pie dish. You don't have to line to sides. Just make a base on the bottom. I like to toast the coconut and nuts in the oven in the pie dish as well. That also serves to melt the butter/oil. Then I mix it all in and press down the crust. Get your oven ready for 175° C / 350° F.
  • 1 container of Creme de Camembert (125 g)
  • 1 container Mascarpone (250 g)
  • 6 T (90 ml) Honey
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • Squeezed lime juice, about 1 tsp
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 2 Eggs
  • Squeezed lime juice, about 1 tsp
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 scoop whey vanilla protein powder
In a bowl, mix together first the Camembert, Mascarpone and honey. The mixture should be smooth. Now add the eggs, pumpkin and mix again. This makes the mixture a little more runny. Now add the final ingredients: cinnamon, paprika, lime and protein powder.
Pour the mixture into the prepared pie dish. Bake for 60 minutes at 160° C / 350° F until the filling has set.
Sprinkle a little cinnamon powder and paprika on top.

Savour and Enjoy.

Monday, 03 September 2012

Recipe - Coconut Milk Tart

A typical South African dessert is a custard-filling pie called Milk Tart, or Melktert in Afrikaans. It is a fridge tart and served cold. Great for warm weather days. In a nostalgia moment I made it and this is my rendition:
Made in a small dutch kitchen, in Aalsmeer, NL
  • Crushed nuts like cashews, pecans, almonds or walnuts
  • Melted coconut butter/oil
  • Coconut shreds
Mix this combo and flatten into a pie dish as to form a crust for the bottom layer. You don't have to line to sides. Just make a base on the bottom. Get your oven ready for 160° C / 320° F.
  • 1 can coconut milk (400ml)
  • ½ cup (125 ml) half and half / pouring cream
  • All the peels from a small lemon
  • 1 Cinnamon Stick
  • 2 large eggs
  • 6 T (90 ml) coconut flour
  • 2 T (30 ml) cornflour / maizena (can use arrowroot)
  • 12 T ( cup / 177 ml) raw sugar
Straining out the lemon peel and cinnamon stick
Pour the milk and cream in a pot. Crumble the cinnamon stick and lemon peels also in the milk mixture. Put the pot on low heat and slowly bring to boil. Once the mixture begins to rise, remove from the heat. Cover and set aside while you make the egg/flour batter.
Break the eggs in a bowl and whisk them lightly. Add the flour, cornflour and sugar.
Strain the milk mixture to remove the cinnamon and lemon peels. Put the mixture back in the pot and add the batter. Now once again bring the mixture to medium heat, stirring vigorously so ensure no lumps form as the sauce thickens. Don't let it boil. Just enough the have the two mixtures smoothly combined.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pie dish. Bake for 25 minutes at 160° C / 320° F until the filling has set, but still a little wobbly in the middle. It should not start browning. It will set further in the fridge.
Sprinkle a little cinnamon powder on top. Can also finely grate some more lemon peel to sprinkle on top as well. Put the dish in the fridge for an hour and it will be ready to serve. We usually have tea or coffee with it, as the South African way. As an athlete a moment I contemplated putting some whey protein powder in the batter, but since its off season, held back.

Savour and Enjoy.

Why are the Jamaicans SO FAST

Type this question in google and its pretty interesting. I don't know any Jamaicans or have any personal observations, so I can only relay what I have read. The two key words for me are Nature and Nurture.

To start with, Jamaica's standard of living seems similar with many African countries. Being South African, I can connect with some of this. 14.5% unemployed, as opposed to 8.1% in the USA. Average income per year is US $2700, as opposed to US $ 32000 in the USA and three homicides on average per day. On the day of Usain Bolt's final the TIMESONLINE.UK reported that even murder held its breath for Usain and no-one died on that day. That is the effect that the Olympics had on Jamaica. Barbara Blake Hannah, a special consultant to the Ministry of Information, Culture and Sports, said: “Sports is one thing that holds Jamaica togetherI heard that on the day of Bolt’s 100 metres, no one here was killed."

This quote brings in the next aspect and that is of support and culture. Track and field is the second biggest sport after Cricket. Kids from an early age of competing and pushing speed. And because so many are on the breadline, the only way to get into colleges is through sports scholarships.

