Ortaköy & it’s speciality Kumpir

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Another food near the top of my ‘must try’ list for Istanbul was kumpir. This is a popular street food all over the country apparently, yet somehow in Fethiye they’ve never really caught on, and I’ve never really came across them.

My friend, a frequent Turkey visitor, couldn’t believe I’ve never tried one (neither had Berkay) so I decided we needed to try it, just for her!

Essentially, kumpir is ‘just’ a giant jacket potato – but the fun is in watching them make it, choosing your toppings and finally tasting the smooth, cheesy, buttery potato they present you with.

Ortaköy is one of the most popular places in Istanbul to get a kumpir, so we got a very busy bus from Besiktas to see what all the fuss was about.

I have to say that Ortaköy was one of only two places in Istanbul that I did not enjoy visiting. It was crazy busy with people and kids rushing around, people walking out from all directions and not making any effort to get out of your way, not thinking twice about barging into you. There were men fishing, not bothered about casting their line out and hitting people sitting on the benches. I think we made a mistake going there on a Saturday afternoon though – early morning on a week day would be a different experience I’m sure!

The view is picturesque, with Ortaköy mosque the main focal point. The Bosphorus Bridge is visible just behind it, one of the 3 suspension bridges across that stretch of water which link Europe and Asia. The bridge was renamed the 15 Temmuz Şehitler Köprüsü (July 15th Martyrs Bridge) after the failed coup attempt in 2016.

In amongst the maze of little streets, cafes, souvenir shops and stalls there is a whole row of stands dedicated to kumpir, or the other poplar street food in the area – waffles. As soon as we walked into ‘kumpir sokak’ they could tell we were overwhelmed with choice, we must have stuck out as tourists like a sore thumb! We had about 10 stalls of people shouting at us, waving their arms in all directions, winking, banging their signs and gesturing us to go over – this put me off straight away and immediately I looked for the stall making the less fuss, hassling customers is a big turn off for me and was quite intimidating! We settled on one stall and watched as they prepared our kumpir.img_8908img_8910

It’s really interesting to watch how they make it- they grab a baked potato from their oven, put it in a tray and slice it open. Then they grab a knife full of butter and mash it into the potato with some cheese – they definitely have a special technique of doing this, twisting and turning, I reckon it takes some practice, they do it so fast. They keep mashing it with the knife and mixing it in until it’s smooth and stretchy, then they pass it down the counter to the topping section. If you’re like me and really rubbish at decision making, you’ll struggle with this. A variety of possible toppings include sweetcorn, red cabbage, olives, Russian salad, sliced hot dog sausage, kisir, chopped pickled veg, mushrooms, peas, yogurt, jalapenos… I’m sure there are some I’ve forgotten, it’s a whole world away from the good old British jacket potato beans and cheese.

To top it all off, you can add mayo and ketchup if you want!

Berkay decided on sweetcorn, pickles, sausage and ketchup on his, and I went for sweetcorn, sausage and a handful of mushrooms.
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As we were walking back along the seafront to find a place to sit and eat, we walked past a few more kumpir stalls and I spotted this one who had turned the butter into a face with spoon ears – I loved that and wish we’d gone there instead! I suppose with lots of stalls selling the same thing they need to make theirs look unique, and they often arrange the toppings in patterns or shapes to make potential customers laugh and grab their attention – that is more effective than waving their arms in the air and shouting, surely!
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We found a little bench around a tree and sat there eating our very filling kumpir, I shared some of mine with a cat who very much looked like he enjoyed it too. We sat and people-watched for a little while, fascinated by the man selling bird food for the pigeons, little children approached him, bought the food and threw it around for the pigeons, sending them flapping around as they ran through them. I love pigeons and always feel sorry for them, but the flapping birds all around me just added to the manic-ness of our Ortaköy experience!
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I’d like to go back on a less busy day though, and I can confirm that the kumpir was delicious!

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Hazev – Delicious Turkish food in London.

It was our 2nd wedding anniversary last week, so we went to a Turkish restaurant to celebrate.

