Archive | July 2012

When in Rome………….or in this case Turkey?

The saying goes “When in Rome do as the Romans do”.

Well the Islamic Holy Month of Ramadan started yesterday.  For those that don’t know – people observing Ramadan will fast from dawn to sunset.   they don’t eat, drink or smoke during these hours – they are not allowed to indulge in sexual relations during the fasting hours and are supposed to avoid impure thoughts, jealousy and other undesirable emotions and behaviours.

Turkey is an interesting country and unlike it’s Middle eastern neighbours everything carries on as normal.  In some countries the working day is restricted and people can sleep and stay indoors and rest during the fast – in Turkey it’s the height of the tourist season at the moment and some of the people fasting are not only fasting from 4.15 am until 8.30pm – they are working a full day often outside in extreme temperatures.  Many people choose not to fast but to instead give up something for Ramadan – such as alcohol or smoking and most will give money to charity or feed a poor family.

Sleep is disturbed by the arrival of the Ramadan drummers – not strictly necessary in these days of alarm clocks and mobile phone but still they come to wake people up to eat before dawn.  At night out local council has the Mosque call linked to the local tannoy system so it can be heard really loudly everywhere and they also fire a cannon when it is time for ItharIfthar (the meal at sunset) .

For many years and many reasons I have fasted during Ramadan – this year the extreme heat and some health problems mean that I am unable to.  I have woken up at 3.45am both mornings and was sad last night that I was not having an Ifthar meal to break my fast.   For me Ramadan has always been a really special time of year – I love the discipline, the food, the sense of belonging and I use the time to think about my life – set aims and goals and make decisions about what I want from the next 12 months.   But although I am not fasting – I won’t be drinking any alcohol for 30 days and will be offering my support in small ways to friends and neighbours who are fasting – it may be just cooking an Ifthar meal so that they don’t have to – it’s hard to prepare food and smell it cooking when you can’t taste it or eat it for several hours.

Now I live in a fairly traditional Turkish area.  Until recently I was the only foreigner.  This is an area where people keep chickens, many of the women are covered and the houses are not modern villas and apartments but mostly more traditional houses.  This is an area where us ladies don’t hang our under garments on washing lines in case someone other than our husbands see them.    There is about 100 metres away a lovely shiny new apartment complex now with a big pool and many people have bought property there to rent to tourists.  It’s 1 km from the beach and a 20 minute walk in this weather is hard work.

This morning – as I was on my way to an appointment just before 9am I saw coming towards the complex a middle-aged lady in a very small bikini top and shorts that I think are called something like bum freezers.  I was so shocked I didn’t say anything to her – when in hindsight I should have stopped and politely suggested she put some clothes on before walking around outside the complex semi naked.

i’ve had some mixed responses to my outrage.  Some people agree with me whilst others think I am over reacting.  People have said that this is a tourist area and Turkey is changing and I should accept such things.  But I really don’t agree.  A bikini is fine on the beach or by the pool – how hard is it to cover up with a sarong or a long tshirt if going somewhere else?   I hate seeing topless men in restaurants in the evening too.

I’m not suggesting Turkey goes down the Egypt route and bans All inclusive hotels and tries to stop unmarried couples sleeping together in hotels but I do think that if people are visiting a Muslim country then they should show some respect for the culture and the religion.   If people want to sunbathe topless go to Spain or Greece  – don’t do it on a public beach on a Friday during Ramadan when Turkish families who aren’t fasting will be having a BBQ together and enjoying the weather.

The majority of young single Turkish men I know have come to work in a resort area because they have heard that English women are easy.  It’s a great way to practice their love skills without the need to pay a prostitute.   They would never consider marrying one – there are various competitions running in the bars – ranging from how many women can you sleep with to how many different nationalities.   The very handsome barman offering to get you another drink is probably not admiring your skimpy clothes and looking at you with love in his eyes……………. he’s totting up the commission he will earn on your cocktail bill whilst assessing how quickly he can get you into bed and whether you will be up for it on the beach.

It’s Ramadan – How are the fasting barmen supposed to not think impure thoughts if you are sitting in his bar, semi naked drinking a Slow Comfortable Screw or Sex on the Beach?

In Turkey – more clothes = more respect.   If you are visiting please be aware this is a Muslim Country – if you are way from the pool or beach area – please put some clothes on.

Antep Esme

This is one of my favourite mezes and is always well received by friends and family.

