When I select a place to go on holiday I spend very little time worrying about what sights there are to see, what language I will have to grapple with or what foreign coins I will have to get my head around. My only concerns are quite simply the food and the weather (I’m well advised that Vitamin D is imperative for healthy bones). I go on holiday to rescue my bones from imminent sun-denied decay and to exercise my jaw. Unlike my usual neurotically organised self I left my planning for this holiday to the very last minute. That is to say three days before my departure, I spent a morning tapping into Google and making some very urgent decisions. The weather in Europe was largely sub par, except for in Turkey, so that was that; and after a brief touch down in London I was off to gobble gobble (pun definitely intended) my way around Turkey.
This left me with a mere 2.5 days to daydream, night dream and work dream about what I treats I would get to sample during my trip- meze of hummus, halloumi, taramasalata, pita bread, feta cheese, tabbouleh, shish kebabs, Turkish delight. I haven’t eaten Turkish food since I arrived in New York and so I recklessly got carried away with my enthusiasm. In short, I was going to have to swim a LOT of laps in the hotel pool to keep up with my incorrigible food drive. In London I lived near Edgware road- a Mecca for those seeking Lebanese and Turkish food but now I was going to get to enjoy the delights of Turkey in Turkey.
Or so I thought. My trip to Turkey was hardly the culinary adventure that I had been craving. It started in Istanbul where I did get to sample the tastiest Turkish delight ever. Never a fan before, I was now munching like my life depended on it. Little did I know that once I flew to Bodrum- it probably would. Note to self- procrastination in holiday booking is not to be repeated. Bodrum was a Mecca for those in the general public who find nothing more delightful than a grotty doner kebab (aka Diners Often Need Emergency Resuscitation) or soggy pizza for lunch. Every restaurant looked the same and every restaurant served the same old uninspiring fairground fare. And thus is why I was forced to eat ice cream and Turkish delight everyday for lunch, which really wasn’t so devastating, despite the unavoidable afternoon sugar crash.
There was one good meal though- in a lovely remote village called Gumusluk where I chose my own sea bass and had it cooked on the BBQ. Just the bass and the lemon were on the plate- and it was sublime. Eating fish this fresh is simply unreal. Turkey is a beautiful country and had I been allowed more time to explore I’m sure I would have uncovered some more gems.
Several plane journeys later and I’m back in New York- hungrily looking for that perfect place to find meze. But in the meantime I’m trying to recreate the taste of Turkey, as I remember it (if not from Turkey, then from London).
Better than a Doner, Tabbouleh with Griddled Halloumi
Serves 3-4 gobblers
Having been unable to satisfy my meze cravings in Turkey- I provide you with this. There’s a little chopping to do but assembly is brainless- which makes me very happy.
400g/14 oz halloumi cheese, sliced into 1 cm thick slices
oil, to brush
85g/3 oz bulgur wheat, cooked according to packet instructions
1 large bunch of basil leaves, chopped fairly fine
½ bunch mint, chopped fairly fine
250g punnet cherry tomatoes, diced
1 lemon, zest and juice
3 tbsp good olive oil (or to taste)
Hummus and warmed pita bread to serve
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/ Heat the griddle pan on a gentle heat until hot. Brush with oil and griddle the halloumi for about 4 minutes on each side- or until nicely charred.
2/ Mix together all of the remaining ingredients and serve topped with the halloumi with the hummus and pita bread on the side.