As much as I love the Mediterranean coast, it’s hard to beat the Aegean for in July and August. Here’s a handful of highlights from the sun-drenched, salt-splashed days of a summer I won’t soon forget. Endless blue. Endless beauty. Endless days would have been nice too. I think I’ve found my favourite escape. Thank you. Oh … did I mention the wine?
It’s well known Istanbul doesn’t lack for shopping malls. What it does lack for, however, are good, free, publicly available leisure spaces for children. Yet every once in a while something really surprising occurs and you find much more than you expected. Such is the case with the children’s park outside Zorlu Shopping Mall. Other parents had extolled its virtues for some time but I didn’t realise I was in for as much a surprise as my favourite small person. I could go on and on about the clever design by CARVE and WATG LAND ARCHITECTS (but you can read about it here instead) and that it has several different thoughtfully prepared play structures, or that no smoking is allowed on the grass or around the play structures. The possibilities for climbing, crawling, jumping, sliding, exploring, are nearly endless — and more than one adult was unable to resist the gravity of the slide. But the most important case for the park is evidenced in the expressions you see above. And that the person pictured above also slept straight through the night thereafter until 07:10 AM. Just remember to bring at least one change of clothes. The water play zone is particularly irresistible for the little people. The squeals of pure delight still ring in my ears.
Steel and glass swallowed by wood. Trees thick as rooms. Rain soft as seltzer. A bridge. I can’t help but wonder … have I stumbled into Elysium? Difficult to tell. But before the last ship sails into the western light, I trust this will be my port of call.
Today I finally get to share something with you that I’ve wanted to share for a while. One of the reasons my posting has been so spotty of late is that I have been busy working on an interesting new project for BABAJI PIDE, a new venture by famed London restaurateur, Alan Yau, which places pide centre stage while celebrating the many pleasures of Turkish cuisine.
Working with Simon Johnson from THAT Magazine, we’ve been creating content for the new website, which just launched and you can view here. I’m pleased to say that I’ve done all the original photography for the site so far as well as a bit of writing too.
A high point in the work so far was getting to shoot with Ayse Dilek from FOOD PROJECT, who shared this recipe which you can make at home. So as a bonus today, I’m including the extremely delicious pide recipe she shared to make at home and tide you over until you can drop in on BABAJI PIDE on Shaftesbury Road in Soho. Here it is:
MOZZARELLA, COTTAGE CHEESE, SEMI-HOT PEPPER PIDE
INGREDIENTS (Makes 5 pides)
500 grams flour
12.5 grams olive oil
10gr granulated sugar
12.5 gr salt
1 grams fresh yeast
625 grams mozzarella / Turkish string cheese (if available)
375 grams cottage cheese / Turkish Çökelek (if available)
25 small pickled semi-hot peppers
Add fresh yeast to warm water (slightly warmer than lukewarm) and wait until it dissolves, set aside.
Combine flour, olive oil, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Make a trough in the centre and add the yeast mixture. Using your hands knead the dough together until it is smooth and consistent. Cover with a damp tea towel and allow to rise for minimum 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 180C.
Divide the dough into five equal pieces. Using a thin rolling pin, shape each portion into an oval.
Place ovals onto an oven tray. Distribute the toppings equally among the ovals.
Drizzle with olive oil and bake for approximately 10 min or until the pide dough is golden and crisp at the edges.
Serve with some fat dollops of Balkan style yoghurt and roughly chopped fresh mint & parsley … afiyet olsun! And drop me a line if you try the recipe at home, please. I’d love to know what you think.
In Istanbul between Wednesday and Sunday this week? Give yourself a little gift. Take a wander through THE MOVING MUSEUM which has turned a multi-storey carpark in Şişhane into an exhibition space. Open from 12-6pm it’s definitely worth the small entrance fee. I hope to see more novel uses of public space like this in the near future. This city needs the inspiration. And it’s a couple of short steps from the metro line. So, no excuses. Make a date before it’s too late.
I have a confession to make. Wait … I have two confessions to make. One, I have neglected the blog a bit lately and for that I am genuinely sorry, so I hope today’s post helps rectify my shabby behaviour. Two, I have an addiction.
My addiction led to wanton coffee consumption all across Istanbul. Worse, not all of that coffee was virtuous. To be honest, much of it was downright awful. You see, I did not know the origin of my espressos and lattes. And, yes, I am ashamed. Fortunately, a little over two years ago, I met a coffee snob who helped reform me. I am a new man, thanks to Çagatay Gülabioğlu. In coffee, once more, I trust.
Thanks to Çagatay’s high standards, he drew the attention of Mr Mehmet Gürs, top chef and the founder of Istanbul Food and Beverage Group, who has since become involved as a patron of coffee excellence. My own personal stake in this story is that I have had the pleasure of doing a couple of photo shoots with the new Kronotrop gang, both at their Cihangir shop location and their roastery, and truly enjoyed myself witnessing the processes involved to brew a worthy cup.
Perhaps to some coffee seems like a rather mundane affair, but in all seriousness, I really like to explore the processes and the degree of attention which the people who work together to bring me — and, I hope, you too — a much better cup of coffee. Think of all the different people a single cup of coffee connects. It’s the attention to detail and the eagerness to share a better experience which I can relate to and inspires me in my work.
Above and below are some of the keepers and outtakes from the shoots.
Today it’s all about you, blue. You show up anywhere and everywhere. You’ve even claimed the planet. You tend to play it cool, sometimes too cool, but you know you’re just too primary to ignore. You extinguish fiery reds to create presentable purples and silence screaming yellows until they’re gentle greens. You’re the hero of summer and the tyrant of winter. What would we do without you?
These days there seems to be a lot of debate about what is and isn’t Turkey’s official line on just about everything. Recently, this discussion spilled over into what Turkey’s national drink is — with one rather prominent member of Turkey’s elected government stating: ayran (pronounced: “I ran”). As tempting as it is to boycott something on that basis alone, it really wouldn’t be worth it. Besides, you can’t really blame a drink for its fan club, now can you? Like blaming lager for louts … perhaps I digress?
Made with yoghurt, water and a pinch of salt, Ayran is a powerhouse of refreshment — whether you’re depleted after a day in the heat, a night out, or suffering from insomnia, there’s something magic about this drink. It sets you back on your path somehow. It’s also pretty flippin’ tasty with a spicy meal.
Next time you’re feeling a little under it all, I recommend you reach for an ayran. Whether you have it with mint or not is up to you. I’m going to add a little honey to my next batch, so I can get sweet and savoury all at once. Is that a controversial move? Should I dare to mess with Turkey’s national drink? I really don’t know. Should you drink it in a tin cup or a glass? I rather prefer it in a glass.
If you want to make it yourself, I figure that it’s about as easy as falling off a bicycle. It also has the virtue of allowing you to control the salt content. I find the trick is to put a ratio of about 2 cups of plain yoghurt to one cup chilled water, plus a pinch or two of salt and then blend them together till it’s good and frothy. I hate lumpy homemade ayran, so that’s how I make it myself. Some people use cucumber water instead of regular water for an extra dose of cool. Again, whether that’s adulterating your ayran experience, or whether it’s truly Turkish or not with cucumber water is not for me to say. Turkish purity control is not my concern. I hope you have the freedom to enjoy your ayran in whatever way, shape or form you prefer. Peace be with you.