The name of the restaurant is Hazev, a cross between the words ‘haz’ meaning ‘enjoyment’, and ‘ev’ meaning ‘home’. It’s near Canary Wharf, between South Quay and Heron Quay DLR stations, right on the waterside with outdoor and indoor seating, I bet it’s lovely to sit outside in summer!

We have eaten here once before, and was really impressed. The waiters recognised us from before and showed us to a table, right next to the window. Berkay had met me at the station after work, armed with a bunch of flowers, bless him, so they were an added table decoration!

Almost as soon as we sat down we were given complimentary bread, olives and a garlic yogurt dip which were very yummy.
 

Then came the hard part of choosing what to order! I’d been looking at the menu whilst at work, trying to decide what to chose, there are SO many options I just couldn’t narrow it down! 3 courses or 2, starter or dessert, chicken or red meat… so many delicious dishes on offer (and a very pretty menu with a whirling dervish on!).

We settled on sharing two starters, karides tava (fried king prawns with garlic dip), and borek (pastry triangles filled with spinach and feta cheese) with salad. Both were delicious but a little overpriced for what they were, I think. The prawns were around £6 and the borek £7.
  
For the main course, I had Iskender, which I’d never had before, not even in Turkey! This looked different to photos I’d seen of a traditional Iskender kebab though, they always look a bit of a sloppy mess! It consisted of a mixed grill of meats covered in tomato sauce and yogurt, on fried bread cubes and served with red cabbage.
 
Berkay had the ‘havez special’ – oven cooked lamb chunks, served on grilled aubergine puree, mixed with cheese, with red cabbage, peppers and tomato salad. I tried a bit of his and it was nice, especially the smokey aubergine puree, my favourite! I think my dish had more meat than his, and I couldn’t finish it so we swapped bowls and he finished mine as well!

When our plates were cleared, we didn’t even need time to think about what to order for dessert….Berkay’s favourite, Kunefe! Kunefe is a popular, authentic Turkish dessert. It’s made from kadayıf (dried shredded dough which looks like shredded wheat) and cheese. It is covered in syrup and eaten straight out of the oven when hot, so the cheese is stringy and gooey but the pastry is crispy. It’s served with crushed pistachios and is delicious, even though it sounds like a weird mixture! Of course we had a glass of Turkish tea to accompany it.
  
Hazev serves delicious food, although it is a little more fancy and perhaps less traditional. Considering the quality of the food the prices are reasonable, although there was a story a few years ago about it selling an extra special, most expensive kebab in the world, at £900! (You can read about that and watch a video here https://www.standard.co.uk/go/london/restaurants/pricey-pitta-1000-kebab-goes-on-sale-in-london-a3215546.html )

Hazev isn’t just a restaurant – it’s like 3 separate parts, divided by floor length curtains. The restaurant is in the middle section, with a bar through to the left, and a cafe/deli on the right, which also has a little shop section selling some of our favourite Turkish treats, including sucuk, yummy!

It’s definitely worth a visit if you’re in London.

30 DAYS, 30 DISHES – DAY 30: Kuru Fasulye


Kuru Fasulye is a real winter comfort food. Made from dried white beans, onion, tomato, tomato paste and olive oil, it’s a kind of stew, great for warming you up in the cold winter months. You can add chunks of meat if you wish, lamb or beef usually. We love to eat it with fresh, crusty bread to mop it up, but it’s commonly served along side a dish of rice too! It’s one of the most popular dishes in Turkey, and you can buy it in lokantas, although there’s something really satisfying about making your own, if you have the time! Click HERE to read a recipe for this dish.

30 DAYS, 30 DISHES – DAY 29: Kol böreği

Kol böreği is a dish made with puff pastry, rolled up into long pieces – hence the ‘kol’ (arm) in the name. It’s quite soft and a little greasy but so good. The fillings vary – potato, cheese, mincemeat etc. My favourite are the potato or mincemeat ones. We used to eat these for breakfast/brunch in Fethiye sometimes, with a glass of tea, my tummy is rumbling just thinking about it!

