We went on holiday to Istanbul, and at the start of the week, we went on a cookery course to learn more about Turkish food. I had been inspired to do this my a friend of mine, who went on a cookery course in Morocco earlier this year. This is a fantastic way to find out more about the cultural history of food in a foreign country. It seems to be a growing part of tourism; just look on TripAdvisor. 

We booked with Cookistan, and had a great day, preparing six traditional dishes. Aysin met us in the morning and our group of six were introduced to the neighbourhood, to the shops and street stalls. We saw traditional breads being prepared, and seasonal vegetables being stacked up at the roadside. We bought pastries, artichoke hearts, and a few other essentials as we went. 

Once we’d made a few purchases, we settled into the well-equipped food prep area, starting with a cup of tea, some pastries, and a chat about food culture in Turkey, the origins of recipes and our aims of booking on the course. 

Once we were all relaxed and ready, we collaborated to produce six dishes, preparing the ingredients, and showing off our skills. I had no idea that Malcolm, my lovely spouse, had such great skills with chopping herbs and onions. Liva, Aysin’s colleague, helped with all of the vital background tasks, such as watching the pots, basting dishes and producing the ingredients we needed when we needed them. 

On the day we prepared: 

  • Meat-stuffed yufka pastry in the shape of roses
  • A delicious chicken and walnut salad
  • Lentil and wheat meze balls
  • Stuffed artichoke hearts poached in orange and dill
  • Stuffed vegetables and vine leaves
  • Sweet caramelised pumpkin with tahini and nuts

We learned about the joy of eating from a table loaded with delicious meze dishes, sipping on raki and solving the problems of the world, late into the night. Later, Malcolm and I got back to our apartment and sat on the balcony, watching the sky darkening over the Bosphorus, drank wine and continued to eat through the evening.

The whole experience was more than just recipes, it was learning about the cultures in which the cooking originated. Highly recommended. 


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