You will need – 2 large tomatoes

1 medium onion


olive oil

nar soslu (pomegranate sauce)

black pepper

teaspoon biber salca (pepper puree)

3 cloves of garlic (optional)

fresh flat leaf parsley (optional)

Finely chop the onions.  Sprinkle liberally with salt and leave to stand for 5 minutes.  Rinse with cold water.

Chop the tomatoes into very small pieces and add to the onions.

season with a sprinkle of black pepper

If you are adding garlic/parsley now is the time to do it – chop it small and mix it in.   Personally I only add garlic if I am not using it anywhere else in the meal.  It tastes really good without it and if lots of things have garlic in it can be a bit overwhelming.

Add a good slug of olive oil and a good squirt of nar soslu.  One teaspoon of biber salca and mix it all together.

Garnish it with parsley if you are really trying to impress.  Leave to chill in the fridge.

Serve with warm bread, or as a side dish for grilled chicken or fish.  I love it with roasted chicken and rice.




Patlican Esme (Aubergine Salad)

This is one of my favourites and a really popular meze dish.  It’s easy to make and apart from making a great starter if served with warm bread it also makes a nice alternative to traditional salads with BBQ/grilled meats or fish.

Any traditional Turkish cook book will tell you to cook your aubergines over a naked flame or nbarbeque them which is great if you live somewhere that is warm enough or dry enough for outside cooking.

I use a regular grill or my trusty George Foreman Lean Mean Fat Grilling Machine.   Take 6 medium sized aubergines – give them a wash and a squeeze……they should give slightly when you squeeze them but not be mushy.   Put them under your grill or in the George Foreman – cook them evenly on both sides until the skin is black and they feel mushy.

Using a sharp knife – chop off the stalk as close to the end as possibile.  Cut the aubergine length ways so you are opening it like a book.  gently scoop out the inside with a teaspoon – be careful not to get any burnt skin in….a little bit won’t do any harm but too much will ruin the flavour.  Place the flesh in a mixing bowl.   Repeat until you have skinned all of your aubergines.

Add a spinkle of salt, a good slosh of olive oil and mix – leave to stand whilst you chop the garlic.

Peel and finely chop 3 or 4 large cloves of garlic – add to the warm mixture – stir well – use a knife to give it a bit of a chop if you feel that the aubergine mix is not smooth enough.  Leave the warm mixture to cool naturally – you may want to avoid the fridge because it will make it smell of garlic.

Serve as a side dish, a starter or a dip.  I love mine with warm fresh bread or with rice and meat as a change to sald.

Mercimek Corba (Lentil Soup)

Probably not the weather for this one well it probably is if you are in the UK or Australia – bit it’s over 40 degrees here and way too hot for soup – but I do like it and loads of people have asked me for the recipe so here it goes:

1 large onion 1 red pepper

1 green chilli

4 medium potatoes

1 knor chicken stock cube

4 large cloves of garlic

 1/2 a teaspoon of black pepper

1/2 a teaspoon of salt (or more to taste)

1/2 a teaspoon of pul biber

Yellow or red lentils  300 -400 grams of lentils – I usually sprinkle them until the whole of the bottom of the pan has a cm covering.  So depends on size of pan.

Peel and finely chop onion, red pepper and chilli add some olive oil or butter to your pan and toss the lot in – fry on a low heat until onions go clear Add lentils and salt and black pepper and pul biber cook on a low heat stirring regularly for about 5 minutes-if they start to stick add a drop of boiling water to moisten when they start to go a little bit soft add the garlic and chicken stock cube – pour on enough boiling water to cover the lentils and leave on a low heat.
Peel the potatoes………..  chop thinly and into small bits – add them to the pan and top up the water to cover the potatoes – simmer for about an hour – check regularly as the lentils will absorb the water – keep topping up with hot water you ideally want about a cm of water above the lentils and potatoes.
After one hour taste and add extra salt if you want it.  Adding all the water dilutes the taste so you may need more.
I use a hand blender to smooth it all and then serve or leave for later and reheat.

Serve with fresh lemon juice & bread.

Left overs will thicken – I just add a little water when I reheat and give it a good stir.

7 Days – 3 Hospitals!

This week we decided to try out the local healthcare facilities.

Actually that’s a lie……………… we didn’t decide we didn’t have a choice.  Rewind 7 days to last Thursday…..a lovely warm day, sun shining and an invitation for me to call at a friends for a swim and a good gossip.  We were having a lovely time until we went indoors to dry off and get a cold drink – I had several missed calls from my husband and my friend had some too – the phone started ringing again – my husband……..bit of an accident at work and he was in the emergency room at the local Devlet hospital.

