Thursday, 17 September 2009

Istanbul Cooking Class

On a recent trip to Istanbul, the Monkey and I happened on a leaflet advertising a cooking class at a hotel near where we were staying, tucked in behind the Blue Mosque. Well, it would be a shame to leave this wonderful, exciting, vibrant city without learning at least some of the secrets of the delicious food we'd been tasting. Lots of aubergines, pulses, vine leaves, haloumi cheese, all brought together with a vivid array of spices - not to mention the freshest of fish - make Istanbul a foodie's dream and a sheer delgiht to visit. You'd never go hungry, that's for sure!

And so we rocked up at the cooking class on the appointed day, and met our fellow classmates - a group of five friends from Iceland, and two American ladies who were family friends. We made a happy, lively bunch as we donned our aprons and washed our hands ready to get stuck in to a bit of learning.

First up was what, on paper, sounds like a very simple dish: Aubergines with Onion and Tomato. But once the aubergine has been fried and the tomatoes have been bubbling with plenty of herbs and seasoning for a while, it turns into a sumptuous, almost decadent dish that's just crying out to be mopped up with plenty pide bread.

Next was Sigara Boregi, or fried cheese pastries. Not exactly the arteries' best friend but what the heck, we're on holiday.

The final savoury dish were dolmas, vine leaves stuffed with meat instead of the usual rice. Lamb is a very popular meat in Turkey - as throughout the Middle East - and seasoned with mint, parsley, dill and lemon juice, it goes well with the vine leaves' distinctive flavour.

To finish it all we made a simple Turkish rice pudding, using only milk, sugar and rice, to be served cold with a sprinkling of cinnamon at the end of our feast.

Emerging from the hotel's sweaty, cramped kitchen into the dining room, we were greeted with the twin delights of a cold beer and the fruits of our labours, and enjoyed a happy hour sharing travel stories with our new friends.

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