There are some sites that say West African's have greater fast twitch fibers through genetics. But there are also many sites that dispute this. One being Prof. Mossison from UTech: "This is a hypothesis. This is not gospel and fixed in stone. It is a hypothesis based on a lot of biochemical research and anatomical research and I will put it down as succinctly as this: Genetics, dietetics and athletics." However looking at the Jamaicans phasic, having relatively narrow hips, and a backbone that angles the pelvis for more high knee lift in comparison to the back being more straight gives athletes faster and leaner power. Further it noticed that the narrower chest of the Jamaicans allows for faster breathing giving more oxygen exchange. The 1968 Games held in Mexico City still had Jamaicans dominating the sprints to prove this trait. These are some of the genetics that could be offered, Prof Morrison said, but he speed gene is a myth. "But you can't knock research because you don't know what they might come up with at some point. My point is, the gene is really in the structure of those limbs. The major thing you want to concern yourself with is, a number of black people has that same thing, so why is it that they don't do well or as well."

Moving to the dietetics, two of Jamaica's staple crops are yams and green bananas. Yams acts as stimulus for a substance produced called Hypo Steroids while green bananas produce phytate that replenishes energy supply in the muscle known as creatine phosphate.

Now you can't just start eating tons of yams and banana and run fast. What has happened is a stable diet started as baby food carried over into adult Olympic performances. Put that together with organized programs for youth and you have incredible adaptation, from training and diet developed over years. So a cycle of anabolic steroid and stimulus from these phosphate substances is being run over again. Prof Morrison goes out a little to say that he believes by the 60 meters when other athletes start to fade, it is the green banana eating Jamaicans that have the edge because of the replenishing of the phosphate.

I come away with this:
  • If you have longer limbs and an athlete's body, thank you parents. If you have genes for athleticism use them any way you can. It was a gift and what you were designed to do.
  • Keep eating whole foods, like the paleo guidelines offer. Know that is takes years to change and develop your cells and muscles to produce speed to perform. Eating this way needs to be a stable, a lifestyle. It is not a diet that one can wait for it to end. It is a way of sustainability.
  • Keep yourself in a community of nurture and support.   You need comrades to go the path with you. Follow the Ubuntu way: "I am what I am because of who we all are."

Read more:

Thursday, 30 August 2012


Gümüşlük, is a hidden gem on the Bodrum peninsula. It means silver and the connection can easily be seen as the sun or moon paints the water lapping at your doorstep. It was a beach holiday, like I used to have in Margate, or Shelley Beach in South Africa with nothing to do but swim in the sea and eat amazing seafood brought in fresh and put on display every day. The pictures are my culinary guide to how I experienced this part of Turkey.

Turkish Breakfast
This is known as Turkish breakfast that is available at most of the little restaurants. Some even have English breakfast so you can be reminded of the difference. For example, the Turkish breakfast has a Mediterranean flavour with tomatoes and cucumber side dishes, olive oil and soft white cheese. We enjoyed the Turkish breakfast at a place near the newer beach of Gümüşlük. Again in true Turkish styles, the food kept coming in layers. Be first thought it was just cheese, jam and bread. But then came the eggs and salads which ended as quite a way to start the day! A brunch instead of just a breakfast.

Dinner at Mimoza
Mimoza is said to be the best place to go, even by the locals. The setting is absolutely beautiful, with white, ornamented calabashes hang as decoration over white tables and chairs. The fish is displayed over ice free for you to chose from. Their is no menu. Rather you are simply just served. The Meze's come on a tray for you to chose which ones you want. Then for the main meal you are advised what fish other people in the restaurant are ordering if you wish to share portions. Or you walk to the ice display and pick your fish. Finally the dessert is fruit and almond liquor brought on a beautiful flower tray. It was a wonderful meal. But when the price comes, I guess you put your head in your hands, as we saw other people do to.

Meze's at Mimoza
Little wet towels is given after your meal to clean your hands with. There is a special way to warm these towels we are told and not just simply put in the microwave.
The fish served at Mimoza was the head part, and looked very real. You knew what you were eating. A very paleo principle, in that what you ate, looks like it, through and through.

There were only a few small grocery stores where one could get fruits and water.

