There is a saying in Turkish – ‘Greet a Turk and be sure you will eat’ – and that is exactly what I have been doing since I arrived in Istanbul. This fascinating city is one big moveable feast and everyone is so friendly. Day and night, it is intoxicatingly alive with the endless street and water traffic, the honking of car horns, the resonant call to prayer echoing across the Bosphorus and the Golden Horn, and the alluring smell of food cooking in every street.
There are freshly baked bread rings covered in sesame seeds; deep-fried mussels with a garlicky sauce, warm roasted almonds and pistachios, sweet pastries bathed in syrup, divine milky puddings and chewy ice cream, fresh figs, mammoth ruby-red pomegranates and juicy ripe peaches that dribble down your chin. The ancient spice bazaar lures you with its wonderful aromas and colourful piles of chillies, powdered spices and herbs. To get a taste of Turkey this is the place to be. Today while I was waiting for a boat to cross the Bosphorus from Europe to Asia, I devoured a deliciously fresh mackerel, boned and grilled by the water and slapped between two lightly toasted halves of a loaf with lots of fresh parsley and dill, tangy pickles and a yogurt dip.
I am heading to the bus station on the Asian side of the city as I am travelling this evening to the historic city of Bursa and then on to see all the Roman ruins at the coast before heading back inland to the cave dwellings in Cappadocia. I can’t wait to try the different regional specialties. Here are some classic recipes to get you started.