30 DAYS, 30 DISHES – DAY 28: şehriyeli pilav (Turkish rice)

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Turkish rice, the kind with the little brown bits in, is my favourite. It’s buttery, soft fluffy and a staple part of Turkish cuisine – a great side dish to any meal. It’s even a meal on its own with chick peas or beans. The little brown bits are şehriye ( you might know it as Orzo – a small kind of pasta) and it adds a little something to the flavour and texture. It can be cooked with oil or butter, or even a bit of both. Berkay has taught me to add chicken stock too to enhance the flavour even more!

It’s hard to master, but he’s given me a tried and tested fool-proof recipe which you can find on my blog HERE.

30 DAYS, 30 DISHES – DAY 27: TOST

 

One of my favourite, quick, simple and most importantly – cheap, lunchtime snacks in Turkey is tost. Not to be confused with British toast, the type served with butter and jam, Turkish tost is a Turkish bread sliced down the middle, stuffed with delicious fillings, cooked in a heavy iron press and served with a side of spicy, hot pickles. Yum.

The most popular  is a mixed tost, or “karışık tost” in Turkish, which is a toastie with cheese, sucuk (spicy Turkish sausage) and usually tomato too.  My favourite is just a plain, simple cheese and tomato one. In Berkay’s village we had one with scrambled egg, sucuk and cheese in – some people put salca (tomato puree) and mayonnaise in too.

The only downside to how delicious they are, is how unhealthy they are, it’s a bit of a carb overload, eating half a small loaf of bread in one sitting, and the bread is usually covered in butter on the outside too so it can be rather greasy. Delightful though!

30 DAYS, 30 DISHES – DAY 25: Baklava

 
Baklava is a sweet dessert, made from layers of filo pastry and melted butter, and layers of nuts (pistachio or walnut).  It’s cut into rectangle, diamond or triangle shapes then baked. Once baked, a syrup is poured over, making it sticky and sweet. The thin, crispy filo pastry is softened by the syrup as it penetrates through every layer. It’s often served with ice cream or cream and sometimes has more pistachio nuts finely ground on top.

So naughty, but so nice!!

30 DAYS, 30 DISHES – DAY 23: CHIPS FOR BREAKFAST?


Ok, so not really a dish, but I thought it was interesting to write about. There’s an assumption that chips are only served with breakfast in holiday resorts in Turkey to please tourists, but that’s not true! Berkay’s family often serve up chips for breakfast, but usually cold, either leftovers from the night before, or freshly cooked. They even have them smothered in garlic yogurt with grilled peppers. Above is a photo of a breakfast we had in the village  – boiled eggs, tomatoes, grilled peppers, chips, olives, sucuk and aubergine!

30 DAYS, 30 DISHES – DAY 21: Kuzu şiş


Kuzu şiş (lamb shish) is a simple kebab dish, but delicious. Marinated cubes of lamb on skewers, cooked perfectly and served with special flat bread (which is hiding some of the meat in my photo above), rice, grilled peppers, onions and tomatoes, and raw onion salad with sumac sprinkled on top. Perfect when the meat is tender! My photo above was taken at Mozaik Bahçe in Fethiye, their presentation is especially impressive.

I always feel like ordering lamb or chicken shish kebab is so boring when eating out, but it’s so tasty I can never resist!

30 DAYS, 30 DISHES – DAY 20: CHICKEN DÖNER

A Turkish döner kebab is nothing like the ones you’ve come across in the UK. I’ve never had a lamb one, but chicken döner is one of my favourite fast foods!

The name relates to the way the seasoned meat is cooked slowly on a vertical rotisserie. As the outside layers of meat get cooked, they are carved off and served.  There are various ways the meat is served – over rice with salad, in a wrap (dürüm) or in a half-bread like a sandwich (yarım ekmek). We usually get the half-bread – the perfectly cooked chicken is shaved off and put inside along with onion, tomato and lettuce.

It’s served with a side of pickled hot chili peppers. The English in me means I sometimes order chips, cover them in salt and vinegar and stuff them inside too!