As the title suggests, this is a two-part blog, please go to my Istanbul Day One post to see what you will have missed.
After a restful sleep and no breakfast, just the obligatory Turkish coffee we head off to Misir Carsisi or the Spice Bazaar and our first stop Pandeli Restaurant, which is gearing up for its one and only service, lunch. This hidden restaurant in the roof of the Bazaar was established in 1901, and everyone who’s anyone in the acting world has visited from Audrey Hepburn to Frank Sinatra and their photographs and ‘review notes’ adorn the walls. The first thing that strikes you about the space are the turquoise tiles and the view from the windows.
Pandeli’s sweet speciality is an almond cookie, or bademli kurabiye of the crumbly kind. The spicing is light, and the ground almonds in the cookie are made entirely in-house.
We don’t stop to eat, except one of the delicious cookies brought out to us by the generous owner, we march down the stairs and into the main Bazaar.
“Cheap as chips” says one trader who coins antiques dealer and TV host David Dickinson‘s popular catchphrase. It’s heard often and always makes me laugh, it’s a good hook to get you into their kaleidoscopic cave of spices, dried fruits, ceramics or carpets (actually less so on the carpets – there’s nothing cheap about them).
Surrounded by four seas with a host of rivers and lakes, Turkey has a wealth of fish. We learn more about Bottarga or Balık yumurtası at Doğu Pazarı which doesn’t look very appetising encased in wax, but compressed grey mullet roe is a delicacy. Eaten in tiny slices and drizzled with olive oil, it can also be served on toast or grated over dishes. Known as “poor man’s caviar” the salted, dried and cured eggs of the mullet are coated in beeswax as a preservative.
The shop sells highly perfumed rose petals, and other dried flowers like this Echinacea, used primarily for tea and to fight colds or boost your immune system. People visit the Bazaar as we would the high street chemist. I bought some of the rose petals and used them very successfully in a rice pudding recipe.
Including these ‘flower bombs’ which explode once they hit hot water, more expand, then bang in actual fact. One ‘bomb’ is dropped into a glass teapot with boiling water and allowed to infuse. If no glass teapot (it’s all about the show) a heatproof glass glass will have the same effect.
There was no time to waste and our next stop was deli and cheese shop Cankurtaran Gıda where we tasted four of the most common Turkish cheeses; Dil Peynirir; Beyaz Peynir a white cheese; Kaşar Peyniri and Tulum Peyniri. The shop is also well known for its cured beef pastirma which hangs like beef chandeliers from the celing. It’s air dried and covered in a paste made of ground spices known as çemen. The redder the pastirma, the fresher it will be. Purists will have their meat cut by hand and not machine. Here’s Aylin our amazing tour guide, an architect, food historian, journalist there’s simply nothing this woman can’t do.
Just outside the Bazaar is Kurukahveci Mehmet Efendi the oldest coffee company in Turkey. Until the end of 19th century shops sold only raw beans. Mehmet Efendi came up with the idea of selling ground coffee in his father’s coffee shop. I haven’t sped up this video, this is how quickly these young guys work to serve the never-ending line of coffee-lovers.
A Simit is a bread roll, a little like a bagel sold on the streets from baskets, platters balanced on heads and ubiquitous wheeled stands It is often eaten as a breakfast or a fast food snack. Here’s a seller with a fresh batch helping chef and author Tess Ward choose a great one. Here’s my recipe for Huffington Post LIfestyle.
We visit Ucuzcular Spices, a family business which not only sells spice but processes them in their factory at Çatalca, we all dive into the spices, nuts and the single ladies look to their oils for inspiration, ask for Bilge who runs the shop – I can’t promise she’ll find you a partner but she’ll give you the tools you’ll need.
The beautiful Abdulla sells everything you needed to enjoy bath, spa or hammam time. Next door the Fez Cafe is where we took Turkish coffee and watched the Bazaar shop owners pray.
Under this hammered dome is Turkish Delight, food has to be presented, just so, even if it is with a coffee, here it’s all about the ritual.
This fabric shop was beautiful and there were plenty of raw silks with traditional Turkish patterns.
Lunch was a leisurely affair on the roof of Armaggan a luxury store celebrating Turkish design.
We had the pick of a wonderful cold buffet and we ate in a remarkable botanical garden. Nar Kahve Restaurant uses only seasonal and natural ingredients and you can expect to find lots of wonderful salads and Turkish specialities, cooked in a modern way.
I chose some of the delicious salads from the buffet, artichoke hearts stuffed with spinach, beautiful stuffed mini-aubergine.
These deep fried aubergine and courgette slices, filled with beyaz cheese and parsley were divine.
This cold starter of aubergine flowers stuffed with rice and spices was full of flavour, and simply beautiful.
Pide is a speciality here, baked in their stone oven. We ordered a few of the restaurant favourites, lamb served inside a whole quince was a savoury version of our stuffed apples.
The dessert buffet was magnificent with puddings and pastries to-die-for, handmade baklava, rice pudding and a three milk cake, similar to the famous cake of Argentina.
And a plate of wonderful marzipan, Turkish delight and candies.
A short ride took us to a private cooking lesson with Murat Bozok where we learnt how to cook squid with cous-cous.
We were also shown how to make Turkish hummus and we discover milk and ground cumin are two essentials.
Back to the Hotel where we’re treated to a cocktail or two and a few of the delicious pastries that make up their afternoon tea.
The amazing pianist asks where I’m from and serenades me – well worth a visit just to see this 89 year old tinkle the ivories. For those who can’t place the tune … it’s the George and Ira Gershwin classic “A Foggy Day In London Town”.
Still full from lunch and our cookery course we cancel our planned meal in a speciality kebab restaurant – Istanbul has beaten us in the food and drink department.
I leave the Hotel and walk up Istiklal Caddesi, or ‘Oxford Street’ where there’s a variety of chestnut, mussels and Simit sellers, nestling side by side with the chain stores, patisseries and restaurants.
A sea of people dodge trams which run from one end to the other of this 1.4km long avenue full of shoppers who, at night time, hand over the baton to the clubbers.
Back in the Hotel we join guests in the Bar where a live band have taken over, a delicious Raki and Melon cocktail finishes my trip to Istanbul but has left me wanting much more.
Turkish people love to share and it was such an honour to be shown the true Turkish way when it comes to food and drink. I learned so much in such a short space of time but I totally understand why Yeni Raki has been pleasing audiences since 1937. What’s to rush, when there’s so much to learn?
Cheers, or as they’d say in Turkey şerefe.
Massive thanks to Yeni Raki for the invite (please can I come back and see the harvest), Rose at Story PR, Ipek, and Alin for their patience and all the lovely people at the Pera Palace.