Turkish cuisine the way the Turks do it, Bijoux high tea, and ‘Dinner’ with Heston…

After spending 46 hours traveling, I finally arrived in Turkey – I sometimes wish that Australia was closer to the rest of the world! Though this trip was for work, I did have some time to see the sights and, of course, learn a thing or two about foreign cuisine… To be honest, though I did manage to fit in touristy activities – the ‘holiday’ part of my trip was based largely around food (surprised?) – so this blog is going to about my gastronomic experiences.

So, Turkish food to start… I will admit that prior to this trip I knew very little about it – kebabs, pides and (most importantly) Turkish delight come to mind. Interestingly, a cooking class is listed as one of the top ten things to do in Istanbul according to tripadvisor.com and was highly recommended by a good friend. So I jumped at the opportunity! We booked in with Cooking Alaturka (http://cookingalaturka.com), which is located in Sultanahmet – the old part of Istanbul. Essentially, you are taught five courses in which you sit down and eat after all the cooking is done. What’s more, some of what you have helped to prepare is also served to other diners (which definitely had my friend feeling rather chuffed!) . If you are ever in Istanbul, I thoroughly recommend this experience. Eveline and Feyzi are great instructors – The food was delicious and the lessons fun!

Our menu: Ezogelin corbasi (red lentil soup with dried mint and chilli pepper), Imam bayildi (Eggplant braised in olive oil with onion and tomato), Kabak mucveri (Zucchini patties with herbs and cheese), Etli yaprak dolmasi (vine leaves stuffed with minced meat), and Sekerpare (syrupy semolina sponge cakes with hazelnuts).

My favourite? I can’t decide between the vine leaves or the semolina cakes. Since the recipes are not mine, I’m not going to post them, but I will attempt to make some of these dishes one day and will post my interpretations of them then – so watch this space!

On my way home I dropped by London and over indulged (as you do). Though I was only there for 36 hours I made sure to make the most of it – starting with the Bijoux high tea at the Langham Hotel… It was not only that the morsels were beautiful, but they were also incredibly tasty – I ended up forcing myself to continue eating determined to have the complete experience! Made all the better by the AMAZING Palm Court Tea blend. I think the poison apple looked the best, or the “crystal clear diamond” Guinness macaron – but the tastiest treat was the “Razor Ribbon Ring” – i.e. the apricot coloured one.

 

Breakfast at Ottolenghi. I was told that I HAD to visit this London establishment by a fellow foodie – since I already had lunch plans (more on that later), this was our first stop on the next day. The salads, for which they are famous, did look amazing (I have already hopped onto book depository to get hold of the cookbook) so I will have to make sure next time I book it in for a lunch time slot. I also, very naughtily, bought the flour-less chocolate cake and a “smore” for an inflight snack for my return home 😉

Next stop was for morning tea at Laduree – though thoroughly full I HAD to go to my favourite french patisserie… and as I love (and cannot go past) the rose and raspberry saint honore…

To top the eat-fest off – lunch at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal…what a lovely way to spend lunch. The restaurant is housed in the Mandarin Oriental, Hyde Park. Once you enter you are escorted to your table by a willowy hostess. The staff are attentive (they even escort you to the bathroom) which only adds to the experience, and the dining area looks into the kitchen (or vice versa depending on how you look at it). I ordered the Spiced Pigeon (c. 1780) with ale and artichokes and my eating companion the Powdered Duck (c.1670) with smoked confit fennel and umbles with a side of beans. The collar of the menu is left on the table as each has a different piece of information to be read for entertainment. Appropriately, mine was about ‘dinner’ and the other was about ‘high tea’ (both of which summed up our recent experiences).

The meal was great! Of course, despite being at the point of bursting, we ordered dessert to share (who wouldn’t?) – Autumn Tart (c. 1723)  – fig, blackberry, vanilla & biscuit ice cream – and Brown Bread Ice Cream (c. 1830) – Salted Butter Caramel, Malted Yeast Syrup. The Autumn Tart was incredibly fresh and the  salted butter caramel was amazing! The jury is still out on the unsweetened ice cream that was served with the caramel. I get that the caramel is very sweet and that the two balance each other out but… well it meant that I couldn’t enjoy the ice cream by itself and so there was a careful balancing act in not eating all the caramel before the ice cream… personal preference I guess.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All in all a great meal and a worthwhile experience. Anyway, if you are still reading – thanks for hanging in there – I promise a recipe next time 🙂

 

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