In very strong contrast to Mimoza was
Soğan Sarmısak, meaning onions and garlic. This was a more quaint, home-style cooking, as if you stopped into someone's house for dinner. The setting is cute, with little tables on the beach sand, and the water almost touching your feet. The menu are hand made pages on coloured paper, cut and torn, filed in a ring binder. Its all quite sweet. We met the owner and it was lovely to speak with her and see the love she has for this business. She cooks from her home, and serves to the tables out front. I think it was her mother helping as the cashier. Her biggest pride was the olive oil she used, extra-virgin Turkish Olive Oil and no commercial short-cuts.

My own put together dessert plate from the goodies bought at the Bodrum bazaar. Lokum made from rosewater, walnuts and dried figs.
Here was the ice-cream stand, but this ice-cream is not same gelato we know. Its a halva like gooeyness called Dondurma. Broke my spoon again trying to eat it.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Turkey Delights

Finding yourself in Istanbul is like crossing New York City with a Muslin Mosque. The population of 13 million seems to condense in obscure, corridor-streets filled with tables selling you stuff. Money has been reduced to a simple barter system. And just when you get your bustle on, the call (Adhan) blares through the loudspeakers fixed above the minarets and things slow down. The Red Apple of the Turks proudly flies the Turkey flag everywhere, reminding me of the American streets right after 9/11. Huge red flags blows over the dusty facade like maraschino cherry in caramel ice-cream.

Our first culinary stop was at a deli-buffet called Namli Gurme. At first we thought it was a gourmet supermarket. Very confused, we were explained by pointing hands and one-word English that we are to chose some of the pre-made dishes. They put it all on a plate and bring it to you where you have chosen your table to be. We came here twice, with the second time, being more savvy, we ordered the kebab. We thought it was just the meat, but it was prepared as a full meal with a wonderful complimentary salad. I like being able to see all the various dishes. A visual menu is very helpful in a country where some of the letters aren’t even in your alphabet. However you don’t really have an idea who much your pickings will cost. So I’m thankful that the Turkish Lira was half to the US Dollar and the prices were not inflamed to match it.

The next culinary experience, Kazancılar Kebapçısı, was a kebab house overlooking the Kalamış marina. This is where the international palette meets traditional Turkish cuisine.  
We started with Raki (A rice hard liquor that is mixed with water and ice. The water turns milky. The taste is strong with anise, very refreshing, but somewhat tasting of cough mixture. This is sacrilege for me to say this by the way).

Then the meze’s were presented by waiters who continued the whole evening with vigorous serving and clearing. New plates and cutlery kept coming as going. The trick I learnt here, is that you sample just a little because many courses and dishes followed. 
The meze list, which could also mean: how many different ways can I serve you eggplant:

Ezme (Mixed vegetables chopped, blended with pepper paste)
Haydari (a thick dip and spread made from strained yoghurt)
Karışık Turşu (Mixed pickles)
Közde Biber (Roasted red peppers)
Közlenmiş Al Biber Turşusu (Winter roasted red peppers)
Kuru Cacık (Süzme yoğurttan) (Cucumber yoghurt)
Muhammara/Acuka (walnut, red pepper, pepper paste, spices)
Patlıcan Salata (Eggplant Salad)
Semizotu (Summer purslane salad with yogurt)
Yoğurtlu Kızartma (Yogurt something)
Dolma (vine leaves stuffed with rice/meat)
Çoban salatası (tomato, cucumber, onion, peppers salad)
Çiğ köfte (raw meat patties, similar to steak tartare and lettuce)
Haşlama İçli Köfte (Meatballs)
Beyaz Peynir (Feta Cheese)

Following with the main course with a one communal sizzling grill pan raised on a tripod filled with kebabs and meats such as ribs, chicken and lamb. Acılı Adana Kebap is what they are well known for. It was grilled deliciousness!

After that the desserts: Fıstıklı Kadayıf (Pistachio baklavas assortment) and Turkish coffee. We were taught how to tell your fortune with your Turkish coffee. As you know, with Turkish coffee there is a moment where you stop drinking, before the grind sludge starts tricking on your tongue. That’s when you wait for the cup to cool completely. You put the saucer on top on the little cup. You keep it like this until you get to the fortune teller. They will then flip the two over. The coffee sludge at the bottom would have dried and from this markings they weave your story.