I did the wifely thing…and rushed to his side.  He fell about 20 feet and landed on concrete managing to break his heel as he fell.   we were at the hospital for 6 hours – have to say I’m a bit squeamish and in Turkey you are expected to do your bit – I had to push his trolley into the Drs room – no curtains…lots of other patients one who had a breathing tube down their throat….not something I really wanted to share.

It was chaotic – and I have to say it looked a bit grubby….maybe I’m just a snob but I like porters and hushed waiting rooms – curtains for some privacy – not watching my husband get his leg plastered whilst they wheel in wailing people around him.  We were finally told we could go – no crutches nothing.  Luckily a friend who could carry him had come to join us so I didn’t have to give him a piggy back to the car.

An hour at home and I’d organised take out food and the loan of some crutches and then the relatives started arriving to tut  and drink cay (Turkish tea)

I managed to convince himself that he should go to one of  the private hospitals the following day and see and Orthopaedic specialist – so off we went to the Letoon Hospital – you get your x rays to take home here so you just take them with you to see the Dr.  Anyway – nice Staff a well recommended Consultant and a new plaster – that needs to stay on for at least 6 weeks – non weight-bearing too.    The Consultant booked him another appointment for 10 days time and all for a very small charge.  if you have Turkish Health Insurance you can go where you like – it’s free in the state hospitals and you pay a % in the private ones.

Finally today having suffered for 4 weeks I took myself off to the Esnaf.  I had a nasty bang on the elbow 4 weeks ago – the type that makes you feel sick and faint with pain.  I thought it was bruised and it would get better ……but it’s not been the case – I am still in pain – it hurts to lift anything and I can’t move it in the mornings.   So I duly presented myself at the Foreign Assistance Desk…….they were really helpful – and within 10 minutes I was on my way to see the Consultant…..I saw him…he examined me and sent me for an X-ray. 

He then saw me again and showed me the xray results on the big screen.  I am glad to say it is not broken – however it seems I have Tennis Elbow – he says I’ve probably had it for a while and the knock has caused it to flare up.  But on the plus side it is just in time for Wimbledon fortnight…..I can honestly say I know how they feel after a 3 hour game.    

I have a big prescription 2 lots of tablets and some gel and another appointment for Monday.  Unlike my husband I have no Turkish healthcare insurance so pay as I go….the cost Consultant and X-ray – 135 turkish lira   about £48 and another £12 for medication.  The hospital….well lets just say if it was a hotel it would be 5*.  It’s brand new…spotlessly clean….there are different uniforms for different types of Staff so you can identify who does what – it’s well signposted and they send someone English speaking around with you who explains everything and translates – I can honestly say it was a pleasure.

The Esnaf gets my vote. 

Phew it’s hot!

Now that sounds like I’m stating the obvious – but it is exceptionally hot for the first week in July – I don’t remember been this hot at the same time last year.  Now all of you sitting in colder climates especially the UK are probably thinking –  what’s she moaning about we’d kill for some sun?   But the reality is as a holiday maker for 2 weeks on the beach all day and sipping long cold drinks in local bars at night is nothing like living in it.

Housework either has to be done late at night, early in the morning or not at all.  This week I’ve opted for not at all – I’m not sleeping as it’s too hot, my husband is ill and needs quite a bit of looking after and I just can’t get up early enough to tackle it.     I’m trying really hard to drink 3 litres of water a day but I’m still waking up with a headache so suspect I probably need more.  It’s a bit like chain smoking I finish one glass and start the next straight away.

The average temperature in the house is 30 degrees day and night.  My cat is complaining constantly – I have a Van Cat (more about that in a later post) – Vans are known as the swimming cats as they love to take a dip in the water.  I don’t have a pool so mine sits and cries outside the shower cubicle begging to be allowed in – he now has his own towel and loves to share his morning shower with whoever is using it at the time.

Usually it’s just the last 2 weeks in August that are too hot but this year I could quite happily sleep in a bath of cold water and there is no such thing as too many showers a day. It’s about another 8 weeks before we start to feel some cooler temperatures but for now it gets hotter every day. I had a thermometer on the balcony to measure the temperatures outside – sadly it exploded last week so I’m assuming it hit 50 in the sun at some point.  You’d think they would do extra long ones with higher temperatures on for hot climates.

Much as I’m struggling with the heat I wouldn’t want to swap my life now for life in the UK – I look at the pictures in the newspapers and on the news and feel so sorry for everyone who has had their lives destroyed by the weather – it must be heartbreaking to lose everything you value to rising flood water.  Yes I know we have earthquakes but they are over quickly in the UK the rain seems to keep on falling.