The next restaurant took us by surprise. We were in the Istiklal district browsing the art Galeri Nev and continued up the stairs to come to 360 İstanbul Restaurant. It was just perfect timing. The sun was setting, it was warm and clear skies. So to enjoy this rooftop seating, these elements were essential. The menu was a graphic designer’s delight, and as true design attaches itself to sales, the actual menu was available for purchase. We hadn’t planned on dinner, so we just enjoyed a cocktail and marvelled at the city view from above.

The following day, our travels took up north to the Kariye Museum (Church of the Holy Savior in Chora). A very old church featuring some of the most breathtaking Byzantine Art. Next to the museum is one of the top rated restaurants in Istanbul called Asitane. The delicate decor sets the scene for the menu items to really shine. White table linens, little dried purple flowers with inside or outside seating was just wonderful. Each dish triples the senses with sight, smell and taste. A little visual artwork, that doesn’t disappoint when savored. We had the stuffed melon entrée, where the melon was the bowl and a tasty meat mixture was beautiful arranged inside. A fresh walnut and pomegranate salad starter was very complimentary. 

Keeping with the list of top restaurants there are two left of the list to recommend. X Restaurant and the local Fenerbahçe Spor Kulübü.

The X Restaurant | Bar was up towards the Tower of Galata. Using local transport, like the Beyoğlu Tünel we got the hill and navigated by foot the remainder to the restaurant. The restaurant was a little tricky to find because you enter by the building to the IKSV’s (Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts). X was a very chick place. You could see this place would feature as a Manhattan much be seen at gig, with heels and black tie (although they accepted us in tourist guise). The food taste here was of experienced chefs schooling. Just a few ingredients, on beautifully painted plates, making every ingredient add to the flavour. Nothing more needed and nothing left out. We came right as they opened on Saturday for lunch and were fortunate to have the entire place to ourselves. Loved it! After lunch it is a great digestive aid to walk so we ventured down the hill were enjoyably entertained by the corridors of little shops and music stores.

Finally the last restaurant I will review is at the Fenerbahce Sports Club. I guess for members of the soccer-crazed Fenerbahce fans, this place also was fantastic. Although one interesting observation, we came here twice. Once with local Turkish people who ordered for us and the second time on our own. The first time, we never even looked at the menu as we were told to put it down, and we would be taken care of. So I’m not sure what was ordered, but it started with raki, meze’s, then kebabs, followed by dessert and Turkish coffee. This really is the flow of the menu in Turkey. The second time, we tried to repeat this first experience, but we could not. Looking at the menu, we did not have the insight, or translation that our hosts had. Later I learned that for example, when you order Raki, to add to the flavour, you should also order white melon, Feta cheese and baba ghanoush. This combination seems a local secret. 

With our culinary explorations we noticed that there was a whole extra section on the menu for order. Nargile. Smoking pipe with cafe’s dedicated to this and pans used for coals.

Walking the streets, I loved seeing pineapples on sticks. What a great idea as opposed to lollypops. Also lots of shawarma places, so you could get your meat fix! But then there were the street eats, as in New York of pretzels. Some corn, which was okay.

In Turkey, you don’t really find supermarkets or grocery shops like a Spar. I guess because all the cooked food, like meat is to found at one of the many kebab places or shawarma venders, and raw food is found at the markets called bazaars. People don’t seem to drink any tap water, so bottles of water are on sale everywhere. I must say after 3 or 4 days of eating a restaurant meal for every meal, I had sensory overload. So a bottle of water, beautiful figs and peaches bigger than oranges served as amazing food. Having an ice-cream on hot days is something different, for its not ice-cream, like gelato. Its called Dondurma and its more like a cold, gooey nougat. Its served from a long-handled paddle and the barrel. I guess you are meant to do this with a cone, but since I find the cones wheaty-waste, I go with cup and spoon. It would break my plastic spoon every time.

The last mention will be about the bazaar. For this was something of paleo delight. Raw whole foods, spices, teas and baked things, and things and things in general. I enjoyed the Egyptian Bazaar/Spice Bazaar the most, called so for goods brought from Egypt a few centuries ago. This market has been going for the past 350 years and is smaller and cheaper than its large tourist part, the Grand Bazaar. Here I bought Turkish saffron, curries, Ottoman spice and dried peppers. I also enjoyed the Lokum (Turkish delight) and could loudly pronounce, I’m eating Turkish delight in Turkey!  We samples many types of delights, with my favourite being the one made with rose water. We had dried figs wrapped in walnuts, and many types of baklava’s including chocolate baklava.